Mental Health First Aid, A $20 Million Price Tag for Compassion

December 2nd, 2015 | Press Releases

What are the odds Gary Scheppke, a member of the Marin County Board of Mental Health, would happen to be on the Golden Gate Bridge with his newly obtained “mental health first aid” certificate in hand to stop a person from jumping? According to the San Jose Mercury News the odds were pretty good, as explained in its article: A surge in federal funding for Mental Health First Aid could make it as popular as CPR.

Getting beyond the bizarre bridge encounter and Scheppke’s relationship with the Marin County Board of Mental Health, let’s take a look at the comparison the article draws to CPR and Mental Health First Aid and then the $20 million federally funded “certificate.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a lifesaving technique useful in many emergencies, including heart attack or near drowning, in which someone’s breathing or heartbeat has stopped. The American Heart Association recommends that everyone — untrained bystanders and medical personnel alike — begin CPR with chest compressions.”

The Mayo Staff continues, “It’s far better to do something than to do nothing at all if you’re fearful that your knowledge or abilities aren’t 100 percent complete. Remember, the difference between your doing something and doing nothing could be someone’s life.”

The Mental Health First Aid eight-hour course reportedly provides skills to individuals on how to identify symptoms of mental illness, such as depression and how and when to intervene. According to Discovery’s executive director, Kathy Chierton, the course provides interactive and role-playing exercises that help participants empathize with people with mental disorders, “Often, says Chierton, “it can take a decade from when the first symptoms of mental illness show up to when people receive treatment, so early intervention is crucial.”

Let’s remember, though, that there is no objective test for diagnosing any alleged mental disorder – no X-ray, blood work, CAT scan. The diagnosis is completely subjective, based on a set of criteria voted into existence by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). According to the former head of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Thomas Insel, the problem with diagnosing mental illness, “it lacks validity.”

Despite the fact that psychiatric diagnosing is based in neither science or medicine, millions of dollars continue to funnel into mental health services, which largely consists of prescribing dangerous mind-altering drugs – often causing the very behaviors they allegedly “treat.”

For example, the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in which a mentally disturbed young man, Adam Lanza, killed 20 children and six adults was the rallying cry for President Obama to sign an executive order providing $20 million in federal funds for the Mental Health First Aid program.

However, according to the Connecticut state police investigation and the Connecticut Child Advocate’s “story” on Adam Lanza, from a very young age, Lanza received the best mental health money could buy. In fact according to the Hartford Courant report, the psychiatry department at Danbury Hospital performed mental health screening on Lanza and released him, concluding he was not a harm to himself or others. This is a clear indication that mental health screenings (diagnosing) are completely unreliable and, as NIMH Insel said, “lacks validity.”

It isn’t very often that someone can say they talked a person out of jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge but, according to San Jose Mercury News, Gary Scheppke, now that he has received the mental health first aid certificate, can identify mental illness when he sees it and act accordingly? Wow, that’s some miraculous training. Or, is it really just a case of one human being showing compassion to another. This compassion, though, comes with a $20 million price tag.

Presidential Executive Orders in Mental Health: A History of Failures

December 26th, 2013 | Breaking News

Numerous Presidential Executive orders and millions in appropriations for Mental Health in Connecticut have produced nothing but failure and may actually be harmful. Hundreds-of-millions more tax dollars have been promised with no hope of real change.   Despite the enormous amount of money being funneled into mental health, the big return seems to be little more than semantics – merely changing words rather than policy.

The State of Connecticut was one of 13 States to receive a federal “mental health transformation” grant under President Bush. The grant was issued as an executive order to “transform” the broken mental health system and was funded through 2010.  And, what was the return on the investment?  Connecticut suffers the largest mass murder/suicide in United States history within years of this “new improved mental health delivery system.”

Patricia Rehmer, the Commissioner of Mental Health in Connecticut, touts on her resume the fact she had oversight of the $13.7 million granted to Connecticut to then revamp the mental health delivery system.  Ablechild participated in all the committee hearings on that grant and called for disclosure to the consumer on the link between the increased risk of suicide, violence and psychiatric drugs.  Ablechild encouraged the State to educate the public on the MEDWATCH program, and to provide alternatives to psychiatric drugs and forced mental health services.  Ablechild also wrote to then Governor Rell requesting an accounting of how the funds were distributed and whether the public would be advised of the results. The Governor denied Ablechild’s request.

Despite tens-of-millions poured into the State’s mental health system with little or no accountability as to how those funds were spent, in the wake of Sandy Hook, President Obama has promised another $100 million thru an executive order to “make it easier to access mental health services.”  That’s great. But what happened to the $13.7 million from President Bush’s grant?

Are you doing the math?  Are you following the insane process?

On December 20, 2012, within weeks of the Sandy Hook shooting, Senator Scott Frantz stated on WCBS to Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau that mental health providers will get a “slight boost” in the wake of the shootings and will have no funding cuts despite the fact that, “it has not been determined if there was direct connection between that and the massacre.”

Recall that Lanza’s mental health, educational records, and full toxicology report are being withheld from the public by the state of Connecticut.

The push, apparently, is to use this $100 million dollars to improve access to mental health services. However, according to the Hartford Courant’s article of June 20, 2013, Adam Lanza’s Medical Records Reveal Growing Anxiety” Lanza did have access to mental health services for many years. Lanza had been “screened” and released as not being a harm to himself or others.

Ablechild is taking the lead in calling for Lanza’s records to be made public, which will be crucial during the upcoming Connecticut legislative session.  The goal is to protect public safety and stop the mismanagement of taxpayer funds.  Is the increased mental health helping or hurting the public? Not everyone is convinced that more money spent on mental health access will have a positive effect – at least, to date, the State cannot prove that the tens-of-millions spent so far has shown any improvement.

For example, Dr. Hank Schwarts, psychiatrist-in-chief of the Institute of Living in Hartford said in regard to mental health issues, “to write a report now, with what we have, would almost be embarrassing.”http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/editorials/hc-ed-state-police-drag-feet-on-newtown-report-20131224,0,6056179.story

 

NEWTOWN ONE YEAR LATER, THE MISSING LINK

December 13th, 2013 | Breaking News, Press Releases

In one of a long string of mass murders ending with the killer committing suicide, Sandy Hook, Newtown grabbed the attention of the entire world on December 14, 2012 when yet another mental health client went on a killing spree.

President Obama went to Newtown, Connecticut during the time families were mourning the loss of their children and before their burials.  The President took to the stage at the Newtown High School blocks from the deadly killings and delivered a powerful, moving heartfelt speech where he began to launch a very targeted campaign.  The President said, “We as a nation, we are left with some hard questions.”

As Steve Peoples from the Associated Press writes in his article, Year after Newtown, Gun control Groups keep hope”, “A divided Congress denied President Barack Obama’s calls for change.”  The Associated Press article describes the movement being led by President Obama.  What is not mentioned in the article, this political movement is being built on the backdrop of mourning parents, a failed investigation, a State unwilling to release the shooter’s mental health and special education records, with an incomplete release of a toxicology summary.

The AP report discloses a battle plan of a national operation backed by an alliance of well-funded organizations set up to pressure Congress ahead of next fall’s elections. The groups are sending dozens of paid staff into key states, enlisting thousands of volunteer activists preparing to spend tens of millions of dollars against politicians who stand in the way of their goals.

As the Cofounder of Ablechild, during a Fox News interview with Douglas Kennedy in the aftermath of the Red Lake massacre, Douglas Kennedy asked me, “What do you want?”  I responded, “A federal hearing into to link between psychiatric drugs and school shootings”.

We are not alone in asking the hard question. In Congresswoman Betty McCollum’s home district town hall meeting in Minnesota, again the same question, “What is the link to the shootings and the psychiatric drugs?”

The Congresswoman’s response is stunning. She said that the CDC, the Center for Disease Control, has a “rule” that prohibits the Congress from studying the link between psychiatric drugs and mass shootings. (video 39.30).

Is that true? No.

The CDC is a federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services.  It certainly doesn’t have the power of “rule” making over Congress.

Ablechild reached out for clarification to her office regarding her comments on this CDC rule.  We received back an article about President Obama and gun control that had nothing to do with our quest for clarification on the CDC rule.  We were asked to put our request in writing; we did and as of yet have not received a response.

Congresswoman McCollum’s home State of Minnesota on March 21, 2005 suffered a killing spree called the “Red Lake Massacre” that occurred in two places on the Ojibwa Red Lake reservation.

A 16 year old, Jeffrey Wiese killed his grandfather, a tribal police officer and his grandfather’s girlfriend at their home, before going to Red lake Senior High School where he killed seven people, and wounded five others, then committed suicide.

According to relatives the teenager was taking the antidepressant Prozac, 20 milligrams 3 times a day.

Congresswoman McCollum has a great opportunity to respond to her district and push for federal hearings on mass murders and their link to psychiatric drugs.

Ablechild will continue to push for these federal hearings.  We plan to participate in the upcoming Connecticut February short legislative session to ensure the toxicology panels at the medical examiner’s office are updated and include clinical trial drugs, as well as to obtain a transparent policy  regarding toxicology reports, mental health records, and the associated link to mental health treatments in the aftermath of mass murders and suicides.

This type of legislation will ensure the public has the compelling data that already exists allowing the public to fully participate in the legislative process and to produce life saving public policies.

We agree with President Obama, it is time to ask hard questions.  We, however, don’t think it is a time to build a political movement, pass executive orders giving more funding to an unregulated and unaccountable mental health industry without asking the hard questions.  This is a vital pubic health and safety issue.

We encourage Congresswoman McCollum along with her district voters to help us obtain those federal hearings and welcome her response on our inquiry.

 

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