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Latina Mother Fights for Mental Care Home

Vida En El Valle, News Report, Jennie Rodrguez Posted: Aug 01, 2009

STOCKTON, Calif. -- Road blocks keep stalling her journey, but she continues pushing through. Rosalva Garduno isn't letting anything stop her from making it to the finish line.

Her plan is to open a boarding care home for the mentally ill.

In 2006, Garduno's son, who was then 21, was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Garduno imbedded herself in research about the disease and helped him learn to manage his complex -- and, at times, aggressive -- behavior.

A former primary school teacher in Mxico, Garduno even began teaching other Spanish-speaking families about mental illness in the National Alliance on Mental Illness' Family-to-Family program.

Devastation struck again last year when Garduno's sister died of cancer in June. Garduno used her mortgage money to pay for funeral expenses, but that financial choice almost led her to foreclosure.

She refinanced her house, and began saving money for the care home.

"I said 'I just want to make sure my son and others are being taken care of the way they should be,'" Garduno, 45, said. "They need someone who treats them with dignity and respect without the stigma that follows them."

Garduno was motivated by her son's bad experiences in boarding care. She said she relocated her son from various boarding centers because staff would often forget to administer his medication, which led to relapses, and they also would not follow through on driving him to doctor appointments.

Her son, who was attending San Joaqun Delta College, dropped out after numerous mental breakdowns.

It seemed to Garduno that tragedy followed her.

Tears trickled down her face as she recounted her troubles. "I started saving my money," she said.

Burglars broke into her home on May 27 while she was at work. They took computers, two televisions, jewelry, and, most importantly $12,000 in cash she had put away for the boarding facility she hoped to open.

And, to make matters worse, Garduno was told she'd be laid off from her day job at AmeriCorps because of funding cuts.

Garduno, who completed the state orientation to be a boarding home operator, has already outlined most of her program plans. She isn't giving up.

Garduno hopes to either start a nonprofit, or possibly recruit enough residents to start a private-care home. She has been holding informational events, where she talks to families and community leaders about her business plan, to see if they can offer some collaboration or support. She can be reached at (209) 603-3448 or rosalvagarduno@yahoo.com.

Robert E. Moore, a retired physician and board member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said only a few boarding facilities across the state for the mentally ill, which are mostly private for-profit, offer quality care. He also has a son with mental illness.

State cuts for boarding care have left centers few choices to make a profit, but to reduce costs, he said.

"There's just not enough money in it," he said. "They either cut staff, programs or food, or a combination of that. Boarding care is a real problem."

Garduno said she plans to offer residents life skills training, employment and education immersion programs, recreational activities, interaction and exercise.

"This is all I have thought about for the last six months," Garduno said. "Every single day. I just can't give up."

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