Voices for Mental Healthcare Reform, United at Last!

The documents below usher in a revolution. They describe a bold new movement, a national front organized to break the silence of the stricken and reverse the longstanding political neglect of America’s decrepit mental healthcare policies and institutions.

The advocate and author (Sooner Than Tomorrow) DeDe Ranahan has completed a wide-ranging national canvass of those in the “sub-nation”: the mothers, caretakers and advocates of people suffering from serious mental illness: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and related incurable afflictions.

DeDe Ranahan

Her tireless work has produced historic results: the first comprehensive, deeply informed list of things that absolutely need to be done to restore safety, humanity, and hope to a strata of victims that has been marginalized and abused since medieval times.

The dynamic advocacy team of Scott and Leslie Carpenter is distributing these documents to the candidates visiting Iowa prior to the Democratic presidential primaries. The Carpenters have reported that the response so far has been heartening. 

DeDe Ranahan’s survey results are vital both in themselves and as building-blocks toward a future unification of efforts to reclaim the mentally ill and restore them to meaningful lives. She deserves the thanks of everyone who has been touched by this abhorrent malady. It seems that someone, after all and at long last, does care about crazy people.

SMI PLAN

TO: All  2020 Presidential Candidates

SUBJECT: Serious Mental Illness (SMI)

So far, 2020 political candidates make rare mention of serious mental illness (SMI — schizophrenia, schizo-affective disorder, OCD, bipolar disorder, and major depression), and the lack of mental illness care in the US.

* The SMI population represents 4-5% (10 million) of the mentally ill in the US. That’s 10 million families and extended families (voters).

* Ten times as many people with SMI are incarcerated as are hospitalized.

* Some SMI individuals are so sick they don’t realize they’re sick (anosognosia), don’t respond to treatment (if they get it) and end up incarcerated, homeless, missing, suicidal or dead.

  • It will cost billions to create a viable mental illness system. It’s costing billions, now, in prison over-population, homelessness and cities under siege, lost workdays, family disintegration, suicides, untimely deaths, inundated ER’s and hospitals, violence caused by untreated SMI, overwhelmed police, and in uninformed and misinformed criminal justice systems.

The Five-Part Plan enclosed is the collaborative work of grass-roots advocates from across the country —individuals, professionals, writers, journalists, caregivers, and mothers (always the mothers). Our intent is to put this plan in front of every 2020 presidential candidate. Right now, no candidate is talking about SMI. It’s as if it didn’t exist.

The steps in our plan are baby steps. We can’t immediately address everything that needs to be addressed in our messed up mental illness system, but we have to start somewhere. We’re trying to help 2020 candidates — we know you have a lot on your plates and we appreciate your energy and efforts to make our country better. We’ve created this Five-Part Plan to give you a starting point and a way to introduce SMI into political discourse and public conversation.

We’re asking you to take four initial actions:

1. Please read our plan and make it your own.

2. Put your SMI plan on your campaign website.

3. Talk about SMI on the campaign trail and in campaign debates.

4. Talk with members of the SMI community. We’re willing and able to help you as you move forward.

The SMI community is searching for its 2020 presidential candidate. We’re a large, passionate, motivated, frustrated, hurting, and determined block of voters. We look forward to hearing from you.

ENDORSEMENTS

Marie Abbott — Waterford, Michigan,

“My grandson has autism, bipolar disorder, and development delays. Has his civil rights intact.”

Jane Anderson — Illinois

“My 38 year-old son has paranoid schizophrenia. He was diagnosed at 18. My husband and I are caregivers.”

Tim Ash — Arcata, California

“Caretaker of a volatile, unstable SMI family member because there are no options besides jail and the bushes or doorways.”

David Bain — Sacramento, California

“I’m living with chronic depression and epilepsy and working to divert SMI from prison into treatment.”

Marti Rhoden Bessler — Alexandria, Kentucky

“My son’s been suffering from schizoaffective disorder for 19 years within our failed mental health system.”

Alisa Bernard — Jupiter, Florida

Judy Bracken — San Ramon California

“My  30-year-old son has schizoaffective disorder.”

Katherine Smith-Brooks and Bob Brooks — Carlsbad, California

“Our SMI son is now stable and working following effective treatment and the same psychiatrist for 20 years. We were his only advocates for many years.”

Regina Gipson Burns — Hoover, Alabama

Leslie and Scott J. Carpenter — Iowa City, Iowa

“Our son’s been suffering from under-treated schizoaffective disorder for 12 years. He lives in a group home with too few services. He’s been hospitalized 20 times.”

Mark Rippee

Sue Chantry — Vacaville, California

“I’ve lived here for many years and watched Mark Rippee, SMI and blind, on the streets of Vacaville with no mental health services.”

Barb Cobb — Iowa

“My SMI daughter’s been under-treated and under-supported by the current system. She’s endured over 20 hospitalizations and is barely surviving.”

Christine Cushing — Vacaville, California

“There are no resources or places to live for those who suffer from SMI. For a country that’s so progressed, we’re so far behind taking care of those with SMI.”

Lori Daubenspeck — St. Croix, US Virgin Islands

“My SMI son is a US Army vet. There’s no SMI facility here and one psychiatrist for the island. We’re in desperate need of facilities, doctors, and federal action.”

Kathy Day — Folsom, California

“My godson’s been discharged from hospitals many times while considered to be gravely disabled. Laws need to be based on need for treatment rather than time.”

Katherine Flannery Dering — Bedford, New York

“My brother, Paul, suffered with schizophrenia for 32 years of dwindling care. He died at age 48. “

Lois Earley — Phoenix, Arizona

“I’m the mother and legal guardian of an adult SMI daughter. I’ve been battling the behavioral health care system in Arizona since 2004.”

Darla Eaves — Everett, Washington

“My husband committed suicide.  My son died in our psychiatric hospital. My daughter, thank God, is here with me and stays on her medication.”

Donna Erickson — Abington, Massachusetts

“My 34-year-old son has bipolar disorder. He’s been hospitalized 25+ times and cheated out of the life he wanted through no fault of his own.”

Sonia Fletcher —- Mount Shasta, California

“My daughter’s SMI was untreated when she shot and killed her father in a psychotic break. Our family is heartbroken and literally broken apart.”

Anne and Tim Francisco — Orange County, California

“Our SMI son was sentenced to prison for a nonviolent offense while he was in a state hospital. He ended his life by suicide while in solitary confinement.”

Lynne Gibb — Ojai, California

“My daughter’s suffered with schizo-affective disorder for 20 years. She’s been missing, homeless, and hospitalized, but never out of her family’s hearts and thoughts.”

Elaine D. Gilliam — Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

“My eldest son has paranoid schizophrenia. My eldest daughter committed suicide. Two children are wonderful retired military families.”

Jeanne Gore — Shapleigh, Maine

Family member, Coordinator, National Shattering Silence Coalition

Pat Guinn — Lincoln, California

“I have an adopted son with SMI.”

Catherine (CJ) Hanson

Linda (Rippee) and Joseph Privatte Lou Rippee – Vacaville California

“SMI blind son, brother, and brother-in-law. No mental health services for 3 decades. Solano County refuses to conserve.”

Betty Plowman

“I was a neighbor who observed this tragedy for 32 years and tried to help   when no one else would.” 

Chris Plowman

“I’ve watched this man waste away on the streets for 30 years untreated.  Some people need our help and tax dollars; not be abandoned to rot. “

Pam Wilcoxson

“Mark’s family’s been fighting for help for him for many years and still have not gotten anywhere.”

Mark and Laura Harreld — Strawberry Point, Iowa

“Our SMI son was caught in the criminal justice system for non-violent crimes. He ended his life, to avoid another prison sentence, while in a hospital under armed guard.”

Dianne Harris — Grove City, Ohio

“My son died of a co-occuring vascular condition before a treatment was found for his negative symptoms of schizoaffective disorder. More research is needed desperately.”

Janet Hays — New Orleans, Louisiana

“I created Healing Minds NOLA to bring residents, families and stakeholders together to explore alternatives to incarceration, homelessness and death for those suffering with SMI.”

Amy Kerr and Paul Cox —- Pasadena, Maryland

“We’re caretakers for a 23-year-old son who has schizophrenia and a friend with major depression and end stage renal failure. “

Jeannie Kneisly-Manley —  Elizabeth City, North Carolina

“My son has schizophrenia. He has a criminal charge and no court date to get him in the hospital. If I hadn’t bailed him out, he’d still be in  jail waiting.”

Stacy Kollias — Henderson, Nevada

“I’m the mother/caregiver of a 30-year-old son suffering from schizoaffective disorder.”

Dianne Lam — Oakland, California

“My son has a dual diagnosis and schizoaffective disorder.”

Carole McAfee — Salem, Oregon

“My son is living with schizophrenia.”

Sherri McGimsey — Morganton, North Carolina

“My son is a Marine Veteran with schizoaffective disorder.”

Gerri Mele — Cleveland, Ohio

Linda L. Mimms, MA, — Poway, California

“The inability to get our ill family member prompt treatment has led to a worsened condition and uncertain prognosis which was totally avoidable.”

Alison Monroe — Oakland, California

“My 24-year-old daughter is a meth user who has schizophrenia. I’ve tried everything to keep her alive and off the street, with some success.”

Nancy Moody — Cambridge, Ohio

“My son has schizoaffective disorder.  He’s suffering from withdrawal, seizures, tremors, cognitive impairment, and hallucinations. No one wants to help him.”

Mary Murphy  — Springfield, Oregon

“My son has schizoaffective and bipolar illness.”

Lyn Nanos, LICSW — Natick, Massachusetts

Author: Breakdown: A Clinician’s Experience in a Broken System of Emergency Psychiatry.

Karen Newton — Vacaville, California

“My son has bipolar-schizoaffective disorder. While homeless, voices told him to hurt someone. He’s incarcerated while waiting for a bed in Napa State Hospital.”

Kelly Nidey — Vincennes, Indiana

“My son has struggled with bipolar/schizoaffective disorder for almost 15  years.”

Teresa Pasquini — Contra Costa County, California

“I’m mom to Danny who is surviving 20 years of suffering, suicidality, solitary, and schizoaffective disorder. There’s no federal action plan for families like mine.”

Darlene Patrick —Farmington, Maine

“My 32-year-old son has paranoid schizophrenia. He’s been in jail, the hospital, release, repeat.”

Gema Pena — Hialeah, Florida

“My son, Kristopher, was in solitary for 10 years. He attempted suicide, ate his own feces, was catatonic, and lost over 100 pounds.”

Ron Powers with his wife and sons

Ron Powers — Castleton, Vermont 

Pulitzer prize winner, author of No One Cares About Crazy People

“I’m the father of two sons afflicted with schizophrenia. One took his life in 2005.”

Paula and Bruce Quertermous — Clinton Township, Michigan

“Our 39-year-old daughter has bipolar disorder and cognitive disability from birth.”

DeDe Ranahan with her son.

Dede Ranahan — Lincoln, California

Author: Sooner Than Tomorrow—A Mother’s Diary About Mental Illness, Family, and Everyday Life (2019). soonerthantomorrow.com. “My son died in a hospital psych ward in 2014. “


Margaret Reece and Greg Gazda — Butte County, California

“Our SMI son has been hospitalized 5 times, arrested, and is currently in a mental health court program and living in Yolo County with his grandparents.”

Arlene Renslow — Modesto, California

“I have two sons with brain damage. One son has schizophrenia. Unless someone does something, things will get worse for everyone.”

Mary (Courtney) Sheldon — Poway, California

“Mother of 24-year-old SMI son. We’ve winged it for 5 years. My SMI brother died, with his ‘civil rights intact’ behind a dumpster in Anaheim, California.”

Martha Mccollister Sroka — Dunkirk, New York

“My son has schizophrenia. It’s horrible watching your child change, struggle, and suffer. I request that SMI get the same attention and resources as any other medical illness.”

Joanne Strunk — Lexington, Kentucky

“My daughter’s been raped, homeless, hospitalized (40+times), and almost died lost in the woods for weeks. She’s dying of neglect due to SMI.”

Shelly and Scott Switzer — Sandpoint, Idaho

“We’re parents of a 33-year-old son with inadequately treated schizoaffective disorder in Missoula, Montana. SOS We’re barely hanging on.”

Diana Mandrell Troup — Texas

“My daughter spent 16 years in delusion and psychosis because of bad mental health care. She suffered 50+ involuntary holds, multiple tazings, and traumas.”

Laurie Turley — Maine

“My sister died due to HIPAA restrictions. One of the last things she said to me was, ‘They should have let you help me. I wasn’t in my right mind.’”

Monica and Kimmo Virtaneva — Hamilton, Montana

“Our son, Mika, took his life after the disease schizophrenia took his brain and the criminal justice system took his dignity.”

Cheryle Vitelli — Newark, Delaware

“I lived with my SMI son for 6 years while he was dangerous with only he and I in the house. Finally, a compassionate police officer pushed to get him help.”

Darlene Been Watkins — Moulton, Alabama

“My son, Shane, was denied treatment, while in psychosis, because there weren’t enough beds. Two days later, he was shot by police while I watched.”

Anna Wellnitz — Oro Valley, Arizona

“I’m diagnosed with SMI.”

FIVE-PART PLAN TO ADDRESS SERIOUS MENTAL ILLNESS (SMI) 

FOR ALL 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES 

PLEASE ADDRESS THESE TOPICS IN YOUR CAMPAIGN APPEARANCES AND DEBATES 

1. RECLASSIFY SERIOUS MENTAL ILLNESS (SMI)) FROM A BEHAVIORAL CONDITION TO WHAT IT IS, A NEUROLOGICAL MEDICAL CONDITION WHY RECLASSIFICATION IS IMPORTANT Reclassification will unlock more research funding and help eliminate discrimination in treatment, insurance reimbursement, and the perception of SMI as “behavioral” condition. SMI is a human rights issue. NIMH ranks SMI among the top 15 causes of disability worldwide with an average lifespan reduction of 28 years. PRESIDENTIAL ACTION * Create a cabinet position exclusively focused on SMI. * Push for Congressional appropriations to include schizophrenia in a CDC program that collects data on the prevalence and risk factors of neurological conditions in the US population. 

2. REFORM THE HEALTH INSURANCE PORTABILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT (HIPPA) WHY HIPAA REFORM IS IMPORTANT Overly strict HIPAA laws make it extremely difficult for families and caregivers to partner in the treatment of their loved ones, resulting in important life-saving medical information gaps. By eliminating this barrier, family support will be strengthened, reducing the chance of relapse, homelessness, imprisonment, and death. PRESIDENTIAL ACTION * Work with legislators to change HIPAA law to ensure mental health professionals are legally permitted to share and receive critical diagnostic criteria and treatment information with/from parents or caregivers of SMI. 

3. REPEAL MEDICAID’S INSTITUTES FOR MENTAL DISEASE EXCLUSION (IMD) WHY IMD REPEAL IS IMPORTANT IMD repeal will increase the availability of psychiatric inpatient beds. The IMD exclusion is not only discriminatory of those suffering from neurological brain disorders, it is a leading cause of our national psychiatric hospital bed shortage. It prohibits Medicaid payments to states for those receiving psychiatric care in a facility with more than 16 beds who are 21-65, the age group with the most SMI. PRESIDENTIAL ACTION * Work with legislators to repeal the IMD exclusion. 

4. PROVIDE A FULL CONTINUUM OF CARE WHY A FULL CONTINUUM OF CARE IS IMPORTANT A continuum of care insures that SMI patients receive early intervention at all stages of their illnesses, long- term care when needed, and follow-up treatment (medications and therapies) when they’re released. It reduces visits to jails, ER’s and hospitals, homelessness, and morgues. A continuum of care provides life-time management. PRESIDENTIAL ACTION * Create federal incentives to states which are addressing a full array of inpatient, outpatient, and supportive housing care.

5. DECRIMINALIZE SERIOUS MENTAL ILLNESS (SMI) WHY DECRIMINALIZATION OF SMI IS IMPORTANT People suffering with other neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia can get treatment promptly without being kicked out of their homes to wander the streets until they are arrested and put in jail or prison rather than a hospital. Serious mental illness is the only disease where the doors to treatment are shut unless a crime is committed. This is pure and simple discrimination with the disastrous results we see in our country today — homelessness, incarceration, the disintegration of families, and death. PRESIDENTIAL ACTION * Work with legislators to change “must be a danger to self or others” criteria. * Work with legislators to change involuntary commitment criteria, alleviating the subjective nature of “gravely disabled” and redefining it in objective terms based on scientific medical need for treatment. Psychosis, like a stroke, is a traumatic brain injury and needs immediate treatment for the best outcome. 

EXTENDED LIST OF SMI NEEDS

This list represents brainstorming ideas of advocates from across the country. They’re individuals, families, and professionals who are living/working with SMI. They have in-the-trenches experience. The list presents a partial picture of the depth and breadth of SMI issues that need to be addressed. 

1. RECLASSIFY SERIOUS MENTAL ILLNESS (SMI) FROM A BEHAVIORAL CONDITION TO WHAT IT IS, A NEUROLOGICAL MEDICAL CONDITION.

2. REFORM THE HEALTH INSURANCE PORTABILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT (HIPAA)

  • Present patients and families with a social worker to support the family unit throughout the care process, including medication and psychiatric treatment.
  • Require mandatory HIPAA training for everyone in the medical profession and mandate a test on proven knowledge.
  • Develop a federal program for the administration of an advance directive (PAD) which includes a universal release of information and designates an agent if a patient’s capacity is lost.

3. REPEAL MEDICAID’S INSTITUTES FOR MENTAL DISEASE EXCLUSION (IMD)

4. PROVIDE A FULL CONTINUUM OF CARE

  • Provide inpatient care (IMD waivers), outpatient care (i.e.,  AOT, Clubhouses), and housing ( a full array from locked stabilization to unlocked intensive, medium intensive, peer run, PSH, asylum).
  • Require a psychiatric standard of care for various SMI diagnoses like other medical specialties.
  • Require prescriptions based on need not ROI for the insurance industry
  • Remove ER’s as entry for mental illness hospitalization. The ER process and its chaotic environment aren’t conducive to the well-being of SMI patients.

5.DECRIMINALIZE SERIOUS MENTAL ILLNESS

  • Eliminate solitary confinement in jails and prisons.
  • Support nationwide civil mental health courts and expand criminal ones that are already established to keep SMI out of jails and prisons.
  • Establish mental health courts on a federal level, and coordinate federal courts and state-run mental illness facilities.
  • Move crimes that SMI commit in the federal system into state courts.
  • Mandate a way for families to provide medical history to jail/prison doctors to inform treatment.
  • Fund a digitized system for medical records in counties/hospitals to jails so information can be transferred immediately upon arrest and incarceration.
  • Provide uniform psychiatric screening of the incarcerated.
  • Use standardized protocols for medication of SMI prisoners.
  • Require strict limits on waiting for trial time.

6. PAY ATTENTION TO SUPPORTIVE HOUSING

  • Provide 24/7 supervised housing for those who cannot live independently.
  • Provide defined levels of support built around a person’s needs, especially long-term care.
  • Clarify Olmstead for SMI. Lease restrictive care isn’t always least expensive or best.
  • Examine, don’t ignore, a person’s ability to handle and benefit from a less restrictive setting.

7. REVAMP INVOLUNTARY TREATMENT

* Use lack of insight (anosognosia) and grave disability as criteria for determining involuntary treatment.

  • Establish a federal standardized “need for treatment” involuntary commitment law.
  • Base restrictive settings on actual abilities, not wishful thinking or one-track plans.

8. INCLUDE EDUCATION

  • Require mandatory, institutionalized education about SMI for judges, sheriffs, attorneys, district attorneys, law enforcement, and first responders.
  • Require units of SMI education for educators — preschool through university.
  • Revamp Crisis Intervention Training and expand training to all counties.
  • Provide a health proxy form for college students to allow them to release medical information and name who can take care of them in a crisis.
  • Hold universities accountable and required to connect students to crisis intervention, especially during medical leave.

9. GIVE INCENTIVES

  • Incentivize the expansion of medical schools to graduate more psychiatrists, child psychiatrists, internists with psychiatry specialties, psychiatric nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
  • Allow loan forgiveness for providers treating SMI.
  • Give incentives for rural psychiatrists.
  • Incentivize more long-term treatment/stabilization of SMI.
  • Give incentives to psychiatrists to accept health insurance, especially Medicaid.

10. EXPAND ASSISTED OUT-PATIENT TREATMENT (AOT)

  • Federally clarify AOT and create a federal model for AOT law
  • Offer AOT immediately to everyone upon diagnosis.

11. IMPROVE HOSPITALS

  • Build regional federal hospital for patients who cannot be treated in their home state’s hospitals because of lack of beds.
  • Improve reimbursements to hospitals which lose revenue on SMI patients.
  • End hospital discrimination against SMI “violent” patients and those “difficult to discharge.”

12. INCREASE RESEARCH AND EPIDEMIOLOGY

  • Fund NIMH research specifically for SMI.
  • Establish a Disability Advocacy Program for legal services for SMI when counties/states fail to provide long-term support services or when insurance/managed care and Medicaid fail to cover/pay for long-term supported services and treatment.
  • Pursue better national epidemiology studies for people with SMI.
  • Establish a federal law that requires states to track each SMI diagnosis with bad outcomes like death, homelessness, and incarceration.

13. REVISIT PARITY

  • Clarify parity for SMI and include Medicaid and Medicare in parity law.
  • Enforce violations against parity law.

14. ADDRESS SOCIAL SECURITY AND DISABILITY INCOME ISSUES

  • Change the way social security income for the disabled is taken by states when a patient is admitted to state operated mental health institutions, residential care facilities, and hospitals.
  • Increase disability income to a level where a person can survive and maintain reasonable housing.

16. CREATE PSYCHIATRIC CAMPUSES

  • Build psychiatric campuses with multiple levels of care, supportive housing from most restrictive to least restrictive, and separate independent living apartments.
  • Provide on-campus coffee shops, gyms, recreational facilities, and gardens where people with SMI could work with support as needed.
  • Provide substance abuse treatment services, AA or NA  meetings.


“Mentally Ill Monsters”

In the aftermath of two traumatic mass shootings, the president re-invokes a horrid, distorted falsehood about the mentally ill.

And there it is: history’s defining damnation of sufferers of incurable damage to the brain, distilled into a three-word phrase of transcendent ugliness and stunted understanding.

The phrase was uttered on Monday. It was uttered to identify the provenance of the weekend’s massacres by shooters using legally purchased high-capacity semi-automatic weapons toward their collective harvest of 31 people dead and some 50 wounded. 

The phrase was uttered by the President of the United States. It left stains, stains which, in moral and intellectual terms, replicated the stains of blood shed by the shooters’ victims. 

Donald Trump | Image Credit Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Blaming “mentally ill monsters” (or “nut jobs,” or “wackos,” or “lunatics”) for such carnage is a morally repugnant, if time-tested device for shifting the public’s passion for safety away from gun control and toward the presumed demons in our midst. The president could not have been more transparent in exploiting the device. “Mental illness and hatred pulls [sic] the trigger, not the gun,” he instructed us, going on to label one of the shooters as “another twisted monster.” 

In fact, it is a settled truth in psychiatric research that victims of brain afflictions are no more prone to violence than the general population. The prominent advocate Dj Jaffe makes an important stipulation: that the untreated mentally ill—those not stabilized by antipsychotic medications—can be more likely to cause harm to themselves or others. Still, implying that mental illness itself equates to degenerate aggression serves only to further isolate and punish the most helpless members of our society; to herd them back toward the dark corners and confinements of “insane asylum” days.

And herein lies the “intellectual” stain that President Trump’s words help spread: most people—like the president himself—do not understand mental illness: what it means, how it occurs, how it differentiates, why its victims behave as they do, and how even its most abject sufferers can be aided, often stabilized, by medications and therapy. In this vacuum of understanding, people tend to substitute prejudice, false science, myth, and hostility toward “crazy people.” 

Briefly: 

“Serious” mental illness—the kind in question here—is rare and unique. And incurable. Unlike alcoholism or anger or depression, serious mental illness is rooted in genetic flaws of the brain. Its various names include schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder—similar yet not interchangeable conditions. It results in a loss of reason and rational control; hallucinations and the hearing of voices; alienation from family and friends; and, yes, sometimes—rarely—violence. 

My wife and I have educated ourselves about serious mental illness because we’ve had to. It invaded our family several years ago, causing the suicide of a beloved son. Unfortunately, this is the painful route to understanding for most people: a loved one is stricken.

The costs of this cluelessness describe a cone of destruction that widens from the stricken individual through society.

The cone draws in and ravages parents and siblings of the stricken. It can cripple the finances of families without adequate insurance to cover treatment and medications. It drains human capital from the workforce, and thus economic revenue. It reduces the budgets of hospitals that can’t get reimbursement for their mentally ill patients. It overburdens police, whose lack of training and, sometimes, self-restraint, can result in death by gunshot of unarmed people in psychosis. It coarsens our criminal-justice system: think of schizophrenic adolescents hustled into jail by untrained or uncaring judges, where they await trial—often for weeks and months—while their unmedicated psychosis deepens. Think of solitary confinement. Think of a brain-afflicted child, perhaps your own (as countless parents must) ensorcelled in a cell, abused by fellow inmates and guards, with no end in sight, no comprehension. No hope.

Now think about “mentally ill monsters.”

Mentally ill monsters are not the source of our current crisis of public massacres. The monster is the gun: too many guns, with too little restraint and oversight regarding purchase. To his credit, President Trump gave lip service to keeping guns away from those “who pose a  grave risk to public safety,” and to strengthening gun laws generally. 

But leave the gun issue aside. Part of any president’s duty—a foundation of his “bully pulpit”—is to educate his fellow citizens on matters of complexity and urgent public import. The nature of serious mental illness, and the reclamation of its victims, comprise one such matter. The president could make a great, galvanizing contribution to ending the centuries-old oppression of “crazy people.” He could lead us in that direction. He could educate us. But first he must educate himself. 

Author Ron Powers to Visit Quincy to Discuss Mental Health

via Herald-Whig

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Powers will visit Quincy on April 26 to help with a fundraiser for Transitions of Western Illinois.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Powers will visit Quincy on April 26 to help with a fundraiser for Transitions of Western Illinois.

By Doug Wilson Herald-WhigPosted: Apr. 18, 2019 5:10 pm Updated: Apr. 18, 2019 5:24 pm

QUINCY — After Ron Powers’ youngest son committed suicide in 2005, the Pulitzer Prize winner and prolific author swore that he would never write about the “hellish” pain that he and his family went through.

“I was in a daze in the first five years, then the healing began, and I realized after reading more about the disease (schizophrenia) that I really had to do this,” Powers said.

His 2017 book, “No One Cares About Crazy People: The Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America” was the result. Mental health myths and misconceptions also will be Powers’ main topic of discussion when the Hannibal, Mo., native comes to Quincy on April 26 to help with a fundraiser for Transitions of Western Illinois.

Powers’ book starts with the words: “This is the book I promised myself I would never write.” But as he began going back through photos, emails and other items that belonged to his youngest son, Kevin, Powers saw the need to tell the world that ignoring mental illness is a terrible mistake and a social injustice.

National statistics indicate that more than 10 million Americans will suffer a serious mental illness each year and with more than three people in the average home, more than 34 million American lives will be disrupted.

Powers’ older son, Dean, was diagnosed with schizophrenia only months after Kevin’s suicide. Thanks to informed treatment choices, Dean’s illness has been controlled.

But too many people with mental illnesses are sent to jails, Powers said.

“The moral necessity for us as individuals, and for our country, is to reclaim these people,” Powers said.

“There’s primal fear and prejudice against the mentally ill and because of that, (society) punishes the mentally ill when we should be treating them.”

Since his book was published, Powers has been scolding the government for spending $31,000 per year to jail the average person with mental illness, rather than spending the $10,000 needed for treatment. He also has promoted programs that help those with mental challenges.

“Organizations around the country, like Transitions, are taking up the slack, and I’m so gratified that people are doing what they can to help,” Powers said.

Barb Baker Chapin, director of development at Transitions, hopes that Powers’ visit will help people see mental illness in a new light.

“One in five of us will suffer from a mental illness at some time in our lives, and yet there’s still such a stigma associated with it,” she said. “I hope Ron Powers’ very personal story can help us have a dialogue about the changes we need to see in the mental health system and the way we’re funding it.”

Powers has written 16 books, including “White Town Drowsing,” which looked at his hometown of Hannibal during the 1980s. He also wrote a biography of Mark Twain, “Mark Twain: A Life” that was a New York Times best-seller and a finalist for the 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award. In more recent years, Powers was co-author of “Flags of Our Fathers” and “True Compass,” which were both No. 1 New York Times hard-cover nonfiction best-sellers.

He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his critical writing about television for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1972. He also won an Emmy Award in 1985 for his commentaries on “CBS News Sunday Morning with Charles Kuralt.”

Several of Powers’ books will be available for sale. A complementary copy of “Flags of Our Fathers” will be presented to those who buy tickets to a social hour with the author, and he will do a book signing.

Ticket information for “An Evening with Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Ron Powers on April 26

Meet and greet tickets are $75 for the 6:30 p.m. social hour, complementary copy of ‘Flags of Our Fathers,’ the chance to meet Powers during a book signing and preferred seating.

Preferred seating tickets are $25 each.

General admission tickets are $15, with doors opening at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are on sale at the Oakley-Lindsay Center box office at 217-222-3209, or online at http://www.1qct.org/.

Pulitzer Prize winner to speak at Transitions event

via Herald-Whig

By Matt Hopf Herald-Whig

Posted: Mar. 18, 2019 8:00 am

QUINCY — Pulitzer Prize winning author and Hannibal, Mo., native Ron Powers will speak in Quincy next month in support of the Transitions Foundation.

The foundation will host “An Evening with Pultizer Prize Winning Author, Ron Powers” at 8 p.m. April 26 at the Oakley-Lindsay Center, where he will speak about his writing career, as well as the challenges and obligations of exploring family tragedy.

In 2017, Powers released “No One Cares About Crazy People: The Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America.” It describes the ravages of schizophrenia, which afflicted his two sons and triggered the suicide of his younger son Kevin in 2005. The book offers a critique of the mental health systems in the nation.

“I think it will be an interesting evening for people in our area who know he had grown up in the Hannibal area, as well as people who have an interest in history and his writing about the six men who planted the flag on Iwo Jima and people who have an interest in mental health and the status of mental health services in our country,” said Barb Baker Chapin, director of development at Transitions of Western Illinois.

Powers is the co-author of “Flags of Our Fathers” and “True Compass,” which were both number one New York Times hardcover nonfiction bestsellers. His biography of Mark Twain, “Mark Twain: A Life” also was a New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award.

He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his critical writing about television for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1972. He also won an Emmy Award in 1985 for his commentaries on “CBS News Sunday Morning with Charles Kuralt.”

The event is sponsored by The Herald-Whig, WGEM, the Blessing Health System and Knapheide Manufacturing.

All proceeds from the event will support mental health services at Transitions.

Tickets for the event are available at the Quincy Community Theatre Box Office in the Oakley-Lindsay Center, which can be reached at 217-222-3209.

Tickets also can be bought online at 1qct.org, by clicking on “upcoming events.”

A limited number of tickets are available at $75 per person for a meet and greet with Powers from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. The event includes a social hour with hors d’oeuvres, a complimentary copy of “Flags of Our Fathers,” and opportunity to meet Powers during a book signing and preferred seating for Powers’ talk.

Tickets for the talk are $25 for preferred seating and $15 for general admission.

Copies of several of his books will be available for purchase at the event.

Father Of 2 Sons With Schizophrenia Talks Of His Struggle To Save Them

via NPR

March 20, 20171:13 PM ET Heard on Fresh Air

As the father of two sons with schizophrenia, author Ron Powers is familiar with the pain and frustration of dealing with a chronic, incurable disease of the brain.

Powers’ younger son, Kevin, was a talented musician whose struggles with schizophrenia began at age 17. Just before his 21st birthday, in 2005, Kevin took his own life.

A few years later, Powers’ older son, Dean, started experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia and had a psychotic break.

Ron Powers, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and media critic, wrote Flags of our Fathers, which was adapted into a film by Clint Eastwood.Sarah Junek/Hachette Books

“There is no greater … feeling of helplessness than to watch two beloved sons deteriorate before [your] eyes, not knowing what to do to bring them back,” Powers tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross.

Powers’ new book, No One Cares About Crazy People, is both a memoir about his sons and a history of how the mentally ill have been treated medically, legally and socially. Although Dean is now medicated and doing well, Powers notes that many people with schizophrenia don’t receive the treatment they need — in part because they often don’t believe they are ill.

“This unwillingness to believe that one is afflicted has led to tremendous problems,” Powers says. “To force that person into being helped is a violation of his or her civil rights … and the law may penalize the care workers who give [people with schizophrenia] medications or admit them to a hospital against their will. … That is the great reigning Catch-22 of the way our society deals — or fails to deal — with schizophrenia.”

Interview Highlights

On why symptoms of schizophrenia often surface around the age of 17

It has to do with the maturation of the brain. … In order to start functioning as an adult brain, the brain must undergo a period of what is called “synaptic pruning,” really a cleansing away of all of the neurons, all of the connective material that is built up since infancy. That is no longer useful and it’s quickly replaced, but there is a period of vacancy, almost, in which the brain is very vulnerable to any kind of disruption. It’s unprotected, and this is the period of life, roughly clustered around the age of 17, when the disease can make its appearance.

On how denial impacted his sons’ treatment

Each of our sons was afflicted with this companion condition called anosognosia. … [It’s] defined as an inability to understand the self, a blockage of insight into what is happening. Many, perhaps most, of schizophrenic victims deny that they are schizophrenic, and this has led to many important social and legal and ideological conflicts. … The denial that took place, with Kevin the symptoms occurred before he reached the age of 18, meaning he could be treated without his consent. He was a juvenile and he was taken into care and custody without his consent.

Dean was over the age [of consent] and resisted treatment, denied that he needed to be treated, and it was only after a series of psychotic breaks that he came around to the understanding that he needed help.

Dean is accountable to a clinician. He has to report; there is a record of him taking his meds. Kevin was taking oral medication only on his own consent and we weren’t sophisticated enough to perceive that instead of taking the meds Kevin might be hiding the meds. This happened in the later stages of his descent and it was after he finally announced to us, “I’m fine. I’m healed. I’m OK, I’m not going to take my pills.”

Within a few months after that, Kevin hanged himself in our basement.

On trying to understand the degree of Kevin’s suffering

He was hearing voices. We know that. We could watch him through the kitchen window as he walked out of the house and toward the hot tub that he loved to sit in. We could see him climb into the hot tub and sit down, his profile was to us, and we could see him laugh. He would laugh, he would giggle. … Something was talking to him, and I think because of that happy response we saw from him we told ourselves that he had made friends with the voices, that the voices were beckoning him, they were coaxing him into their world, and that he finally decided to join them. I don’t know whether that’s true or not. I’ll tell you that it got me through the first five years of trying to figure out where Kevin’s mind had gone.

On still having dreams of Kevin

In the dreams Kevin is alive. He’s a small boy, around 10, 11, 12 years old. We know he’s a gifted guitar player, but he’s stopped playing his guitar, and he won’t start again. The odd thing is that both Honoree and I have had this dream. It might be a metaphor for his death, but he shows up, almost every night, as I say. … I’m glad to see him. In the dreams he is etched so perfectly. The reality of him, the physical sharp-focused reality of Kevin is overwhelming and all of his kindness and his goodness are there.

On the effects of deinstitutionalization in the 1960s on people with mental illness

The advent of the so-called “wonder drugs” like Thorazine … were touted as cures for schizophrenia — they weren’t. At best they were cures for symptoms. But on the strength of Thorazine and its great consumer success and promise, President Kennedy, seeking to do the right thing, signed legislation … in 1963 … that authorized the emptying out of mental asylums and the transferring of their patients, their inmates, hopefully into community care centers that were going to be built around the country to receive them.

Deinstitutionalization was a catastrophic social experiment, one of the worst we’ve ever had. It ended up creating the [mentally ill] homeless population that still plagues us today.

The second terrible effect of deinstitutionalization was that many of the people never ended up in the community centers. The government ran out of money. They couldn’t build enough to contain this outflow of patients, so they ended up on the streets, and from the streets they ended up in prison. Many of them. Today our prisons are overflowing with the mentally ill. Prisons are our de facto mental hospitals.

Marijuana and Psychosis: Real Data, Real Bad

via Christian Headlines

John Stonestreet, Roberto Rivera

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The pitfalls and perils of marijuana legalization are well-documented. But whenever we discuss that research here on BreakPoint, we’re accused of not having the right research. What that means is that we’ve used studies that contradict the very vocal advocates of weed.

Well, let’s see what happens when we cite The British journal The Lancet, which, along with the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association, is considered the “gold standard” for peer-reviewed medical research. It doesn’t get more “real” than being published in The Lancet.

A just-published study in The Lancet involving, among others, researchers at King’s College London, compared 900 people who had been treated for psychosis with 1,200 people who had not. Sample participants were drawn from across Europe and Brazil.

Both groups were surveyed on a host of factors, including their use of marijuana and other drugs. The study’s authors concluded that “people who smoked marijuana on a daily basis were three times more likely to be diagnosed with psychosis compared with people who never used the drug. For those who used high-potency marijuana daily, the risk jumped to nearly five times.”

By “high-potency” the researchers meant marijuana with a THC content of more than ten percent. To put that figure in context, a study of the weed seized by the DEA between 1995 and 2014 found the THC content went from about 4 percent in 1995 to 12 percent in 2014.

Today, it’s not uncommon to read of marijuana that’s legally-sold in places like Colorado with THC content above 20 percent, occasionally 30 percent! Legalization advocates minimize the exponential growth in potency by saying that twenty or more years ago, Americans didn’t have access to “the good stuff.”

Well, that misses the point by several astronomical units. The point is that those people who daily use “the good stuff” are five times more likely to find themselves in a hospital suffering from delusions and hallucinations, to name only two symptoms of psychosis.

Now, critics will respond, “That’s correlation, not causation.” And that’s the criticism leveled at journalist Alex Berenson, author of “Tell Your Children: The Truth about Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence,” a book I recommend highly. But as I heard Berenson say just last week in Denver, of course it’s correlation and not causation. The only way to prove causation would be to ask half a sample group to experiment with something that may harm them. That’s not ethically possible. By the way, all the studies that made us believe that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer were correlated studies too, but that was enough to convince us all.

Even so, writer Ron Powers doesn’t need a peer-reviewed study to convince him of the link between marijuana use and psychosis. In his 2017 book, “Nobody Cares About Crazy People,” he tells the moving story of his two sons, Dean and Kevin, who were both diagnosed with schizophrenia in their late teens.

As Powers tells readers, while there is a strong genetic component to schizophrenia, there is no “schizophrenia gene.” Instead, it’s a constellation of genetic and environmental factors that make people susceptible to schizophrenia. One of these, as Powers painfully learned, is heavy marijuana use, especially in the teenage years.

Of course, some people will tell you that they and most people aren’t mentally ill, so there’s little if any risk. But for a host of reasons, no one can know that with certainty. In fact, all pronouncements about how safe marijuana legalization is simply overstates the case.

That’s exactly what happened here in Colorado. The possible pitfalls were denied or downplayed. And so, Colorado now holds the dubious distinction of leading the country in first-time drug use. And the rate of monthly marijuana use among 18-to-25-year-olds in states with legal weed is nearly three times as much as states that haven’t legalized it.  By the way, 18-25 is the age when schizophrenia often begins to manifest.

And since legalization, Colorado has seen a a spike in marijuana-related emergency room visits by people between the ages of 13 and 20.

Given the well-documented mental health risks, especially to not-fully-formed adolescent brains, the rush to legalization is the height of irresponsibility. An irresponsibility that can shatter lives. And don’t just take our word for it.


BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun byChuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us atBreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.

John Stonestreetthe host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.

Publication dateMarch 27, 2019

Photo courtesy: Simone Scarano/Unsplash

If You Needed Me

Here is the most heartwarming hope-and-love-saturated video I have ever seen from the annals of mental illness. Ray Weaver is an American singer-songwriter living in Denmark. His gifted daughter Savannah Esperson Weaver, living in America, has for years struggled with afflictions variously diagnosed as bipolar disorder; borderline personality disorder; and, ultimately, schizophrenia. Ray made many trips from Europe to America to visit and support his valiant daughter. Just a few weeks ago, consummating months of treatment and medications, Savannah’s doctors approved her request to be with her beloved father. Here they are, reunited in song: the Townes Van Zandt ballad, “If I Needed You, Would You Come to Me?” 

The Soul Grows Weary

Delusional man who threatened to kill strangers no longer barred from owning guns by Oregon Courts

via The Oregonian

By Aimee Green | The Oregonian/OregonLive agreen@oregonian.com
The Oregonian/OregonLive

The Oregon Court of Appeals on Wednesday reversed a southern Oregon judge’s decision to commit a man to the state psychiatric hospital and revoke his gun ownership rights after he’d threatened to kill strangers who he believed were watching him through power lines and robotic birds.

The man’s case illustrates Oregon’s high legal bar for forcing people with mental illness into receiving treatment and forbidding them from having guns.

The case also highlights battling ideologies: One argues that people who have been diagnosed with mental illness and have threatened to kill others should be sent to the state hospital for involuntary treatment for up to 180 days. The other argues that forcing vulnerable people to receive treatment without significant evidence they’re truly a danger violates their civil liberties and can have devastating effects on them.

The man in this case was identified in court papers only as 43-year-old “J.P.”

Alexander Cambier, a Portland public defender who represented J.P.’s interests before the Appeals Court, said committing someone for up to six months represents a significant “deprivation of liberty” that must be backed up by evidence of the person’s future dangerousness.

“In a case like this the state is seeking to put someone in a hospital room — which can look a lot like a jail cell, i.e. locked doors and bars over the windows — not because they have actually hurt someone but because the state is predicting that they will hurt someone in the future,” Cambier told The Oregonian/OregonLive.

The Appeals Court said prosecutors didn’t legal justify the case against J.P. because he didn’t have the means to actually acquire a gun and probably didn’t have the physical strength to hang people as he had threatened.

J.P. had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and a supervisor at a mental health clinic was worried he’d act on his delusions to “kill” or “hang” strangers who he thought were members of the mafia, according to an Appeals Court summary of the case.

J.P.’s encounter with the mental health system began after his mother became gravely concerned when he sent her photos he took of a man at a bus stop and people in cars because he thought they were monitoring him, according to the summary. He also said he thought the roofers working on the house across the street from his grown daughter’s home were in on it, too.

Within a few weeks, he called his mother and announced he was ready to act, stating: “I’m ready to get these people. Whatever means necessary, I need to do this today,” according to the summary.

He added: “I don’t care how I have to do it. I’ll kill them. I’ll hang them. I’ll do whatever I have to. I need to deal with this.”

During a hearing, Douglas County Circuit Judge William Marshall said he considered J.P. a “real danger … to other people,” in part because he’d at one point successfully convinced his daughter to briefly loan him an unloaded shotgun.

“This illness is long-term,” Marshall said. “It’s not disappearing. It’s continuing to invade him.”

But in reversing Marshall’s ruling, the Appeals Court noted there was no evidence that J.P. followed his “verbal threats” with an “overt act” that indicated he was “highly likely” to end someone’s life.

“There was no evidence in the record … that the threat was anything more than the result of his delusions and agitation,” the Appeals Court wrote.

The court noted several other cases in which other people didn’t meet that bar, including a woman who had made threats to kill her neighbor’s children and put their heads on her fence and a man who threatened to kill a police officer by telling him he was a “dead man walking.”

It also noted the case of a woman who it determined had been lawfully committed: She fired a bullet into the wall dividing her apartment from her neighbor’s. That proved she was highly likely to be dangerous in the future, the Appeals Court said.

J.P., the man at the center of Wednesday’s ruling, was civilly committed in October 2017. He has long since left the state hospital. But the ruling has the effect of restoring his right to possess or own guns. Such a prohibition would have lasted indefinitely unless he successfully convinced the state’s Psychiatric Security Review Board to restore those rights.

The opinion was made by a three-judge panel of the Appeals Court: Rex Armstrong, Douglas Tookey and Scott Shorr. Read the opinion here.

— Aimee Green

agreen@oregonian.com

American Association of Medical Colleges Annual Meeting Speech

MY TALK AT AUSTIN

I was honored to deliver this talk on November 4 at Austin, at the annual meeting of the American Association of Medical Colleges. AAMC is a 142-year-old organization dedicated to improving American health care through educational initiatives and state-of-the-art medical research. My invitation signaled that the AAMC has recognized mental healthcare as an essential part of their outreach.


I feel grateful to the distinguished outgoing president of AAMC, Darrell G. Kirch, MD, for his warm introduction, and to Stacia Gueriguian of the AAMC for her superb stewardship of the technical production. If you find the talk useful, I urge you to repost it on the web, and perhaps to recommend it to a university, public-school system, or community-access channel in your area.
Learn Serve Lead 2018: The AAMC Annual Meeting Photo album: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10157859214817926&type=1&l=ecf6213741

An Ongoing Barbaric National Disgrace

I have written about the state-enforced incarceration, torture (via solitary confinement), and medical and inhumane neglect of young Tyler West of Fruitport, Michigan, since I began this blog nearly two years ago.

File:Amy Klobuchar, official portrait, 113th Congress.jpg
Senator Amy Klobuchar

I have included mention of this mentally ill, ridiculously over-prosecuted victim’s plight in nearly every talk I have given. I’ve contacted journalists, advocates, and elected federal and state officials in and around Michigan. (Senator from the neighboring state of Minnesota, sometime mental health reform advocate, and perhaps presidential hopeful Amy Klobuchar, I am looking at you. https://twitter.com/amyklobuchar/status/705052728171634688

Senator Debbie Stabenow

Progressive Senator Debbie Stabenow of Tyler’s home state, Michigan, https://www.stabenow.senate.gov/about/issues/excellence-in-mental-health-act can you possibly have remained uninformed about Tyler’s and his family’s nightmarish ordeal?)

No one answers. Silence prevails among people in a position to rescue Tyler and elevate him to a national symbol of our debased mental healthcare systems: a silence as absolute as that which surrounds Tyler when he is repeatedly thrown into solitary confinement for reasons undisclosed to his parents.

No one. No one. No one, on the evidence, cares about crazy people.

It causes me lacerating psychic pain to think about Tyler West and his inexplicable Bedlam-like imprisonment. (For details, see my other blogs about Tyler on this site.) My helplessness, and his family’s helplessness, in seeking justice for him exhaust and infuriate me no end. I no longer write about him as much as I used to, as much as I should.

The one person in this world who sustains any shred of hope within me, and who inspires me to speak about about Tyler yet again, is his courageous mother, Kimberlee Cooper-West. Kimberlee is a religious and civic-minded woman; and although struggling with her own grief, she has never given up on her violated adopted son. I have quoted many times from her impassioned writing. And today, reading through the Facebook file of my colleague in advocacy Dee Dee Moon Ranahan, I came upon her latest cry from the heart. It follows below. Ms. Stabenow? Ms. Klobuchar? Detroit Free Press? National NAMI? In this season of love and charity and reverence and soul-reclamation, to paraphrase Atticus Finch: “For God’s sake . . . do your duty!”

WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS COUNTRY? by Kimberlee Cooper West

Wish I had good news to share with ya all.

November 8 was our son Tyler’s 20th birthday. We were unable to say “Happy Birthday” as he was in lock down for five days. Days later, we drove a little over an hour to Richard Handlon Correctional Prison in Ionia, Michigan. (Tyler is number #113697.) We had cake with him. He made a cake from two honeybuns, smashed peanut M&M’s, and a melted Snickers bar on top. He’s inventive. We sang “Happy Birthday” to him.

He’s still our boy. Few mention him. Our heart breaks for what we’ve lost. This is Tyler’s third year away for his birthday. Next, he will miss Thanksgiving and Christmas. He hasn’t been given counseling, education, training, or the proper medications. He’s been beaten up four times since he was incarcerated.

Why couldn’t mental health professionals keep him in an inpatient psychiatric hospital? For the love of God there was no good reason to release our son from the hospital. His safety was compromised. No one was responsible. He was nearly shot at for trespassing. He was an inpatient five days prior to his arrest. He was delusional and hearing voices. What is wrong with this country? Why is there no long-term treatment?

This is a brain disease, ya all. Maybe we should start locking up every grandma and grandpa who is violent or disorderly from Alzheimer’s. Serious mental illness is a disease. It is prodromal to Alzheimer’s. Prisons are corporations. Their goal is money. They need prisoners. Caught up in the system — it’s a real thing.

We are receiving a criminal justice system education. Months are now years. One caseworker, Ms. Williams, calls many people names like dumb, retarded, idiots and pedophiles. Everyone in Ty’s facility is either mentally ill or autistic. She told Tyler, a 19-year-old kid who was only supposed to be in prison for two months, “You’re doing 15 years.” It leaves me to wonder how many have given up from her words.

Ty’s not even provided an inhaler for asthma and chronic lung disease. He has autism and a serious mental illness. When he was in school he was never suspended. He was a target for bullies which was our main concern. Incarceration never crossed our minds. On his birthday, I sent his appeal papers certified to a judge. Hopefully, he will give him an appellate lawyer.

http://www.soonerthantomorrow.com

Ty in prison -Credit Kimberlee Cooper West