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From: "Mental Illness Policy Org" <office@mentalillnesspolicy.org>
Subject: Mental Illness: NY, CA, TN, National
Date: June 14th 2011

Mental Illness Policy Org.
June 13, 2011 Update

  1. California
  2. Tennessee
  3. New York
  4. SAMHSA (National)
California was ordered by the Supreme Court to reduce it's prison population by 33,000. In National Review Online, Mary Ann Bernard proposes how they do that in three steps.
  1. Implement Assisted Outpatient Treatment (Laura's Law) statewide and evaluate any mentally ill prisoners being released to see if they meet the qualifications.
  2. Reform civil commitment standards so help can be offered before individuals become danger, rather than after.
  3. Focus their mental health funding (Prop 63/Mental Health Services Act) on the most seriously ill as opposed to the highest functioning.

Basically her proposal amounts to unincarcerating people with serious mental illness by returning their care to the mental health system once the system has been changed so it puts the most seriously ill at the front of the line, rather than the back. You can see a summary of her proposal on Huffington Post or read the complete article at National Review Online.

Dan Morain wrote an excellent article on mental Illness and civil commitment in Sacramento Bee that points out that reforming funding would also help. California charges counties $184,000 a year to treat mentally ill non-criminals in the state hospital. But if the same individual commits a crime and is found incompetent to stand trial or not guilty by reason of insanity, the state picks up the entire cost of hospital care. So the counties wait until a crime has been committed.

There's a video posted by Nevada County, California that shows how Assisted Outpatient Treatment has saved them $500,000 a year, improved care for people with mental illness, and kept the public safer.

Advocates to improve care for people with mental illness have been organizing to implement Assisted Outpatient Treatment in TN in the wake of new instances of violence that may have been caused by people with untreated mental illness. Unfortunately, the TN Mental Health Association prefers the status quo arguing that no one should be allowed treatment if they are too sick to recognize their need for it.

Eliminate SAMHSA (Nationwide)
Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, the nation's leading schizophrenia researcher wrote a piece in National Review (hard copy only) calling for the elimination of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA). Dr. Torrey notes that SAMHSA has forsaken helping improve care for people with serious mental illness in favor of a mission that focuses on nothing in particular. In addition to not helping people with mental illness, SAMHSA actually funds groups that oppose allowing people so psychotic they don't know they need treatment from being treated. He cites SAMHSA funding of the Protection and Advocacy programs, and organizations of professional consumers like the National Empowerment Center, Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers Association, and many others. Because his article is in hard copy only, I wrote a synopsis on Huffington Post. Here's my own favorite SAMHSA "mental illness prevention tool"

Carla Jacobs continues to lead California efforts at reform.

New York
The New York legislative session is ending this week or next, and in spite of having 45 sponsors in Assembly and huge public support it doesn't look good for Kendra's Law Improvement Act (A6987/S4881). (See summary of provisions and research on effectiveness.) The Kendra's Law Improvement Act still hasn't been taken up by the mental health committees.

OMH continues efforts to defeat the bill. Ignoring all research, Dr. Lloyd Sederer, OMH Medical Director said it bluntly in Huffington Post, "We don't need more outpatient commitment". Dr. Sederer has previously acknowledged OMH wastes up to $665 million and responsible for the OMH "Fail First" policy that prevents people with serious mental illness from getting the best medications until they fail on others.

Editorial boards continue to ask mental health committee to help. Here are the new ones this week.

Newsday's editorial was titled, "Reasons to widen Kendra's Law" and notes that the bills provision make this proven program more widely available.

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle and Poughkeepsie Journal both ran editorials urging the mental health committee and legislature to pass the bill. The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle also ran a moving op-ed by Ione Christian, the former President of NAMI/NYS in support of Kendra's Law. (See NAMI/NYS Policy)

Buffalo News ran a letter to the editor from Buffalo area consumer leader, Marsha Mann, that corrected falsehoods spread by a professional consumer. 81% of consumers support AOT. Some professional consumers are trying to position the fact that Kendra's Law is racially neutral as evidence that it is not.

Please Share Widely
Thank you for all you do.

DJ Jaffe
Mental Illness Policy Org
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