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: