Saturday, August 8, 2009

Mentally Ill Addict Prefers Jail to Shelters

Mentally ill addict prefers jail to shelters

02:34 PM CDT on Sunday, August 2, 2009

By KIM HORNER / The Dallas Morning News

Despite eight years in and out of Dallas hospitals, emergency rooms, jail and drug treatment centers, Robert Ceccarelli is still homeless and still addicted.

The former special education teacher, who has bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, said he has tried many times to get off crack cocaine.

"I don't have much control over the compulsion," said Ceccarelli, who sells plasma to fuel his dependency. "It's ruined my life."

The city helped him get a subsidized apartment last fall. But he relapsed, got arrested for theft and went to jail two weeks later. He said the place was in a neighborhood where he routinely bought drugs, and the temptation was too great.

"That's the problem – they put you in dope-infested areas," he said.

Ceccarelli spent nearly the first half of 2009 in the Dallas County jail, at a cost of more than $8,000. In the summer of 2008, he spent four months at the Salvation Army through a program paid by the county, at a cost of at least $1,200. He spent a couple of weeks at Terrell State Hospital, at a cost of $5,222. In addition, the public mental health care system has spent more than $30,862 on his care in the past five years.

The 53-year-old said he does not need more drug treatment after at least 15 times in rehab. Instead, he said, there should be more resources spent on housing that comes with services to help people stay stable. He said it's nearly impossible to stay clean on the streets.

Ceccarelli would rather stay anywhere than a shelter. He has shoplifted at a Dallas mall just so he could go to jail and, after that, he hoped, get into a housing program. At first, he said, police wanted to let him go.

He said, "I pleaded with them to arrest me."

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