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Forensic In - Patient Stepdown Unit | Compassion & Love
Last summer we were asked by incarcerated leaders in the FIP (Forensic In-Patient) Stepdown Unit at the men’s jail to check in on the women starting this program in Lynwood. The power of this program is that incarcerated individuals who are not suffering from mental illness are trained to be mental health assistants and live with those who are dealing with mental illness. They assist in running programs like classes, art projects and church. In addition, the mental health aides help with day to day care like showering, eating, taking medication, and providing general support and companionship. This peer to peer assistance is the heart of the program. This work is not easy. Living in a high observation mental health unit when you are not suffering from mental illness is profoundly challenging. The men and women who work as mental health assistants are still dealing with the enormous stress of being in jail while continuing to go to court to fight their cases. It is often overwhelming for these individuals. And yet, if you spend any time in these dorms you will be sure to witness the transformative power of love and compassion. You can feel the energy the moment you walk into the unit from the deputized staff to each person who resides there. This is different from any other area of the jail. It seems that each individual who is involved with the program is transformed in some way. The first day we walked onto the unit there was only one of the four pods operating under the FIP Stepdown Program. We were pleasantly surprised to reconnect with Nancy, someone we have known in the jail for a few years. Nancy, Violet, Rosie and Beatrice were challenged with getting this program running.
7 Months Later | A Thriving Program
Seven months later all four pods are thriving. Women are now allowed out of their cells without having to be handcuffed, the entire unit is clean and bright - personalized with art created by the women. In the beginning we led church services in each individual pod because the department did not want to mix the four pods of 25 women. On Easter we began leading one combined service in an outdoor recreation area with fresh air and birds chirping! We’ve had approximately 50 women gather each week. They sing and laugh and cheer together with so much joy.
How You Can Partner With Us
For the first time we have been invited by the sheriff’s department to collaborate to provide special supplies for this unit. This unique opportunity for an innovative mental health program feels like a watershed moment for how we can approach mental illness, incarceration and homelessness. Please join us to support this program.
This letter was written by Nancy:
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