Virginia Hospital Says No Beds For Psych Patients But Wants 100 New Profit Earning Beds For High Priced Surgeries- Cha-Ching!


(3-31-17) My good friend and long time mental health advocate, Betsy Greer, is outraged that an Arlington, Virginia hospital is reportedly turning away 57% of individuals who need psychiatric services but wants Arlington county officials to offer it land to expand so it can build 100 profit-generating surgical beds without improving psychiatric patients’ needs. While this story focuses on a wealthy Washington D.C. suburb, it is not unique as more and more hospitals strive to grow fat while bypassing mental health. Betsy tells me that on Monday, April 3, advocates will be pleading their case at a 7:30 p.m. meeting at the Health Systems Agency of Northern Virginia, 3040 Williams Drive, Room 200, Fairfax, Va.  


By Betsy Greer

A newly created group is asking Arlington county officials to make the sale or swap of 5.5 acres of prime Arlington county property to the Virginia Hospital Center (VHC) conditional on that hospital improving its emergency room and psychiatric ward services for individuals with mental illnesses.

“Too many Arlington residents have been turned away from VHC due to a shortage of beds or because they don’t treat minors,” said Naomi Verdugo, one of the organizers of the Arlington Mental Health Alliance. “This requires them to travel all over the state for psychiatric hospitalization, far from their families who should be part of their treatment. Arlington residents deserve better from their community hospital.”

For the advocates, it is a fight between them and Goliath, an independent, not-for-profit hospital operated like a well-heeled corporation, which in 2014 had more than $600 million invested in securities, excess revenue of more than $60 million over expenses. It is coming at the time VHC is requesting state approval for licensure for 100 new medical and surgical beds, but NONE for patients with mental illness.

VHC’s own 2014 Community Health Needs Assessment, gained from a survey of community stakeholders, listed mental health conditions and depression as the two most important health concerns, ahead of adult obesity, diabetes and substance and alcohol use!  vhc_logo_color

‘There are a number of reasons why it is important for the Virginia Hospital Center to respond positively to the requests made by us and the Arlington Community Services Board (CSB), which provides mental health services in our county,” said Anne M. Hermann, chair of the Arlington CSB. “This is a community hospital and the beds they have are not nearly enough to cover the need. This shortage is demonstrated by the frequency with which Arlingtonians experiencing a mental health emergency are turned away from VHC and sent elsewhere in the Commonwealth, sometimes quite some distance.”

A primary CSB request is that VHC commit to a minimum of 15 additional single-occupancy adult psychiatric rooms and commit to opening additional psychiatric beds to meet demand when a compelling need is demonstrated. VHC uses only 35 of its currently 40 licensed behavioral health beds, 17 for substance abuse treatment. The remaining 18 beds reserved for those needing stabilization for a mental illness crisis are in double rooms which restricts use unless a new patient is of the same sex and deemed stable enough to share a space. (Ironically, VHC markets itself as the only area hospital offering private rooms.)

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War Weary, Burned Out Mom Seeks Hope, Sees Bright Side


Happy dealer holding car keys

Happy dealer holding car keys


Dear Pete,

I am the Mother of a son with schizophrenia. I am shell shocked – “war weary” – am suffering from caregiver burnout and am often sad beyond hope because of what individuals and families go through, including what I’ve been through trying to get my son help.

Is it possible for you to ask for stories about positive outcomes of persons living with mental illnesses?

Here is a true story I like to tell about my own son that makes people smile. Sometimes it helps all of us to laugh.

My son, Art, has always loved cars. He went looking at cars at a local dealer’s lot when he was manic. Of course the car salesman came hustling out and said to my son “Hey you like this car? You want to take it for a spin?”

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Murphy Vetoes Judge Leifman’s Appointment, Pushing Popular Television Doctor and Early Trump Backer Instead

Rep. Murphy’s choice defended Trump describing him as the “embodiment of healthy narcissism.”

(3-26-17) Miami-Dade Judge Steve Leifman appeared to be a shoo-in to become the new Assistant Secretary for mental health and substance abuse in Washington.

Until he wasn’t.

About ten days ago, Leifman got knocked to the bottom of the list even though HHS Secretary Tom Price had approved of him and he was in the midst of a successful White House vetting.

Who stopped Leifman’s appointment? Republican Pennsylvania Representative Tim Murphy.

From the start, Murphy has insisted the newly created post be held either by a psychiatrist or psychologist and because Murphy was responsible for successfully drafting and pushing his Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act through Congress last December, he’d earned veto rights.

“Murphy is considered the Republican’s mental health go-to guy,” one source told me. “He’s who everyone in his party turns too.”

Some on Capitol Hill wondered if Murphy blocked Leifman’s appointment because the judge began steam-rolling ahead in the Senate, without anyone showing Murphy the respect that he felt was due him in the process. Nearly every mental health organization was enthusiastically supporting Leifman, who has gained national prominence and popularity because of his efforts to promote jail diversion and community based treatment. As I’ve written before, it would have been difficult to find anyone who was better qualified for the new job than Judge Leifman – a fact widely agreed on in Washington.

Others said Rep. Murphy worried that appointing a former public defender and criminal court judge would send the wrong message to the public by putting someone from the criminal justice system in charge of mental health and substance abuse services.

That argument, if true, seems odd if rumors about Rep. Murphy’s preference are true. Murphy is reportedly pushing Secretary Price and the White House to appoint Dr. Michael Welner as the first Assistant Secretary.

The announcement is expected this week.

Dr. Welner is best-known for his television appearances on news and talk shows and testimony that he has given in several high profile cases as a paid prosecution witness. Here is how a magazine profile called Evil Genius described him:

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My Boston Street Doctor Friend Featured On CBS News! Talks About Helping The Homeless!

CBS won’t let me post its video, so I posted the transcript of its news story below. Meanwhile, take four minutes to watch this interview with my amazing friend. You won’t be disappointed!

(3-25-17-) I’m proud to serve on the Corporation for Supporting Housing board of directors with Dr. Jim O’Connell, a truly wonderful and kind physician who was featured Saturday night on CBS news.  A year ago, I wrote a blog about Jim and his book: STORIES FROM THE SHADOWS. If you really want to understand homelessness and meet those who walk among us unseen, you MUST read his book. (I’ve posted my blog about Jim at the end of the CBS transcript.)

Jim and I work together on the CSH board because we believe we can end homelessness in our country. Let me brag a little. CSH is one of the nation’s leaders in providing supportive housing to the homeless, persons with mental illnesses, individuals with addiction issues, and prisoners returning to our communities.

  • We’ve provided loans, grants, project assistance and advocacy creating access to 200,000 homes for those who need housing and important services to achieve stability and transform their lives.
  • We’ve made over $500 million in loans and grants.  We’re worked in nearly 40 states, 225 communities, across three regions of the country.
  • We’ve presented nearly 1000 training events in the past four years, many through our Supportive Housing Training Center.

CSH is the only board that I serve on and Dr. Connell is one of the reasons why.

You can watch the CBS story here or read the transcript below. 

Meet the Boston Doctor Making House Calls To The Homeless

By Jim Axelrod, CBS News

BOSTON — It’s Friday morning in Boston, which means Dr. Jim O’Connell is making his rounds.

He might be a little more comfortable inside a warm exam room, but that’s not where his patients are. O’Connell is Boston’s only doctor left still making house calls to the homeless.

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I’m Speaking Tonight In “Shawshank Prison” About Diversion: Glad Sheriff Kincaid Is Pushing It Too!


(3-23-17) I am honored to be speaking tonight on behalf of the Richland, Ohio chapter of the National Alliance On Mental Illness at the now closed Ohio State Reformatory.

This historic prison was featured in the movie, The Shawshank Redemption, and seems a fitting place to talk about our nation’s need to end the inappropriate incarceration of persons with mental illnesses.

Having a mental disorder should not be a crime, yet American jails and prisons hold more than 365.000 persons whose major crime is that they became sick. More than 2.2 million individuals with mental disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder,  pass through our criminal justice system each year. Nearly all for petty crimes, such a trespassing and theft of a grocery cart, wasting tax dollars that could be better spent on mental health services.

Ohio has been one of the most progressive states in providing mental health care. It is home to my good friend and fellow advocate, retired Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Stratton, as well as, Mark R. Munetz, one of the developers of the sequential intercept model used in jails and prisons, and mental health advocate Dr. Fred Frese.

Despite this, Ohio correctional facilities continue to house five times as many individuals with mental disorders than their hospitals and treatment centers at a cost of $50 million more annually than the price of incarcerating other prisoners.

In the past decade, it often has been courageous judges, jail administrators, police chiefs and sheriffs who have demanded reforms. And I am happy that Fairfax County Sheriff Stacey Kincaid in Virginia has become one of them.

Sheriff Kincaid tossed aside her written speech earlier this week at the Mid-Atlantic Summit on Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice in Washington DC., choosing instead to speak from her heart.

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(2-22-17  The National Alliance on Mental Illness has asked its members to contact their U.S. Representatives and Senators and ask them to vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act on Thursday.

In a message sent to its members and leaders, the national office wrote:

One in five Americans experiences a mental health condition, but only half get needed treatment. Coverage for mental health care helps people get treatment when they need it, helping them to stay in school, on the job and in recovery.

But the American Health Care Act (AHCA) would reduce funding for health coverage–from insurance plans to Medicaid–and put mental health care at risk. It caps Medicaid funding, which will lead to deep cuts and jeopardize mental health services.

Tell your U.S. Representative this is unacceptable.

The request by the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization includes a form that can be easily filled out. I’ve posted NAMI’s rationale at the bottom of this blog.

The clamor in the media about whether President Trump can corral enough Republican votes to secure passage of his bill reminds me of when I was a young reporter on Capitol Hill and the Carter administration was rallying support for its Panama Canal treaty that many saw as the U.S. giving away the canal that it had built.

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