“Warrior Mom” Describes Pitfalls & Successes Navigating California’s Mental Health System

Danny and Teresa

(1-24-22) For more than 20 years, Teresa Pasquini has been fighting to get her son, Danny, the housing and treatment that he deserves. She has written extensively about the challenges that they have faced and openly about what worked and hasn’t worked in California. Recently, she and fellow advocate, Lauren Rettagliata, traveled together to inspect 22 different California housing facilities, and issued a white paper called Housing That Heals. 

Crawling Through Glass in Search of Housing That Heals

By Teresa Pasquini

I am the proud mom of an adult son who lives heroically with a serious mental illness. He was diagnosed in his teens and has spent the majority of his adult life in locked psychiatric facilities. Until recently, there had been nothing civil or right about my son’s care.

The past 20 years have been a blur of suicide attempts, over 40 involuntary holds, revolving hospitalizations, homelessness and incarceration. Even though we had resources, insurance and my full-time ability to navigate a maze of services in one of the most integrated healthcare systems in our country.

It was still a nightmare.

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Repeated Quarantines At St. Elizabeth Hospital Can Keep Patients Isolated Up For Weeks

(1-19-22) A new Covid related issue involving patients at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in the District of Columbia has surfaced. The hospital was successfully sued in 2020 after 14 deaths and 100 infections caused by Covid. Federal Judge Randolph Moss noted that “roughly one out of every twenty patients has died and more than one out of every three patients have been infected” and found that there is “an imminent risk to [patients’] health and well-being, and the consequences of contracting the virus are irreparable.”

Now, questions are being raised about whether hospital administrators have gone from not doing enough to doing too much by keeping patients locked on wards for long quarantine periods.

With rising Covid infections, the hospital adopted a color coded system to control Covid spread.

All patients and staff are now tested weekly, although patients can refuse. If a patient tests positive, the unit where that patient is housed is labeled red. If a staff member tests positive, the unit is labelled yellow. In both situations, the unit is put on a full 14-day quarantine.

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Expanding Peer Services/ Workforce, In Minority Communities A Priority For DBSA, Leader Writes

Michael Pollack, DBSA photo

(1-17-22) In the last of this series, Michael Pollock, the CEO of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, today answers the four questions that I have been posing this month to leaders of mental health organizations – asking each about 2021 accomplishments, 2022 priorities and why each of them were drawn to mental health work. I was especially pleased to have received Mr. Pollock’s replies because my son, Kevin, attended DBSA meetings and the group was helpful to his recovery. 

What was DBSA’s biggest accomplishment during 2021?

According to data provided by the CDC Mental Health Household Pulse Survey, 42.% of Americans reported experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety in December 2020. This is a 133% increase from pre-pandemic rates. Further, non-Hispanic Blacks have reported a disproportionate increase in symptoms since the pandemic began, not unlike the disproportionate rate of COVID-19 positive tests results among the Black community. This crisis is further compounded by barriers to care often faced by people with mood disorders and other mental health conditions, particularly with individuals from traditionally marginalized communities.

The Depression and Bipolar Alliance (DBSA) has earned a favorable reputation to successfully train people with lived experience to become state-certified peer support specialists, who’s professional role is to foster hope and serve as a valuable role model for those who are walking the road to wellness. Training, however, is only the first step toward achieving certification. Depending on the state, individuals are required to earn supervised hours in a behavioral health or other employment setting to gather hands-on experience. Insurance will not reimburse for this work and health care employers are under resourced and, therefore, can’t or won’t offer this group paid employment. Most who are interested in pursuing profession are stymied by the practical realities that they must earn a living.

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Shortage of Mental Health/Substance Abuse Professionals Is A Major Challenge, National Council President Writes

                                                      President and CEO Chuck Ingoglia

(1-12-22) The National Council represents 3,500 providers of mental health and substance abuse treatment programs across the U.S. delivering services to more than 10 million men, women and children. I am grateful that its President and CEO Chuck Ingoglia agreed to answer the four questions that I have been asking leaders of major mental health organizations this month as we look at each group’s past accomplishments, future priorities and why its leaders got involved in mental health programs.

Question One: What was the National Council’s biggest accomplishment during 2021?

Ensuring access to care rests on the ability of mental health and substance use organizations to have the capacity to serve existing clients and see new ones.  There has been and continues to be a need for financial assistance in our nation’s community-based mental health and substance use treatment services. As organizations across the country struggled to keep their doors open and continue to provide needed care to their communities, our efforts focused on making sure mental health and substance use treatment organizations were included in negotiations around the American Rescue Plan Act. Our advocacy helped lead to specific block grant funding for mental health and substance use treatment organizations, as well as additional provider relief funding made available through the Department of Health and Human Services, particularly for those in rural communities and those serving vulnerable patient populations.

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Banning Solitary Confinement, Pushing For More Peers, Promoting Hope, Reducing Use/Funding of AOT – Priorities For NYAPRS

(1-12-21) Long-time peer advocate Harvey Rosenthal answers the four questions that I have been posing to leaders of mental health organizations about their previous accomplishments, priorities and goals going into 2022. Thank you Mr. Rosenthal for responding on behalf of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS).

Question One: What was NYAPRS’s biggest accomplishment during 2021?

We’re most proud of our work in coalition with an extraordinary group of NYS criminal justice advocates to help win a landmark ban on horrific solitary confinement for vulnerable individuals that include people with mental health challenges, youth and seniors and new or pregnant Moms. Also, for the opportunities to be able to help fight off proposed deep funding cuts, help craft new peer crisis stabilization and psychiatric rehabilitation models, preserve self-directed care programs and gain another round of funding for a peer led outreach and support model.

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“We will need a collective, collaborative effort,” NAMI CEO Daniel Gillison Jr. Writes, & “tenacity” Entering 2022

 

(1-10-22) Daniel H. Gillison Jr., the CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, today answers the four questions that I have asked major leaders in the mental health community to answer about what their organizations accomplished during 2021, what their priorities are during the coming year, and why they got involved in mental health work. Thank you Mr. Gillison for your response. 

Question One: What was NAMI’s biggest accomplishment during 2021?

As we know all too well, people with mental illness, especially people with serious mental illness, and their families often face unimaginable tragedy and trauma because of our inadequate response to mental health crises. 1 in 5 people experiencing homelessness have a serious mental illness. Since 2015, nearly 1 in 4 fatal police shootings have been of people with mental health conditions, with 1 in 3 of those being people of color.

According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, law enforcement agencies are continuing to spend 10 percent of their budget and one-fifth of staff time responding to people in psychiatric emergencies they are not equipped to handle. And people with mental illness are still overrepresented in our criminal justice system; Black individuals experiencing mental illness in jail are more likely to go into solitary confinement, more likely to become injured while incarcerated, and more likely to stay in jail longer, where mental health conditions are often left untreated.

This is unacceptable.

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