Why Californians with Severe Mental Illness Are Caught Cycling From Prison to the Streets

There’s an acoustic guitar propped up near the center of Audrey Woolfolk’s living room. It seems out of place against the floral and lace decor, but Woolfolk likes it there. It’s the one visible trace in her Orange County condo of her only child, Julie, now 29.

Other memories of Julie are tucked away in photo albums and a plastic storage bin filled with childhood mementos like a handmade quilt, little dresses and dolls.

Woolfolk said Julie had her first psychotic break in her early 20s, back in the summer of 2011. Since then, she’s been diagnosed as having schizoaffective disorder, which causes her to suffer from symptoms of both schizophrenia and a mood disorder similar to bipolar disorder.

“It wasn’t safe for me to be around Julie anymore,” Woolfolk said softly. She said she moved to a new home in Orange County when Julie’s mental health began to severely decline after her daughter refused treatment.
For the past eight years, Julie has been cycling in and out of jail, in and out of treatment, and on and off the streets.

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