Will $ Billions Be Spent On Solutions Or Mental Health/Addiction Programs That Continue Failing? Two National Experts Say We’re At Tipping Point

(Carol Porter/Washington Post)

True reform should begin by treating mental illnesses and substance use disorders as illnesses and not crimes.

(7-28-21) Two powerful advocates believe we are at a tipping point. The Biden Administration is directing $2.5 billion in funding for mental health and addiction programs. Calls for reducing reliance on police to handle mental health crisis calls are gaining traction. Will we seize the moment or simply pump more funds into a failed system so that it can continue to fail?

Judge Steven Leifman and frequent television commentator, Norman Ornstein, an emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, explain today’s problems and solutions in this guest blog.

A UNIQUE TIME: LET’S NOT BLOW IT

At long last, we are seeing changes in how we deal with the interaction of mental illness, substance abuse, police reform and criminal justice reform. Federal bills to provide incentives to local communities to replace police with mental health professionals in crisis calls, sponsored by top lawmakers like Senator Chris Van Hollen (D. Md.) and Representative Katie Porter (D. Ca.), (her bill) are moving in Congress. President Biden’s critical new funding for mental health and substance use treatment as part of the Covid Relief Plan is an extremely welcome, long overdue recognition of the woefully inadequate, antiquated and, in many places, virtually non-existent system for providing care for those struggling with addiction and/or serious mental illnesses.

But money alone will not solve a shameful situation that, for many decades, has festered rather than be faced, at a cost of incalculable human suffering and a massive misallocation of resources.  Without a near-total overhaul of the way things are currently done, we run the risk not only of wasting critical tax dollars, but of wasting a once in a generation opportunity finally to fix our broken behavioral health system.

The good news is we know how to fix it. Even better—by focusing on the interactions between mental illness and substance use, the criminal justice system and policing, we can ameliorate three national crises at once, saving lives and saving money.

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Washington Post Prints My Column Condemning Patient Dumping By Virginia Hospitals Helping Overload State System

(7-23-21) Thank you Washington Post for posting my opinion piece yesterday that explains how patient dumping is playing a role in overcrowding Virginia’s state mental hospitals.

OPINION: Virginia’s mental health hospitals are burdened by patient dumping: Admissions at state hospitals have ballooned and are now overloading the system.

The Washington Post, posted 7-22 online
By Pete Earley
Virginia officials announced this month they could no longer admit patients at five of Virginia’s eight adult mental hospitals because there were no available beds or sufficient staff. But there is an unconscionable underlying reason for this latest crisis: patient dumping by private hospitals.

Most Virginians experiencing a mental health crisis are taken to hospitals under a temporary detention order (TDO), which permits the hospital to hold them for up to 72 hours for their own protection if they meet certain criteria, such as being dangerous or exhibiting self-harm. In 2017, there were 25,852 Virginians hospitalized under TDOs. Most were treated at private hospitals and released within days. Only the most ill were sent to state mental hospitals for extended care. The number of TDOs dropped last year to 24,125 patients. Yet admissions at state hospitals have ballooned and are now overloading the system.

The reason: Private hospitals are using a 2014 law to rid themselves of troublesome patients, including those with dementia or patients with intellectual disabilities, many with no mental illnesses. Under the “bed of last resort” law, state mental hospitals must accept any psychiatric patient that a private hospital turns away. The law was enacted after state Sen. Creigh Deeds (D) rushed his 24-year-old son, Gus, to a crisis center only to be told workers couldn’t find a local available psychiatric bed within the 72-hour TDO period. Sent home, Gus slashed his father’s face with a knife before ending his own life.

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Families and Nurses Please Help Me Document Patient Dumping By Private Hospitals In Virginia

(7-14-21) I am seeking help from families and behavioral health nurses in Virginia who have experienced or observed patient dumping.

Earlier this week, I posted a Washington Post story about how state mental hospitals had stopped admitting patients because of a lack of staff and beds.  One factor is a 2014 rule that required state facilities to provide a “bed of last resort” for involuntary detention if a bed cannot be found elsewhere. This had allowed private hospitals to begin dumping patients onto the state. Daily admissions increased from about 4 to more than 18 simply because private hospitals didn’t want to deal with troublesome patients.

I have received emails from nurses in Virginia who said their hours are being cut back and private beds are going empty because hospitals want to save money by sending psychiatric patients to the state. One nurse told me a patient was transferred from a psych ward to the state because she had a Urinary Tract Infection.

If you know of such instances, please contact me at [email protected] All correspondence will be confidential.

Thank you.

Greedy Private Hospital Administrators, Staff Shortages Cause Virginia To Stop Accepting Patients In Crisis – Outrageous!

(State photo of Western State Hospital Lobby.)

(7-12-21) Are staff shortages at mental health hospitals in your state causing officials to stop admissions?

It’s happening in Virginia and it’s shameful.

The current crisis is related to staffing, but one of the contributing factors is the irresponsible actions of private hospitals. In 2014, the state passed a law in reaction to the horrific 2013 death of “Gus” Deeds, the son of state Sen. Creigh Deeds who rushed his son to a local mental health center only to be told no local state hospital beds were available. Gus attacked his father with a knife at home before taking his own life. Because of that incident, Virginia declared that state mental hospitals can not turn away anyone in crisis.

Unfortunately, greedy private hospital administrators have taken advantage of the law to empty their psychiatric wards to save money. Generally, psychiatric beds lose money. I heard of one incident where a hospital sent a psychiatric patient to the state hospital because she had an UTI and it simply wanted to get rid of her. As this article reprinted from The Washington Post shows, hospitals also do not want to deal with any psychiatric patient who is seen as threatening. Yet, because our state demands that an individual be threatening before they can be involuntarily admitted, hospitals can refuse to accept them.

Virginia orders 5 state mental hospitals to stop taking new admissions amid staffing crisis

 

The Virginia commissioner in charge of behavioral health on Friday closed five of the state’s eight adult mental health hospitals to new admissions, a step she said is necessary to protect workers amid unprecedented staffing shortages.

The pandemic exacerbated overcrowding and inadequate staffing at the state’s psychiatric hospitals, which are required to admit some of the most challenging and often violent patients under involuntary detention orders.

Calling the situation an “immediate crisis,” Alison Land, the commissioner of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, said about 30 percent of positions that directly support patients are vacant, with 108 people having resigned over the past two weeks, citing long hours and lack of safety.

Workers who left during coronavirus outbreaks early in the pandemic were able to get better paying, less stressful jobs elsewhere and have not returned, she has said.

 

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Dr. Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon New Assistant Secretary For Mental Health & Substance Abuse Expected To Emphasis “Recovery Oriented Services”

New Mental Health & Substance Abuse Secretary Now Running SAMHSA

(7-9-21) Dr. Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon sailed through a recent U.S. Senate confirmation hearing and is now the Assistant Secretary of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the U.S. Health and Human Services Department. In her written testimony, she stated: “Emphasizing recovery and addressing equity and culture in behavioral health service delivery and system development are prominent themes in my work…”

She replaced Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz who has taken a senior position inside the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

Dr. Delphin-Rittmon previously served as Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) for six years where, she said, her “focus has been on promoting recovery-oriented, integrated, and culturally responsive services and systems that foster dignity, respect, and meaningful community inclusion of the individuals we are entrusted to serve.”

Her nomination by the Biden Administration was strongly backed by peer and disability organizations that represent individuals with mental illnesses and disabilities. More than thirty such organizations signed a letter of support endorsing her confirmation, including the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services headed by well-known advocate, Harvey Rosenthal, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Gould Farm, and the American Association for People with Disabilities.

She is expected to bring a different approach to SAMHSA, the government’s biggest mental health and substance abuse funder. President Trump’s nomination, Dr. McCance-Katz, strongly backed greater use of Assisted Outpatient Treatment. She was supported by Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, the late D. J. Jaffe and the Treatment Advocacy Center. In a 2018 newspaper interview, Dr. Delphin-Rittmon said she didn’t support AOT in her state. “We all know for many people choice, or being stripped of certain choices, is connected to trauma within their own lives. We don’t want to perpetuate that in the treatment system.”

Outgoing Dr. McCance-Katz now at DEA

Before leaving office, Dr. McCance-Katz was criticized for questioning during a podcast whether fears of the corona virus were overblown. In her new job as a legislative policy analyst at the DEA, she will  help shape the Biden administration’s strategy on drug enforcement, particularly with Biden’s nominee to run DEA who is still awaiting Senate confirmation.

With endorsements from both of her home state Senators and Connecticut’s governor, Dr. Delphin-Rittmon was easily confirmed. Here is here opening statement and link to the video of her confirmation hearing.

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Watch Powerful Documentary & Hear Reformer Judge Steven Leifman July 8th On Webcast! Don’t Miss It!

Judge Steven Leifman

(7-6-21) The Biden Administration missed a real opportunity to improve the lives of those struggling with mental illnesses and addictions when it didn’t nominate Miami-Dade Judge Steven Leifman to be the next Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse.  Judge Leifman is the reformer who allowed me access into the Miami Detention Center for ten months to follow prisoners with mental illnesses through our criminal justice system, which resulted in my book, CRAZY: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness. (CRAZY refers to our system, not individuals such as my son.) He is an inspirational crusader for mental health reform who has worked tirelessly to stop the inappropriate incarceration of individuals whose only real crime is that they got sick.

On July 8th, you can hear him speak and see a fabulous documentary sponsored by Dr. Norman Ornstein by registering here. There is no charge for this opportunity, which is being organized by Janet Hays with Healing Minds Nola.

Please tune in and learn what this amazing advocate has accomplished in Miami-Dade County and could do for the rest of our nation if given the opportunity by our federal government.


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CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Healing Minds NOLA is honored to host a screening of the much talked about Film Documentary: “Definition of Insanity”.
After the screening, Judge Steven Leifman will join a panel discussion to be moderated by Dr. Norman Ornstein, an emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and vice president of The Matthew Harris Ornstein Memorial Foundation, with the following very special guests:
Cindy A. Schwartz, Project Director of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida Criminal Mental Health Project- Jail Diversion Programs.
Judge Alan Zaunbrecher, 22nd Judicial District Court, State of Louisiana.
Nick Richard, Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) St. Tammany, La.

Learn more about our speakers here!

Untreated mental illness is a crisis not only in Louisiana but across America. On Thursday, July 8th from 5:30pm-8pm CST, find out how one Miami-Dade County Judge, Steven Leifman, is bucking the criminal justice system to lead the nation in DEcriminalizing mental illness.
“Definition of Insanity” demonstrates a novel approach to solving the mental health crisis that could be the model to tackle the much larger epidemic throughout America
We hope you will join us!

Janet Hays
Director – Healing Minds NOLA
(504) 274 6091