Mental Breakdown
State, county cuts devastate mentally ill

About this project

In Stanislaus County – like many counties across California -- a faltering local economy and deep budget cuts have severely reduced government’s ability to treat adults with mental illnesses. The result? A surge in the number of people with mental illness landing behind bars and in the county’s ERs. In the past six years, the numbers of mentally ill inmates in the Stanislaus County jail has increased nearly 50 percent, according to sheriff’s department data. Around the state, many of the most seriously mentally ill inmates now wait up to six months in jail before a state hospital bed opens up.


Hospital ERs see dramatic increase in mentally ill patients

Hospital emergency rooms in Stanislaus County are feeling the impacts from the statewide shortage of psychiatric beds and cuts to outpatient services. In the past five years, Emanuel Medical Center in Turlock has seen a dramatic increase in ER...

Mental health by the numbers

555: the average number of California state hospital beds per 100,000 residents in the 1950s. 14: the average number of California state hospital beds per 100,000 residents today.

Mental health care breaking down in Stanislaus

They appear here after every other door has been shut on them. Some are haunted by multiple voices or schizophrenia, others paralyzed by anxiety and depression. Inside this simply furnished room at the Stanislaus chapter office of the National...

Mental illness: Who to call for help in Stanislaus County

* Stanislaus County 24-Hour Crisis Intervention: (209) 558-4600 * Doctors Behavioral Health Center: (209) 557-6300 (can also walk in)
Joyce Plis

Help eludes father until son ends up behind bars

Joyce Plis, executive director of the Stanislaus County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, attends as many court hearings as she can, advocating on behalf of mentally ill individuals, helping family members navigate the legal system...

Mentally ill languish in jails due to cuts, lack of beds

The latest chapter of Kim Green’s recurring nightmare began last fall. In October, her 24-year-old daughter - who suffers from severe bipolar disorder and a mood disorder related to schizophrenia – was booked into the county jail after being...

To defuse problems, officers learn new methods

Modesto police officer Ben Brandvold wasn’t sure how well crisis intervention training would work in the real world. In September, he found out after completing the weeklong training, which teaches officers and deputies in Stanislaus County to...

Normalizing Mental Illness: One Mom's Hope (Multimedia)

In recent years, a faltering local economy has combined with ongoing state and county budget cuts to severely reduce Stanislaus County’s ability to treat adults with mental illnesses – a trend reflected around California. In four years, the county...

Photography Gallery: Faces of Mental Illness

Everyone pictured here has a mental illness. They live in this community. A daughter. An uncle. A sister. A friend. A neighbor. A co-worker.

Blog Posts

What mental illness looks like

I assembled my makeshift photo studio in a windowless office just big enough for a desk and two chairs. Wax paper covered the Home Depot work lights. Electrical tape held up the white sheet I had borrowed from my Modesto hotel room. My subjects...


Lauren M. Whaley

Multimedia journalist Lauren M. Whaley is the president of the national Journalism and Women Symposium (JAWS). For the Center and its partners, she produces videos, radio stories, photographs and other multimedia and written pieces. She covers topics such as childbirth policies, mental illness and dialysis and diabetes and helps her colleagues promote their work. Her Center work has won honors from the Scripps Howard Awards and the Association of Health Care Journalists She has contributed stories to Southern California Public Radio, KQED Public Radio, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Modesto Bee, among others. While living in Wyoming, she worked as a newspaper reporter, blog editor and freelance magazine writer. She earned her master's degree in specialized science journalism from the University of Southern California, her bachelor's from Bowdoin College and spent summers in her early 20s taking high school girls on Arctic canoe expeditions. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son.  

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© 2014 California Healthcare Foundation Center for Health Reporting