Helpful Recommendations: Why Jails And Prisons Shouldn’t Be Asylums


I have been a member of a mental health subcommittee studying ways to improve services in Fairfax County, Virginia where I live. The introduction to our draft report might be useful reading for many of you. I have edited out several local references and added some key points in parenthesis.

You’ll find that much of our report contains information that I have cited in my speeches and previous blogs. You might want to compare what we are suggesting with services in your community.

Mental Health Reform: An Introduction 

“Police officers have increasingly become the first responders when a citizen is in the midst of a psychiatric crisis. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), up to 40% of adults who experience serious mental illness in their lifetime will come into contact with the police and the criminal justice system at some point in their lives. (1) The vast majority of these individuals will be charged with minor misdemeanor and low-level felony offenses that are a direct result of their psychiatric illnesses – the most common being trespassing or disorderly conduct.

Despite the minor nature of these crimes, encounters between persons with mental illness and the police can escalate, sometimes with tragic consequences. Nearly half of all fatal shootings by law enforcement locally and nationally involve persons with mental illnesses.

Click to continue…

A 14 Year Old Asks: Who Would My Father Be Without His Mental Illness?

 children mentally

by Rebecca

Age fourteen

Imagine living every day being reminded of what a failure you are. Imagine going to bed every day feeling defeated and hopeless. Imagine never being capable of reaching anyone’s expectations. Imagine losing every dream you ever dreamed and losing grasp of the life you once had. Imagine waking up every day with this despair, knowing you are incapable of living differently.

This is the life of many with severe mental illness.

Mental illness is a heavy burden on my heart because my father has suffered severely with mental illnesses his entire life. He has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, severe depression, personality disorders, and other mental health issues. Because of his severe mental condition, he has lost everything.

Click to continue…

Anger About Holmes’ Sentence, Discrimination Against College Students, Congratulations To Judge Leifman and Tiny Houses In Dallas

Discrimination against college students with mental health issues

Discrimination against college students with mental health issues


Here are four bits that I’d like to share this Friday. One is about Judge Steven Leifman, another cites discrimination against college students with mental illnesses, the third reports fallout over the James Holmes sentence in the Aurora Movie Theater mass murder and the last offers a creative solution to ending chronic homelessness in Dallas.


My good friend, Judge Steven Leifman, who was courageous enough to get me into the Miami Dade Detention Center so that I could write my book, will receive the William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence from the National Center for State Courts. The award will be presented by Chief Justice John Roberts and is one of the highest honors that a judge can receive. Two mental health reform bills making their way through Congress call for the appointment of a defacto federal mental health czar. One requires that position to be filled by a psychiatrist while the other is more relaxed but requires a mental health professional. Too bad because Judge Leifman would be the perfect official to run SAMHSA and our federal mental health programs.

Click to continue…

How Can Someone Who Is “CIT Certified” Not Understand CIT? – Troubling Statements By Sheriff Candidate


A recent front page story in my local newspaper caused me to wonder if some law enforcement officers actually understand Crisis Intervention Team training even though they publicly endorse it.

In a newspaper interview under the headline: Fairfax Sheriff’s Race Heats Up, a veteran police officer now running to be our sheriff made several troubling comments. According to his webpage, Byron Wolfe is a strong proponent of CIT, listing it as one of his top priorities if elected.

Bryon Wolfe

Bryon Wolfe

But he’s quoted in the newspaper completely dismissing his opponent’s efforts to implement jail diversion.

“Wolfe…said focusing on (jail) diversion programs deters the sheriff’s department’s attention away from handling mental illness within the jails.

“The Fairfax County police are the ones that deal with diversion,” Wolfe said. “The Fairfax County Sheriff’s deputies — they’re not involved in that decision making. They’re just going to wait and see if a prisoner is brought to them. Waiting for a huge diversion program — that’s not going to happen: who has the funding for that?

Wolfe said his campaign platform instead is set on restoring the county’s trust in the department. He said he aims to do this by installing cameras in the jail to record ‘the good and the bad.'”

Thinking that jail diversion is only a issue for the police goes directly against the core principles of CIT. If you check the CIT International website — the parent organization of CIT — you will find this statement:

CIT Basic Goals: *Improve Officer and Consumer Safety. *Redirect Individuals with Mental Illness from the Judicial System to the Health Care System.

That second goal is Jail Diversion.

Click to continue…

Readers Who Are Doing Their Part To Educate The Public: Complaints, Alerts, Performances, Websites, and Awards

Happier times, from left to right, Cheryl Scott, Phil's mother; Philip McMahon; and Ken Scott, his stepfather.

Happier times, from left to right, Cheryl Scott, Phil’s mother; Philip McMahon; and Ken Scott, his stepfather.

This month my blog averaged 71,000 readers with an additional 9,000 on Facebook. Thank you. Every week, readers send me emails asking how they can help improve our system. Here are examples of readers who are doing exactly that by writing articles, sounding alarm bells, creating Broadway quality shows, launching incredible websites and winning well deserved awards!

*Mental Health gadfly D. J. Jaffe accuses recipients of federal mental health dollars of blocking congressional reform efforts in an article published by The National Review. Writes Jaffe:

“Mental-health programs received $172 billion in federal and state taxpayer funds in 2014. As a result of lobbying by the mental-health industry, however, little of it went to reducing homelessness, arrest, incarceration, and hospitalization of the 10 million who have serious mental illness such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Instead, as in previous years, a vast amount went to improving the “behavioral health” of the masses.”

Jaffe and his website, Mental Illness Policy.Org, have repeatedly raised questions about SAMHSA programs that he believes are wasteful. You can read his argument in his article: A Chance for Real Mental-Health Reform, If the Mental-Health Industry Gets Out of the Way.  You might recall that it was Jaffe who complained about how California officials were spending funds generated by the so-called “millionaires’ tax” on questionable purchases, such as spending $11 million to hire a public relations firm and half million dollars on a salary for a lobbyist.

*A recent study by The Washington Post documented what national studies have shown: nearly half of all police shootings involve persons with mental illnesses. One father who is putting a human face on this grim statistic is Ken Scott ,whose stepson was shot during a psychotic break by a San Diego police officer. Ken’s stepson now faces two felony charges. Ken tells his family’s story at Phil’s Page.  

It was 12:42 am CST when my wife received the first news of Philip’s shooting, an event that had occurred 10 hours earlier. From that point true information was almost impossible to obtain. The police wanted information but gave none. The hospital was not even allowed to acknowledge that Phil was a patient. Everything we got was from the media and they got what the authorities wanted them to say. For the next 5 days we were living in hell.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, up to forty percent (40%) of adults who experience serious mental illnesses will come into contact with the police and the criminal justice system at some point in their lives. This is why Crisis Intervention Team training is needed in all of our communities and by team, I mean more than 40 hours of law enforcement training. I’m talking about communities implementing jail diversion and meaningful community mental care services, including supportive housing!

Click to continue…

Sanity Prevails In Sparing the Life of The Aurora Movie Shooter James Holmes




I would never wish a serious mental illness on anyone, but I do wonder how our elected officials’ perspectives might change if someone close to them became seriously ill.

Consider Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, the prosecutor who declared that the only acceptable sentence in the horrific Aurora, Colorado, mass murder shooting was death for James Eagan Holmes, a 25 year-old student who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

“You can bring justice to this act and to him,” Brauchler said during his closing arguments in the case, pointing at Holmes. “And for James Egan Holmes, justice is death.”

“Justice is death” had become Brauchler’s mantra from the beginning of the movie shooting tragedy.

No one can discount the savagery of Holmes’ actions. He murdered 12 people, including a 6 year-old child – and injured 70 others. As The Washington Post reported, the stories of these victims moved jurors to tears. All of us feel empathy for the victims. The survivors’ pain and suffering is difficult to imagine.

Click to continue…