Thursday, May 23, 2013

Representative Tim Murphy Calls out SAMHSA For Failure to Help Seriously Mentally Ill

Opening Statement of the Honorable Tim Murphy Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Hearing on “Examining SAMHSA’s Role in Delivering Services to the Severely Mentally Ill”
May 22, 2013
(As Prepared for Delivery)

Since I became the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, shortly after the December 14, 2012, elementary school shootings in Newtown, we began looking into the federal programs and resources devoted to mental health and mental illness. We did so to ensure federal dollars devoted to mental health are reaching those individuals with serious mental illness and helping them obtain the most effective care.

One lesson we must immediately draw from the Newtown tragedy is that we need to make it our priority to get those with serious mental illnesses, who are not presently being treated, into sound, evidence- based treatments.

In 2009, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that about 11 million U.S. adults had serious mental illness, and 40 percent of these individuals did not receive treatment. While the vast majority of individuals with a mental health condition are nonviolent, Director of the National Institute for Mental Health, Dr. Thomas Insel, told this subcommittee at our March 5 public forum that effective treatments, which include medication adherence and evidence-based psychosocial therapy, can reduce the risk of violent behavior fifteen-fold in persons with serious mental illness.

Getting these individuals into treatment is a crucial first task and SAMHSA, as the federal agency whose mission includes reducing the impact of mental illness on America’s communities, should be playing a central role in this effort. But based on our work to date, SAMHSA has not made the treatment of the seriously mentally ill a priority. In fact, I’m afraid serious mental illness such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder may not be a concern at all to SAMHSA.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Mental Illness Policy Org has written on problems at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA).  The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held hearings 5/23/13 at which Dr. Fuller Torrey and Sally Satel testified. Their testimony is below.  Joe Bruce's testimony is in a separate blog. Torrey and Satel highlighted how SAMHSA fails to serve the most seriously mentally ill; how many of their programs actually harm people with serious mental illness and suggested SAMHSA make greater use of Assisted Outpatient Treatment. Joe Bruce described how SAMHSA funded lawyers 'freed' his son from a psychiatric hospital after which he killed his mother with a hatchet.

Joe Bruce Testimony to Congress: My Mentally Ill Son Killed my Wife:

Late one afternoon in June 2006, Joe Bruce of Caratunk, Maine, came home from work to find his wife dead. He called 911 and told the dispatcher that his 24-year-old schizophrenic son, William, had killed her, that he couldn't find the son, and that he was arming himself for self-defense. Below are excerpts from the transcript of that call made available to The Wall Street Journal.  Following that is Joe's 5/23/13 testimony to the House Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. They were holding hearings and Joe testified that SAMHSA funded the lawyers who 'freed' his son from the hospital, resulting in the killing of his wife.

'My Son Has Killed My Wife'

Caratunk, Maine, June 20, 2006, at 4:49 p.m.

Dispatcher: 911. What is the address of the emergency?
Mr. Bruce: My name is […] I live at […] in Caratunk. Um, my son has killed my wife, he is schizo -- completely out of his mind.
Dispatcher: Where is your wife now?
Mr. Bruce: She is in the bathtub, she is dead. I just came home from work, her car is gone. […] I don't believe anyone
has been here, there is no sign the neighbors are aware of anything going on. His name […]. He is 24 years old.
* * *
Dispatcher: How old is she?
Mr. Bruce: She's 48 years old. Please, please don't put this out over the scanner. Just send someone up somehow. Would you please just do me that favor?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Darrel Steinberg pseudo-support for Laura's Law

(Updated 9/3/13)

Urgent: Contact Governor Jerry Brown immediately (Sept. 2013) and urge him to sign SB 585 which will help clarify that Mental Health Services Act (Prop 63) funds may be used to fund Laura's Law.Phone: (916) 445-2841 Fax: (916) 558-3160 and use online contact form.


Laura's Law allows courts to order a small group of people who have serious mental illness and a history of dangerousness to stay in treatment as a condition of living in the community. It has reduced arrest, incarceration, hospitalization and length of hospitalization in the two counties that use Laura's Law.

Two Reasons Counties Haven't Implemented Laura's Law:

There are two reasons more counties don't implement Laura's Law. Three million dollars in Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) funds are going to Disability Rights California and they are using those funds to threaten to sue counties that use any MHSA funds to implement Laura's Law even though such expenditure is clearly allowed. Laura's Law requires county boards of supervisors to vote to implement Laura's Law and simultaneously certify that no voluntary programs will be cut to do it.

Steinberg initially promised to help:

 In reaction to widespread outrage that people were being denied access to MHSA funded programs

Monday, May 6, 2013

How to Fix New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH)

Testimony of DJ Jaffe, Executive Director, Mental Illness Policy Org
to NYS Office of Mental Health  
May 3, 2013, NYC

(Note: NYS OMH is the largest agency in the state ($3 billion) and still has no director. The acting director seems intent on following the failed policies of her predecessor which moved OMH from an organization dedicated to helping the most seriously ill, to one focused on "improving the mental health of all New Yorkers." She has stated unequivocally that she wants to close state psychiatric hospitals. NYS has fewer than 4,000 beds and probably 50% of those are for people unfit to stand trial, not guilty by reason of insanity, or were convicted and are mentally ill. -ed)

Thank you. We are a non-profit think tank providing unbiased science-based information to policymakers and media on serious mental illness, and not mental health. We are the only group in New York and one of only two in the country that is focused exclusively on those the NIMH defines as “seriously” mentally ill (primarily schizophrenia, the subset of bipolar disorder classified as “severe bipolar”, the subset of major depression called ‘severe major depression’ and a few others) In order to be considered serious, these diagnosis must be diagnosable currently or within the past year and continue to result in serious functional impairment, which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities in persons 17 years or older.

It is people with serious mental illness who are most likely to become homeless, incarcerated or a headline that stigmatizes the others. It is people with serious mental illness who are likely to commit suicide or become victimized.  

We have two recommendations for you:
  1. Prioritize the most seriously ill and
  2. Make greater use of Kendra’s Law, if for no other reason, than because you have to in order to comply with Olmstead.