A Parent Complains: Told To Kick Son Out On Streets In Order To Get Help


Dear Pete,

Our son became homeless at age 22. During the 18 years since then, there have been multiple hospitalizations, a myriad of letters written to psychiatrists begging for treatment, and correspondence with judges seeking support for his grave disability. All written to no avail.

On many occasions our son would return home. During this time we would be able to provide him some respite and warmth. We could nurse his bug bitten legs and feed his thin frame. I could wash his filthy clothing and buy him a sleeping bag that wouldn’t smell of urine.

But we could only take care of him for brief periods of time because the voices he heard eventually told him we were the enemy. His mania would take over and our opportunity to help care for him would evaporate with the need to call 911.

Our son was clearly gravely disabled and as a result of his distorted and paranoid thinking he was homeless. Yet no judge or treatment facility would help him long enough to make a difference. The horror stories we told of his bizarre beliefs or behaviors did not seem to matter.

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When Do We Intervene? Comparing Our Laws To Other Nations


From My Files Friday: The shootings at a movie theater in Louisiana by a man with a history of mental illness reminded me of an editorial that I published in 2013 after a gunman murdered twelve people at the Navy Yard in Washington D.C. As in the Navy Yard shooting case, there were ample warnings in Louisiana that the shooter was severely mentally ill.

Getting the Mentally Ill the Treatment They Need

By Pete Earley for The Washington Post  September 27, 2013 

When should society intervene if a person shows signs of mental illness?

As with the shooters at Virginia Tech, in Tucson and in Aurora, Colo., there were ample warnings that Aaron Alexis was experiencing mental distress before he killed 12 people at Washington’s Navy Yard. Police in Newport, R.I., did nothing to help Alexis when he complained about hearing voices and being zapped by skin-vibrating microwaves.

They were not legally obligated to.

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My Wife Undergoes Surgery: A Cautionary Tale


The call from my wife’s doctor came after a routine check-up. A tiny speck of blood in her urine. The doctor sent Patti to a urologist. He suggested a CT scan of her kidneys.

In the past decade, Patti’s two younger sisters have died from cancer. Her mother is currently in stage four. Would you be afraid?

The scan revealed two lesions, one hardly noticeable. Both less than 1 cm. Some of us never learned metrics. It is 0.39 inch.

A biopsy was ordered. Worries before the needle went in. What would it show?

Whew! Relief. High fives! Smiles. It’s benign. No cancer.

Just the same, Patti said, “I want it out.”

Our insurance company asked why? Said it wasn’t necessary. The biopsy showed no cancer. Leave it alone. Live with it.

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CIT & Jail Diversion: Lessons Learned In Bexar County Could Help Your Community


I have been a proponent of the Jail County Diversion Model in Bexar County, Texas, ever since I visited San Antonio five years ago and met Leon Evans and Gilbert Gonzales. That model is now being recognized nationally as the gold standard for diverting persons with mental disorders into appropriate services rather than jails. Not only are persons in crisis getting meaningful help — taxpayers are saving money.

I was thrilled when I learned that Fairfax Sheriff Stacey Kincaid was taking a delegation of Fairfax officials to Bexar County to investigate how our community might implement parts of the Bexar County model. Reporter Julie Carey tagged along and in several three minute reports, she describes both the model and what it accomplishes.

Bexar County has published a step-by-step guide that explains how your community can implement its model. I would urge you to watch the videos and get the guide into the hands of your local leaders.Click to continue…

Washington D.C. Homeless Man: From Harvard Law To The Curb

Alfred Postell graduated from Harvard but now roams D.C. streets. Washington Post photo

Alfred Postell graduated from Harvard but now roams D.C. streets. Washington Post photo

A recent story about a homeless, mentally ill man who roams Washington D.C.’s streets caused quite a sensation when it was published by The Washington Post recently.

Stories such as this put a human face on our broken mental health care system and, hopefully, help promote both public understanding and the need for reforms. This front page article helped refute the stereotypical image of persons on the street being lazy bums. This man was a high achiever until —

I was pleased that Green Door, the D.C. mental health provider that recently honored  my family during its fund raising gala, is attempting to help Alfred Postell move off the streets.

While I don’t like to repost articles on my blog, this one is an exception. Kudos to my old employer for publishing an impactful, non-sensational and thoughtful article about homelessness, mental illnesses and the plight of those who we abandon on the streets.

The Homeless Man Who Went To Harvard
July 13
The Washington Post

The judge settled his gaze on the homeless man accused of sleeping beside an office building in downtown Washington.

It was a Saturday afternoon in early April at D.C. Superior Court, and Alfred Postell, a man diagnosed with schizophrenia, stood before Judge Thomas Motley.

Postell’s hair was medium length and graying. His belly spilled over his pants. A tangled beard hung from his jowls.

“You have the right to remain silent,” a deputy clerk told Postell, according to a transcript of the arraignment. “Anything you say, other than to your attorney, can be used against you.”

“I’m a lawyer,” Postell replied.

Click here to continue reading. The  Post also published a follow up story trying to explain to readers why Postell has not received care. Click here.




Readers React With Skepticism About Officials Promises of ‘Transparency’ In Investigating Woman’s Death In Jail


Fairfax County readers of this blog are angry and distrustful of local officials based on emails that I received this week about the Natasha McKenna police investigation. Many of you do not live in Virginia, but you have been following my posts about the death of the 37 year-old African American with schizophrenia who was shocked with a taser at least four times while in handcuffs and leg restraints inside our local jail.

Her death is yet another example of what can happen when persons with mental disorders become entangled in our criminal justice system instead of being diverted into community treatment. Sadly, Fairfax County has dragged its feet on accepting Crisis Intervention Team Training and implementing such jail diversion tools as a mental health court.

This week, our chief of police announced that his office had completed a five month long investigation of the McKenna case but he didn’t reveal specifics.  Instead, he turned his report over to the local commonwealth’s attorney who will determine if criminal charges will be filed.  That office has not filed criminal charges against anyone in law enforcement involved in a police shooting while on duty since the police department was created more than seventy years ago.  Fairfax County averages about four police shootings per year. About half of those involve persons who have a diagnosed mental illness.

One troubling shooting involved David Masters who attempted to drive away from officers after being ordered to stop. Masters, who had a diagnosed mental illness, was suspected of taking flowers from outside a business. The officer who fatally shot Masters was later quietly discharged from the police force.

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