Remembering My Father Who Spent His Last Year Often Not Knowing Me

(6-21-20) Being a father is one of the most important and enjoyable roles in my life. I am blessed with having a blended family of five sons and two daughters. I am also a son. My father was a fabulous role model. He died in 2015 but not a day goes by when I do not think of him.  I will pause today and think of all fathers, especially those who have Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia.

A Father’s Day Goodbye

Published In The Washington Post on June 20, 2014

By Pete Earley

Father’s Day found me with a man who often doesn’t remember who I am, although we have spent much of his 93 years together. My father has dementia.

Five years ago, I persuaded my parents to move from Spearfish, S.D., into a second house that my wife and I own that doubles as my office. Leaving a community where they were well-established was difficult. But they enjoyed seeing grandchildren, spent Saturdays at garage sales and played Upwords with me at lunch time. It was good.

I first noticed little things. Forgetfulness, confusing names. It’s part of aging, I thought.

A year ago, my parents’ world narrowed. A retired minister, my father began hurrying from church, afraid he might say something foolish. No more garage sales, no more word games. In October, my mom felt severe back pain. Cancer. My father slept next to the hospital bed that hospice delivered. They celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in November. Three weeks later, she died. I learned then that she had been covering for him. At her funeral, he asked if I was enjoying “the party” and said he was sorry that my mother had missed it.

Click to continue…

Father Day’s Facebook Program Features Kevin and Me Today

(6-19-20)  Brandon Staglin interviewed us for a One Mind Facebook page program that will air today in preparation for Father’s Day. Here’s the press announcement.

Like the love that Garen Staglin and his family provided Brandon, father and veteran journalist Pete Earley experienced a similar situation when his son Kevin was diagnosed with a mental illness while in college. Pete’s loving support for his son and the roadblocks they experienced while trying to get Kevin help led Pete to writing the book Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness that tells their family’s story while also detailing the maze of contradictions, disparities and Catch-22s that make up America’s mental health system.

For this week’s Brain Waves webcast interview that airs this Friday, June 19th at Noon PT / 3pm ET, One Mind President Brandon Staglin will talk with Pete and Kevin Earley to discuss their road to recovery and how their father-son relationship evolved to become a partnership where they actively work together to support and maintain Kevin’s treatment and health.

In line with the Father’s Day theme, schizophrenia survivors Matthew Racher and Carlos Larrauri of the band FogDog will perform the ever-popular Cat Stevens song “Father and Son”.

This Brain Waves episode will air on our One Mind Facebook page, where you as a viewer will be able to type and post questions during the interview that Pete, Kevin and Brandon will answer in real-time. Visit the Brain Waves page on our website to learn more about this episode and to view it later if you cannot watch it on Friday at noon.

New Mexico City To Develop Non-Police Response To Mental Health Calls – Homeless Issues

Photo by Markus Spiske, PEXELS

(6-16-20) In a Washington Post OP Ed yesterday, I called for shifting responsibility for the seriously mentally ill away from the police to mental health professionals and the medical community. Coincidentally, Albuquerque officials announced yesterday afternoon that it intends to do just that.

Amid calls to defund police, Albuquerque creates an alternative department

The Washington Post,  Written by Austin R. Ramsey and Meryl Kornfield 

As calls to defund law enforcement reach a fever pitch nationwide, New Mexico’s largest city is answering concerns about its police department by forming an alternative.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller (D) announced on Monday the formation of a new public safety department designed to relieve stress on the city’s police. Instead of the police or fire departments responding to 911 calls related to inebriation, homelessness, addiction and mental health, the new division will deploy unarmed personnel made up of social workers, housing and homelessness specialists, and violence prevention coordinators.

The department, called Albuquerque Community Safety, may be the first of its kind, experts say. A spokesperson for the mayor told The Washington Post the new department was partially the city’s response to the “defund the police” movement.

“There is a huge portion of our community that doesn’t necessarily want two officers showing up when they call about a situation with respect to behavioral and mental health,” the mayor said in an interview Sunday. “So this is a new path forward for us that has been illuminated because of what we’ve learned during these times. Look, there’s political will; there was not political will to make this huge of a step three weeks ago.”

Click to continue…

Tulsa Race Riot: Back In 1982, Young Author Told Me About What Happened That Day

Tulsa Historical Society photo.


(6-15-20) Back in 1982, I interviewed Scott Ellsworth, then a young doctoral candidate who’d written a book about the 1921 race riot in Tulsa. As a child, I lived for several years in Oklahoma, graduated from college there, and ultimately worked at the now-closed The Tulsa Tribune newspaper. Because of my Oklahoma ties, I convinced my editors at The Washington Post to let me write a story about Ellsworth’s book, Death in a Promised Land, the first definitive account about that horrific massacre.

The Untold Story of One of America’s Worst Race Riot

By Pete Earley; 

September 12, 1982

BILL WILLIAMS once asked his father why he had come to Oklahoma. “Well,” the old man replied, “I came out to the promised land.”

During the early 1900s, Oklahoma had become a land of opportunity for blacks. Tulsa in particular had developed a thriving black business district that had become so prosperous that in 1913 it was known nationally as the Negro’s Wall Street.”

The Williams family had played a major role in making that black business district successful. Bill’s parents, John and Loula, had come to Oklahoma in 1902 when the area was still known as Indian Territory. They were looking for a place to settle and Tulsa seemed like a prime spot. Jobs were plentiful in the oil boom town. Fortunes were made and lost in a single day. By 1920, the Williams were among the richest black families in Tulsa. They owned a garage, confectionary, boarding house and the first movie house for blacks in the city. They called it the Williams Dreamland Theatre.

On the night of May 31, 1921, all that began to change. The land of promise turned ugly for blacks. Bill Williams, who was 16 at the time, remembers waking to the sounds of gunshots. His father was firing out their apartment window at a gang of white men who were trying to break into the building and loot it.

During the next 24 hours, Tulsa experienced one of this nation’s worst race riots. An estimated 270 persons, including some of the city’s most prominent blacks, were killed. More than 1,000 homes owned by black families were destroyed. The black business district was devastated.

Click to continue…

Dealing With Mental Illnesses Should Be A Medical Issue Not A Police Problem

(6-15-20) In an opinion editorial published by the Washington Post today, I call for shifting responsibility for the seriously mentally ill away from the police to community social services and the medical community.

Mental Illness Is A Health Issue, Not A Police Issue

(Reprinted From The Washington Post)

By Pete Earley

Pete Earley is the parent designee on the Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee, which advises the federal government about mental health reform.

Americans with mental illnesses make up nearly a quarter of those killed by police officers, according to The Post’s Fatal Force database. Meanwhile, a cumulative list shows 115 police officers have been killed since the 1970s by individuals with untreated serious mental illnesses.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The movement underway to “defund the police,” is a long-needed moment to shift responsibility for the seriously mentally ill away from police and put it back to where it belongs: on social service agencies and the medical community.

Forty percent of adults with serious mental illnesses will come into contact with the criminal justice system during their lives. Each year, 2 million of them are booked into jails. Most are charged with minor misdemeanor crimes and low-level felonies directly tied to their psychiatric illnesses. Jails and prisons currently hold more people with serious mental illnesses — 365,000 individuals — than hospitals. They remain in jail four to eight times longer than people without mental illnesses charged with the exact same crime, cost seven times more than other inmates in jail, are less likely to make bail and more likely to gain new charges while incarcerated.

Click to continue…

Charges Against Fairfax Officer In Taser Incident Wouldn’t Have Happened Without Public Outcry About 2 Earlier Deaths

(6-11-20) Millions of Americans have watched bodycam video of a white Fairfax County (Va.) police officer fire a stun gun probe into an unarmed, clearly disoriented black man before pinning him to the pavement, striking him with the stun gun and apparently firing another jolt to subdue him.

Fairfax Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr., and Commonwealth Attorney Steve Descano immediately condemned Officer Tyler Timberlake’s actions. Roessler called the officer’s conduct “horrible” and “disgusting,” adding “What you see here is unacceptable. It does not value the sanctity of human life.”

Timberlake was charged with three misdemeanor counts of assault and battery.

To fully understand the refreshing importance of Roessler’s and Descano’s actions, you must look backward at two earlier deaths at the hands of Fairfax law enforcement.

Click to continue…