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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What Are 32 Lives Worth? What’s The True Cost Of Not Helping Them?


(3-20-17) The mother spoke clearly and with a sense of urgency and fear in her voice.

“Our son has late occurring Schizoaffective disorder which began to be evident seven years ago. He is now 46.

Before he became ill, he graduated from Clemson University and worked in a responsible position. Since 2010, our son has been through a list of events that include being incarcerated, 90 days of rehab, hospitalization twice and consistently suffering from the side effects of his medications. 

However, he has worked hard to become stable and after two years of treatment, he became stable. This was most notable during the presidential election as he remained focused on the candidates, asked questions and actually voted.”

Her voice was followed by a letter from another concerned parent.

We have a 34 year-old son, Mariano, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2006. As you can imagine this has brought a lot of suffering, especially to him. He has been under the care and supervision of very competent doctors. But, medical care is only a portion for his wellness. Family and community support are also indispensable to establish a purpose in my son’s life and in the lives of individuals like him.

He is now in a program that offered and still offers him the possibility to relearn and retrain the skills and behaviors that the illness took away. His improvement is shown week to week. And that improvement doesn’t occur only because of the medications, it also comes because of the dedication and knowledge of the counselors helping him… Thanks to their almost individualized attention- there are 4 to 6 clients per group- my son has improved significantly. He realizes he is setting goals that can be attained, even though they will take time, but he is learning to veer all of his energy towards his own betterment.

Why, both women asked, is the county about to close down a program that is helping their sons’ recover from the terrible spiral of debilitating mental disorders? Why is there no money? Why is this particular program that has proven to be effective being terminated?

These mothers are demanding answers from elected officials in Fairfax County, Virginia, where I live, but these same questions are being asked across the nation at budget times because of a lack of public funds for mental health and substance abuse care.

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