Thursday, August 21, 2014

NAMI Morehead program addresses mental health care reforms and HR 3717

Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2014 9:59 am
Read more here:

On Tuesday, Aug. 26, NAMI Morehead (National Alliance on Mental Illness) will host a program designed to shed light on the nation's mental health care system and how HR 3717 (“The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act”) would help.
Speaker GG Burns of Lexington is an advocate for individuals living with psychiatric disabilities. She will discuss specific mental health care reforms that are needed and how the legislation proposed by U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (HR 3717) could help avert suffering and tragedy that so often ensue from untreated serious mental illness.

Burns is the founder of the “Change Mental Health Laws in Kentucky” Blog and cofounder of “Treatment Before Tragedy” (TB4T), a nationwide group that advocates in congress for better mental health treatment, services and research for a cure.
A long-time NAMI member, she received “NAMI Kentucky's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013 and in 2014 was recognized by the Community Health Charities MediStars as “Volunteer of the Year.”
Among the issues to be addressed at Tuesday's program are the following:
• An estimated 600,000 homeless people and 356,000 inmates have untreated mental illness and approximately 40,000 of them die of suicide each year.

This presentation, which is free and open to the public, will be held at the Rowan County Public Library from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. For more information, call 784-4551.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

'If only they had treated him before', by Wayne Drash, CNN

"Amy Bruce lost her life trying to help her son receive treatment for his brain disease. How many more families must endure these horrible tragedies before we realize that assisted outpatient or court ordered treatment (AOT) is NOT the last resort. Suicide or homicide is!" 

By Wayne Drash, CNN
Video by Brandon Ancil, CNN.
Photographs by John Nowak, CNN

When Will Bruce killed his mother, he believed she was an al Qaeda agent. His father wrested hope from the tragedy -- by seeing that his son finally got treatment. After seven years in a psychiatric hospital, Will is taking his first steps toward freedom.

Thanks to Wayne Drash for sharing Joe Bruce’s tragedy with such compassion! Read the entire story here:

"Court ordered treatment is not our last resort. Homicide or suicide is."

For my wife, Amy Bruce

by Joe Bruce
CARATUNK, Maine – On June 20, 2006, I opened the door of our simple home here on Main Street in western Maine to find the limp, bloody body of my beautiful wife Amy, my closest friend in the world and the love of my life. In a deep state of psychosis, our then 24-year-old son, William, had killed her with a hatchet, thinking she was an al-Qaeda agent.
Two months earlier, on April 20, 2006, Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta, Me., discharged Will, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, three weeks shy of the 90-day involuntary commitment period ordered by our local District Court. Will had a history of violence, but he was released from Riverview without the benefit of any kind of antipsychotic drugs.
The days, months, and years following Amy’s death marked the worst time of my life, but it was also the start of something most unexpected: a journey into openness, emerging most recently this week with a CNN investigation into our family’s story, “If only they had treated him before,” by CNN senior producer Wayne Drash.

Friday, August 8, 2014

State Supreme Court rules psychiatric boarding unlawful!!

The Today File

August 7, 2014 at 9:25 AM
State Supreme Court rules psychiatric boarding unlawful
The Washington State Supreme Court ruled Thursday that boarding psychiatric patients temporarily in hospital emergency rooms and acute care centers because there isn’t space at certified psychiatric treatment facilities is unlawful.
The court ruled unanimously that patients held temporarily in settings that don’t provide individualized psychiatric treatment violates the state’s Involuntary Treatment Act.
“It’s always been inhumane not to provide treatment, now it’s clearly illegal,” said Ross Hunter, D-Medina, Chair of the State House Appropriations Committee. Hunter said the state will have to respond sooner than the Legislature can act, which might not be until a new budget can be approved next spring.
He said the state must add short-term capacity by opening new beds at Western and Eastern State Hospitals, but should also try to add less-expensive beds at community treatment facilities which also allows patients to remain closer to home with more continuity of care. Hunter said beds at state psychiatric hospitals can cost $600 a day while the care in a community clinic may cost half as much and be eligible for Medicaid reimbursement.
He said the state’s mental health treatment system faced devastating cuts during the recession and is now seeing the consequences in the big increase in psychiatric patients boarded in hospital emergency rooms or acute care centers rather than certified psychiatric treatment facilities.
He noted that a state task force made up of representatives from the Department of Social and Health Services, King County, the Governor’s Office and the King County Executive’s Office is working on the issue.
“We don’t know how many patients we’re talking about because the hospitals don’t keep good data on boarding, but the cost to the state could be in the tens of millions,” Hunter said.
A lawyer representing mentally ill clients praised Thursday’s ruling and said it could lead to better treatment.
“The decision is the court recognizing that when our clients are involuntarily committed, they need to be placed in a setting where they can get proper psychiatric treatment,” said Mike De Felice, who supervises public defenders who represent involuntarily committed patients in King County.
He said certified psychiatric care facilities can provide monitoring of medications, staff trained to treat mentally ill patients and a therapeutic setting where clients can be diagnosed and treated to improve their condition.
“If a client is strapped to an emergency  bed rather than being in a psychiatric treatment environment, it can be traumatic for the patient and can certainly delay healing,” De Felice said. Effective outpatient treatment can also be less costly, he said.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Johnson, Murphy lead briefing on Medicaid exclusions at the Congressional Homelessness Caucus - hosted by the Treatment Advocacy Center

Johnson, Murphy lead briefing on Medicaid exclusions

WASHINGTON— Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson and Congressman 
Tim Murphy, in conjunction with the Congressional Homelessness 
Caucus and hosted by the Treatment Advocacy Center, led a congressional 
briefing on the Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) Exclusion to Medicaid. 

“The IMD exclusion has inadvertently caused our jails and prisons to become warehouses for the severely mentally ill,” Congresswoman Johnson said to the gathered crowd. “Unfortunately, the consequences of non-treatment are visible in our communities. People with untreated psychiatric illness now make up one-third of our estimated 600,000 homeless population; and in 2012, there were an estimated 356,268 inmates with severe mental illness in prisons and jails across the nation. Patients with mental illness need increased access to psychiatric beds to have a real chance of recovery. They don’t need to be left out on the street or incarcerated, because their illness is never treated. We must work to eliminate barriers to better mental health treatment for our underserved minority communities.”

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Rep. Tim Murphy On The Rights of the Mentally Ill

Congressman Tim Murphy (PA-18) gave an amazing speech on (Tue. 7/29) 

Text of speech on House Floor

“Mr. Speaker, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act reforms our broken and harmful mental health system. Here are some reasons why we need it.

For some who are experiencing the most serious mental illnesses, like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, they don’t think their hallucinations are real; they know they are real. Their illness affects their brains in such a way that they are certain, beyond all doubt, their delusions are real. It is not an attitude or denial. It is a very real brain condition.

With that understanding, we are left with a series of questions: Do these individuals have a right to be sick, or do they have a right to treatment? Do they have a right to live as victims on the streets, or do they have a right to get better? Do they have a right to be disabled and unemployed, or do they have a right to recover and get back to work? I believe these individuals and their families have the right to heal and lead healthy lives.

But they are sometimes blinded by a symptom called anosognosia, a neurological condition of the frontal lobe which renders the individual incapable of understanding that they are ill.

Every single day, millions of families struggle to help a loved one with serious mental illness who won’t seek treatment. Many knew that Aaron Alexis, James Holmes, Jared Loughner, Adam Lanza, and Elliot Rodgers needed help.

Their families tried, but the individual’s illness caused them to believe nothing was wrong, and they fought against the help. These families watch their brother, their son, or their parent spiral downward in a system that, by design, only responds after crisis, not before or during. The loved one is more likely to end up in prison or living on the streets, where they suffer violence and victimization, or cycle in and out of the emergency room or commit suicide.

In a recent New York Times article about Rikers Island prison, they report that over an 11-month period last year, 129 inmates suffered injuries so serious that doctors at the jail’s clinics were unable to treat them; 77 percent of those inmates had been previously diagnosed with mental illness.

Rikers now has as many people with mental illness as all 24 psychiatric hospitals in New York State combined, and they make up nearly 40 percent of the jail population, up from about 20 percent 8 years 

Inmates with mental illnesses commit two-thirds of the infractions in the jail, and they commit an overwhelming majority of assaults on jail staff members. Yet, by law, they cannot be medicated involuntarily at the jail, and hospitals often refuse to accept them unless they harm themselves or others.

Is that humane? Shouldn’t we have acted before they committed a crime to compel them to get help?

According to the article, correctional facilities now hold 95 percent of all institutionalized people with mental illness. That is wrong. Yet with all we know about mental illness and the treatments to help those experiencing it, there are still organizations, federally funded with taxpayer dollars, that believe individuals who are too sick to seek treatment will be better off left alone than in inpatient or outpatient treatment. It is insensitive. It is callous. It is misguided. It is unethical. It is immoral. And Congress should not stand by as these organizations continue their abusive malpractice against the mentally ill.

The misguided ones are more comfortable allowing the mentally ill to live under bridges or behind dumpsters than getting the emergency help that they need in a psychiatric hospital or an outpatient clinic because they cling to their fears of the old asylums, as if medical science and the understanding of the brain has not advanced over the last 60 years.

We would never deny treatment to a stroke victim or a senior with Alzheimer’s disease simply because he or she is unable to ask for care. Yet, in cases of serious brain disorders, like schizophrenia, this cruel conundrum prevents us from acting even when we know we must because the laws say we can’t. We must change those misguided and harmful laws.

The system is the most difficult for those who have the greatest difficulty. Why are some more comfortable with prison or homelessness or unemployment, poverty, and a 25-year shorter life span?

I tell my colleagues: Do not turn a blind eye to those that need our help. The mentally ill can and will get better if Congress takes the right action.

Tomorrow, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas and I will hold a briefing at 3 p.m. on the rights of the seriously mentally ill to get treatment. I hope my colleagues will attend and understand that we have to take mental illness out of the shadows by passing the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, H.R. 3717, because where there is no help, there is no hope.”

Nothing about us without ALL of us! Treatment Before Tragedy is the Civil Rights Movement of our day, a Right to Treatment and a right to Treatment Before Tragedy. Please help us reach members of Congress by going to our page and sending an email through PopVOXIt's just a few clicks! We appreciate your help and it is one way you can send a message to congress that you support HR 3717 that would stop wasteful spending of your tax dollars!  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Treatment Before Tragedy is launched July 20, 2014

For the past year and a half, I have been honored to worked with a courageous group of family members and community leaders to create a new national organization called Treatment Before Tragedy, or Tb4T.

Treatment Before Tragedy was founded to advocate for better treatment, services, research and a cure for those with serious brain disease, known commonly as mental illness, and their families.

Treatment Before Tragedy members live with the consequences and impacts of untreated mental illnesses every day, and understand mental illness to be a brain disease requiring significantly more medical research. We believe that serious mental illness should receive medical treatment as a physical, medical illness of the brain, not a behavioral disorder.

Treatment Before Tragedy’s members strongly advocate for significant changes in our nation’s approach to the care and treatment of those with serious brain diseases. We support H.R. 3717, the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act,” which seeks to improve the nation’s broken mental health system by refocusing programs and resources on medical care for patients and families most in need of services. 

Become a member:
Please follow us on Twitter:

Please join us on our Facebook page:

For more information, please go to:
Or contact one of Treatment Before Tragedy’s Interim Board of Directors:

·       Asra Nomani, 304.685.2189,
·      Joe Bruce, 207.672.4449,

·      Pam Norick, 301.332.3639,

Sincerely,  GG Burns ~ Kentucky MH advocate