Ten New ISMICC Members Chosen For Advisory Committee: Judge Leifman Joins Panel

(9-1-20) Ten new members have been named to serve on the Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee that advises federal officials and Congress about mental health and addictions.

I am one of four original members asked to continue serving on the advisory committee. I am delighted that Miami-Dade Judge Steven Leifman is one of the new appointments.

HHS Secretary Alex M. Azar II and Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Mental Health and Substance Use Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz are responsible for naming advisory members. Those asked will serve a three year term. The law that created ISMICC requires both federal and non-federal ISMICC members to issue a final report to Congress on December 2022. Congress can reauthorize ISMICC or let it expire after that report is issued.

The nonfederal members are: (returning members bold faced.)

  • Trinidad de Jesus Arguello, Ph.D., LCSW, PMHRN-BC, Director, Compostela Community and Family Cultural Institute
  • Yasmine Brown, M.S., Chief Executive Officer, Hope Restored Suicide Prevention Project, LLC
  • Ron Bruno, Founding Board Member and Second Vice President, CIT International
  • David Covington, LPC, MBA, CEO/President, RI International
  • Pete Earley, Author
  • Dainery Fuentes, Ph.D., School Psychologist, Polk County School Board
  • Brian Hepburn, M.D., Executive Director, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors
  • Jennifer Higgins, Ph.D., CCRP, Owner, CommonWealth GrantWorks
  • Johanna Kandel, B.A., Founder and Chief Executive Officer, The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness
  • Steven Leifman, J.D., Associate Administrative Judge, Miami-Dade County Court, Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida
  • Adrienne Lightfoot, Peer Program Coordinator, DC Department of Behavioral Health
  • Amanda Lipp, B.S., Director and Filmmaker, Lipp Studios
  • Winola Sprague, DNP, CNS-BC, Medical Director, Children’s Advantage
  • Rhathelia Stroud, J.D., Presiding Judge, DeKalb County Magistrate Court
  • Katherine Warburton Williams, D.O., Medical Director and Deputy Director of Clinical Operations, California Department of State Hospitals

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Reader Writes D. J. Jaffe Was No Friend To “Those Of Us With Mental Health Concerns.”

Michael Skinner


D. J. Jaffe and A Culture of Fear by Michael Skinner

Dear Pete,

I read your blog post, “Influential Critic D. J. Jaffe Has Died: Remembered As “Bomb Thrower” Who Demanded Mental Illness Reforms” and thought of how he has done so much to hurt those of us labeled “mentally ill”. You considered him a friend, he was anything but for those of us struggling with the challenges of trauma, abuse and mental health concerns.

These are some of my thoughts on D.J. Jaffe. He did not have the best interests of people struggling despite all of his rhetoric, it was based in fear, hate and disdain for those of us labeled “mentally ill.” There was no compassion in that man or his cohort, E. Fuller Torrey, despite their bombastic appeals to the contrary.

They built a house of cards, a hurtful, dangerous house of cards.

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Gerald Shur: My Co-Author and Creator of the Federal Witness Protection Program that Relocated Mobsters Has Died

Got Mafia hitman a job as delivery truck driver – penile implant for depressed gangster – in return for breaking Omerta code of silence bringing down the mob.

(8-29-20) My good friend and co-author, Gerald Shur, the founder of the federal Witness Protection Program, has died.  He passed away August 25, at age 86, of lung cancer, his son, Ron, told me in an email.

Gerald and I wrote WITSEC: Inside the Federal Witness Protection Program, a 2002 nonfiction history of the program and a biography of his life up to his retirement from the Justice Department.

Although relatively unknown to the public, Shur played a pivotal role in the government’s war against organized crime. He was involved in every major Mafia witness case starting in 1961 until he retired in 1995.

Beginning with Joseph Valachi, considered the first member of the La Cosa Nostra to expose the mob’s secrets, Shur interacted with a Who’s Who of organized crime, including Joseph ‘the Animal’ Barboza, Vincent “Fat Vinnie” Teresa, Aladena “Jimmy the Weasel” Frantianno, Joseph “Joe Dogs” Iannuzzi, and Henry Hill of the best-selling book Wiseguy and popular movie, Goodfellas. One of the last mafia informats Shur handled was Sammy “the Bull” Gravano, who was initially given a new identity and relocated after he’d admitted 19 mob killings in return for his successful testimony against John Gotti, a flamboyant New York Godfather who had been known as the “Teflon Don.”

In a strange twist, Shur and his wife, Miriam, were forced to enter WITSEC themselves for several months in 1991 after the DEA intercepted a Medellin drug cartel hit man entering the U.S. who had their names on his hit list.

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A Woman Said Mentally Ill Matthew Threw A Pinecone At A Toddler. Enough For The Police To Taser Him & Put Him To Jail.

Matthew Needed Compassion and Help. Instead He Was Tasered and Jailed. Why? 

(8-26-20) Guest blog by Lori J. Butler

I was leaving my office at Mountain Help, an outreach ministry operated by the First Baptist Church, when I saw a young man with mental illness running through our village of Crestline in the San Bernardino Mountains of San Bernardino County, California.

He wasn’t a jogger. It was as if he was running for his life. I had no idea, in that moment, that he actually was.

I joined a crowd that had gathered around him and began calling out to two San Bernardino Sheriff’s officers who were chasing him.

“He’s mentally ill!” I’d recognized Matthew because I had been trying to help him find housing and get into treatment.

The deputies didn’t respond.

When Matthew stopped running, he picked up a piece of wood. He didn’t swing at the officers. He simply paced back and forth – common behavior for someone experiencing paranoia and symptoms of  PTSD.

Several in the crowd began videotaping what was unfolding. Others joined me in telling the deputies that Matthew was mentally ill and known to hear voices. We are a small community. People care about each other.  I felt I had to do something so I gathered the courage and walked over to speak directly to the deputies. My adult son has had similar episodes so I thought I could help.

I told them about the three most important steps in PERT deescalation training.

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Influential Critic D. J. Jaffe Has Died: Remembered As “Bomb Thrower” Who Demanded Mental Illness Reforms

(8-24-20) D.J. Jaffe, an influential critic of our mental health care system and self-proclaimed advocate for Americans with serious mental illnesses, has died.

His mentor and close friend, Dr. E. Fuller Torrey announced D. J.’s death in an email this morning. The cause of death was leukemia, which D. J. had been fighting for more than 15 years. He passed away in his New York City home on August 23.

“Since 1998, when we first started making plans for what became the Treatment Advocacy Center,” Dr. Torrey wrote, “D. J. has been the single most effective advocate I have worked with and a close personal friend. His dedication to improving the treatment of people with serious mental illness, based on his experience with his sister-in-law has been extraordinary.”

D. J., who I also considered a good friend, was well-known for his outspokenness and relentlessness in pushing reforms that he believed were essential to improving care for those with mental illness.

His passion was unequalled.

In a tribute posted by TAC, its executive director, John Snook, recalled his first encounter with Jaffe some 20 years ago.

“We were testifying at a contentious hearing in New York’s City Hall. D.J. was in rare form. At the first challenge by the chair, D.J. was out of his seat, calling out the assembled council for their failures and their cowardice. Eventually, we were escorted out of the hearing by security.It remains, to this day, the only hearing I’ve ever been thrown out of.”

In an email, Ron Honberg, retired legal policy expert at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, wrote: “D.J. was one of a kind, firm and resolute in his advocacy passion and not afraid to be the skunk at the garden party, in fact he relished it.  He will be missed.”

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Cops Thought It Funny To Use Seriously Mentally Ill Man To Prank Off-Duty Officers


Bellingham, Washington police officers were disciplined by the department for driving a man with mental health issues from the Whatcom Transportation Authority (bus) station to a restaurant in the early hours of Sept. 19, 2019, intending to disrupt a group of off-duty officers in what they called a prank. Photo by Warren Sterling THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

(8-20-20) What could be funnier, four police officers agreed, then to use a severely mentally ill man to pull a prank on fellow officers who’d just finished their shift?

It seemed harmless enough. Their “pawn” was well-known to police having had 1,779 behavioral health contacts with law enforcement that generated a report between Jan. 1, 2019, through Aug. 4, 2020. He was frequently disrupted, yelling to himself, making those around him uncomfortable. One officer call him a “goof.”

Why not pick him up, drive him to a local restaurant, slip him $5 and send him inside to disrupt customers and the off-duty officers?

Although their pawn was disruptive, he thankfully wasn’t arrested or harmed, but news of this prank sparked community outrage in Bellingham, Washington, when it was revealed earlier this month and has caused the community to examine how it treats those with mental illness, according Karen Schilde, a board member of the Snohomish County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, who tipped me off in an email about the escapade.

Ever since George Floyd’s death, I’ve received emails and articles about persons with mental illnesses being abused by correctional officers and/or police officers. I believe and support the majority of our law enforcement officers who have empathy and do their jobs well. They protect us. But these reports about questionable actions by their peers are alarming.

In the last two months, I’ve posted four different blogs about alleged law enforcement abuse of individuals with mental illnesses.Click to continue…