2009-12-11 / News

Some have nothing left to lose

By Warner M. Montgomery Warner@TheColumbiaStar.com

Dr. Dorothy F. Kendall Dr. Dorothy F. Kendall Dr. Dorothy Fowles Kendall is the product of 14 generations of South Carolina aristocracy, daughter of a Columbia lawyer, graduate of Dreher High School and the USC School of Medicine, and wife of a renowned psychiatrist /pilot.

So what does she do to keep her standing in the community? Heals the mentally ill homeless people who walk the streets of Columbia!

Dr. Kendall spoke to the Columbia Torch Club December 1 on “The Unknown Homeless.” She stated that she follows in the steps of Maj. William Crafts and Maj. Samuel Farrow who began to treat people in South Carolina 175 years ago at the Lunatic Asylum on Bull Street.

By 1900 the renamed State Hospital had over 1,000 patients with an annual death rate of 30%. Fifty years later, miracle drugs appeared and Dr. William S. Hall, the first State Commissioner of Mental Health, instituted mental health centers and transitional living projects. By 1995, most of the state’s 120,000 mentally ill patients were being served outside of hospitals. This ended the incarceration of the mentally ill but created another problem – homelessness.

Enter Dr. Dorothy Kendall, pediatric and adolescent psychiatrist…

Everyday she “recruits,” interviews, counsels, and treats the mentally ill men, women, and children who sleep in cars and under bridges, use our backyards and parks as bathrooms, and walk around our streets under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. These worrisome people, she says, have

experienced childhood trauma, survival sex, abuse, physical defects, and extreme poverty. Most have reached the place

where there is… nothing

left to lose, like the song by Janis Joplin.

Kendall’s homeless patients aren’t likely to be criminals because they don’t have “dens or networks.” Most are hidden in rural squalor. Over 70% were born in South Carolina. Most are substance abusers, play the system to get their daily bread, have poor language skills, short relationships, and class orientation… but not all. Some are unemployed lawyers, divorced middle–class women, desperate businessmen, or veterans with post traumatic syndrome.

The solution, she suggests, includes a localized approach through non–profit agencies with no federal government connections. Treatment must be tailored to each individual patient. The mental health and addiction treatment agencies should be merged. The homeless need a sympathetic community where they can find honest activity, honest income, and honest relationships.

The Columbia Torch Club meets monthly for tasty food and interesting lectures. Visitors are welcome. For information, call Ed Latimer at 803-776-4765.

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