Are We Setting The Stage For Another Deinstitutionalization Debacle?

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Is the Justice Department setting the stage for another deinstitutionalization debacle  – this time by forcing group homes to close? Or will the Justice Department’s actions finally give us what we need: meaningful community based treatment, including housing?

I’ve been asking myself this question ever since I heard an inspiring story.

It was about a young man with intellectual disabilities who was able to move out of a group home into his own apartment where he didn’t have to share a bedroom or bathroom with random roommates for the first time in decades. He was able to do this because the state where he lived was forced to accommodate him by the Justice Department and what’s commonly called the Olmstead decision.

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Mike Wallace Asked Why Hospital Officials Were Discharging My Son

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FROM MY FILES FRIDAY:  When my son became ill, I thought about who I knew with clout who could help us.  Legendary newsman Mike Wallace, who struggled with his own mental illness, immediately responded.

 HOW NEWS ICON MIKE WALLACE HELPED MY SON  4/11/2012 USA TODAY

CBS newsman Mike Wallace might be remembered by most as a bare-knuckles broadcast journalist renowned for his tough interviews with the powerful, famous and rich, and a pioneer of the surprise “ambush” interview. But it is an incredible act of kindness to my family that I will always recall.

We didn’t start off as friends.

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Readers Respond: What Makes A Great Psychiatrist?

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9-22-14 Earlier this month, I asked: What makes a good psychiatrist?

Many of you responded with insightful comments and poignant stories. I asked my daughter, Traci, who earned a Masters Degree in mental health counseling this year, to help me review the emails and prepare today’s blog.  Here is her analysis.

Being a psychiatrist is a challenging job.

As one reader put it, psychiatry is “not an exact science.” Psychiatrists cannot rely on tests or physical exams when trying to treat an illness. Their skill at prescribing a treatment for an illness hinges on their ability to assess symptoms reported by their patients. Psychiatrists then must manage both a patient’s symptoms and possible side effects, while working to find the medication, or medications, that work for each individual patient.

What works for one, may not work for the other.

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FROM MY FILES FRIDAY: Vladimir Putin — Russia’s Egotistic Thief

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9-19-14 FROM MY FILES FRIDAY: In February 2011, I wrote a blog that described Russian President Vladimir Putin as a common thief. His recent foray into Ukraine is a testament that Putin is much more — he is a dangerous and pompous threat to freedom loving people. 

The World’s Biggest Thief 

Advocating for better mental health care is a top priority to me, but it’s not my only interest. I took time last week to have lunch with a friend of mine who works for a U.S. intelligence agency and our conversation quickly turned to Russia.

I have been fascinated with the Kremlin and Moscow much of my life.  Perhaps, it started when I was a youngster living in Pueblo, Colorado when my mother began storing food items in the bathroom closet in 1962. The bathroom was the only room in our small house that didn’t have windows, which was why it was chosen as our family’s emergency bomb shelter if the Soviet Union attacked.

For those too young to remember, 1962 was when the Cuban Missile Crisis happened and at the elementary school that I attended, we did drills where we either hurried into hallways or ducked under our desks. That was supposed to help us if  bombs fell.

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Health and HOPE: Are they linked?

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9-15-14  My former CIA friend and fellow author Robert Stephan sent me a fascinating article from The New York Review of Books entitled The Dying Russians. Over a period of time, Masha Gessen  noted that a large number of her Russian friends were dying.

The deaths kept piling up. People—men and women—were falling, or perhaps jumping, off trains and out of windows; asphyxiating in country houses with faulty wood stoves or in apartments with jammed front-door locks; getting hit by cars that sped through quiet courtyards or plowed down groups of people on a sidewalk; drowning as a result of diving drunk into a lake or ignoring sea-storm warnings or for no apparent reason; poisoning themselves with too much alcohol, counterfeit alcohol, alcohol substitutes, or drugs; and, finally, dropping dead at absurdly early ages from heart attacks and strokes.

Gessen decided to learn why and with a keen eye examined possible scientific explanations, studying and comparing fatality rates caused by smoking, heart attacks, cancer and other typical illnesses before she eventually reached an unexpected conclusion.

Russians were dying at much higher rates because of a lack of hope.

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From My Files: Why Don’t You Take Your Medication?

9-12-14 FROM MY FILES FRIDAY:  In a blog that I originally published on March 12, 2010, I tried to explain why my son resisted taking medication for several years after his first break.  “Why won’t my son/daughter take their pills?’ is still the question that I am asked the most. Much of what I wrote remains germane. 

“Why won’t you just take your medication? I take pills for my cholesterol every night and its no big deal.”

“Every psychiatrist we’ve seen has said you have a mental illness. Why won’t you accept it? Why would the doctors tell you that you’re sick, if it weren’t true?”

“Let’s look at when you were doing well and when you have gotten into trouble. What was the difference? Medication. It was the difference. When you were on your meds, you were fine. And when you weren’t, you got into trouble. Can’t you see that?”

These quotes may sound familiar to you if you are a parent and have a a son or daughter with a severe mental illness. I’ve said everyone of them to my son, Mike. Click to continue…