Dear Dr. B: Encounters of a Volunteer at a County Psychiatric Hospital is about my experience working with under-privileged psychiatric patients as part of the Artists in Residence Program at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, and my examination of the tragedy of poorly funded health services and the patients for whom there is no other refuge.
When I volunteered in the Artists in Residence Program, I embarked upon a journey that opened my eyes to the difficulties and pain of psychiatric patients’ lives and the daily struggles of a hospital desperately trying to keep its doors open. Upon meeting patients, I learned that most saw the hospital as a haven, a place to get clean clothes, a shower, and a hot meal; however, once a patient was treated and stabilized, they were forced back out on to the street. As I was not able to photograph inside the hospital, I returned home every night to sketch the patients, tell their stories, and write about the declining conditions of the hospital. My provocative literary piece, fully illustrated with my drawings, provides a first-hand account of the plight of under-privileged psychiatric patients, the dire needs of public hospitals, and the dramatic consequences of a failing public healthcare system.
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