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Defund the Police And…

My partner and I are awakened at 7 am on Friday morning by an emergency phone call. A family member is suicidal after a week of suffering paranoid delusions. This is one of a few crises in the last few years. 

After we make a plan for support, I check my phone. A police precinct in Minneapolis was torched the night before in outrage over the murder of George Floyd and over 1000 murders of Black people at the hands of the police per year. 

That day, I attend the first of many protests, inspired by the property destruction in Minneapolis, for George Floyd, Breonna Tayler and Ahmaud Arbery in Atlanta, while my partner visits the family member, and tries to convince him to voluntarily check into a hospital for an evaluation. He’s not convinced.

My partner and I get very little sleep that weekend, staying out late at protests, and staying up later glued to the news. The National Guard occupies downtown Atlanta throughout the weekend, working with multiple police departments to attack and arrest protesters. In response, cop cars are torched, businesses are looted, statues are destroyed. I text my friends in other cities, “Are you home safe?”. We brainstorm ways to support the ongoing rebellion. We research support options for the family. I have dreams of a police free world. I have dreams of a world with free healthcare for all. I have nightmares about tear gas. I have nightmares about death. 

Our family member also gets little sleep that weekend, convinced an organized group is conspiring to murder him. 

Early Monday morning, he attempts suicide.  

After less than 24 hours at the hospital, he’s transferred to the only residential facility with a bed available, two hours from any family. He tells us the conditions inside are worse than any jail. When the weekend comes, we discover we can’t get through to anyone at the facility. When they determine he’s “stable” enough to be released, we beg for information about a long-term support plan to discover that there is none. We finally set follow up appointments for him for a week following his return home. We have no idea where the money will come from. 

Initially, the ongoing protests against police brutality and my family member’s mental health crisis feel worlds apart. But after a week of being placed on hold, transferred, questioned “He doesn’t have health insurance?”– after a week of looking into every single option for ongoing support in the metro Atlanta area and being told by trusted friends, “Honestly, that place is like a prison”– I’m reminded yet again that the health care system in America is not unrelated to the systems of incarceration and policing. 

We brace ourselves for what’s sure to be a long journey. When we realize that nobody is coming to save us, I try to encourage the family.  “We will become experts,” I say. “There is another side of this.” “Many people have been through this before.” 

But I wake up every morning before the sun– terrified. 

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