Trump Names Former SAMHSA Critic As Mental Health Czar: Dr. Ellie McCance-Katz


(4-21-17) The White House announced late tonight that it had chosen Dr. Ellie McCance-Katz, as the first Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse inside the Department of Health and Human Services ending months of speculation about who would be selected.

The announcement came after much speculation that Dr. Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist, would be chosen. As early as yesterday, some of my sources in the Senate were saying that Welner had a “lock” on the job. He had been endorsed by the American Psychiatric Association.

Dr. McCance-Katz is currently the chief medical officer for the state Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals in Rhode Island.

She became SAMHSA’s first chief medical officer in 2013 but left after only two years.

In a critical essay published in the Psychiatric Times, Dr. McCance-Katz wrote that SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services, which administers federal mental health programs, ignored serious mental illnesses and evidenced based practices in favor of feel-good recovery programs that were politically popular but did little to help persons diagnosed with debilitating disorders.

She claimed that SAMHSA was openly hostile toward the use of psychiatric medicine, didn’t focus on helping the seriously mentally ill, and questioned whether bipolar disorder and schizophrenia were even real, arguing that psychosis is just a “different way of thinking for someone experiencing stress.”

The former SAMHSA critic will now oversee the agency and will be responsible for implementing the Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act that was pushed through Congress by Republican Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania.

WSJ Reporter Writes Murphy Is Backing Welner For Top Mental Health Post

murphy and welner

Congressman Tim Murphy and Dr. Michael Welner confer at hearing.

(4-19-17) This story in today’s Wall Street Journal by Michelle Hackman supports what I reported in a  blog last month about efforts by Republican Pennsylvania Representative Tim Murphy to get Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and the White House to appoint Dr. Michael Welner as the first Assistant Secretary for mental health. Whether this appointment will really happen, however, is still anyone’s guess given the oftentimes erratic temperament of the White House.

Trump’s Latest Pick for Mental-Health Post Has Helped Prosecutors Secure Convictions

Forensic psychiatrist Michael Welner has testified in high-profile cases; on television, he has called killers ‘alienated losers’

By Michelle Hackman  published in The Wall Street Journal. 

WASHINGTON—The Trump administration is struggling to fill a top mental-health post, a job created last year to coordinate the efforts of far-flung federal agencies.

The assistant secretary position in the Department of Health and Human Services was first offered to a Florida judge, but the offer was withdrawn due to his lack of a medical background, according to people familiar with the matter. A second candidate had broad support but pulled out.

Now a leading contender is Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist who has testified for the prosecution in numerous high-profile criminal cases, according to a half-dozen people familiar with the process including Dr. Welner himself. He faces opposition for some controversial positions.
Click to continue…

Outrageous! Joan Bishop recounts the tragic death of her psychotic sister in powerful documentary, raising troubling questions about our system

(4-17-17) A seriously mentally ill woman denies that she is sick and after a year of refusing treatment is released from a state hospital. She gives discharge officials a fake address, walks a few miles from the hospital and breaks into an unoccupied farm that is for sale. Afraid to venture out, she survives by eating crab apples from the backyard while writing her thoughts in a compelling diary, chronicling her own starvation up to the day that she becomes so weak she can no longer write. Her body and diary were found months later.

I first heard this incredibly sad story in 2009 from the woman’s sister, Joan Bishop, who was outraged because the hospital had discharged her sister, Linda, knowing she was seriously ill and had refused to notify anyone because of HIPAA.

Joan was determined to tell the world what happened to Linda. I wrote two blogs about it and two years later, Rachel Aviv, wrote a stunning account published by The New Yorker about Linda’s death under the title:  GOD KNOWS WHERE I AM.

Last year, documentary film makers Todd and Jedd Wider, and Brian Ariotti  turned Aviv’s account into a powerful film that will make its premiere on April 21st in New Hampshire where Linda died. The film will be shown at the Red River Theater in Concord, but wait, there’s more.

I was excited to learn that clips from the film are tentatively being scheduled for showing at the National Alliance on Mental Illness national convention in Washington D.C. this summer ( June 21st thru July 1st)  followed by a panel discussion.

I am so grateful that Joan (who appears in the documentary as herself) made certain that Linda’s life  and her death have been memorialized. The film raises serious questions, not only about our mental health system and HIPAA but also about the civil rights of individuals who are seriously ill. Visit the film’s website  to learn when it may be showing in your area.

Here is the story that Joan first told me eight years ago.

Click to continue…

Happy Easter From Me To You: Let’s Continue Working For A Better World



(4-16-17) For Christians, Easter is a time of miraculous resurrection. For others, it is a time to celebrate the coming of spring, birth and renewal. For all of us, it should be a time for compassion and caring for persons less fortunate, especially those with mental disorders and co-occurring problems.

Write Hal Lindsey said it best:

“Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air…but only for one second without hope.”

Have hope, help others, change lives.

Happy Easter and thank you for reading my blog for the past eight years.

‘The Way Madness Lies’ – Most Honest Portrayal Of How Severe Mental Illness Ravages Families and Lives That I’ve Seen!


(4-10-17) You are riding in a car on a major highway with a gentle rain splashing on the windshield while you speak into a car microphone to a case worker at Oregon State Hospital, where the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, was filmed.

You say, “My brother is there and I am wanting to get in touch with his case worker.”

Your call is transferred and a case worker who doesn’t identify himself comes on the line.

You say, “My brother is in the hospital there and I was wondering if I can find out some information about him.”

He says, “Sorry, due to confidentiality laws I can’t tell you whether he is there or not.”

I definitely know he is there because the police just told me that they took him to the hospital. I can at least provide information -“

The case worker cuts you off. “Yeah, I couldn’t do that without telling you whether he is here or not. But you could do that in a letter form. Of course, you can write a letter to anyone. You can write it to the doctor who is in charge of whoever the person is who might be here.”

Thus begins Sandra Luckow’s powerful documentary “That Way Madness Lies...

Click to continue…

What’s The Biggest Threat To Mental Health Care? Ironically, It’s The Opioid Crisis.


(4-3-17) The biggest danger to improving mental health care in America today is not:

*Efforts to repeal and reform the Affordable Care Act or reduce Medicaid.

*Too many persons with mental illnesses being inappropriately incarcerated in jails and prisons.

*A lack of affordable housing, jobs, transportation, or access to crisis care beds and medications.

*A lack of peer support, clubhouses, Crisis Intervention Team trained officers, mental health courts or re-entry programs.

The biggest danger facing mental health care today is the opioid crisis.

Here’s a shocking figure for you to consider:

Click to continue…