Sunday, December 16, 2012

Society is Paying the Price

Families and doctors who treat the mentally ill say they hope that Friday's tragedy in Newtown, Conn., will refocus the nation's attention on improving mental health services. Police have not yet released details about the motives or mental state of shooter Adam Lanza. But the perpetrators of similar mass murders -- at Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois University and a Tucson gathering for Rep. Gabby Giffords, for example -- all suffered from serious mental health conditions. "We wait for things like this to happen and then everyone talks about mental health," says Priscilla Dass-Brailsford, an associate professor of psychology in the psychiatry department at Georgetown University Medical Center. "But they quickly forget." There are hundreds of multiple-casualty shootings every year, says forensic psychologist Dewey Cornell, director of the Virginia Youth Violence Project. People have become so desensitized to the horror, however, that they pay no attention. FULL COVERAGE: Nation mourns the victims of the Conn. school shooting STORY: Sandy Hook victims mourned for lives cut short "It's gotten to the point where only the ones with high body counts make the news," he says. "It takes a record number, or something extraordinary, to get our attention." Yet mental illness destroys countless lives everyday, he says, contributing to domestic violence and child abuse, drug addiction, homelessness and incarceration. Investing in mental health care and reducing its stigma could help prevent future tragedies, he says. "Mental health has shrunk down to the level of short-term crisis management," Cornell says. "If we are going to focus on prevention, we can't think about the gunman in the parking lot and what to do with him. We have to get involved a lot earlier." Schools and communities "have cut their mental health services to the bone," says Cornell. "We're paying a price for it as a society."
Well said and thanks Mr. Freeman TURN OFF THE NEWS....... Morgan Freeman's brilliant take on what happened yesterday : "You want to know why. This may sound cynical, but here's why. It's because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single *victim* of Columbine? Disturbed people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he'll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody. CNN's article says that if the body count "holds up", this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another. Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening. Fox News has plastered the killer's face on all their reports for hours. Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer's identity? None that I've seen yet. Because they don't sell. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you've just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day care center or a maternity ward next. You can help by forgetting you ever read this man's name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem. You can help by turning off the news."

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Nauseating situation in CT

I haven't posted here for a while because I thought it was becoming redundant. But how sad and actually nauseating that still more tiny, innocent lives have been lost due to another mental illness. Call it "Black Swan Syndrome" or Asperger's Autism, we need to do a better job with the mentally ill in America. Countless numbers now are "Victims" of mental illness. All family members, the mentally ill person, and the ones who are killed and their families, are who the victims are. Who are the victims? We all are. I would like to see the research on Asperger's on the per cent who may be violent. Having been a Special Ed. teacher for many years, I have worked with Asperger's and I am sure it is not classified as a mental illness. So for the CT shootings, this man, had a severe undiagnosed illness. Most mental illness manifests itself in early to mid 20 year old range. If you look at the past history of the shootings it is young males in that age group. They need more attention, caring counselors, and better means of diagnosing mental illness. Then, when they have been diagnosed by a qualified medical professional, they need to be monitored and have assistance with maintaining the mental illness. The homeless man who made the news after the police officer bought and gave him a pair of shoes; was on the street by choice according to his family. A typical human does not choose to live on the street. That man, in my opinion, probably has a mental illness as well.This is not a gun control issue, this is an issue of mental illness in America. If we can sit for hours and listen to the news report incessantly on this horrific event; even read how the shooter shot those poor babies multiple times at close range; then read and listen to what goes on in a double lock down mental illness ward. If you can stomach the news all day of this event, then lets talk about the "real" world of mental illness. How there is a reason why they are placed in double lock down padded areas. From my experience it is when their mania is out of control and the delusions have taken over. They destroy things, walk around naked, pass their waste on the floor and throw it on the walls. Yes America it does exist that way. But, then with proper counseling and medication and therapy, their mania subsides and they can leave the double lock down are and join the general population in the single lock down area. And after some more counseling, medication and therapy they rejoin the "outside" world, go back to work and are contributing members of a tax-paying society.No one wants to talk about that, don't want to address the reality of it. We all talk about how something needs to be done. Let's talk about solutions, not just state the obvious.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Needs to be Monitored

This is again the story that I hate to hear about, mentally ill, brilliant mind, not on meds. These people do not deserve to be shot dead, but they should be monitored, if diagnosed by a medical doctor, and they choose to not take the prescribed medicine, then they should be asked to be monitored by professionals before their mania and delusions get out of control. This is again a needless death due to a severe mental illness that was not being treated with meds. because the patient chose to not take the prescribed medicine. I feel the pain of the family as I am sure they stood on the sidelines with their hands tied by laws that will not allow them to interfere with the choices their loved one chose to make in his manic/delusional frame of mind.

Officer cleared in Henry Co. fatal shooting
A prosecutor said police were justified in shooting the man, who had a mental illness but stopped taking medication.

After Donald Barry Minter pulled a hunting knife at a Kroger supermarket, after he charged police officers in the parking lot, after he led them on a high-speed chase, after he swung his knife once again when stun guns failed to stop him, a Martinsville police officer had no choice but to shoot him dead.

That was the conclusion released Monday by Henry County Commonwealth's Attorney Bob Bushnell.

In a detailed, five-page chronology of the events of April 29, Bushnell wrote that Officer Douglas Graham was "completely justified" in shooting Minter. The decision also explained how Minter, a 61-year-old former lab technician for the city of Martinsville, was driven to his death by severe mental illness.

"In a less sophisticated era, it would have been said that he was possessed by demons," Bushnell wrote.

Minter's brother, David Minter of Axton, said Monday that he understands the prosecutor's decision not to charge Graham or three other officers involved in the confrontation.

Donald Minter had struggled with mental illness most of his life, his brother said, but became "unable to deal with reality" several years ago when he stopped taking his medication.

"He had a brilliant mind," David Minter said of his brother. "But he also had schizophrenia and was bi-polar and manic depressive."

Both Minter and Bushnell said the case illustrates a need in Virginia for legislation that would enhance monitoring of mental health patients who, for whatever reason, refuse to take their medication -- posing a threat to themselves and others.

Bushnell's decision came after a state police investigation of the shooting. From more than 40 witness interviews, hundreds of documents and video surveillance from the grocery store and the officers' patrol cars, Bushnell put together the following, uncontested narrative:

At about 11:30 on the morning of April 29, Minter and his elderly mother showed up at the Kroger store on Commonwealth Boulevard, where they were well-known as regular shoppers who took pains to avoid black cashiers.

If all of the cashiers on duty were black, the Minters would return their items to the shelves and leave empty-handed. But on this particular day, after arguing with his mother, Minter shopped alone and wound up in a checkout line staffed by a black woman.

He became angry when told he owed about $65, saying his items were worth no more than $40. When the cashier picked up the telephone to call a manager, Minter grabbed the cord and sliced it with a bone-handled hunting knife.

He then placed two $20 bills on the counter and left with his groceries.

A few minutes later, when police arrived, Minter was loading his groceries into the trunk of his car. He charged at the first police cruiser on the scene, repeatedly stabbing the driver's side window so hard the knife left scratches on the glass.

Minter then ran back to his car, unaffected by a second officer's attempt to stop him with high-voltage Taser darts.

After a short struggle, and another failed Taser shot, Minter sped away. Running red lights, he led police on a chase that took them north on Virginia Avenue at speeds of up to 80 mph.

Minter's car was eventually rammed by a police cruiser and came to a stop along a chain link fence. He then scrambled out of the passenger's side window and ran off. Graham and fellow officer Anita Sowers chased after him.

After getting within 15 feet of her suspect, Sowers yelled at him to stop or she would fire her Taser. When she did, it had no effect on Minter, who then whirled around and rushed at her with his knife raised.

"Graham saw what was happening and, fearing that Minter had already cut Sowers with the knife, fired a single shot with his .45-caliber pistol at Minter's midsection," Bushnell wrote.

Minter fell to the ground, still grasping his knife. He died a short time later.

Had Graham held his fire or even hesitated, Sowers would have been injured or killed, the prosecutor said.

Investigators were unable to determine why Minter was unaffected by the Taser shots, which either missed him or malfunctioned.

As part of his review, Bushnell spoke to family members, who described Minter as a quiet and peaceful man when on his prescribed drugs. But without them, he became paranoid and aggressive.

"We all agree that Donald Minter died not because he was a bad man, but because he was a sick man whose failure to take his medications resulted in conduct that gave the police no option but to shoot him," Bushnell wrote.

Despite his struggles with mental illness, Donald Minter earned a degree in biology from Virginia Commonwealth University and spent about 25 years as a lab technician working at Martinsville's water and sewer treatment plant.

As he grew older, Minter's mental condition deteriorated to the point that he believed he no longer needed treatment, his brother said.

Bushnell said he hopes the incident will spur a new law in Virginia to require closer monitoring of people who, like Minter, become dangerous when they go off their medication.

Up to 60 percent of people with Minter's diagnosis have anosognosia, a neurological condition in which they cannot acknowledge they are mentally ill, according to Aileen Kroll, legislative and policy counsel for the Treatment Advocacy Center, an Arlington-based organization that works for better treatment of the mentally ill. Failure to take medication is a common symptom of anosognosia.

Virginia is one of 44 states that have an outpatient treatment system that is considered an effective way of ensuring that mental patients take their medications.

But according to Kroll, the criteria for those who fall under Virginia's system is too restrictive, and gaps in supervision are common.

"There are people who will argue that Virginia can't do better because of the fiscal crisis, but frankly, how can we afford not to?" Kroll said. Until the state does more to improve its understaffed mental health system, critics say, there will always be another case like the one of Donald Minter.

"He's gone," David Minter said of his brother. "But let's help somebody else who is going through this."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Worth Watching

There has to be a compromise in the middle between the dark ages when we locked up our mentally ill and the current system that treats with no mandatory follow up. This offers both sides an alternative, let's see where this goes. I like where it says incentives for compliance(or co-operation with the prescribed medical plan) and sanctions for non-compliance.

Thornton: A court for mental illnes

History will be made in Colorado's 18th Judicial District this week when Colorado's first districtwide adult Mental Health Court will convene to hear the case of "Robert," age 37.

Robert has bipolar disorder. He frequently goes off his medication, hasn't followed through with treatment plans, has attempted suicide, and has been hospitalized three times. He has several prior convictions for shoplifting, violating restraining orders and resisting arrest. Now he says he wants to figure out a better way to live, and has volunteered for the Mental Health Court.

The court is a specialized treatment court similar to others used in Colorado for drug users and teen offenders. It's designed to divert nonviolent felony offenders who have a serious mental illness such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or major depression, as well as those with a combination of mental illness and substance abuse. It is not open to those with violent behavior or to sex offenders.

Most of the people who'll come before the court have been repeatedly in and out of jail. They've been charged with minor offenses that result from their mental illness, things like being a public nuisance, drinking in public, and shoplifting. They're charged with a felony because of the cost of items they've stolen or damaged. Usually they have been off their medications because they can't afford them, and live in and out of shelters.

Defendants who volunteer for the court are assessed for eligibility by a team that includes the Mental Health Court magistrate, the coordinator of the court, a treatment professional, and representatives of the district attorney's and public defender's offices.

Each participant will have an intensive treatment plan, including case management and medications, and will be closely monitored by probation officers and mental health professionals. Treatment addresses the mental illness, recurring substance abuse and criminal thinking. There will be incentives for compliance, and sanctions for non-compliance that may include re-sentencing.

The need for such a court is compelling in both human and fiscal terms:

• Approximately 250,000 people with severe mental illness are in U.S. prisons and jails at any given time.

• It costs about $30,000 to keep a person in a Colorado prison for a year.

• More than 40 percent of inmates in Arapahoe and Douglas county jails need mental health services and 20 percent of those are seriously mentally ill.

• Over the last three years, Arapahoe County alone has spent $13.6 million on 574 inmates with a diagnosis of serious mental illness. It costs 38 percent more to detain a mentally ill inmate.

• While the average prisoner stays 20 days in a metro-area jail, prisoners who are mentally ill stay an average 110 to 120 days.

• The recidivism rate of mentally ill inmates is staggering, at more than 50 percent.

The process of establishing the 18th Judicial District Mental Health Court began in 2007. Funded initially by a $75,000 federal planning grant, the court is now set to begin operations with additional federal funding of $200,000.

The court expects to see 30 cases this first year. Scott Thoemke, CEO of Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network, said the cases "should provide good data to show that the mental health court is less expensive than what Colorado is doing now" with the mentally ill.

Given the crisis in Colorado's budget, the staggering cost of the state's criminal justice system and the large numbers of people with mental illness in Colorado jails, taxpayers should be eager to support investment in additional mental health courts.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Another "Probably not taking his medicine"

It is always about the medicine, isn't it.

It took Cincinnati Police just over 24-hours to apprehend a suspect in Tuesday's fatal stabbing of 93-year-old Ida Martin of Roselawn.

When James House, III was finally in custody Wednesday night, detectives realized it wasn't the first time their paths had crossed.

What emerged from court records stirred angry emotions from people from Roselawn to Golf Manor.

House was arrested in 1998 for allegedly stabbing three different Roselawn women. Only one case made it to trial, but House was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He spent 10 years in treatment and was released in 2008.

In the Martin case, House is charged with murder. His bond was set at $1 million Thursday in Hamilton County Municipal Court.

Martin was stabbed four times while on her daily walk her her Summit Road apartment. Police said the trail led to House because of good investigative work, information from witnesses and evidence gathered at the scene. A steak knife was among the items recovered.

After leaving Summit Behavioral Center last year, House moved into a second floor apartment in the 2400 block of Losantiville Road in Golf Manor.

Neighbor Joe Dunham said House acted strangely and was a loner who didn't interact with anyone.

"You'd see him once or twice a week," Dunham stated. "You'd say 'How you doing?' He'd just keep walking with his headphones on -- like he had tunnel vision."

Cincinnati Police needed the assistance of officers from Golf Manor and the Hamilton County SWAT team to take House into custody Wednesday night.

"The guy wouldn't come out," said Dunham. "I let them know I seen him moving upstairs -- heard some footsteps -- that he was there."

Dunham said he was terrified to learn of House's prior criminal record and history of mental illness. That's because Dunham's mother lives with him.

"I was thinking about my mother. What would have happened if I wasn't there," he reflected. "Thinking about my neighbors. They're both ladies in an elderly fashion."

Attorney Peter Rosenwald represented House in 1998 and said when he was taking his required medicines he was a cooperative client.

"Most people with mental illness are never cured," Rosenwald added. "They're treated. It's controlled through medicine and therapy."

People might wonder why House was released back into the community. Rosenwald said under the law the maximum time he could be kept in treatment was 10 years -- the same sentence he could have gotten for attempted murder.

Asked why his former client might have committed another serious crime, Rosenwald said he could only speculate.

"My thinking is he probably was not taking his meds," he theorized. "I think the mental illness came back on him."

Roselawn community leaders questioned how House could have been judged mentally healthy enough to return to the population at-large.

"Justice will be served -- this time," said Minister Nate Mobley of the Powerhouse Deliverance Center Ministries. "I think it should have been closely looked at the first time.."

"We were just shocked and amazed that it was the same person who had some clinical treatment," said Michael Watson of the Roselawn Community Council. "Evidently, it didn't work."

However, Watson refused to blame the system for House's release. His bigger worry is people in the community stepping up to help stop crime.

"All I can be concerned about is people who saw it happen and didn't do anything. People who saw it happen and didn't say anything. People who had their windows open and closed their window," he said.

Both Watson and Mobley said a crime like Martin's death could happen in any neighborhood.

"We don't want to be looked at or viewed as a place that's not a good place to reside," Mobley pleaded.

Martin's family issued a statement Thursday which read, in part, "Our family is truly appreciative of the Roselawn community and all those who assisted in the quick arrest of Ida Martin's alleged assailant. This is now in the hands of the justice system. Our family will continue to cope with the loss by by honoring and cherishing the loving memories of Ida."

Friday, October 9, 2009

Another Lost Soul

This poor mentally ill man has been in solitary confinement for years. Who would ever think that solitary confinement would ever be a treatment for severe mental illness? I do not have a mental illness, but I am sure I would create one if you placed me in solitary confinement for years. Where is it stated in the medical journals that confinement is a possible plan for treatment? I still want to blame the liberal laws on this one as well. Why was this man not getting and/or accepting medical treatment before his illness got so severe that all they knew to do or wanted to do with him was arrest and confine? I know that his is not the only story of mentally ill in our prison system. Obama can go after that, in my opinion, rather than some of the other things he has on his agenda.

Critics: Tamms has harmed man's mental condition

Will Tamms supermax prison inmate Donnie White be among the inmates considered for possible transfer after spending years in solitary confinement? That may depend on how corrections officials view his mental state.

Critics believe the strict discipline and isolation White has undergone at the Tamms Correctional Center for the past seven years may have made his severe mental illness, diagnosed in prison a decade ago, worse.

But mental health professionals at Tamms concluded last year that White, 35, no longer is mentally ill and deserves the punishment he's receiving for continued bizarre behavior, ranging from suicide attempts to setting himself on fire.

In September, Illinois Department of Corrections Director Michael Randle released a 10-point plan to reform conditions at Tamms, the state's only supermax prison. Among those reforms: 45 of the prison's 250 inmates are eligible for review to determine whether they should be moved out of Tamms.

It's not clear whether White will be one of them.

"Donnie White should never have been sent there in the first place, and now he has suffered years of sustained, unrelenting trauma as a result," said Laurie Jo Reynolds, a member of the Chicago-based Tamms Year Ten Committee that has advocated for reforms at Tamms. "Prisoners like him need protection from the (Department of Corrections), not the other way around.

"If there is any real commitment to reform, we expect Donnie White to be transferred immediately," she said.

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Januari Smith said federal medical privacy laws prevented her from making any comment about White's case. It's not clear what guidelines were used to determine whether an inmate is eligible for review and transfer.

Randle put the number of seriously mentally ill inmates at Tamms at 15, or 6 percent. A 2006 U.S. Department of Justice report of state prisons surveyed nationally put the figure at 15 to 23 percent.

White may be unique, though, among inmates at Tamms who have extensive histories of severe mental illness.

Prison medical records obtained by the Belleville News-Democrat show an unusual progression: White went from being "acutely mentally ill" in 1998 to not being mentally ill in 2008. During the 10-year interval, he was given powerful psychotropic medications, sometimes forcibly administered, intensive therapy and an emergency transfer for a few months to the prison system's Dixon Psychiatric Unit.

But in 2003, when prison officials sent him to Tamms after he had 15 years added to his original sentence for in-prison convictions -- throwing urine and feces at guards at another prison -- a Corrections Department psychologist wrote that the years of therapy and drugs did nothing to help White.

The evaluation stated, "Behaviors exhibited by Mr. White include setting fire to self ... attempting to hang self with numerous items, smearing feces on self and cell, banging fist on floors, stomping on hand and other self-injurious behaviors."

The evaluation reported that White still exhibited symptoms of serious mental illness.

He then was sent to Tamms, where he has been in solitary confinement for nearly seven years.

Although his suicide attempts and self-mutilation continued and medications didn't work, an April 10, 2008, mental evaluation of White stated, "Inmate White does not suffer from mental illness." It concluded that White engaged in "antics" and "appears to view staff, especially female mental health providers, as a vehicle for his own entertainment."

Randle has defended the practice of treatment seriously mentally ill prisoners at Tamms, which features solitary confinement as a mainstay.

Holley McCree, who has a master's degree in social work and counsels mentally ill patients in Minnesota, has corresponded with White for more than five years. She said that while she cannot make a professional diagnosis without examining White, she said that from his letters and medical and personal history, "I feel he is misdiagnosed."

McCree said White's original diagnosis of "major depression with psychotic features" should be re-examined and post traumatic stress disorder should also be considered.

"The reason I write Donnie and other mentally ill (Tamms) inmates is because they so obviously need some help, some caring and compassion," she said.

"Tamms inmates need time out of the cell, and the ability to socialize with other inmates without a steel door between them. They suffer tremendously. No one would rationally choose to live in the circumstances at Tamms," McCree said.

Alexandra H. Smith of the Mental Health Project at the Urban Justice Center in New York City said while any mental health therapy is better than none at all, "The tension of trying to provide treatment for people in a punitive setting, I don't know how successful that can be. I think it really sends a strong message to any human being who is shackled and in a cage. ... I think that sends a message that chaining someone like an animal is not rehabilitative."