Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Governor Bevin proposes deep budget cuts, but would preserve social workers, law enforcement and public defenders

Yes Governor Bevin, it is crazy! 
“We have folks who are working (in prisons) for 12 hours on 12 hours on 12 hours on 12 hours. It’s crazy,” the governor said. “We have to offset some of that.”
Please consider the need for Kentucky to amend it's antiquated mental health law! Kentucky needs HB94 to pass ... allowing "treatment before tragedy" and reducing the need for law enforcement, criminal justice, public defenders and prison cells! Small wonder Kentucky prison's staff has such a high turn over, they are the new asylums ... plus the prisoners have the right to refuse treatment. 

This advocacy blog was founded in 2010, on the fact that Kentucky's prison system was growing faster than any other state, despite the fact that crime was down. Too often people with serious mental illnesses lack insight to their illness and become trapped, unable to move forward due to their civil liberties and the a law that could restore a person's capacity for informed consent "before" they sink into acute psychosis and commit crimes. "Before" they self-medicate and "before" they end up homeless, dying on the streets. And, "Before" they become a law enforcement problem!

My question is, if Kentucky increases the number of public defenders ... is there a possibility for "Tim's Law"? After all Governor Bevin, these individuals are our most vulnerable citizens. 

Please support Tim's Law (HB94), a mental health bill that will help people with severe brain diseases have a "right to treatment" instead of being pushed through the cracks to self-medicate, to end up homeless and/ or become trapped in one of KY's over-crowed prisons ... all from "untreated" symptoms of a disease in their brains!! Tim's law would save lives, save tax payer's money and would allow people with brain diseases to stay out of the revolving door. 

From Kentucky.com's article: 
Bevin proposes $650 million in spending

New governor says his top priority is more money for ailing pension systems
Cabinet secretaries to decide how to cut their agencies by 9 percent in 2017-18
Per-pupil K-12 funding, social workers, public safety among protected categories

Apart from the budget, Bevin said he soon would order independent audits of all state pension agencies and, armed with that information, would propose “substantive structural changes” at the start of the 2017 legislative session. Bevin has called for enrolling future state employees in defined-contribution retirement plans, like a private sector 401(k), to minimize the state’s financial liability.

  Provide $4.8 million over the biennium to hire more social workers and social service clinicians, and raise entry-level wages, affecting 2,030 positions statewide.
  Include $12.4 million to boost salaries for Kentucky State Police and $4.5 million in retention raises for correctional officers at state prisons. The prisons are grappling with a 67 percent turnover rate among employees, Bevin said.
“We have folks who are working (in prisons) for 12 hours on 12 hours on 12 hours on 12 hours. It’s crazy,” the governor said. “We have to offset some of that.”
  Add $6.3 million to hire 44 public defenders, reducing caseloads for the lawyers at the state Department of Public Advocacy who represent indigent criminal suspects. Also in the courts, Bevin said he would fully fund last year’s heroin bill, known as Senate Bill 192; fully fund Operation UNITE, an anti-drug task force in southeastern Kentucky; exempt prosecutors from budget reductions; and include $6.4 million for the KASPER system, which tracks prescriptions for controlled substances.
Public advocate Ed Monahan was delighted to learn of the additional money to hire more public defenders.
“I think it’s a very smart investment that will help reduce the frustrations of victims and prosecutors,” Monahan said. “Better capacity at the front end allows cases to be resolved more quickly, more fairly and more reliably.”

Read more here:

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/news/politics-government/article56717773.html#storylink=cpy

Friday, January 22, 2016

‘Tim’s Law’ aims to keep individuals with a serious brain disease OUT of Kentucky hospitals, off streets


To All:

Our board and staff want to keep you informed on our advocacy efforts. As you know, we are working with the Kentucky Mental Health Coalition (KMHC) and other organizations to pass Tim's Law, HB 94, through the General Assembly in Frankfort.
For a bill to become law, it must first pass at least one legislative committee and Tim's Law passed the House Health & Welfare committee last week. This is a great first step, but there are more hurdles ahead. Tim's Law is now headed to the House Appropriations & Revenue Committee.
We need your help advocating for Tim's Law. Call 1-800-372-7181. Ask to leave a message for the House Appropriations & Revenue Committee. Then leave the following message:
My name is ______________ and I'm calling to ask that you support HB94, also known as Tim's Law. Tim's Law will help people in Kentucky who are currently unable to access effective treatment for mental illness. Outpatient treatment plans have proven successful in other states, and they would help families and individuals impacted by mental illness in Kentucky. Please support Tim's Law, HB94.

NAMI Kentucky's Advocacy Coordinator, Michael Gray, is in Frankfort throughout the week. If you have any questions, please call him at 270-348-0066

Monday, January 11, 2016

Help Kentucky provide treatment BEFORE tragedy, by saying YES to Tim’s Law - HB 94

Tim’s Law - HB 94 – the AOT (assisted outpatient treatment) legislation sponsored by Rep. Tom Burch – will be heard for a vote this coming Thursday (Jan. 14that the House Health and Welfare Committee.  The committee meets from noon to 2 p.m. in Room 169 of the Annex.

Please call members of the House Health and Welfare Committee and ask for them to vote “Yes!” on HB 94!!  (View list here:)

Call your legislator directly if he/she in on the committee by calling 502-564-8100 and asking for their office.  
If you want to leave a message for the entire committee, call 
1-800-372-7181 and ask for your message of support to go to the entire House Health and Welfare Committee!!  

A summary description of the legislation can be viewed HERE.

Mark your calendars for the United 874K Disability Coalition Advocacy Event and Rally on February 2, 2016!!  If you/your group are planning to attend, please complete the Participation Form and return it to Sheila Schuster of the Advocacy Action Network. RSVP headcount needs to be in by Wednesday!

Thank you for your advocacy!

Sheila A. Schuster, Ph.D.
Advocacy Action Network
120 Sears Avenue, Suite 212
Louisville, KY  40207
502-894-0222 phone
502-836-4222 cell
502-894-0635 fax

Sunday, May 24, 2015

100 families travel to Washington, D.C. to ask congress to support "The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act"

Mental illness awareness discussed in Washington, D.C.

On May 20, 2015, nearly 100 families and advocates affected by serious mental illness participated in a press event on Capitol Hill hosted by the Treatment Advocacy Center, a nonprofit dedicated to eliminating barriers to treatment for people with severe mental illness.
"I was honored to be among  3 delegates attending from Kentucky. At times, it was overwhelming to be among so many heroes."
Maggie Krueger - Columbia, Brenda and Jim Benson - Murray and GG Burns - Lexington; joined families from Maine to California  … all sharing the same painful stories of how our loved ones are unable to receive treatment before tragedy.  
Maggie shares a carabiner with Congressman Ed Whitfield in 
his office in the Rayburn Building in Washington, DC. Brenda Benson shares
the pain her family has endured trying to keep her son safe and in treatment.

Maggie Krueger said, "When meeting with my Congressman, Representative Ed Whitfield, I focused on the mental illness initiatives I was there to support and presented him with a carabiner. Peculiar gift, you might think. Let me explain. Carabiners are metal safety clips used in mountain climbing and other high risk ventures - to link and to anchor. May I suggest that we have a mountain of compromised systems to travail. No one person or organization can go it alone. No one event will be successful in turning the tide; no one will get everything they want. So we need to look for anchors and connections - people and organizations of like mind and mission to safely make the ascent." 

Brenda Benson said, "It was an honor for my husband and me to be included in the Treatment Advocacy Center Summit on Mental Health in Washington, DC.  While there we were able to meet with Congressman Ed Whitfield in the 1st district of the House of Representatives.  We shared with him how difficult it has been for our family to find and access quality evidence based mental health care in our community.  We asked for his support of “The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act” to be re-introduced soon.  We are pleased that Congressman Whitfield has shown his support in the past.  Congressman Whitfield co-sponsored “The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act” in 2014.

While meeting with Congressman Whitfield, GG explained the state NAMI organization has work collaboratively with many state agencies to pass a revised AOT law that would help the sickest individuals with brain disease who lack capacity to understand the need for treatment.  GG explained she frequently receives calls from families in crises across Kentucky, in all districts and how important “The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act" will be in assisting states like Kentucky to utilize existing laws, as well as providing a more humane outpatient treatment law such as Tim's Law, expected to pass in 2016.  AOT in Kentucky would saves lives, save state general funds and would provide a least restrictive environment.  GG shared her own personal story of her son's long history and how the system continues to fail him each year as he's trapped in the revolving door, never receiving treatment long enough to reclaim his life, because the agreed orders are for only 60-days.  The behavioral health system sets up young adults like my son to fail.  

GG also met with Francis Brooke, legislative assistant for Congressman Andy Barr, (6th district House of Representatives). Congressman Barr also co-sponsored  Tim Murphy's Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act in 2014.  GG said, "This landmark bill will unravel a broken system and address barriers to treatment for those who need it the most.  Our loved ones deserve a right to treatment, a right to be in their right mind … and to receive treatment before tragedy." 

Families joined together by tragedy in their lives, L-R, Laura Pogliano - MD, Donna Pitts - IL, GG Burns - KY and Marla Durkin-Pope - AL. 
The press conference brought out congressional staffers and journalists for a candid discussion on mental health reforms. Anthony Hernandez, father of Aaron Hernandez, 19, spoke to the audience about the struggles he and his wife, Cynthia, endured when trying to get Aaron help for his mental illness. Anthony described how they frequently encountered bureaucratic red tape – including restrictive HIPAA laws – that held them back from helping Aaron seek mental health treatment. In a psychotic state, Aaron stabbed his mother and father and is currently held in prison. Now, Anthony is working every day to urge lawmakers to support and sign onto the Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act. 
View live report from ABC12: Your Trusted Source! WJRT-TV here: 

“Why did it have to come to this?” Anthony asked the audience. “Why wasn’t I given the authority over my sick son, to get him the treatment he never realized he desperately needed?”

Congressman Murphy, who plans to reintroduce his landmark Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act shortly, told family members and advocates to press their local members of Congress to pass his legislation so no more families have to experience the heartbreak and pain of seeing their loved ones fall through the cracks of our country’s broken mental health system. 

“Mental illness doesn’t know any boundaries here. No matter your race, gender, income level, political party, age, it doesn’t care,” Murphy said to NBC News. “Mental illness is a disease, and we must treat it as such: attack it like a cancer, or diabetes,” said Murphy . “Diagnosis should not be a lock; it is a key.” 

Read short summaries of the stories told here:

Anthony Hernandez, California (statement)

Jennifer Hoff, California (statement)

Candie Dalton, Colorado (statement)

Teresa Pasquini, California (statement)

Michele Hicks, New York (statement)

Pamela Blodgett, Rhode Island (statement)                              

The above information was copied from Congressman Tim Murphy's Website: http://murphy.house.gov/latest-news/icymi-murphy-stands-with-families-affected-by-serious-mental-illness-urges-reforms-to-systems/

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Thoughts from a Kentucky Mental Health & Prison Reform Advocate – how do we measure our progress?

By: Maggie Krueger, guest blog post

Recently, while helping our daughter with her science homework, I was reminded of the simple equation for work done.

Work Done = Force X Distance.

If a force is exerted but no distance moved then no work has been done.

We may feel very fatigued pushing against that which we have tried to move, but energy was only expended within our own bodies with no result.

This seems to sum up a lot of what I have been feeling lately regarding my participation in various advocacy activities. Much time is given (texting, phone calls, attending meetings, driving great distances across the state, educating myself by reading articles, serving on boards, etc.) But how do I determine if any work has been done? I feel fatigued; as I'm sure most do in trying to move this mountain of prejudice against our loved ones. Do I see results from this fatigue? How would I measure it? In the number of Facebook groups I belong to or the friends I have? Should I concentrate on the number of meetings I've attended, miles driven - all measurable.

I think I need to measure with the end in mind: what reduction has there been in police shootings of the seriously mentally ill? What mental health treatment are prisoners given? 

What is the reduction of people with mental illness in our court system? We can start by getting Crises Intervention Training, (CIT) training for our law enforcement officers     but how do we measure the results?

I need to look at numbers and feel accomplishment in the fatigue I am feeling.

NOTE: Maggie is a tireless advocate for those with brain diseases, we refer to as “the voiceless” – the ones who often end up trapped in the justice system, in homeless shelters and abandoned by the broken behavioral health system. Maggie is currently the President of NAMI Somerset, volunteers for the Kentucky State Interagency Council (SIAC); the Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities Planning and Advisory Council; serves on the Board of Directors for Kentucky Partnership for Families and Children, is a certified Family Peer Support Specialist, participant on the NAMI Kentucky Advocacy Advisory Committee and the steering committee for the homeless initiative in Somerset. Wow, small wonder Maggie is tired. If Kentucky had more advocates like Maggie, who actually walks the walk and not only talks the talk … we’d make changes in moving the mountain sooner. GG Burns

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Acknowledging a substantial body of research, the federal agency that oversees mental health services and substance abuse treatment has recognized court-ordered outpatient treatment as an evidence-based intervention for people with severe mental illness who struggle with voluntary treatment adherence.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) last week added the practice commonly known as assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) to the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP).
“The federal agency charged with coordinating programs for adults with mental illness reviewed the evidence and found that AOT is an evidence-based intervention for reducing the dire consequences of nontreatment like repeat hospitalization, violence and suicide,” said Doris A. Fuller, executive director.
“Policymakers have another clear signal that passing and implementing AOT is a reasonable means of improving outcomes for people with severe mental illness,” the executive said.

AOT provides court-ordered treatment in the community to people with serious mental illness and a history of treatment non-adherence and commits service providers to delivering appropriate care to the most high-risk, high-need individuals. The federal agency added outpatient commitment to NREPP after an independent assessment concluded the program met its requirements for demonstrating positive outcomes in multiple, rigorous peer-reviewed studies.

The value of the intervention for qualifying individuals is also recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, the National Sheriffs’ Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

SAMHSA’s designation follows recognition of AOT by the US Department of Justice, whose Office of Justice Programs deemed it to be an effective and evidence-based practice for reducing crime and violence in 2012. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia currently authorize the use of some form of court-ordered outpatient treatment for individuals with the most severe psychiatric diseases.  
“This impartial assessment adds further weight to the voices of advocates across the country seeking to implement AOT laws to save lives,” said Fuller. “Far too many communities face tragic outcomes because of a failure to effectively use this common-sense solution to serve those who are most severely mentally ill.”

The National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices is a publicly available online database of mental health and substance abuse interventions. To be recognized as evidence-based, interventions must meet NREPP’s requirements for review and be independently assessed and rated for quality of research and readiness for dissemination, according to the agency’s website.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

HB65 would have been a way out of the revolving door, by Michael Gray

Thanks To Michael Gray for his leadership and for this well written explanation of HB65 in Medical News MD. Other than this blog, Michael's article was the only information published about HB65 in media outlets.
The fact that the Appropriations and Revenue committee used the cost of public defender hearings, as an excuse to derail this bill - indicates how much education is still needed regarding this humane solution to stop the revolving door.
When has “outpatient” treatment ever cost more than inpatient?  GG Burns

Michael Gray
"Even though HB65 died in the Appropriations and Revenue committee in Frankfort last week, we will be back next year to advocate for better treatment options!"  - Michael Gray

Michael Gray is executive director of NAMI Louisville, March 5, 2015

New treatment method gives mentally ill a chance at recovery while living independently, with family or in supportive housing.
There are a variety of treatment options for severe and persistent mental illness, but many people experience symptoms so great they are unable to access healthcare services voluntarily. They often end up homeless, incarcerated or involuntarily hospitalized, none of which provide long-term solutions to their symptoms or treatment for their illness.
Assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) should be an alternative to those worse-case scenarios. It allows people who would otherwise cycle in and out of the criminal justice system and short-term hospital stays to receive long-term treatment while remaining in the community. 
Community Based Option
AOT is a process where a person’s family, friends and mental health providers can work with the court system to determine the least restrictive means of treatment. It is only suited for people who have the most severe symptoms of mental illness and are often unaware that they need treatment.
Without intervention by their families and the courts, these individuals can end up homeless, incarcerated or victimized as a result of their symptoms. AOT provides a way out of the revolving door of ineffective outcomes by taking patients out of this cycle and giving them a chance at recovery while living on their own, with family or in supportive housing. 
Read more here: http://www.medicalnews.md/a-way-out-of-the-revolving-door/

Reproduced with permission from Medical News, LLC
Vol. [ Copyright or [March 2015]www.medicalnews.md