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.

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.

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.


Morehead in central Kentucky, is a beautiful town right out of a travel postcard. It's surrounded by the Daniel Boone National Forest, full of culture and scenic beauty.

Their local NAMI Morehead affiliate board president, Carol Mauriello requested me to present on H.R. 3717 and the need to reform mental health laws in Kentucky earlier this year. However, due to schedule conflicts, I was unable to meet with NAMI Morehead until August 30, 2014.

L-R, Carolyn Miller, Carol Mauriello and GG Burns 
The following are a few photograhps made at our meeting. Thanks to all the members and Morehead Students who came out to learn more about H.R. 3717 and how it can help families in crisis. 

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.