Remembering Fallen Heroes: A Preventible Tragedy That Resulted In A Detective Who Helped My Son Being Murdered

(5-4-18) Not a May passes when I don’t recall the deaths of Fairfax County Police Officers Vicky O. Armel and Michael Garbarino who were ambushed by a mentally troubled young man armed with an AK-47 during an attack May 8th, 2006 at a police station near my home. They were reportedly the first Fairfax Police officers killed in the department’s history. After their deaths, I wrote a tribute to Detective Armel published in The Washington Post because of how kind she had been to my son, Kevin, when he first was  arrested.

This was long before Crisis Intervention Team training became a priority in Fairfax, yet she had a big heart and was a devoted Christian who became a police officer to serve and protect, but also to help those in need. A taped message that she had made was played at her funeral during which she spoke about her decision to dedicate her life to Jesus Christ. She was a wife and mother of two. Her killer had fled from a mental facility. Officer Garbarino had been a police officer 23 years and also was survived by his spouse and two children. His widow, Suzanne, later lashed out at the father of the 18 year-old shooter who was convicted of two federal gun charges and heavily criticized for allowing his disturbed son access to a military style weapon.

What strikes me about my original tribute in the Post is how the figures that I cited have not decreased but increased from 700,000 persons with mental illnesses being arrested each year to 2.2 million being booked into jail today.

But the legacy that Detective Armel left behind is what I will always remember most. She treated my son with kindness setting an example for other Fairfax Officers to follow today through CIT training. The irony and horror that she was later murdered by someone with mental illness can not be forgotten. Along with Officer Garbarino, she will be remembered.

In a time when police officers often are criticized for their handling of individuals who are mentally ill, it is important to remember the Vicky Armels in law enforcement.

Click to continue…

Why Don’t We Have Better Medications For Treating Serious Mental Illnesses? Grieving Father Tells Me Psychiatric Drugs Killed His Daughter

(4-30-18) I had just finished delivering a speech at the NATCOM18 about my relationship with my son. People were waiting off stage afterwards to share their stories.

One man, a mental health worker, stood by the exit until everyone else had gone.

With tears in his eyes, he approached me. His daughter, he explained, had a serious mental illness just like my son. He added, “The meds she was given, killed her.”

In the past twelve years since my book was published, I have received occasional complaints about medications and have been told how dangerous they often are. I have brushed aside most of these comments because nearly all of them came from individuals who were clearly anti-psychiatry or others who had some holistic remedy that had worked for them that they were pushing.

This man, who was clearly mourning his daughter’s death, was a mental health worker, someone in the industry. His credentials gave me pause.

My son has done well on medication. Each time, he has stopped taking his prescription, it has been a disaster. Individuals with mental illnesses often look for reasons to stop taking medicine.  I have been reluctant to even question the use of medication because I haven’t wanted to encourage anyone to stop and have a relapse. Yes, medications have dreadful side-effects, but not taking them can cause significant problems.

So what was I to think about this grieving father?

Click to continue…

I Give A 60 Second Speech: Why We Must Be Heard!

(4-24-18) The National Council for Behavior Health asked me to join five others in giving a less than a minute talk yesterday at the opening of its annual conference about the need for mental health reforms. The theme of the three day conference in Washington is “Be Heard.” I was thrilled to be the closing speaker and, unbeknownst to me, my friend and fellow advocate, D. J. Jaffe, taped my brief remarks while they were being shown on the jumbo screen.

Jaffe is speaking Wednesday (tomorrow morning) at the conference about his book, Insane Consequences: How Mental Health Industry Fails The Mentally Ill. His  speech is sure to draw a huge crowd because the NATCOM18 convention is the largest gathering of mental health providers in the U.S. and he has been critical of its members.

I was sad to learn yesterday during the opening ceremony that the national council’s executive director Linda Rosenberg plans to retire next year. She has built the group into a powerful, well-funded and highly respected organization with more than a $50 million annual budget. She is one of the smartest when it comes to understanding mental health financing of services and has been a tireless advocate for Americans with behavioral health problems. Her leadership and energy will be missed after she retires late next year.



Biggest Mental Health Convention – Plus More Events Make For Busy Last Several Days, But Best News Was Personal

Linda Rosenberg kicks off annual convention

(4-23-18) This morning finds me participating in the opening session of NATCON18, the annual convention here in Washington D.C. of the National Council for Behavioral Health  – and what an event it will be!

Linda Rosenberg and her crew are renowned for putting on informative and spectacular conventions that few can rival. There are always lots of celebrities. This year, they include Chuck Todd of NBC News, Glynn Washington of public radio, and actress and activist Anna Deavere Smith.

But it’s the mental health experts who always draw me.

Unfortunately, Miami-Dade County Judge Steven Leifman and author/ suicide survivor Kevin Hines will be speaking Wednesday at the same time I am giving a Thought Leader talk entitled: Hard Lessons Learned: A Father’s Mission to Rescue His Son and How That Journey Saved Them Both. I would have enjoyed hearing them.

Dr. Elinore F. McCance-Katz, Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse, will hold a town hall and, in a new addition to the schedule this year, Linda and her team have invited several controversial speakers to give Ted like talks during what is being called: Uncomfortable Conversations. Two of those invited to speak are:

Click to continue…

Mental-Health Officials Are To Blame, Not Our Criminal Justice System

(4-20-18) A blog  I posted earlier this week by a frustrated father criticizing how the Loudoun County Virginia Sheriff’s office dealt with his son spread across Facebook prompting an angry community outcry.  Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman defended his deputies yesterday on this page.

Today, D. J. Jaffe, author of Insane Consequences and Executive Director of Mental Illness Policy Org,  argues that it is the mental health industry that is failing our loved ones, not the police. His comments were first published in National Review and are not directly related to the events in Loudoun County, but are germane to this continuing conversation. Share your views on my facebook page at Pete Earley Facebook. What needs to be done?)

Criminal-Justice Officials Should Stand Up to Mental-Health Officials

Loudoun County Sheriff Responds To Father’s Complaints About How His Son Was Treated During Mental Health Crisis

(4-19-18) I posted a letter Tuesday (17th) from a father in Loudoun County, Virginia who called the Sheriff’s Office for help when his son’s mental illness became difficult for the family to handle. The father complained about how Crisis Intervention Team trained deputies and the overall department handled the situation. 

This father’s son was released from the detention center yesterday (18th). By that time, he had spent seven days in a hospital receiving care and 30 days in jail, including five days in the Riverside Regional Jail two hours away from his home on suicide watch naked in a single cell.

He has been charged with seven misdemeanors and the father questioned in his letter why his son ended up being charged, arrested and held for a month without bond when his family called seeking help.

I forwarded his complaint to Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman.   I am posting his version of events in its entirety unedited and without comment. I feel it is important for him to have an opportunity to respond and appreciate him doing so.

Given that this young man already has spent 30 days in jail, I hope the charges against him will be dismissed when he appears in court next month and he is able to get meaningful community mental health care. 

Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office

Dear Mr. Earley,

I am in receipt of the article you published entitled, “I Called Loudoun County Deputies for Help. Instead My Son Was Jailed. Hospital: 7 days. Jail:29 days and Counting.” As the facts and circumstances contained in your posting on behalf of the complainant are inaccurate, please allow me to address them factually, step by step. I think this is important as this response will serve to educate the general public regarding the intersection of mental health and criminal justice, mandated processes within the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the paramount importance of safety as it pertains to citizens suffering a mental health crisis, family members surrounding these individuals, and the safety of responding law enforcement officers.

Click to continue…