Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Tim’s Law (AOT BILL SB 91) passes in Kentucky

I write with great appreciation today as a tribute to "Tim Morton" and his family and to all the Kentucky agencies, family members, individuals with mental illnesses and professionals who lobbied together to gain action on the passing of “Tim’s law” on March 14, 2017.

Faye Morton and I started a journey over 7 years ago to hopefully “wake up” Kentucky, regarding the most seriously ill who lacked insight to their mental illness, instead of "helplessly" waiting for them to die with their rights on.
In the beginning, when we used terms like AOT, (assisted outpatient treatment), most Kentuckians including legislators, did not know what it meant nor realized that Kentucky had a shorten version of AOT on its law books – that was woefully underfunded and had been underutilized for over two decades.
As time went on, I stepped far beyond my comfort zone, blogging and speaking publicly – in my attempts to educate the public why AOT was needed. I asked exhausted family members to write stories to share with the media and pleaded in thousands of letters and emails to state legislators of why Kentuckians’ deserved a true AOT law. 

I believed that people with severe brain diseases deserved treatment before tragedy NOT after hospitalization! By that time it was often too late! I wanted an AOT law in Kentucky like other states had! I desperately wanted an AOT law for my son who was trapped in a costly and life threatening revolving door. (I did not want to see his brain deteriorate to the point that Tim’s had over the past 30 years.) At times, I worked day and night until my own health was severely compromised.

By using Faye’s story about her son Tim, we attempted to educate others about anosognosia (a lack of insight to one’s illness) – to both legislators and the public. For a long time, most had trouble pronouncing the term. Finally after many years of effort, the "Tim’s Law" bills actually included the term "anosognosia", to explain how a small portion of people were too ill to understand their conditions and were unable to benefit from the traditional mental health services in the current voluntary health care system.

Faye and I joined with other like minded advocates and drove across the state attending NAMI Kentucky conferences, Kentucky Mental Health Coalition state meetings, political rallies, community fairs and festivals. We testified in legislative hearings more times than we care to remember. I created Powerpoint presentations and printed handouts – we were on a mission.
We invited national advocacy groups like Treatment Advocacy Center to fly to Kentucky to give educational presentations on why Kentucky would benefit from an AOT law
how AOT would help individuals like Tim and how AOT would save state funds and save lives!

Thankfully – many other groups joined in and pushed the bills to another level – it took a village, but we did not give up!

In the past 4 years, several versions of Tim’s law were sponsored in both the Kentucky House of Representatives and the Senate. Until this year, these bills did not pass. It was always due to the false belief that Tim's Law would cost too much, never about saving lives. Finally the Kentucky legislature realized the state would pay now or pay later and passed Tim's law unanimously 95-0 on the house floor after it passed out of the full senate a week ago. Next step is for Governor Bevin to sign this bill into law and for Kentucky to secure funding from federal AOT grants.

I am sincerely thankful for "everyone" who took the time to call, to write and to listen to why we wanted Tim's Law to pass.

There are many heroes in the passing of Tim’s law since 2010, here are a few.

Faye Morton, Tim’s Mom and inspirational advocate to many
Joy Morton Henderson, Tim's sister
Gloria Burd, transportation support, friend, advocate and support to many
Brian Stettin, Policy Director Treatment Advocacy Center
Kathryn Cohen, Attorney at Treatment Advocacy Center
Lisa Dailey, Attorney at Treatment Advocacy Center
Cathy Epperson, NAMI Kentucky Executive Director
All the local NAMI affiliates in Kentucky
Sheila A. Schuster, Ph.D., Advocacy Action Network
Kentucky Mental Health Coalition
Harold Jarboe,expert on living with SMI in recovery
NAMI Lexington – Phill and Kelly Gunning Executive Director
Valerie Mudd, Consumer Programs Coordinator/NAMI Lexington
Michael Beard, consumer advocate
Michael Gray, JD, MUP, Advocacy Coordinator NAMI Kentucky
Ella Hunter, former NAMI KY Public policy director, NAMI board member
Dante Murry, NAMI Louisville board member
Steve Shannon, Executive Director of KARP
Rita Ruggles, MSW of Naples, Florida
Kentucky Representative Tom Burch (D)
Kentucky Representative Jeff Hoover
Kentucky Representative Ruth Ann Palumbo
Kentucky Senator Julie Raque Adams (R)
Kentucky Senator Danny Carroll
Kentucky Senator Stan Humphries
Kentucky Senator Ralph Alvarado,
Kentucky Senator Alice Forgy Kerr
Kentucky Senator Morgan McGarvey
Former State Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville
Richard Owen, NAMI member and Mental Health Court advocate
Joann Strunk, advocate, artist and family member
Maggie Krueger, Mighty Kentucky Advocate and NAMI Somerset President
Brenda Benson, NAMI Murray President
Brenda Huntsman, NAMI Kentucky State President
James Haggie, NAMI Lexington President
Angela Wilkins and the KCA colleagues
Sarah W. Kidder, Analyst, Kentucky Legislative Research Commission

For today we say “Rest in Peace Tim” – 
your life made a difference that others 
may not suffer as you did!

"AOT must not be the last resort … it should be offered “before” our loved ones brains deteriorate. Advocates must learn to #LobbyLoud for solutions before the police are called – not after! We need better policies that don't force our loved ones to become violent in order to gain access to #abedinstead!"  GG Burns, Mother and Advocate for Mental Health Reform

To read about SB 91 and HB 79 click here:'s_Law_-AOT-HB_79_&_SB_91_Bill_Summary_-_Jan_2017_187.pdf

Bill to aid those with serious mental illness gets final OK
March 14, 2017
Deborah Yetter , @d_yetter