Pushing For Criminal Justice Reforms: Federal Advisory Panel Restarted After Being Put On Back Burner

(3-10-22) A federal panel created by Congress to advise it and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) about serious mental illnesses and serious emotional disturbances is being reinvigorated by Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, PhD..

Before it was largely forgotten midway through the Trump Administration, the Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC) was pushing for better cooperation between federal agencies that provide mental health services and was promoting new and best practices.

ISMICC is composed of 14 non-federal members who work with representatives from federal agencies that oversee mental health programs. It was created by the 21st Century Cures Act and signed into law during the final days of the Obama Administration. ISMICC’s 14 non-government members represent specific groups. For example, two members must be peers with lived experiences. I am the lone parent representative. Judge Steven Liefman from Miami-Dade, Florida, is one of two judges on the panel. (I’ve posted a list of all members at the end of this blog.)

Shortly after being confirmed, Assistant Secretary Delphin-Rittmon announced that she wanted the ISMICC advisory panel to become more involved in advising SAMHSA about programs that work and don’t. (President Trump issued an executive order shortly after taking office, ordering agencies to eliminate most advisory panels, charging that many were unnecessary or obsolete.) Assistant Secretary Delphin-Rittmon assigned SAMHSA officials, Dr. Anita Everett and Cynthia Kemp, to bring ISMICC back to life. Both have done a bang up job!

This month, ISMICC members will break into five informal work groups to discuss how the federal government can improve mental health programs. I am serving on the workgroup that is examining criminal justice reform.

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We’re Excited To Be Included In Ken Burns Documentary Exploring Mental Illnesses And Young People

Please watch this 4:25 minute trailer from Ken Burns’s documentary about youth and mental illnesses. 

(3-7-22) Two years ago a film crew showed up at my office to interview my son, Kevin, and me for a four hour documentary that Ken Burns was doing for PBS about youth and mental health. Now, Hiding in Plain Sight: Youth Mental Illness, is schedule to be shown in late June.

Erik and Christopher Ewers filmed the documentary and I was impressed with how thorough they were when speaking to us.  Kevin continued to work with the brothers while they made the four hour

Kevin being interviewed

documentary. He provided them with several illustrations and traveled to New York to record several original songs about his struggles with bipolar disorder.

Thank you Ken Burns and the Ewers Brothers for focusing on how young people are impacted by mental illnesses and what we can do to help them.

The documentary features interviews with 20 young people. “They speak to all of us. They speak for many of us.”

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Mother Praises Sheriff Kincaid, Court, County Mental Health Officials Helping Her Jailed Son

Fairfax Sheriff Stacey Kincaid makes mental health a priority

(2-3-22) Last October, I posted a blog from a desperate Fairfax County (Va.) mother under the title: Off Medication: “I Fear He will Kill Me!” Mother Says About Jailed Son.  This week, she sent me a note. I was delighted to read it, but not surprised. Sheriff Stacy Kincaid and her fellow Fairfax officials have made helping individuals with serious mental illnesses a priority. Bravo!

While there are always improvements that can and should be made, Fairfax County has come a long, long way from where it was 16 years ago. Back then, there was little interest in Crisis Intervention Team training for law enforcement and when I asked to meet with the county’s chief judge to discuss creating a mental health docket, he refused to speak with me. 

Don’t give up hope if you live in a community where there is little interest in CIT,  jail diversion, and mental health dockets. Just keep fighting.

Dear Mr. Earley,

I wanted to share an email with you.  I sent it to Fairfax County Sheriff Stacey Kincaid regarding all of the good people who are trying to help my son. I’m aware that he’s lucky to be in the particular jail that he’s in and I want to give credit where credit is due.

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I Described Putin As A Common Thief in 2011. Eleven Years Later, He Adds Killer To That Title


(3-2-22) Having written three books about American traitors and Soviet spies, I have paid close attention to Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2011, I described him as a street thug and common thief. What I posted then, remains relevant today. His invasion into Ukraine shows that he is much more — he is a dangerous and pompous threat to freedom loving people. 

The World’s Biggest Thief : First Posted In 2-2011

Advocating for better mental health care is a top priority to me, but it’s not my only interest. I took time last week to have lunch with a friend of mine who works for a U.S. intelligence agency and our conversation quickly turned to Russia.

I have been fascinated with the Kremlin and Moscow much of my life.  Perhaps, it started when I was a youngster living in Pueblo, Colorado when my mother began storing food items in the bathroom closet in 1962. The bathroom was the only room in our small house that didn’t have windows, which was why it was chosen as our family’s emergency bomb shelter if the Soviet Union attacked.

For those too young to remember, 1962 was when the Cuban Missile Crisis happened and at the elementary school that I attended, we did drills where we either hurried into hallways or ducked under our desks. That was supposed to help us if  bombs fell.

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Mothers Of Adult Children With Serious Mental Illnesses: The Pain Of Self-Blame

(2-25-22) Leslie Carpenter, a well-known Iowa advocate and reader of this blog, sent me an email about a new book entitled: DIFFICULT: Mothering Challenging Adult Children Through Conflict And Change by Judith R. Smith.

“It is unlike any other book I have read so far,” Leslie wrote, “as it exposes the unreasonable burdens placed on family members…” 

During my travels, I’ve seen how mothers often take on tremendous guilt when a child develops symptoms of a serious mental illness. Often times, it is mothers who assume the role of caregiver, especially if their ill child is a daughter. I contacted the author.

“My book is based on a three-year research project,” Judith Smith writes. “The book brings to life the stories of thirty-five women, each over sixty years old, whose lives were drastically altered by becoming the default safety net for their adult “kids.” … I discovered that mothers perceived their adult children’s behavior as “difficult” when they found themselves, once again, prioritizing their children’s needs over their own and saw no “exit” for themselves or their adult children from their problems.”

She agreed to let me post several paragraphs and a book excerpt.

From DIFFICULT: Mothering Challenging Adult Children Through Conflict And Change  By Judith R. Smith, Phd, LCSW. Published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Used with author’s permission.

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People, Place, Purpose: Dr. Tom Insel’s Recipe For Helping People Heal Explained In New Book

Dr. Thomas Insel explains his campaign to educate the public.

(2-22-22) Dr. Tom Insel’s new book, Healing: Our Path from Mental Illness to Mental Health, is getting a lot of attention. I posted an excerpt from it  last week. I asked Dr. Insel why he decided to write it. He explained that his book is part of a broader media campaign to educate and motivate the public – a campaign that includes a PBS special Hiding In Plain Sight: Youth Mental Illness scheduled for release in June. My son, Kevin, was interviewed for this Ken Burns’ documentary, which will feature some of his artwork.

Dear Pete,

Today marks the release of my book, Healing: Our Path from Mental Illness to Mental Health.  In one sense, this book started fifteen years ago when I watched Al Gore present An Inconvenient Truth.  As I watched him dramatize the data for climate change with the hope of awakening us all to this silent threat, I thought, “Why isn’t someone waking up the nation to our mental health crisis?”

Of course, climate change is an emerging existential threat and mental illness is neither new nor a threat to the planet.  But the mental health crisis can be solved.  It does not take every nation on earth committing to carbon reduction or transforming our energy infrastructure.  It just takes a commitment to solutions that we have in hand.

This is perhaps the greatest tragedy of the mental health crisis.  It’s an unforced error.

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