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‘I’m doing this to save her life’: Sister of woman living on the streets with mental illness says law prevents her from taking action

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    LOS ANGELES (KCAL, KCBS) — A local woman Thursday went public with a very personal and devastating fight in an effort to get her sister — who went from the girl next door to living on the streets — the mental health help she desperately needs.

In this photo, Alycia Schlesinger addresses a crowd of college students in 2012 as an inspirational speaker. (Credit: Facebook)

“She was a triathlete, everything she did came easy,” Cassie Godwin said. “A lot of people wanted to be like her.”

Godwin grew up wanting to be just like her big sister, Alycia Schlesinger, who Godwin said was smart and beautiful with a magnetic personality.

Photos shared with CBS Los Angeles show Schlesinger addressing a crowd of college students in 2012 as an inspirational speaker.

Now Schlesinger lives on the street, and has been spotted talking to herself at a busy intersection or inside of her car in the middle of the night. There are home security videos of her spitting on doorbells and throwing belongings off of a front porch.

Another video shows Schlesinger being arrested by California Highway Patrol officers after leading them on a high-speed chase from Los Angeles to Orange County.

“They took her down in spike strips and gunpoint,” Godwin said. “She believed that the police were not real.”

Since 2014, just two years after she was giving that speech to a group of college students, Schlesinger has been in and out of jail and mental health facilities.

“She has been hospitalized, since 2014, about 25 times,” Godwin said.

Godwin said her sister suffered a mental break after their mother’s 2011 death, but aside from one extended stay in a psychiatric hospital in 2014, Godwin said her sister has always been released after a 72-hour hold.

“She’s incredibly brilliant, so she can turn it on when she needs to turn it on,” Godwin said.

Since March of last year, Schlesinger has been living on the streets of the San Fernando Valley.

“The only reason I keep my cellphone on at night is to get the phone call that she’s dead,” Godwin said. “It’s awful.”

Godwin has tried in vain to have her sister committed against her will.

“We really need a deep policy look at how can we protect people who need to be protected now,” Michael Arnold, the president and CEO of the Midnight Mission on Skid Row, said.

According to state law, an adult cannot be committed without their consent unless they are an immediate danger to themselves or others.

“That’s a really high bar to try to reach when you have people who just have such limited cognitive capacity, but you know bad things are going to happen to them,” Arnold said.

Schlesinger currently has two felony warrants out of Ventura County. Court records show that she was in a mental health diversion program in 2018, but a bench warrant was issued last month after she failed to appear in court.

“Our laws are built for people who have cognitive capacity,” he said. “They’re really designed to protect you and me from someone putting us away. They’re not designed for people who really need help and assistance in making cognitive decisions about what’s best for them.”

For the time being, Godwin said she drives the streets looking for her sister then calling anyone she can in hopes that someone will pick up Schlesinger and get her the help she needs. So far, no one has answered that call.

“I love her, and I’m doing this to save her life because I am afraid she is going to die,” Godwin said.

Just this week, Schlesinger was arrested again in Ventura County. She is scheduled to be back in court April 5 when a judge is expected to decide if she is mentally competent to stand trial.
Godwin has set up a GoFundMe page to help her retain an attorney in an effort to get Schlesinger into a county hospital as soon as possible and get her on the road to recovery.

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