Two Republican Senators Who Care About Mental Health Are Playing Key Roles In Trumpcare


(5-11-17) All of Washington is talking about the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, but let’s not forget that Senate Republicans are in the midst of rewriting a health care bill that could have a major impact on mental health care.

Fortunately, one of the 13 Republicans drafting Trumpcare has authored mental health care legislation. Another senator, who is not on the all white male redraft and repeal Obamacare panel, has gained national attention for demanding a higher bar than what can be found in the House’s hastily passed version.

The Senators are: John Cornyn (Tex.), the majority whip in the Senate, and Dr. Bill Cassidy (La.) who is a freshman but is highly regarded for his medical expertise.

Both played pivotal roles in the fading days of the Obama administration in passing mental health bills. Sen. Cornyn authored the Mental Health and Safe Communities Act ,which uses federal funds to encourage jail diversion, support Crisis Intervention Team training, and implement mental health courts. All are important programs designed to shift individuals with serious mental illnesses into community treatment programs instead of abandoning them in the never ending – jail-streets-jail-streets – revolving door.

Sen. Cassidy, along with Democrat Sen. Chris Murphy (Conn.), introduced a much changed version of Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Tim Murphy‘s Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act  in the Senate. It was Cassidy and Chris Murphy who convinced Republican  Sen. Lamar Alexander, chair of the powerful HELP committee, to push their Mental Health Reform Act through the Senate during December’s lame duck session which led to a compromised version of the House and Senate bills becoming law. Without their leadership in the Senate, there is a good chance that Rep. Tim Murphy’s bill would have died, just as it had in a previous session.

More recently, Sen. Cassidy has become a favorite of news shows because of his comment about Trumpcare having to meet the “Jimmy Kimmel” test in response to an emotional monologue the late night talk show host gave about his newborn son’s open heart surgery. Cassidy’s compassion appealed to many advocates who have warned that the Republican bill could potentially cut millions of mentally ill Americans from Medicaid roles. Medicaid is the largest payer for mental health care.

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National “Speak Out” Day May 20th Demanding Help for Families Dealing With Serious Mental Illness


(5-8-17) During Mental Health Awareness month, groups like to quote that one-in-five Americans are impacted by a mental illness each year, but that is a wide net thanks to a DSM-5 that includes such diagnoses as obstructive sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome.
About 10 million Americans have SMIs – serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and severe and persistent depression.
An organization representing the SMIs has asked me to help publicize their call for a day of focusing on serious mental illnesses.
Events are planned in Washington D.C., Sacramento, Springfield, Sarasota, Palm Beach and Augusta and — you guessed it, this is a grass roots campaign being led by parents, many of whom, are frustrated with larger mental health organizations who they say are abandoning the sickest of the sick.
Here is a copy of their press release and a video that they’ve made that shows the faces of sons, daughter, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers, who have died because they did not get treatment. Watch it and you will notice the names of several individuals whose stories have been told on my blog.

For Immediate Release: Let’s Fight for Social Justice To Ensure Treatment Not Tragedy

Families for Treatment of Serious Mental Illness  (TreatSMI), friends and fellow advocates of both those suffering and who care about those suffering from serious mental illnesses will be coming together in our Nation and State Capitals demanding the right to treatment before tragedy, a hospital bed instead of jail or homelessness, housing, and an end to the criminalization of the seriously mentally ill.

Please join us in replacing stigma with honor, silence with voice, despair with hope, shame with respect, and ignorance with science so that we finally get treatment before tragedy.

States and cities where we’re joining together on May 20, 2017 are Washington DC, Sacramento, CA, Springfield, IL, Sarasota, FL, Palm Beach, FL, and Augusta, ME.

Schizophrenia and Related Disorders of America (SARDAA) will also be standing with TreatSMI on May 20th during the last day of their five-day event, “Hearing Voices of Support: An Experiential Event,” in New York, NY.

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Insane Consequences: D J Jaffe’s Attempt To Turn A Spotlight On The Seriously Mentally Ill

BannerAd(5-1-17) Given the ongoing dispute about who will be the first Assistant Secretary for mental health and substance abuse, it seems a fitting time to discuss D.J. Jaffe’s new book, Insane Consequences: How the Mental Health Industry Fails The Mentally Ill.

For the past thirty years, Jaffe has been deeply involved in advocating for better care for the seriously mentally ill and his book provides a roadmap for what he is convinced needs to be done to rescue and reform our current system.

Jaffe became an advocate because of a family member. In his case, it was his wife’s younger sister, Lynn. What happened to Jaffe, his wife, Rose, and to Lynn has become an all too common story.

She started becoming paranoid, convinced that conversations taking place across the street involved plots to kill her…We took her to the emergency room. She was admitted, diagnosed, medicated, and provided rehabilitative therapy. But to “protect her privacy,” her doctor wouldn’t tell us her diagnosis, what medication she’d given Lynn, or what would happen when her hospitalization ended. Lynn returned home to us and stopped taking the antipsychotic medications we didn’t even know she’d been prescribed…”

Thus, Jaffe was thrust into our baffling mental health care system which he quickly found to be both frustrating and lacking. Determined to help change it, he began by knocking on the door of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, raising money for its New York City chapter and eventually joining its board. From there, he moved to the Treatment Advocacy Center where he became a strong advocate for Assisted Outpatient Treatment and a dedicated admirer of Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, one of TAC’s founders. More recently, he has launched his own organization, Mental Illness Policy. Org, which he describes as “a nonpartisan think tank that creates detailed policy analyses for legislators, the media and advocates.”

It is his untiring work as a self-admitted policy wonk that has made him a favorite of reporters eager to have someone explain or react to the newest unintelligible legislation that is churning its way through either a state or federal legislative body. Most recently, he worked closely with Rep. Tim Murphy (R. Pa.) and his staff in developing the Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act, which is designed to shift federal dollars away from what often are called “wellness” programs and focus on “the seriously mentally ill.” But let’s allow him to explain:

“America’s mental health system is insane, expensive, and ineffective. Under the guise of protecting civil rights, it is killing people. Under the guise of increasing freedom, it is increasing incarceration. Under the guise of facilitating recovery, it ensures that fewer recover. In the name of protecting privacy, it causes suicide. America treats the least seriously ill (“the worried well”) and forces the most seriously ill to fend for themselves. The ability to get help has become inversely related to need. We move sick people from hospitals to jails and label it progress. Government funds those who create the problems rather than those with solutions. The more dysfunctional the system becomes, the more money we throw at it. Our mental health system is not based on science and has nothing to do with compassion. As a result, there are ten times more people with mental illness incarcerated as hospitalized. Being mentally ill has essentially become a crime.” 

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You Need To Be Watching What Is Happening In Washington: A Big Shift Maybe Coming



(5-2-17) First some great budget news.

Texas Senator John Cornyn, the Republican majority whip in the Senate, is putting federal dollars behind his  Mental Health and Safe Communities Act, that was signed into law during the final days of the Obama administration.

Because of the hoopla about Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Tim Murphy’s Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, Cornyn’s legislation didn’t get as much attention as it deserved.

Getting a law passed and funding it can be two separate challenges.

Cornyn just got $2.5 million set-aside for supporting a dozen national Crisis Intervention Team training centers to help better prepare law enforcement officers for dealing with individuals in a mental health crisis.

In addition, he’s pushing for another $76 million in the new administration’s budget that could go to fund critical mental health programs. Including:  $43,000,000 for drug courts, $12,000,000 for mental health courts and adult and juvenile collaboration program grants, $14,000,000 for grants for substance abuse treatment for state prisoners and $7,000,000 for a veterans treatment courts programs

Bravo and a big Thank You to the Texas Senator!

Now the other important news in Washington D.C.

I know many of you are too busy putting out fires to read about the ongoing feuding over who will be named as the first assistant secretary for mental health and substance abuse. But you need to pay attention because whoever gets confirmed is going to be tasked with overhauling the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA.) and that could make a huge difference in funding for future programs.

In the past week, I’ve been interviewed for background by reporters from the Wall Street Journal and Politico.  I’m reprinting Brianna Ehley’s latest post about the squabble as first printed in Politico Pro.

Trump’s nominee for mental health chief wants to shake up the agency

By Brianna Ehley, published in Politico Pro

Elinore McCance-Katz quit her job at the federal agency in charge of mental health programs two years ago over staunch disagreements with top officials about what she considered to be a flawed mission that neglected people with serious mental illness.

Two years later, the Trump administration hopes to bring her back to the agency to shake things up.

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TV Show About Suicide Sends My Friend To ER. Why You Need A Recovery Plan.


(5-1-17) My friend and fellow advocate, Jennifer Marshall, posted a blog on her website last week that I wish to share with you.)

I Landed in the ER after watching ’13 Reasons Why’

Four days ago I finished watching the Netflix series ‘13 Reasons Why’ and drafted an opinion piece which I published Monday morning. The show rocked me to my core. So much so, that I landed in the Emergency Room of my local hospital. This is the story of how and why that happened.

I live with type 1 bipolar disorder. For those who aren’t aware of the various types of bipolar disorder, Bipolar Hope Magazine is an amazing resource and they have an informative section on their website which describes the types of bipolar and different symptoms. In a nutshell, my type of bipolar disorder means that I lean towards the manic side of the condition. If I’m not careful to protect my sleep, I could find myself launching into a manic episode. It doesn’t happen overnight, rather, over the course of several nights of getting little to no sleep.

 I put my mental health at risk by choosing to watch the show.

I didn’t know how risky it was to begin watching the show because I’ve been mentally healthy for the past 7 years. The last time I was hospitalized for a manic episode was, ironically, exactly seven years ago this month, when I was 5 weeks pregnant with my second child. I thought since I had been so stable for so long, it couldn’t possibly be that risky to watch a few episodes.

I was wrong.

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Rep. Murphy Rips White House Nominee: “Doesn’t Deserve” Top Mental Health Job

(4-26-17) Republican Representative Tim Murphy from Pennsylvania today publicly denounced the White House’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.

During an appearance on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, he said, “I hope that the President withdraws this nomination. I hope that if she advances forward the Senate does not confirm her.” He added: “She doesn’t deserve to be Assistant Secretary.”  

Dr. McCance-Katz currently serves as the chief medical officer for the state Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals in Rhode Island. The White House announced her nomination last Friday, ending weeks of speculation about who might get the top mental health and substance abuse job that was created because of legislation that Rep. Murphy wrote and shepherded through Congress into law in December.

His appearance today came after his office issued a strongly worded press release on Monday criticizing Dr. McCance-Katz for not doing more during the two years that she worked at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) during the Obama administration as the agency’s chief medical officer.

The White House selected her from three candidates that included Miami Dade Judge Steve Leifman and Dr. Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist.

I strongly endorsed my good friend Judge Leifman for the job, but Rep. Murphy objected to him because he was not a psychiatrist (although that was not a requirement for the post) and reportedly because Rep. Murphy felt appointing someone from the criminal justice system to oversee the federal government’s largest mental health and substance abuse agency sent the public the wrong message.

In recent days, it has become clear that Rep. Murphy’s choice candidate is Dr. Welner, who I first met when both of us testified at the first hearing Rep. Murphy held after the 2012 Newtown shootings. The congressman has credited Dr. Welner with helping him draft what would become his Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act. At the hearing, Dr. Welner criticized HIPAA privacy laws that prevented families from obtaining information about a family member with mental illness.

The family is an essential informant of a mentally ill child’s condition, “but the HIPAA law says that you can’t talk,” said Michael Welner, MD, a forensic psychiatrist who’s the founder and chair of the Forensic Panel. The result is the family takes home a patient who is severely ill without having access to the patient’s doctor, and with no interim manual for mental health training, Dr. Welner said.

The congressman’s criticism of Dr. McCance-Katz was intended to thwart her nomination which must be approved by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. House members do not vote to confirm presidential appointees, only Senators do. 

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