Our Son Was Waiting For Help When The Police Called. A Family’s Journey From Despair To Hope

(5-24-21) I returned to delivering speeches in person last week and flew to Florida to give a keynote presentation where I met Hank and Susan Ashby. I asked them to share their story in a guest blog.

From Tragedy… to Hope

By Hank and Susan Ashby

This is a story about our family and son, Jay Ashby.

We were high school sweethearts and will celebrate 50 years of marriage this June. We were blessed with 3 healthy children 3 years apart. Our eldest son Brandon now lives with his family of 6 in the Washington DC area. Daughter Kristin lives with her family of 4 in Melbourne Florida. Our youngest, Jay was a great addition to our family, and a much-loved son & baby brother!

Jay was a good student; a talented athlete; a musician and artist; he loved surfing and was also a great fisherman. Jay played the upright base and it was comical to see us driving around Ormond Beach, Florida with such a huge instrument jutting out of the car’s sunroof. Jay was a thoughtful, kind and fun boy with a great sense of humor. We had so many great times together whether it was taking family trips to the mountains, fishing, surfing, attending his concerts or Jay’s soccer and basketball games!

Jay was a normal, healthy child much loved by his immediate family and an assortment of extended family and friends – until the the onset of his illness.

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HHS Says Behavioral Health Will Become A Top Priority. $3 Billion In New Funding. Let’s Hope It’s Spent Wisely

(5-20-21) Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra announced this week that $3 billion in new funds will be distributed to states and territories for mental health and substance use services.

Behavioral Health will be an HHS priority.

It’s about time.

This massive influx of funds and making Behavioral Health a priority could lead to much needed improvements in our badly fractured system.

The $3 billion will be distributed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) through block grants to the states. It will be equally divided with $1.5 billion earmarked for “those with severe mental health conditions” and children with serious emotional disturbances – known respectively as SMIs and SEDs. The other $1.5 billion will flow into substance use disorder programs.

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Veteran In Crisis Fatally Shot. Sheriff Shrugs. NAMI Advocate & Judges Demand Answers

Protesting shooting

(5-18-21) Damian Daniels, a 30 year-old combat veteran who’d been diagnosed with paranoia, had not taken his medication. He called the police to complain about noises in his house. He suspected it might be haunted.

Daniels was well-known to local law enforcement as an individual with a mental illness.  Two deputies went to his house and Daniels told them that he’d not taken his medication that day. They asked Daniels if he wanted to hurt himself and he replied that he didn’t. They asked him if he’d like the deputies to check his home for noises and he said no.  Before leaving, they told him that he needed to take his medication.

There was no evidence that Daniels was a danger to himself or others, the officers wrote after that meeting. He didn’t meet the criteria for an emergency detention.

The next day, deputies again were called to Daniels’ house. This time, he was sitting outside with a .40 caliber handgun tucked into his waist band. Daniels was clearly in the midst of a mental health crisis but he didn’t want to go with the officers. When he refused to obey them, the encounter turned ugly. Deputies shot Daniels with tasers. He tried to take a taser away from them. A deputy drew his service weapon and fired twice killing Daniels.

What makes this August 2020 fatality different from other shootings is that it happened in San Antonio, Texas, a city that for nearly two decades has been considered a national model for how its law enforcement officers deescalate mental health crises.

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Serious Mental Illnesses Are More Deadly Than Covid, Tim Murphy Argues. So Why Aren’t We Doing More?

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

(5-14-21) Former Rep. Tim Murphy (R.-Pa.) wrote and pushed the most significant federal mental health legislation in decades through Congress during the final days of the Obama Administration. In this OP Ed first published in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, he argues that serious mental illnesses are claiming more lives than COVID and calls for reforms, many of which, were stripped from his original bill.  As with all guest blogs, the views expressed are the author’s. I welcome comments on my Facebook page.

Addressing the link between violence, serious mental illness

By Tim Murphy, writing in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Mass murders have already exceeded several dozen in 2021. The act is so abhorrent to us that we continually seek explanations in hope of finding a cause and cure.

Some blame the weapon (primarily firearms) and some the characteristics of the perpetrator such as the presence of serious mental illness (SMI), including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Global studies of mass violence report that perpetrator SMI is present in less than 10% of the cases, leading some advocates to suggest preventive efforts be directed away from mental illness.

Such action defies logic, facts and science.

Although SMI compromises only 5.2% of the population, the impact of their illness is far greater. According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, most with SMI are not violent; however, those with untreated SMI have 15-fold-higher rates of violence.

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Once Scrappy Underdog, Treatment Advocacy Center Receives Major Award From APA – A Sign Of Its Advocacy Prowess

Dr. Torrey and early TAC backer, D. J. Jaffe pushed AOT legislation for years together.

(5-11-21) The American Psychiatric Association awarded its 2021 Distinguished Service Award to the Treatment Advocacy Center, founded by Dr. E. Fuller Torrey.

What’s interesting about the APA award is that it shows that Dr. Torrey’s 1998 creation is no longer, as one advocate put it, “a scrappy underdog”  hoping for a seat at the table.

The award and TAC’s recent actions cement its role as a power player. This is especially true when it comes to calling for criminal justice reform. More than mainline organizations such as Mental Health America and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, TAC has arguably been the most aggressive critic of the inappropriate incarceration of Americans with mental illnesses.

Calling TAC a “David to the Goliath” of a mental health care system that fails to meet the needs of individuals with serious mental illnesses, Dr. Jeffrey Geller, president of the APA, said in announcing the award:

“Not afraid to go out front with issues that could fundamentally improve the lives of persons with SMI but were not initially seen favorably, Treatment Advocacy Center has led the way to the availability of Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) in almost every state.

“It has and is doing so by nurturing the concept, educating all stakeholders, developing model legislation, lobbying for statutory changes, and assisting in implementation. Treatment Advocacy Center continues in these efforts, focused on expanding the utilization of AOT statutes nationwide.”

The APA Distinguish Service Award honors “exceptional meritorious service to the field of psychiatry.” APA describes itself as the “leading psychiatric organization in the world” with some 40,000 members in a hundred different countries, all engaged in psychiatry.

TAC’s agenda has not made it universally loved. Mental Health America, the Bazelon Center For Mental Health Law, and groups such as Mad In America, strongly oppose AOT. Critics also have accused TAC of releasing reports that bend facts to push its platform.

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Sam Gave Prisoners’ Hope, Help, & Purpose: Memories Of An Indomitable Zany Friend

 

(5-7-21) From My Files Friday: Summer days cause me to remember Sam Ormes, one of the most creative, goofy, and caring individuals I’ve ever met inside a jail. It was a hot day in 2004 and I was doing research inside the Miami Dade Detention Center for my book, CRAZY: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness, when I heard about a cantankerous employee who had created a television station inside the old jail that was giving inmates hope and purpose. Sadly, jail officials eventually shut down Sam and his station but not before his creation made national news and helped dozens of inmates, including those with mental illnesses. Sam died nearly five years ago without much fanfare, but he was a light in a dark place.  

 A  Story of Zany Antics, Creativity, and Redemption Inside A Dismal Jail

I found him in a tiny cubicle crammed with electronic gizmos inside the Miami Dade jail.  Sam Ormes looked like a hoarder. Nearly every inch of the space was filled with television equipment, cameras, video tapes and stage props, including a rubber chicken hanging on a rope from the ceiling near his desk chair.

Sporting a bow tie, a 1960s style beatnik goatee and reading glasses perched on the tip of his nose, Sam explained that he was the originator and driving force behind Inmate Corrections Television, better known as ICTV.

An inmate televisions station in a jail? How did that happen? I asked. He told me to sit down and listen.

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