Eight Years After Va Tech: States Still Underfunding Community Mental Health

FROM MY FILES FRIDAY (4-24-15) Eight years have passed since Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 persons on the Virginia Tech campus before turning a gun on himself.  In an appearance on Anderson Cooper’s 360 show a few days later, I criticized the state’s “imminent danger” involuntary commitment standard and complained about Virginia’s inadequately funded community mental health system. The state has lowered its commitment standard but has stubbornly refused to pour more money into much needed community services. 

The most meaningful way for us to remember and honor those who died that awful day is by adequately funding community mental health care services, something that a report issued by NAMI found is not being done.


From Anderson Cooper 360, CNN – April 20, 2007

Suicide: The ‘Demons” Got My Beautiful, Loving Daughter

Photo courtesy of Doris Fuller  Copyrighted Doris Fuller.

Photo courtesy of Doris Fuller Copyrighted Doris Fuller.

I was deeply saddened to learn that Natalie Fuller, the 28 year-old daughter of Doris Fuller, ended her own life recently. In today’s Washington Post, Doris writes poignantly about Natalie’s  six year struggle with her mental illness.

I was aware from Doris that Natalie, who I met briefly when she was in a local hospital, was having trouble. I was deeply touched by Doris’s tireless devotion to her daughter and Natalie’s spirit. I am so sorry that her life ended this way.

Thank you Doris for your courage and for sharing Natalie’s life story with us.

The “Demons” Got My Beautiful, Loving Daughter

By Doris A. Fuller

Published in The Washington Post  on April 21

I lost my darling daughter Natalie to mental illness last month. She killed herself a few weeks short of her 29th birthday by stepping in front of a train in Baltimore.

Natalie and I wrote a book together when she was 16: “Promise You Won’t Freak Out: A Teenager Tells Her Mother the Truth About Boys, Booze, Body Piercing, and Other Touchy Topics (and Mom Responds).” The idea of a teenager telling the truth about her secrets was such a startling concept that we were feature-page headliners in the Baltimore Sun and about two dozen other newspapers, went on TV coast to coast, including on one of the morning shows, and got paid to give speeches. “Oprah” called.

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We Took Our Daughter To The ER For Help. She Ended Up Being Arrested.


We turn to medical professionals for help. Sadly, as this email shows, some practitioners are not as benevolent as we might hope.

Dear Pete,

My adult daughter, who is in her twenties, has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Late last year, she told me she was going to harm herself. I took her seriously because she had made a suicide attempt five months earlier. Fortunately, our police department has Crisis Intervention Team trained police officers and one came to our house and skillfully talked our daughter into going to a local hospital to be evaluated.

She was transported by ambulance at about 5:30 pm. Our daughter was still waiting in the ER by 11 p.m. and became distraught. I told the staff that she needed to take her medication, SAPHRIS, because it was wearing off. But they told me the hospital pharmacy did not have SAPHRIS available. I had some in my car, but when I said that I would go get it, I was told that wasn’t allowed.

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Plugging CIT In McKenna Case: New “Voices” Documentary Well Worth Watching

WUSA Report About Natasha McKenna

In this news story, I push for Crisis Intervention Team training and Ron Honberg, the director of policy and legal affairs for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, asks the all important question: why was a woman with mental illness in jail rather than getting treatment. Thanks to WUSA Reporter Peggy Fox for being the only Washington D.C. television reporter who continues to focus a spotlight on this tragic story.


VOICES, a documentary film by Gary Tsai, MD.,

—tells three stories from the perspective of families and persons with mental illnesses. It’s gripping and well worth seeing when it begins being aired on PBS in May. I am enthusiastically recommending it. Like so many of us, psychiatrist Tsai has a personal reason for caring about our broken mental health system, which he explains on the film’s website.

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Washington Post Confirms My Stories About Natasha McKenna

Restraint Chair Similar To One Used At Jail

Restraint Chair Similar To One Used At Jail

April 13, 2015, Shortly after 12 o’clock on Monday, Tom Jackman, an investigative reporter at the Washington Post, confirmed what I had posted in my blog earlier that morning about a January 31st incident during which Natasha McKenna was slapped by a Fairfax deputy. His reporting is based on internal incident reports that he obtained that were written by sheriff’s deputies and other jail personnel and leaked to him.

Several key facts that he revealed were first mentioned in earlier blog posts that I had written about McKenna. However, my posts were dismissed by jail officials, including one who told reporters that I was exaggerating. Another dismissed my earlier posts as “hearsay” that was “completely unsubstantiated.” 

“Pete Earley could just be making that stuff up,” he told a reporter. 

Thank you Tom for your continued vigilance and digging. You have proven that my earlier accounts were not “made up” and you have exposed new and detailed information about this preventible tragedy.

Jackman also is the Post reporter who revealed how county officials were keeping secret information about the Fairfax police shooting of  John Greer .


The death of Natasha McKenna in the Fairfax jail: The rest of the story
By Tom Jackman posted April 13 at 12:44 PM

In compiling the article for Sunday’s paper about the death of Natasha McKenna after she was Tasered four times, a number of items were omitted for various reasons related to space and deadlines. To provide additional context on this complicated case, here are some further important items to consider, beginning with this fact: The entire incident was captured on video.

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Fairfax Woman Was Already Restrained When Shot Repeatedly With Taser


April 13, 2005, The Washington Post  published disturbing new information on Sunday about the death of Natasha McKenna, a 37- year old woman with schizophrenia who died after being struck by a taser while in the Fairfax County Detention Center. On February 10th, I noted on this blog that the 130 pound McKenna had been shot repeatedly with a taser even though she had initially agreed to cooperate with deputies trying to remove her from her cell. That blog prompted the Post and other Washington area media to launch their own investigations.

Now Washington Post reporters Tom Jackman and Justin Jouvenal have provided the public with the first complete picture of what happened to McKenna on the day that she was shocked four times with 50,000 volts. Their story, which is based on internal incident reports, is especially difficult to read if you have a loved ones with a mental illness who has been arrested.

The internal reports reveal that McKenna was “restrained with handcuffs behind her back, leg shackles and a mask when a sheriff’s deputy shocked her four times.”

There is still more to this story, according to my sources. Before McKenna was shot with a taser, she was involved in an altercation three days earlier on January 31st after she leaned a mattress in her cell against the door to block a window so deputies could not see inside. Two deputies decided to open the door, grab the mattress, and jerk it out of the cell before McKenna could react. However, McKenna grabbed the mattress and was dragged with it out of her cell.  A female deputy reacted by striking McKenna with an open palm against her head, my sources said.

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