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9 Highland Road

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In the impersonal lexicon of state bureaucracy, they were called SPMIs — people who were ”seriously and persistently mentally ill.” But in Michael Winerip’s Glen Cove, Long Island, the five who are his principal focus in a group home for the mentally disturbed come alive as real people in 9 Highland Road. Winerip, the national education correspondent for The New York Times, examines this experiment in compassion, an anomaly in a health-care system that is ”renowned for losing people through the cracks.” He followed them and their counselors for more than three years, charting their successes and setbacks. In Winerip’s hands, the subject of mental illness gains a startling clarity. What might have been a dour, clinical study is invested with insight, perspective, and wit. A