Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Monday, February 27, 2012

Stop NYS Psychiatric Hospital Closures

Stop NYS Psychiatric Hospitals

(The following Mental Illness Policy Org. op-ed appeared in 2/23/12 NY Daily News and is available at
The recently proposed closure of Kingsboro Psychiatric Center in Brooklyn looks like the latest step by the New York State Office of Mental Health to get out of the business of providing treatment to people with serious mental illness.
We should all worry deeply about the consequences of this policy shift.
In the past two months, the Office of Mental Health has announced it is “reducing census” — i.e., kicking many of the mentally ill out — at the Bronx, Mohawk Valley and Sagamore psychiatric centers. These came on top of previously announced ward closings at the Rockland, Pilgrim, Mid-Hudson Forensic, Hudson River and Buffalo psychiatric centers. The bureaucrats insist that when these people can no longer get help at such facilities, they’ll get the same services elsewhere.
The truth is, some will. But most won’t.
As someone with a mentally ill relative, I know the let-’em-loose policy is cruel to people with mental illness, who desperately need and want treatment.But it’s also dangerous to the public. According to the Daily News, late last month, “a 25-year-old mentally ill Brooklyn man stabbed his mother and kid brother and beat them with a hammer.”
Near where the Buffalo Psychiatric Center reduced beds, 6,300 homes experienced a blackout when a mentally ill man recently released from another facility used a chain saw to cut down utility poles. Near where the Rockland Psychiatric Center reduced beds, police rescued a suicidal mentally ill man who was off medications, barricaded in his home and brandishing a pellet gun.
And earlier this month, between where the Rockland and Hudson River psychiatric centers reduced beds, police shot and killed mentally ill Tim Mulqueen after he brought a loaded shotgun and 50 rounds of ammunition to court.
When will this madness end?
New York went from 599 psychiatric beds per 100,000 citizens in 1955 down to 28 in recent years. The new closures will take us even lower.
All this means the state is simply transferring the seriously ill to the criminal justice system. New York currently incarcerates 14,000 people with serious mental illness — largely because the Office of Mental Health, the agency that should be helping these people, has beds for only 3,600. There are more mentally ill in a single jail, Rikers Island, than in all state hospitals combined.
The most conservative estimates are that if New York had the best community services available — and we don’t — it would still need 4,311 more hospital beds to meet the minimum needs of seriously mentally ill New Yorkers.
A study released late last year on homeland security and mental illness by Chief Michael Biasotti, vice president of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, found law enforcement is being overwhelmed by a “policy change that in effect removed the daily care of our nation’s severely mentally ill population from the medical community and placed it with the criminal justice system.”
One would think ensuring the seriously mentally ill get treatment would be the core mission of the Office of Mental Health. But it hasn’t been ever since Michael Hogan was appointed commissioner in 2007. His stated goal is to “create hope-filled, humanized environments and relationships in which people can grow” — not to get medications to the seriously mentally ill.
One can understand what drives his hospital closure policy: It saves OMH money. But it is far harder to understand how Gov. Cuomo doesn’t recognize the negative impact on the criminal justice budget, on people with serious mental illness and on public safety as a whole.
Jaffe has a family member with mental illness and is executive director of Mental Illness Policy Org.

Read more:

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Jan/Feb. Update

National News

SAMHSA estimated the number of mentally ill as 1 in 5, but an analysis by Mental Illness Policy Org. found out the report left out 500,000 individuals who are incarcerated, institutionalized or homeless. SAMHSA has a long history of ignoring the most severely ill, so this was not surprising.

A recent California court ruling limits some mentally ill from representing themselves in court. This is important and hopefully will spread to other states. Ex. In NYS, mentally ill Colin Ferguson was sentenced to 315 years in prison after shooting 19 on the Long Island railroad and representing himself in court while psychotic.

Dr. Richard Lamb wrote in a Psychiatric Journal on meeting the needs of mentally ill who are likely to be incarcerated.

For best info on Bipolar, subscribe to Bipolar News. It's free.

On 1/25, the Dr. Oz show ran a terrific piece on electroconvulsive therapy (ECT, a/k/a "shock' (sic)) that featured people who got their lives back as a result of the treatment. Members of the consumertocracy tried to have the show cancelled. At the same time the NY Times ran an op-ed by someone else crediting ECT for their recovery and a consumer who is writing one of the best blogs around wrote on it too.

A court decision suggests preventing people with mental illness from owning handguns may not pass constitutional muster.

USA Today ran a letter by Mental Illness Policy Org answering a professional consumer who wrote an op-ed in the paper with misinformation.

This is a stellar series on the seminal Lessard case in which the Supreme Court ruled on both the dangerousness standard and due-process for people with mental illness. It was followed up with a brilliant op-ed by Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, author, Surviving Schizophrenia. 

Jared Loughner was found incompetent to stand trial in the death of Gabrielle Giffords, raising the question, "Should we be allowed to medicate people to make them competent to stand trial?" The new edition of Dr. Torrey's, The Insanity Offense, includes an epilogue describing Loughner's history and the failure to treat him and he talked about that in an interview with Salon Magazine. This book is highly recommended for anyone who cares about the treatment of the most seriously ill.

"Anatomy of an Epidemic"by Robert Whitaker has received glowing reviews by people who don't believe mental illness exists, but it has numerous faults which were pointed out in this Huffington Post book review.Also read this blog by a woman with bipolar disorder who is coming under attack for standing up to consumertocracy.


Great consumer blogger writing on legal issues faced by people with mental illness in AZ.


Bill to extend Laura's Law introduced. Laura's Law is California's Assisted Outpatient Treatment Law. You can learn more about it at our new Laura's Law site at and in this op-ed by Carla Jacobs.

There were incidents of violence involving people with mental illness in Anaheim, Kern County and elsewhere as a result of the failure to implement Laura's Law. Orange County Mental Health Director continues working to prevent implementation of Laura's Law in his county: 

In 2004, via Proposition 63, Californians passed the Mental Health Services (MHSA) act, a millionaires tax specifically to fund services for people with 'serious' mental illness. According to our ongoing monitoring, the counties and provider-community accepted the funding but not the requirement to spend it on people with serious mental illness. Mental Illness Policy Org., Exec. Dir. DJ Jaffe wrote on the waste for Capital Weekly, Mental Illness Policy Org Counsel Mary Ann Bernard wrote on it for California Progress Report and another article on same subject was published by a Whistleblower

Gary Tsai wrote a great op-ed about other problems affecting mentally ill in California in Sacramento Bee


Pastor argues against closing state psychiatric hospital 


Plans move ahead to close Taunton Hospital and leaving people with mental illness who need inpatient care without any.

New Jersey

NJ issued an RFP for those interested in starting an Assisted Outpatient Treatment program.

New York

New York has an agency (Commission on Quality of Care-CQC) that is supposed to monitor the quality of care for people with mental illness. It also administers the Protection and Advocacy Program which is supposed to help get care to people with mental illness. Mental Illness policy Org testified that CQC has ignored every important issue affecting the most seriously ill (incarceration, homelessness, lack of hospital beds, etc.) and P&A uses the money it receives from NYS to prevent treatment for people with mental illness. 

Barricaded man in Stony Brook off meds for bipolar

Washington, DC/Virginia/Maryland

DC Bar Magazine did an article on mental illness law that extensively quoted DJ Jaffe of Mental Illness Policy Org. Unfortunately, the author also quoted from a professional consumer who believes mental illness does not exist.

Baltimore Sun ran a great letter "Mentally Ill Should Not Have To Commit Crime To Get Treatment"

Pete Earley, author of "Crazy" about incarcerating mentally ill writes a great blog on national and local issues in Virginia. Most, not all posts are about mental illness.


Court rules incompetent patients are being kept incarcerated too long before they are moved to treatment.

Washington State

Mentally ill man sets fire to police car to bring attention to poor state of mental health system