Thursday, October 9, 2014

Stigmatizing and Shunning the Severely Ill | Huffington Post

This article by Dr. Allen Frances hits the nail on the head. People with severe mental illness/brain diseases, who don't believe they are ill and lack capacity for informed consent, are allowed to live in the community delusional, dysfunctional, and "YES" often dangerous to themselves and their family! Medical providers in our community recently stated that perhaps my son would received "treatment in jail" … since he has the right to refuse it in the community! Yet even in prison, he has rights to refuse the care he needs to restore his brain function! Only in Amercia are laws this insane! Thanks to the laws that protect his civil rights … he had only received “3 weeks of medical treatment in 2014” for a brain disease that has a 
21-year documented history
While NAMI and other national mental health groups focus on bringing awareness that mental illnesses are treatable and spend millions on anti-stigma campaigns … both they and society are turning a blind eye to what is really going on behind the scenes due to the fight over funding. Consequently funds are being rerouted to the justice system, jails and prisons. Dr. Frances’ article explains this with great detail.
Families of individuals with “severe mental illness/brain diseases” deserve humane "TREATMENT Before TRAGEDY". 
GG Burns - 
"Advocate and a Mother who is unable to help her son" 

"We are civilized people in the United States. We don't set up leper colonies or concentration camps or psychiatric snake pits to banish people with severe mental illness. Instead we send them to jail or prison -- almost 400,000 of them, more than 10 times the number receiving care in hospitals. And we also blithely ignore the fact that additional hundreds of thousands live homeless on the streets or in squalid housing and have little or no access to treatment.
The extreme absurdity of our system is perhaps best illustrated when some of our mentally ill are reduced to repeatedly inviting arrest in order to get "three hots and a cot." For them a restricted life behind bars beats a chaotic and dangerous life on the streets.
But for most prison is a living nightmare. People with mental illness don't adapt well to its rituals and dangers. They are vulnerable targets for physical abuse, rape, and prolonged (further crazy-making) solitary confinement. Our society's mismanagement of the severely mentally ill is a disgrace -- perhaps not quite as bad as medieval witch hunting, but close behind."
PRISONWe can't in any way excuse it, but how do we explain the lousy care and subsequent shunning to prison and street? Some of the neglect certainly arises from felt economic necessity; many states have been forced to sharply slash spending to balance budgets, and one of the easiest things to cut is mental-health funding. But the fundamental reasons must go much deeper. The same states, simultaneously and without much notice or qualm, have radically increased their appropriations for prisons, despite the fact that it is much more expensive to cruelly imprison people with severe mental illness than to compassionately treat them in the community. It is penny-wise and pound-foolish to shortchange community treatment and housing while wasting funds on inappropriate prison beds.
The best explanation for this irrational distribution of scarce resources is the stigma of severe illness. We begrudge the severely ill the necessary funding for humane and cost-effective care but don't seem to mind locking them up in expensive and soul-destroying prisons.
Dictionary definitions of "stigma" describe it as a mark of disgrace, shame, dishonor, ignominy, opprobrium, humiliation, or bad reputation unfairly attached to a person, group or quality. Tellingly, the "the stigma of mental disorder" is almost always offered as the first and most classic example.

A troubling paradox has, I think, developed in the stigma attached to mental illness: Never has there been less stigma for having mild psychiatric problems, but never has there been more stigma for having severe ones.
This has come about because the definition of "mental illness" is now so loose: One in four of us qualifies every year, one in two across a lifetime, and one in five is taking a psychiatric medicine. 
There is enormous power in these numbers. 
The sting of having a psychiatric diagnosis or receiving treatment is much reduced when so many people take psychiatric medication or participate in psychotherapy."

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Lets do more than "WALK" or "TALK" during Mental Illness Awareness Week

Some people will spend a few hours this week talking about stigma and how they wish they could help a friend or loved one living with a mental illness. Take a pledge to do more than "WALK" or "TALK" … call your US congressman and help pass national legislation that will stop the discrimination of the sickest, eliminating barriers to gain timely treatment before tragedy. 

‪#‎passhr3717‬ ‪#‎tb4t‬ 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

As Mentally Ill Fall Through Net, Insurers Asked to Take Up Slack

MANAGED CARE September 2014. © MediMedia USA
Innovative government projects might point the way toward how plans can save money while addressing a growing public policy concern
Joseph Burns
Contributing Editor

Quoted by Andrew Sperling (NAMI):
"The other program would establish a four-year initiative to award as many as 50 grants each year to entities establishing assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) programs for people with serious mental illness. Congress authorized spending $60 million for four years, beginning next year.
Andrew Sperling, JD“This provision would be for people at the severe end of the spectrum who don’t come voluntarily to services and who might need court-ordered treatment,” says Sperling. “It’s a pilot AOT program for patients with severe mental illness. There are laws in 45 states that require such treatment, but many of those states don’t require AOT, which is for people who have failed to engage in treatment. This is not about putting people into institutions. It’s about mandatory treatment in the community.” Read more here:

Monday, September 22, 2014

Nurse Mary: ‘Mental Health + Physical Health = Brain Health’

"I am proud to call Mary Palafox my friend and mentor! Society has much to learn and Mary is leading the way to help us get there!"  ~ gg burns

“My stomach is in knots,” Mary tells Treatment Before Tragedy, as her son walks the tight rope between behavioral health and the judicial system. “They don’t have institutions anymore, so families are the institution,” Mary says. “Taxpayers need to know families are the largest provider for food, clothing and shelter for those with mentally illness. All efforts thus should go towards supporting family caretakers and maintaining this very important relationship.”
Not long after the publication of the Orange County Register article, Mary joined other mothers, family members and community members to launch the organization that is today Treatment Before Tragedy.
“If my son had autism, he would have a ‘right to treatment’ within physical health care, based on his lack of capacity to understand his need for treatment. If my mother had Alzheimer’s, I could advocate for medical services, but in behavioral health, I had to wait for my son to deteriorate to the point of dangerousness and/or grave disability. 
Watching that happen was pure agony. Hearing mental health professionals apologizing over and over again, concerning the broken system was also totally unacceptable and inhumane to witness.” 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Whitfield recognized for mental health support - Bowling Green Daily News: News

Posted: Wednesday, September 3, 2014 8:33 am
Ed WhitfieldFRANKLIN — U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville, on Tuesday received the legislator of the year award from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Kentucky.  

Local NAMI Chapter Pleased with KY Congressman Whitfield for Cosponsoring H.R. 3717


Jim and Brenda Benson, second and third from left, were among several members of Kentucky NAMI chapters to present Kentucky 1st District U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield with the NAMI Kentucky Legislator of the Year award for his dedication to the cause and co-sponsorship of the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. (lr) Bobby Vaughn (NAMI of Bowling Green), Jim Benson and Brenda Benson (NAMI of Murray), Larry Gregory (NAMI of Bowling Green) and Congressman Whitfield.

SurfKY News, Information provided by Kyser Lough

MURRAY, Ky. (9/20/14) — Kentucky First District U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, a co-sponsor of HR 3717, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, was recently awarded the National Alliance on Mental Illness Kentucky Legislator of the Year award.

For Brenda Benson and others in the local NAMI Support Group, this award represents a step in the right direction for mental health care.
“We are pleased to have a representative in Congress who understands the importance of helping people with a mental illness,” Benson said. “The state of our country’s mental health system is broken and this bill will begin the process of repairing that system. This bill will open up access to services for those living with a severe and persistent mental illness and will also allow families/caregivers to become a part of the treatment team.”

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Congressman Barr meets with Mental Health Advocates to discuss HR 3717, “The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act”.

On Tuesday Sept 2, 2014, a group of National Alliance on Mental Illness, (NAMI) advocates from Kentucky’s district 6, met in Congressman Andy Barr’s office in Lexington KY. We gathered to thank Congressman Barr for cosponsoring H.R. 3717 “The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act”.

In our meeting, Congressman Barr explained how earlier this year; he had met with Congressman Tim Murphy (PA-18), who sponsored H.R. 3717 learning first hand the importance to this landmark bill.

Before Congressman Murphy sponsored HR 3717, between January 2013 and March of this year, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a dozen public forums and spent considerable hours determining how federal dollars devoted to research and treatment into mental illness are being prioritized and spent. This committee reviewed our ‘behavioral health’ system and revealed: “a chaotic patchwork of antiquated programs and ineffective policies across numerous agencies!”

Findings of this Sub-Committee:
Federal Government spends 125 billion on mental health! 
Agencies do not collect data on how $ spent or effectiveness. 
Grants and programs do not use the best available treatments and protocols. 
Need to integrate general healthcare with Mental Health treatment. 
HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) privacy rule consistently creates barriers, especially for parents with young adults at home! 
First Responders, Paramedics and EMS workers are serving as MH social workers with little training on psychotic breaks. 
Department of Justice, (DOJ) does not track mental health of individuals involved in crimes or as victims of crimes. Prisons have replaced psychiatric hospitals – 50- 64% of all inmates in prison have brain disease or serious mental illness, SMI. 
Prisons have seemingly replaced mental hospitals for caring for the mentally ill. While there is no precise number on the number of mentally ill in prisons, estimates vary between 20 and 50 percent of all inmates.
Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) has been proven to reduce hospitalization, homelessness, and violence.
Police officers are too often serving as mental health social workers and first responders of incidents involving a violent psychotic episode. Many of these events are entirely preventable. For more info click here:  
Published with permission from Rep. Andy Barr's office 
At the meeting on Tuesday, central Kentucky families shared the importance of passing this bill and what parts we personally identified with. 

One Mother showed a photo of her young daughter when she was healthy before she developed symptoms of schizophrenia. Due to the lack of access to treatment and the barriers that HR 3717 addresses, her daughter has gone primarily without treatment for 10 years! Consequently her daughter has suffered with irreparable brain damage.

Another Mother showed a stack of files illustrating the years of effort she had endured trying to gain treatment for her son before tragedy. Sadly her son died earlier this year.

Another Mother from Winchester KY, mentioned her son had been homeless for years and how she was unable to help him obtain treatment due to the broken mental health system! Her biggest fear he will freeze to death on the streets in the winter.

We all found Congressman Barr to be compassionate and genuinely sincere in listening to our concerns. With his help, I know we’ll eventually pass a compressive bill to stop the inhumane treatment of the most seriously mental ill who are suffering unnecessarily with treatable brain diseases. As we left, Congressman Barr asked how he could help and pledged to speak to the other Kentucky Representatives who have not yet agreed to co-sponsored this important ACT in congress!

NAMI teaches us to never give up hope, 
H.R. 3717 is our HOPE!  ~ GG Burns

Show in photo is from L-R around the table:

1.) Joann Strunk, Mother of a daughter with schizophrenia; See her story here:

2.) GG Burns, NAMI volunteer, KY Advocate and Co-founder of 
suffer from serious mental illness in the U.S.

3.) Congressman Andy Barr,

4.) Donnie Colliver, NAMI LEX volunteer

5.) Carolyn Colliver, NAMI LEX volunteer

6.) Elizabeth Molands, NAMI Winchester volunteer

7.) Brenda Harrington, NAMI Winchester volunteer

8.) Faye Morton, NAMI volunteer and AOT advocate, (see Faye's story/photo here.)

9.) Gloria Burd, NAMI LEX volunteer, Homeless advocate and and Mother of a daughter who died from complications of severe mental illness when she was only 25.