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.

Rep. Tim Murphy Criticizes White House For Nominating New Mental Health Czar Who Wasn’t His Choice

murphy3 (1)(4-24-17) Pennsylvania Republican Representative Tim Murphy said in a press released late today that he was “stunned” by President Trump’s decision to nominate Dr. Ellie McCance-Katz,  to be the first Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use in the Department of Health and Human Services.

Murphy, who was the driving force behind the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act that created the new mental health and drug czar position, criticized Dr. McCance-Katz in his release because she worked for two years at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) during the Obama administration as the agency’s chief medical officer.

The old regime at SAMHSA was incapable and unwilling to work with me and my colleagues in Congress to deliver the transformative changes needed at the agency and throughout the federal government to serve families in crisis. Therefore I am stunned the President put forth a nominee who served in a key post at SAMHSA under the previous Administration when the agency was actively opposing the transformative changes in  H.R. 3717, the original version of my Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. In fact, the previous Administration and SAMHSA actively opposed the creation of an Assistant Secretary, as well as opposing my changes to HIPAA, expanding access to inpatient crisis psychiatric hospital beds, strengthening commitment standards and a host of other reforms. 

“Dr. McCance-Katz served as Chief Medical Officer at the very time SAMHSA was under investigation for multiple failed practices and wasteful spending. She was the key medical leader when the agency actively lobbied against any change or accountability, including when the Energy & Commerce Committee, indeed the entire Congress, was aiming to fix our nation’s broken mental health system by passing the most transformational mental health reforms in a half century. And while she was serving at SAMHSA, there were questionable hiring practices, no accountability for federal grants, an anti-medical approach to serious mental illness and substance abuse treatment and most importantly, the continued upward rise of suicide and substance abuse deaths.

The White House announced Dr. McCance-Katz’s selection late Friday after seriously considering two other finalists for the job. They included Miami Dade Judge Steve Leifman, who Murphy reportedly strongly opposed because he was not a psychiatrist, and Dr. Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist who reportedly was Murphy’s favored choice for the position but was passed over without explanation. Last week, the Wall Street Journal confirmed a blog  that I posted last month that named Dr. Welner as Murphy’s first choice.

Rep. Murphy’s criticism of Dr. McCance-Katz ignored criticism that she levied against SAMHSA after she resigned. In a blistering essay published in the Psychiatric Times, Dr. McCance-Katz wrote that SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services, which administers federal mental health programs, ignored serious mental illnesses and evidenced based practices in favor of feel-good recovery programs that were politically popular but did little to help persons diagnosed with debilitating disorders. She claimed that SAMHSA was openly hostile toward the use of psychiatric medicine, didn’t focus on helping the seriously mentally ill, and questioned whether bipolar disorder and schizophrenia were even real, arguing that psychosis is just a “different way of thinking for someone experiencing stress.”

In his press release criticizing her, Rep. Murphy didn’t mention Dr. McCance-Katz’s complaints about the agency, even though his release echoed much the same criticism that she had made in her article. He wrote:

“We must end the era of silly, feel-good, anti-scientific, redundant and wasteful actions at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and across all federal programs. The anti-medical approach to mental illness and addiction over the past decade has too often made the care for those with serious mental illness considerably worse.

“Having not been scrutinized by Congress for more than a decade, SAMHSA lacked mission-focus, deviated from congressional intent and spent taxpayer dollars on programs that at best are of dubious quality and effectiveness, and at worst, prevented care from being delivered to the most vulnerable patient population.

Supporters of Dr. McCance-Katz said they were caught completely off-guard by the severity of Murphy’s criticism given that Dr. McCance-Katz shared many of his views.

Click to continue…

My Son’s Story From Arrest To Recovery Is Chronicled In Wonderful Documentary!

(4-24-170 This short documentary is about my son, Kevin, and his struggles and ultimate recovery from mental illness. It was made by Alisa Posey, Stephanie Scriven and Ilayda Kocak, three local film makers.

“Talking about mental illness helps with the stigma we face,” Kevin told his friends on Facebook. “If Prince Harry and Lady Gaga can do it, so can we.”

“As my dad says on this documentary, ‘There should be no shame in having a mental illness, only shame in not helping someone who does!”

Trump Names Former SAMHSA Critic As Mental Health Czar: Dr. Ellie McCance-Katz

katz

(4-21-17) The White House announced late tonight that it had chosen Dr. Ellie McCance-Katz, as the first Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse inside the Department of Health and Human Services ending months of speculation about who would be selected.

The announcement came after much speculation that Dr. Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist, would be chosen. As early as yesterday, some of my sources in the Senate were saying that Welner had a “lock” on the job. He had been endorsed by the American Psychiatric Association.

Dr. McCance-Katz is currently the chief medical officer for the state Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals in Rhode Island.

She became SAMHSA’s first chief medical officer in 2013 but left after only two years.

In a critical essay published in the Psychiatric Times, Dr. McCance-Katz wrote that SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services, which administers federal mental health programs, ignored serious mental illnesses and evidenced based practices in favor of feel-good recovery programs that were politically popular but did little to help persons diagnosed with debilitating disorders.

She claimed that SAMHSA was openly hostile toward the use of psychiatric medicine, didn’t focus on helping the seriously mentally ill, and questioned whether bipolar disorder and schizophrenia were even real, arguing that psychosis is just a “different way of thinking for someone experiencing stress.”

The former SAMHSA critic will now oversee the agency and will be responsible for implementing the Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act that was pushed through Congress by Republican Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania.

WSJ Reporter Writes Murphy Is Backing Welner For Top Mental Health Post

murphy and welner

Congressman Tim Murphy and Dr. Michael Welner confer at hearing.

(4-19-17) This story in today’s Wall Street Journal by Michelle Hackman supports what I reported in a  blog last month about efforts by Republican Pennsylvania Representative Tim Murphy to get Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and the White House to appoint Dr. Michael Welner as the first Assistant Secretary for mental health. Whether this appointment will really happen, however, is still anyone’s guess given the oftentimes erratic temperament of the White House.

Trump’s Latest Pick for Mental-Health Post Has Helped Prosecutors Secure Convictions

Forensic psychiatrist Michael Welner has testified in high-profile cases; on television, he has called killers ‘alienated losers’

By Michelle Hackman  published in The Wall Street Journal. 

WASHINGTON—The Trump administration is struggling to fill a top mental-health post, a job created last year to coordinate the efforts of far-flung federal agencies.

The assistant secretary position in the Department of Health and Human Services was first offered to a Florida judge, but the offer was withdrawn due to his lack of a medical background, according to people familiar with the matter. A second candidate had broad support but pulled out.

Now a leading contender is Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist who has testified for the prosecution in numerous high-profile criminal cases, according to a half-dozen people familiar with the process including Dr. Welner himself. He faces opposition for some controversial positions.
Click to continue…

Outrageous! Joan Bishop recounts the tragic death of her psychotic sister in powerful documentary, raising troubling questions about our system

(4-17-17) A seriously mentally ill woman denies that she is sick and after a year of refusing treatment is released from a state hospital. She gives discharge officials a fake address, walks a few miles from the hospital and breaks into an unoccupied farm that is for sale. Afraid to venture out, she survives by eating crab apples from the backyard while writing her thoughts in a compelling diary, chronicling her own starvation up to the day that she becomes so weak she can no longer write. Her body and diary were found months later.

I first heard this incredibly sad story in 2009 from the woman’s sister, Joan Bishop, who was outraged because the hospital had discharged her sister, Linda, knowing she was seriously ill and had refused to notify anyone because of HIPAA.

Joan was determined to tell the world what happened to Linda. I wrote two blogs about it and two years later, Rachel Aviv, wrote a stunning account published by The New Yorker about Linda’s death under the title:  GOD KNOWS WHERE I AM.

Last year, documentary film makers Todd and Jedd Wider, and Brian Ariotti  turned Aviv’s account into a powerful film that will make its premiere on April 21st in New Hampshire where Linda died. The film will be shown at the Red River Theater in Concord, but wait, there’s more.

I was excited to learn that clips from the film are tentatively being scheduled for showing at the National Alliance on Mental Illness national convention in Washington D.C. this summer ( June 21st thru July 1st)  followed by a panel discussion.

I am so grateful that Joan (who appears in the documentary as herself) made certain that Linda’s life  and her death have been memorialized. The film raises serious questions, not only about our mental health system and HIPAA but also about the civil rights of individuals who are seriously ill. Visit the film’s website  to learn when it may be showing in your area.

Here is the story that Joan first told me eight years ago.

Click to continue…

Happy Easter From Me To You: Let’s Continue Working For A Better World

 

hope-change

(4-16-17) For Christians, Easter is a time of miraculous resurrection. For others, it is a time to celebrate the coming of spring, birth and renewal. For all of us, it should be a time for compassion and caring for persons less fortunate, especially those with mental disorders and co-occurring problems.

Write Hal Lindsey said it best:

“Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air…but only for one second without hope.”

Have hope, help others, change lives.

Happy Easter and thank you for reading my blog for the past eight years.