Club Meds

The mental-health-care system says Lynda Sue Dale, a young mentally ill mother, is ineligible for treatment -- until she informs the bureaucrats she's talking to New Times

Nancy and Linda Bauer tend to little D.J. much of the time, and his grandmother says she's terrified Lynda will harm him someday.

"Lynda Sue will feel terrible afterward, just like she does when she goes after one of us," Nancy says, "but she just can't stop herself from doing some things."

Lynda bristles at the suggestion that she'd hurt her baby.

Lynda Dale, when she was about 12. Less than two years later, she was a runaway who was living with a man old enough to be her grandfather.
Lynda Dale, when she was about 12. Less than two years later, she was a runaway who was living with a man old enough to be her grandfather.
Lynda Dale, when she was about 12. Less than two years later, she was a runaway who was living with a man old enough to be her grandfather.
courtesy of Dale family
Lynda Dale, when she was about 12. Less than two years later, she was a runaway who was living with a man old enough to be her grandfather.

"I'd never," she says tearfully. "Never, ever, ever."

Lynda is broke and out of work, and says her landlord has plans to evict her, perhaps before the end of this week. She fantasizes that ValueOptions might provide her a nicer apartment. The reality is that her case manager wants Lynda to move to a residential treatment center or, in the alternative, to the homeless shelter.

That's the last thing Linda wants to do. She plans to stay with a friend for a while. It's uncertain if she'll take D.J. with her.

"I don't need anyone's bullshit," Lynda says. "I'm past having people telling me what to do. I'd rather be on my own, making my own mistakes, trying to fix me."

She says she has a new boyfriend, who is 17. The young man and his family apparently have reintroduced her to church life. As evidence of her reinvigorated spirituality, she's rerecorded her answering machine message.

"God bless you," it now says.

Nancy Dale says she tries not to be overwhelmed by it all, a near-impossible task.

"The real Lynda, you really don't see her much anymore," she says. "There's a real sweet person buried under all this garbage."

Sheila DeBenedetto provided research assistance for this story.

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