Distraught Mother Seeks Governor’s Help For Mentally Ill Son After 20 Years In Prison

(11-6-17) Sana Campbell has started a petition drive ( that you can sign) to move her son from prison into a state hospital and is hoping to plead her case in person to outgoing Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe.

Sana is praying Gov. McAuliffe will grant Christopher Sharikas a conditional pardon that would send him from a prison cell to a state mental hospital bed for treatment. He would remain incarcerated but would get help.

USA TODAY published my OP Ed last week explaining why a then “child” with a severe mental illness was given a double life prison sentence that is much, much harsher than others charged with similar crimes.

Please join me in urging outgoing Governor McAuliffe to meet with Sana Campbell and support her by signing her petition and sharing this post on Facebook. You can email the governor about this mother’s effort to get her ill son sent to a state hospital after 20 years in prison.

Va. case shows desperate need to put the mentally ill in treatment, not prison

Christopher Sharikas is serving two life sentences in a Virginia prison, plus 30 years, for a crime that carried a seven- to 11-year recommended term.

He was 16 years old when he was arrested for stealing a car and assaulting its owner. He has spent 20 years behind bars.

Arguably, his 1997 crime is not why he remains imprisoned.

Sharikas suffers from severe mental illness. Our society has relinquished control of him to our criminal justice system. And our mental health system is so broken that it failed to help him when it should have.

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Remembering My Father On His Birthday: Death By Dementia – Saying The Long Goodbye

(11-3-17) Today my father would have been 97 years old. He died in February 2015 from “dementia.” That was officially listed as his cause of death. There is not a day that passes when I don’t think of him.

I published a story about my father in The Washington Post after our last Father’s Day together. I am reposting it today in his memory and also to call attention to this illness.

Taking care of someone with dementia is an experience difficult  to describe but immediately understood by those of us who have done it. If you are one of those caregivers, I salute you.


father and son


First published in THE WASHINGTON POST 

 By Pete Earley    

Father’s Day found me with a man who often doesn’t remember who I am, although we have spent much of his 93 years together. My father has dementia.

Five years ago, I persuaded my parents to move from Spearfish, S.D., into a second house that my wife and I own that doubles as my office. Leaving a community where they were well-established was difficult. But they enjoyed seeing grandchildren, spent Saturdays at garage sales and played Upwords with me at lunch time. It was good.

I first noticed little things. Forgetfulness, confusing names. It’s part of aging, I thought.

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Peers, Funding, Debate At The Manhattan Institute With Dr. McCance-Katz, D.J. Jaffe and Me

(1-1-17) Answering questions on television and panels is always frustrating to me because I end up watching it later and thinking: “Why didn’t I say this or why did I say that?”

I recently was on a panel at the Manhattan Institute with D.J. Jaffe, founder of MentalIllness.Org and author of Insane Consequences: How the Mental Health Industry Fails the Mentally Ill  ,whose views about serious mental illnesses being ignored and how New York peers advocate against treatment were clearly expressed. Our conversation was followed by Dr. Eleanor McCance-Katz, the new Assistant Secretary at Health and Human Services for Mental Health and Substance Abuse.

Every County Needs A John Cook To Fight For Housing And Mental Illness Reforms

(10-31-17) It was a crisp fall morning on a recent Saturday when Pathway Homes held its annual Help The Homeless 5 K Walk here in Fairfax County. Patti and I decided to join our daughter, Traci and her husband Dan, at the walk.

Traci is a clinical social worker for Pathway, which provides non-time-limited housing and supportive services to nearly 600 adults with serious mental illness and other co-occurring disabilities in Northern Virginia.

One of the first persons who I spotted at the walk was Board of Supervisor John C. Cook, who chairs our county’s Public Safety Committee. He gave a short pep talk about the importance of supportive housing in a county that has the highest cost of renting and homeownership in the entire state. You need an annual income of $58,320 to afford a two-bedroom fair-market rental here. Little wonder that despite Pathway’s  best efforts there were 1,059 homeless residents counted in our county last year. 

Cook spoke eloquently about the importance of supportive housing and also discussed relatively recent jail diversion efforts underway for seriously mentally ill residents who commit minor crimes, such as trespassing. He recited the statistics with ease without staff prepared notes because housing and mental illness are subjects, about which, he cares passionately.

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Speaking At Manhattan Think Tank About Mental Health: New Novel Hits Bestseller List!

(10-27-17) I am honored to be speaking this morning at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a New York think tank, along with Dr. Eleanor McCance-Katz, the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse at HHS, and D. J. Jaffe, founder of Mental Illness Policy Org and author of INSANE CONSEQUENCES: How the Mental Health Industry Fails The Mentally Ill.

Obviously, we will discussing the federal government’s role in developing much needed mental health reforms. While not open to the public, the program will be taped by C-Span for later showing.  

I understand that nearly everyone who reads my blog does so because it is about mental illness and our struggle to improve our system and the lives of those we love.

Just the same, I’m an author. It is how I earn my living so I want to share some exciting news with you. My newest novel, VENGEANCE, co-written with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, was released October 10th and this week it appeared on USA TODAY’s bestseller list.

VENGEANCE is the third and final installment in our Brooke Grant series, a trilogy that describes the exploits of a U.S. Marine fighting terrorism. Although Speaker Gingrich certainly is known for his political actions and conservative views, our novels are not written to advance any political agenda. They simply are action/thrillers with a Washington touch.

Our first book, DUPLICITY, introduced Brooke Grant to readers when a master terrorist known only as The Falcon orchestrated an attack on a newly opened U.S. Embassy in Somalia. TREASON, the second volume, centered on the kidnapping of Brooke’s teenage ward by terrorists and the unmasking of a traitor working inside the White House helping The Falcon. It was a Washington Post bestseller. In our final volume, VENGEANCE, The Falcon obtains a nuclear device with the help of North Korea and targets America. We attempt to make each book as realistic and factual as possible, blending news events with drama.

In this final fictional account, Brooke Grant comes face-to-face with the Falcon who has pledged to murder her and everyone whom she loves. I believe it is the best of the three because subtly raises moral questions about revenge, justice, and different religious teachings that rationalize and justify the killing of an enemy.

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Remembering Tim Murphy: No Clear Mental Health Champion To Fill Void

(10-23-17) I’ve always believed what my friend Bryan Stevenson (the hero of my book, Circumstantial Evidence) wrote in his New York Times bestselling book, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.

“Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.” 

Which brings us to the case of fallen Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Tim Murphy, whose last day in office was last Friday.

Many disagreed with the changes he wanted to institute and were offended by his often arrogant manner, but even his most adamant political enemies must acknowledge that after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in 2012, he emerged as the most influential voice in Congress when it came to demanding changes in our mental health system.

It became his cause and he was doggedly determined to make mental health and substance abuse more of a priority in our federal government. Getting his Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act signed into law was a major accomplishment, especially in today’s political climate. Democrats, many disability groups and some mental health organizations opposed his calls for greater use of Assisted Outpatient Treatment, getting rid of the IMD 16-bed exclusion, limiting the power of Protection and Advocacy (PAIMI) groups, and modifying HIPAA to give caregivers more access. By the time, his bill was signed into law last year during the lame duck session, it had been significantly watered down. But compromise is an essential part of governing.

What’s important to remember is that without Rep. Murphy’s pushing, it’s highly unlikely Congress would have passed any major mental health legislation. I recall one of his then-peers remarking during a public meeting that every time he saw Murphy, all the 15- year veteran wanted to discuss was mental health.

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