It’s a little after noon. Usually by this hour, David Weiss would be waking for the second time, still groggy from his antipsychotics. He’d have gotten up once at dawn, maybe made himself an egg with toast. He might have gone into the back bedroom to scan his ham radio or played a few chords on his guitar. Then he’d go back to sleep.
But on this day, he had somewhere to be. It’s easier to get up on days like this, days with a purpose.
And so at noon, he is sitting in an abnormal-psychology class at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, his arms crossed and a plate of pizza balanced on his lap. At 64, Weiss still has a full head of wavy silver hair and a broad, kind face and a bulbous nose that make him a dead ringer for a mall Santa. He wears a Hawaiian shirt that smells faintly of incense.
He’s giving a talk to the students about life with mental illness.
Weiss is a client — there are no patients, only clients — at Way Station Inc. run by Sheppard Pratt Health System in Frederick, one of the first programs of its kind in the country to use social support systems to integrate people with mental illnesses into their communities. Way Station gave him his own apartment as well as a case manager who checks in with him daily. It even helped him enroll in community college, where in 2010 he realized his teenage dream and graduated with an associate degree in music.
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