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.

Here’s what the press release about the award says about him:

Judge Leifman has built a national reputation for his pragmatic, collaborative, and focused approach to finding long-term solutions that improve people’s lives and the health of the liefmancommunity and the courts,” National Center for State Courts President Mary McQueen said in a prepared statement. “Judge Leifman recognized and identified problems within the justice system, and he was relentless in his efforts to change things. His work demonstrates the difference that judicial excellence, and action, can make in improving the administration of justice.”


One of the ongoing issues that needs to be fixed is implementation of parity as evidenced by this blog written by another fellow advocate and friend, Dinah Miller, over at Shrink Rap. Seems that students with mental illnesses are being discriminated against via tuition reimbursement if someone needs to withdraw. There are tougher rules and less refunds for mental health care than for other physical illnesses. Here’s the opening paragraph of her blog:

A colleague wrote into our psychiatric society’s Listserv —  his son is starting college and he was dinah-millersolicited to purchase tuition reimbursement insurance in case something goes wrong and his son needs to withdraw.  He was surprised to read that the company offered one amount if a student withdraws for ‘medical’ reasons and another, lesser percentage, if the student withdraws for ‘mental health’ reasons.  Oh, and the medical leave needs a doctor’s note, while a mental health leave requires that the student must have been hospitalized for two consecutive days for the psychiatric condition.  (continue reading here.


holmesThe verdict in the James Holmes/ Aurora Movie Theater Mass Murder Case continues to stir controversy. An editorial called The Right Decision  by The Washington Post, which praised jurors for not imposing a death sentence, drew criticism from many readers. So did a Huffington Post posting by Janine Francolini, founder of the Flawless Foundation, entitled We Are Society, which argued that Holmes was a victim of our broken mental health system. Here are samples of reaction to both opinion pieces, as well as, the first paragraph of Janine’s passionate plea for understanding.

It’s a shame the real culprits got away scot-free. The government and the mental health industry also should have been punished for their part in allowing, maybe even causing, this tragedy. We can control space craft at the other end of the solar system, but we can’t ensure James Holmes gets the help he needs until after people die. 

Whaaa whaaa, I don’t want to pay taxes to deal with mental illness before it becomes a problem, now I have to pay taxes to deal with the consequences. Can’t we just kill’em all???

Killing Holmes prevents Holmes from killing anybody else. That is called a deterrent.
We Are Society
By Janine Francolini

Since that horrific summer night in Colorado, I have been very vocal with my thoughts about the case of James Holmes. I recognized him publicly as a young man who had a documented history of treated and untreated schizophrenia and several doctors confirmed that diagnosis in his trial. While the nation was putting a young man battling severe mental health challenges on trial, I called for love and compassion in recognizing his illness. As the trial progressed, I wrote to his parents to offer some solace as talk of the death penalty quickly loomed large over us all.

One would think that James Holmes’ recent sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole- as opposed to the death penalty- would be a relief to me. But for the first time in this case I stayed still and quiet because I remain shocked at just how unconscious we still are in our awareness of brain disorders. I simply had no words to explain my concern and outrage and only speak now because I cannot ignore the public outpouring of hatred in response to the verdict.

My e-mail inbox has been full with messages about the trial, and yet I can only think to myself: How can I celebrate this verdict when a man who had a promising future as a doctoral student in neuroscience is being sentenced to life in prison for actions stemming from his brain disorder that our system completely failed to address? (continue reading here.)

Janine Francolini

Janine Francolini


Housing First is a model program that says every homeless person deserves a safe place to live regardless of whether or not they are mentally stable or free of addictions. In Dallas, they are using that same philosophy to end chronic homelessness by providing houses to so-called “frequent flyers.” Yep, actual tiny houses are provided along with intensive services. Here’s a report from the Dallas Morning News. Read the story here.

The $6.8 million housing project is expected to save Dallas County taxpayers thousands of dollars by offering shelter and medical care to the “frequent fliers” of emergency rooms, hospitals and the jail.

Each person who will move into a cottage currently costs the county more than $40,000 in services per year…With a permanent home and a support system, (the cost to the county) will be less than $15,000 annually.


About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.