Pressed by Advocate, CIGNA Responds To Not Including A Peer On Panel. Washington Post Doesn’t

(6-23-18) I recently took my former employer, The Washington Post, to task for not including someone who’d recovered from a mental illness on a recent blue ribbon panel discussion about the status of mental health care in America. AJ French had asked the Post and its co-sponsor, Cigna  to include a representative so all sides could be heard. The Post hasn’t responded, but Cigna did. 

A conversation is a start. By AJ French. 

Sometimes I wrestle with how to go about effectively communicating in a way that will bring about necessary change when every reason exists to become morally outraged by injustice.

This happened again when I learned The Washington Post discriminated against featuring subject matter experts who are leaders in the mental health recovery movement.

Readers who faithfully follow Pete Earley, know that the Washington Post Live staff ignored my communication about inclusion. I am pleased to report that Cigna did not. A representative from their organization called and apologized to me within twenty-four hours.

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NAMI Objects To My Criticism About It Not Doing More In New Hampshire To End Incarceration Of Individuals Imprisoned Simply Because They Are Mentally Ill

(6-22-18) In a recent blog (Time To End New Hampshire’s Shameful Practice of Putting Individuals With Mental Illnesses Into A  Maximum Security Prison To Save Money), I complained because the NAMI New Hampshire chapter had not joined the Treatment Advocacy Center in asking the U.S. Department of Justice to stop the state from imprisoning individuals with mental illnesses in a state prison even though they had not been charged with a crime. (The state doesn’t want to pay for a secure unit at its state hospital. Link to copy of TAC letter below.)

Both NAMI’s national office and Kenneth Norton, NAMI New Hampshire’s Executive Director, told me that my criticism was misinformed and unfair. Here is an edited version of the first email Ken sent me and the official letter that he and NAMI’s Ron Honberg drafted as a response to my blog. I have not edited nor altered their letter.

Hi Pete, 

I am deeply disappointed that you chose to include statements about NAMI NH in your blog about NH’s Secure Psychiatric Unit without checking facts first. ..NAMI NH has had a long standing position opposing the transfer of patients from New Hampshire Hospital to the Secure Psychiatric Unit.  We have provided oral and written testimony in opposition to this practice at numerous legislative bill hearings, study commissions and in other forums.  Our most recent testimony on this issue was March 27, 2018.

Ken

Here is NAMI’s official response to my criticism:

In mental health advocacy circles, we have a long, unfortunate history of turning on each other and distracting from efforts to achieve broader advocacy objectives.

This is what has just occurred with recent national blogs and posts regarding New Hampshire’s practice of transferring a small group of individuals, who have been civilly committed but not charged with crimes, from our state hospital to our Secure Psychiatric Unit (SPU) where they come under the jurisdiction of the New Hampshire (NH) Dept of Corrections and are co-mingled with people serving criminal sentences.  This process occurs through an administrative transfer that is initiated when an individual engages in such a high level of self-harm or assaultiveness that they are deemed no longer able to be safely maintained at New Hampshire Hospital.

NAMI NH has a well-documented and long-standing opposition to this inappropriate practice and has been actively opposing it for many years – long before it first made national headlines. 

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Frustrated Mother Writes Mental Health Laws Put Parents In “Catch 22” – Waiting Until Crisis To Seek Help

(6-18-18) Guest Blog: A frustrated mother writes an impassioned letter to her elected officials in Washington State about waiting until someone becomes dangerous before helping them.

The Catch-22 in our medical/legal system that criminalizes mental illness

By Jerri Clark, mother of a young adult son with bipolar/schizoaffective disorder

I’m an active participant in NAMI programs and therefore have met many family members who are struggling to find intelligent help in the medical and legal systems of Washington State.  

Most of the stories I hear come from other mothers.

We are struggling to rescue our children from medical and legal systems that don’t make any sense.

Our systems institute punishment when help is desperately needed. They deny access to services and then blame individuals who are severely impaired for not solving their own crises. They push people to a precarious edge and then kick.

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D. J. Jaffe’s Ted Talk: Critic Of Mental Health Providers Earns Their Applause In Convention Speech

(6-15-18) D. J. Jaffe’s Ted Talk at the recent National Council For Behavioral Health Conference in Washington D.C. was one of the event’s most anticipated and discussed presentations.

Jaffe argues that the “mental health” industry is failing individuals, who are seriously mentally ill, by pushing programs about “mental wellness” and constantly denying that individuals with “untreated serious mental illnesses” are more dangerous than the general public. He says they are. His speech included some of the ideas he shared in in his book:  Insane Consequences: How the Mental Health Industry Fails the Mentally Ill .

Given that he was speaking at a convention of community mental health providers, whom he criticizes, the founder of Mental Illness Policy Org.  was nonetheless interrupted several times by applause.

Story Two: Another tidbit that involves D. J. Jaffe.

RADIO REPORTER SEEKING INFORMATION ABOUT PATIENT DUMPING BY HOSPITALS & “GREYHOUND THERAPY.”

Freelance radio reporter Jessie Wright-Mendoza is preparing a national story about patient dumping by hospitals or mental health centers. She asked if I would help her find caregivers, family members or persons with mental illnesses who have experienced patient dumping and/or so-called  Greyhound Therapy.   Jessie Wright-Mendoza can be contacted at:  [email protected]
Ironically, I received this email from D. J. Jaffe this same week about an encounter he had in Manhattan with a psychotic woman in a hospital gown.

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Why Did The Washington Post Not Invite A Key Player To Discuss The State Of Mental Health Care In America?

(6-13-18) A core principle of good journalism is that reporters make certain they cover all sides of an important issue.

Sadly, it appears that my former employer, The Washington Post, has dropped the ball today by hosting a summit to “discuss the state of mental health care in the U.S.” without inviting any well-known individuals who actually have recovered or been through the mental health care system as patients.

Every day, there are forums, panels, and seminars about mental health held in the U.S. but the fact that a newspaper as prominent and influential as the Post would exclude a spokesperson with lived experience is surprising and disappointing. (In fairness, because the Post seminar is happening while I write this, I have not asked its organizer, Michael Falcone at the Post, to explain his actions, but I will  be happy to post his answer if he chooses to reply to this blog.)

Until told otherwise, it would seem the Post’s actions are subtly marginalizing persons such as my son and those who deal with mental health problems, suggesting they either are not capable of participating in a thoughtful discussion or that their voices are not important.

I was alerted to the Post’s decision in an email this morning from A. J. French (see below) who wrote that she had notified  Falcone at the Post and the newspaper’s co-sponsor Cigna in advance of today’s event, arguing that a peer or individual in recovery should be included in any discussion about the status of mental health care.  French offered Falcone the names of several activists who could explain what it is like to live daily with a mental disorder including: Paolo del Vecchio, director of Mental Health Services at SAMHSA and Harvey Rosenthal, Executive Director at the New York State Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitate Services.

French stated that the organizers at the Post didn’t respond to her emails.

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The Homeless Man In My Neighborhood Is A Good Thing -Huh?

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(6-11-18) He first showed up several months ago holding a cardboard sign: “HOMELESS: Please Help!”

He was poised at the entrance of a neighborhood shopping center less than two miles from my house here in Fairfax, Virginia.

Next came several Washington Post articles about how homeless individuals were sleeping in cars and in tents within five miles from where I live.

Seeing this man homeless was good news.

What? How can I write such a horrible statement. Stick with me for a moment and you will understand.

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