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, http://barr.house.gov

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.