Father, NAMI Advocate Frustrated By Flawed System That Sets Up Young Man For Incarceration Instead Of Treatment

Image result for mental illness revolving door jail streets cartoons


Dear Pete,

Just letting my emotions get the best of me.

 Last Saturday afternoon I received a phone call from a distressed mother.  I have known her for almost 20 years.  She has a son who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.  He has been committed to a state hospital six times because of his illness.  He also has participated in a study at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in Bethesda, Maryland, on medication management. He also was sent to Stanford University for a trial with an experimental medication. 

There is no question he suffers from a major mental illness. The problem is that he stops taking his medication after he is discharged from the hospital.

 He lives in a different city than his parents. Every Saturday his parents drive to his apartment from their home to buy him food and give him some spending money.  He is on SSDI due to his mental disability.  When the parents arrived last Saturday, they found the food and money from the previous week were still on his kitchen table. 

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Virginia Woman Fatally Shot By Police While Being “Restored To Competency” In A Community Setting Instead Of Hospital. Was Race A Factor?

Angel Decarlo with her mother, Dr. Emily Decarlo (Photo courtesy of family.)

(1-22-19) Angel Decarlo was supposed to get help in her community for her mental illness.

Instead, she ended up dead.

It happened in December in Hopewell, Virginia, a community of about 22,000 residents south of Richmond. News coverage reported that the 31 year-old was fatally shot by a policeman after a robbery.

But a local mental health advocate familiar with Angel’s case and Angel’s mother, Dr. Emily Decarlo, are raising questions about the shooting.

They blame the state’s decision to return individuals who are sick back into their local communities to be made “competent” to stand trial rather than treating them in hospitals.

“I never thought in a million years Angel’s story would turn out like this,” Dr. Decarlo told me. “Angel was not a criminal and like so many others…she was a victim of perhaps an insensitive system that is more punitive in nature than reassuring and rehabilitating.”

According to The Progress-Index newspaper, officers were responding to a report about a robbery when they spotted Angel about a block away from the crime scene. She was reportedly running. They “ordered her to stop several times. At one point, police claimed, Decarlo turned and pointed a handgun at one of the officers, drawing the fire. She was shot once.”

Dr. Decarlo questions the police department’s account of the shooting and believes race might have been a factor. More on that later.

None of the news reports noted that Angel had an untreated serious mental illness – schizophrenia – and had been freed from a jail so she could be “restored to competency” in “the least restrictive” environment, even though she was clearly not stable.

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Why Have The Feds Reduced Testing Of New Drugs For Treating Schizophrenia?

(1-18-19) Dr. E. Fuller Torrey is criticizing the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) for failing to fund new drug trials for medicines that could help treat schizophrenia.

Dr. Torrey is one of the nation’s leading experts on schizophrenia and is the author of the groundbreaking 1983 book, Surviving Schizophrenia, widely considered the standard reference book about the illness.

In an article published this week in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Torrey was joined by two other physicians, in challenging a NIMH policy that has resulted in the government founding only two new trials for schizophrenia drugs between 2015 to 2017.

NIMH was created in 1946 to find better drugs for treating mental illnesses.

“It is completely unacceptable for NIMH to virtually abandon the search for new drugs for schizophrenia,” Dr. Torrey wrote in an email, “especially at this time when NIMH has received major increases in funding from Congress over the past two years. All of us who want better drug treatments for individuals with schizophrenia should let Dr. Joshua Gordon (head of NIMH) know how important such trials are, and that we are looking over his shoulder to make sure they are done.”

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A Poignant PBS Segment: Jerri Clark Describes Her Family’s Struggle To Get Help For Son With His Mental Illness.

(1-14-19) Jerri Niebaum Clark has told her family’s story in a powerful segment on PBS News Hour.

She documents just how difficult it is for a family to get help when signs of mental illness emerge.

I believe personal stories are the most effective way for us to educate the public and our elected leaders – especially if they are told as poignantly as Jerri does.

People are dying. Others – whose only crime is that they got sick – are inappropriately locked inside our jails and prisons.

You are an inspiration Jerri!

This is not the first time she has spoken out. Jerri is the founder of MOMI – Mothers of the Mentally Ill. She is an inspiring example of how one person is making a difference.

Thank you Jerri for your courage and thanks to your son, Calvin, for allowing you to share his story.

Jerri received so many requests for help after the segment aired that she posted a follow up blog that contains smart advice.

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When Did It Become Acceptable For Americans With Mental Illnesses To Freeze To Death?

(1-11-19) From My Files Friday: Whenever forecasters predict snow, I think about those who are homeless, psychotic and abandoned. Stories about hypothermia deaths always anger me, but few did as much as this death that I first noted in 2010. Are any of us naive enough to believe that such preventible tragedies will not happen again this winter in the most prosperous nation in the world?


The residents of Morrisville, Pa., got an insider look at our troubled mental health care system. Paulette Wilkie, a homeless woman with a long history of schizophrenia, was found dead from exposure. The 56 year-old woman’s  body was discovered behind Ben’s Deli, a sandwich shop that she frequented.

Temperatures the night before had dropped into the mid 20s. But that was not cold enough to trigger the county’s emergency homeless plan. Temperatures must sink to 20 degrees or below for two consecutive days before teams can be dispatched to try to persuade homeless persons to come indoors.

Reporter Ben Finley, writing in the Bucks County Courier Timesnoted that people who knew Wilkie said she likely would not have gone into a shelter anyway. The owner of Ben’s Deli said Wilkie refused help from people concerned about her safety and health.

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Jennifer Marshall: THIS IS MY BRAVE Co-Founder Chosen As Washingtonian Of The Year!

(Jennifer Marshall holding photo of This Is My Brave co-founder Anne Marie Ames)

(1-7-18) I’m delighted that Jennifer Marshall, co-founder of This Is My Brave, will be honored this month by Washingtonian Magazine as one of its ten Washingtonians of the Year for achievements during 2018.

This prestigious award recognizes Washington D.C. area residents who are helping improve the lives of those of us who live in the metropolitan area. I first met Jennifer when she and my son, Kevin, were in group therapy together. Jennifer, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, started writing a blog about her experiences as a young mother. Later, she met Anne Marie Ames at a neighborhood party and together, they decided to stage a broadway quality production that spotlighted individuals with mental illnesses sharing their stories through personal readings, songs, and poetry. Their first show in 2013 was sold out and marked the beginning of what today is a fast-growing non-profit that has produced shows across the U.S. and internationally.  Kevin was proud to be an original cast member!

Sadly, Anne Marie died in 2017, which caused a resurgence of Jennifer’s bipolar disorder, but she battled through her grief and depression, and came out determined to launch even more quality This Is My Brave shows and to expand even more deeply into social media platforms to offer hope to others.

Jennifer is a tireless advocate whom I’ve always admired. She epitomizes the power of a single individual to change lives and her community. She’s been featured on the front page of The Washington Post, Bipolar Magazine, and in Oprah’s magazine. And now she has been recognized again for her work. I would strongly urge you to visit This Is My Brave and either contribute to it or learn if you can get a This Is My Brave production in your community.

Congratulations Jennifer. You are an inspiration!

Here is the magazine’s announcement about her selection.

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