States Use Involuntary Commitment Laws To Keep Sexual Offenders Locked Up: Others Are Becoming Homeless

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The chronic homeless have always been drug addicts, alcoholics or individuals with mental illnesses, most of whom also are abusing substances. But they are being joined by another category of men who are modern day lepers.

Sexual offenders are finding it impossible to obtain housing after they are released from jail or prison. Many states and municipalities have stringent rules about where registered sex offenders can live. As soon as they disclose their criminal background, landlords reject their applications. Sexual offenders end up being released to shelters where they are as unwelcome as they are anywhere else. They quickly disappear onto the streets.

This growing housing problem was brought to my attention during a recent board meeting of the Corporation for Supportive Housing, a national non-profit organization that Patti and I financially support. CSH helps cities and states build supportive housing units with wrap around services. It is the only organization whose board I serve on and it is at the tip of the spear when it comes to helping vulnerable populations, especially persons with mental illnesses.

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Murphy Claims Passage Of Mental Health Bill Could Happen This Session

Rep. Tim Murphy Challenges SAMHSA

Rep. Tim Murphy Challenges SAMHSA

From My Files Friday: 3-27-15) Rep. Tim Murphy’s controversial Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act never made it out of a House committee last year, but the Pennsylvania Republican says some form of it will become law this year now that he has found a Democrat in the Senate willing to support his controversial reform efforts. In a press release last month, Murphy reported that Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy had discussed “areas of agreement” with him that made both of them believe “Congress could act and pass a bill during the current session.” That statement came as a surprise to the Democrats in the House who I polled. They insist the bill will remain buried in committee unless Murphy agrees to drop several changes, including his attempts to reduce the size and importance of SAMHSA and drop his push for Assisted Outpatient Treatment. Stay tuned. Here’s a blog that I wrote in December 2013 when his initial bill was introduced. 

Rep. Murphy’s Bill Would Shift Focus: Make Major Changes In Mental Health Care

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) introduced legislation today that would make significant changes in our nation’s mental health care system.

Spurred by the mass killings in Newtown, Murphy’s proposed bill,  The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act , would slow the current push in the mental health community toward self-determination at any and all costs toward a more paternalistic view.

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RECOVERY NOW! An Advocate Explains The Importance of Believing You Can and Will Recover

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Mental Health Recovery Now

By Leah Harris

“Recovery is a process, a way of life, an attitude, and a way of approaching the day’s challenges. It is not a perfectly linear process. At times our course is erratic and we falter, slide back, regroup and start again… The need is to meet the challenge of the disability and to re-establish a new and valued sense of integrity and purpose within and beyond the limits of the disability; the aspiration is to live, work and love in a community in which one makes a significant contribution.” — Pat Deegan, Ph.D.

I am the daughter of two people diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. They did not recover. They died tragically and young, as far too many people with these diagnoses do. I mourn their loss every single day of my life. And yet I am an unwavering advocate for mental health recovery.

As an adolescent, I attempted suicide a number of times. I also experienced periods of believing I was the secret Messiah, seeing divine messages on the sides of buses and in TV commercials. I once barricaded myself in my room with knives, necessitating a call to the police, who took me away in handcuffs in the back of a squad car. At age 16, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and was told in numerous direct and indirect ways: You have a genetically inherited biological brain disease that you will have for life. You will not be able to manage this disease without lifelong dependence on our systems of care. You will have to put your dreams on hold and avoid all forms of stress in order to be able to manage your illness successfully.

The outcome of these hopeless and disempowering messages was that at eighteen years old, I found myself sitting in a squalid group home, where I was told I would remain for life. I had no high school diploma and no job. I was on the direct track to poverty, chronic disability, and premature mortality.

With the support of my family, I managed to escape the group home. A particularly empathetic and supportive teacher helped me to get educational accommodations. Not only did I graduate from high school, but I went on to college, then obtained a graduate degree from Georgetown University. Yet even with these successes, I felt like a fraud. I hid my psychiatric history from everyone I knew, ashamed, and continued to struggle deeply, even as I “performed” and “achieved.”

In my mid twenties, I heard a different message for the very first time: People can and do recover, from even the most serious mental illness. The idea that I could recover was a revelation to me. It gave me a sense of possibility going forward that I had never felt before. My life was forever changed, for the better.

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I’ve Agreed To Serve On A Local Commission Investigating Police Transparency

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I’ve been asked to serve on an Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission here in Fairfax, Virginia that has been created in the wake of a troubling police shooting and alleged cover-up — along with the recent death of Natasha McKenna in the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center.

On February 10, 2015, I reported that McKenna, who had a mental illness, had suffered cardiac arrest and died after she had been shot with a taser at least four times while deputies were forcing her to leave her cell. I also revealed that she had been struck in the head by a deputy during an earlier confrontation. The media frenzy that followed prompted Fairfax officials to promise a thorough and transparent investigation.

However, so far the only press statement issued about the 37 year-old mother’s preventible death failed to reveal key facts and intentionally excluded details about McKenna’s final hours. (Investigators still have not specified how many times a taser was used on McKenna or acknowledged that she was struck in the head during that earlier altercation.)

On Wednesday, The Washington Post (which already has written two editorials about the McKenna case) published another editorial chastising officials for still not telling the public what happened inside the jail.

My first reaction when I was asked to join the Ad Hoc Police Commission was to refuse.

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He Loved Ice Cream and Taught Me How To Be a Man

ElmerNEarleyJrMy eulogy, which I read at my father’s memorial service.

How do you describe a man’s life in a few minutes, especially a father as special as my dad, Elmer N. Earley?

Perhaps the answer is by my sharing some memories with you.

One of my first memories.

I am afraid. It is raining hard outside. It is late. We are driving from Oklahoma to New Jersey to visit my Aunt Alice and Uncle Millard and my cousins, Lorraine and Arlene. It is where we always go on vacation because they are my Dad’s family and family is important to him. We can’t find a motel on Interstate 40. Only glowing red No Vacancy signs. I am little – maybe six — and I am scared. I curl up in the back of our Ford Falcon station wagon, close my eyes and tell myself that everything will be okay. My father will find someplace safe for us. He will carry me inside and when I wake up, it will be morning and the sun will be out. I know my father will take care of me. All I have to do is fall asleep.

I am safe because of him.

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Woman Recalls Being In Fairfax Jail Psychotic: Turned Away From Hospital

Women in Fairfax County Detention Center

Women in Fairfax County Detention Center

(3-13-15 This is the third of three letters that I am sharing with readers this week while mourning my father’s passing.)

Dear Pete,

I am a college educated woman who also lives in Fairfax county. In the summer of 2010, I became manic. I knew I was bipolar and was taking my medication but it simply stopped working. The psychiatrist, who I saw in the mornings, didn’t catch on because I had sun-setters. It just spun out of control so fast. By the time my husband tried to get me help, I didn’t believe I was even sick.

He tried to have me committed 3 times.

The first time, I was let go because there was problem with my paperwork — someone put the wrong date on my commitment form. The second time I agreed to a 5 day voluntary hold, but checked myself out of the hospital the next day. The third time, they just let me go. The  same Fairfax officers, who had been to my house several times to try to convince me to go to the hospital, finally told my husband to take my daughter and leave.

I had no idea where my husband and daughter went.

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