Conservatives’ Criticism Of Housing First Is Wrongheaded. Yes, Hugh Hewitt, That’s You.

Photo courtesy of Metro Free

(12-17-21) I’m a strong advocate for Housing First programs with wrap around treatment services that help Americans who are chronically homeless, especially those with addictions and/or mental illnesses.

Housing First recognizes that putting a roof over someone’s head is the first step to recovery. Common sense tells us that if you are psychotic and/or addicted it is much more difficult to overcome those problems if you are sleeping on the streets.

Unfortunately, Housing First is under attack by a cabal of conservatives. Most recently, radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt launched an unwarranted diatribe against Housing First in The Washington Post. While arguing against passage of President Biden’s Build Back Better program now before the Senate, Hewitt warned that Biden’s bill would squander $170 billion earmarked for development of affordable housing if approved as passed by the House.

“Billions of dollars must not be captured by the radical advocates of Housing First, an innocuous, even just-sounding slogan concealing a counterproductive radical agenda hostile to the idea of placing any conditions on aid for the homeless,” Hewitt proclaimed.

Until I read that comment, I didn’t realize that I and hundreds of other parents and social workers who support Housing First are considered “radical advocates.”Click to continue…

New Books Coming About Mental Illness, Suicide & Addiction, Plus A Hopeful Update By Advocate

(12-15-21) I like to encourage authors who have written books about mental illness so each year around the holidays, I ask readers to tell me on Facebook what books they have found useful. I also post information from authors who have contacted me. Because I have been on a book deadline of my own, I have not read these three new works by authors who reached out to me. I asked them to write a small paragraph about their forthcoming books and explain why they wrote them. I’ve also added an update about a previously published book. I wish all four luck!

Short Jam-Packed Life – My Son’s Suicide and My Heavenly Father’s Faithful Support

By Dale C. Wetenkamp

“A parent’s worst fear is their child will die before they do. I lived this worst fear and survived! My book is a father’s search for answers about my son’s suicide. Suicide is that ugly word that is rarely mentioned in polite society, maybe that’s one reason it has taken me more than twenty years to write this book. My book talks about suicide and attaches a face — my son Corey’s — to this ugly word. If this could happen to my son, it could possibly happen to your son.

Fortunately, I had my faith to carry me through and beyond the most difficult pain in my life. God was with me, carrying me, every step of the way! What I’ve written is a memoir of Corey’s 27-year-old life. I began this book as a letter to his son but it evolved into a memoir that includes my own coming of understanding and acceptance with God’s help. Read more here.

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Advocates Ornstein & Leifman Describe How Miami Focuses On Treatment Not Jails

(12-10-21) Instead of watching a movie on Netflix or HBO this weekend grab a bowl of popcorn and learn how communities can and should take steps to stop police shootings, arrests and the jailing of individuals with mental illnesses and substance abuses.

I’m offering you two choices. Both feature the documentary, The Definition of Insanity, which shows how Miami has become a model in dealing with residents with mental illnesses and/or substance abuses who become tangled up in the criminal justice system.

You can watch the documentary without comment. [above]

Or you can watch it as part of a longer program. [below.]

The longer program features two of my favorite advocates, nationally-known political commentator, Norman Ornstein, who lost his son, Matthew, to mental illness, and Miami Dade Judge Steve Leifman. The program starts by showing viewers The Definition of Insanity and then features Ornstein, Leifman and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison in a panel discussion hosted by the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, one of the top schools in teaching and debating public policy.

Either way, you will get to see The Definition of Insanity, which was Ornstein’s brainchild. If you already have seen the documentary, you can skip to minute 1:05:19 to hear the panel discussion. [below] Think of this as an old-fashion double feature, offering you both a documentary and both men’s sage advice.

Best to bring two bowls of popcorn.

Long-Time Advocate Embarrassed How Society Treats Individuals With Mental Illness, Not His Own Bipolar Disorder

Risdon Slate. Photo courtesy of Florida Southern College

(12-7-21) Shortly after I published CRAZY: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness in 2007, I met Risdon Slate at a NAMI event in Florida and was struck by his advocacy on behalf of individuals with mental illnesses stuck in our jails and prisons. But I didn’t learn about his personal struggles until I read this excellent article by Kimberly C. Moore published in The Ledger  based in Lakeland Florida.  Thank you both for helping educate the public through this poignant story.

Mental Health: After personal struggles, criminology professor advocates for decriminalizing mental illness

Kimberly C. Moore

The Ledger (used with permission)

LAKELAND — Risdon Slate is, by all accounts, a pillar of the Polk County community, a college professor who advocates for the decriminalization of the mentally ill and helps to train law enforcement officers in how to deal with someone having a mental health crisis.

He also has a serious mental illness — bipolar disorder.

In addition to being a criminology professor at Florida Southern College, Slate, 62, has testified before the United States Congress and Florida Legislature about the poor job society does in taking care of the mentally ill.

“The mental health system is more than happy for the criminal justice system to have to deal with all of society’s ills regarding mental illness and mental health,” Slate said. “I think we need a better mental health system and I think we need better linkage to mental health treatment — somebody should not have to commit a crime to get adequate and appropriate mental health treatment.”

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Fairfax County, Va. Leaders Continue To Push For Better Mental Health and Substance Abuse Care

Judge Tina Snee of the Fairfax County General District Court. “Graduation” for defendants who successfully completed requirements on the Fairfax County Mental Health Docket.

(12-1-21) I am delighted that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is continuing to focus on decriminalizing mental illnesses and treating substance abuse.

Earlier this month, General District Court Judge Tina L. Snee held yet another graduation ceremony for individuals who’d completed requirements set through her mental health docket. (In Virginia, there are no mental health courts, only dockets.) Judge Snee has been a champion in overseeing this important tool in our county’s jail diversion efforts. Circuit Court Chief Justice Penney S. Azcarate first opened the door by establishing a veterans’ docket. Both should be commended.

Jeffrey C. McKay, chair of the Board of Supervisors, recently highlighted other steps the country is taking to improve mental health and substance abuse services. (See below) McKay has done a masterful job in building on a foundation that his predecessors, Chair Sharon Bulova and Supervisor John C. Cook, established.

Not surprisingly, Sheriff Stacey A. Kincaid continues to be a driving force in pushing the county forward. She was a crucial in launching the county’s Diversion First program, is nationally recognized as a proponent of the Stepping Up Initiative, and has implemented dozens of meaningful changes at the adult detention center, such as offering tele-psychiatry services in the jail. She changed the jail’s long standing policy of releasing inmates at 12:01 a.m., shifting discharge to 8 a.m., a time when transportation, shelter, medical care and other community resources are more readily available. Since 2016, she has invited NAMI support groups into the jail six times a year. She routinely talks to parents and spouses who are concerned about an incarcerated loved one with a mental illness and/or substance abuse problem.

Those of us who live in Fairfax County should be grateful for Chair McKay, the board, Judges Snee and Azcarate, the CSB’s Daryl Washington, and especially Sheriff Kincaid.

Now, if we can only do something about securing affordable housing and increasing access to treatment beds.

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Peg’s Foundation Honors Mental Health Heroes: Compass Award For Lifetime Advocacy

Pictured Front row, L to R: James K. Tudhope, DNP, Wendy Umberger PhD, PMHCNS-BC, Barbara Drew, PhD, Kent State University College of Nursing Back row: Nelson Freed; David D. Baker, PhD; Mia Klinger, Ballet Excel Ohio; and Pete Earley

(11-23-21) News Release From Peg’s Foundation. For immediate release.

On November 11, 2021, Peg’s Foundation recognized individuals and organizations bringing remarkable value to the community.

During the awards presentation in Rootstown, Ohio, Rick Kellar, Peg’s Foundation President, stated “Tonight’s recipients are not only our partners, but our family.” He emphasized that the work of these remarkable individuals and organizations is changing lives every day. “It is the power of partnerships advancing the foundation’s mission and vision and creating lasting impact!”

2021 Compass Award winner Pete Earley spent his career dedicated to helping people with serious mental illness and improving the systems that serve them. A former reporter for The Washington Post, he is best-known for his nonfiction book, CRAZY: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness, one of two finalists for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize, and winner of awards from the American Psychiatric Association, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Mental Health America. Earley said his work promotes, “fixing a system that can be fixed and realizing that it costs more to jail people or institutionalize them, and that it costs more to let people throw their lives away than it does to help them.”

As a journalist he holds people accountable, elevates our national dialogue to what “should be,” and lifts mental illness out of the shadows, creating a vision on how to best support individuals and families impacted by mental illness. Earley stated, “The biggest thing we have to do for someone who has mental illness, I believe, is give them hope.”

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