Inside a Mental Hospital Called Jail

From The New York Times
By Nicholas Kristof
Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Cook County Jail has become a de facto mental health hospital, the county's sheriff says. John Gress for The New York Times
The Cook County Jail has become a de facto mental health hospital, the county’s sheriff says. John Gress for The New York Times

The largest mental health center in America is a huge compound here in Chicago, with thousands of people suffering from manias, psychoses and other disorders, all surrounded by high fences and barbed wire. Just one thing: It’s a jail. The only way to get treatment is to be arrested.

Psychiatric disorders are the only kind of sickness that we as a society regularly respond to not with sympathy but with handcuffs and incarceration. And as more humane and cost-effective ways of treating mental illness have been cut back, we increasingly resort to the law-enforcement toolbox: jails and prisons.

More than half of prisoners in the United States have a mental health problem, according to a 2006 Justice Department study. Among female inmates, almost three-quarters have a mental disorder.

In the jail here, some prisoners sit on their beds all day long, lost in their delusions, oblivious to their surroundings, hearing voices, sometimes talking back to them. The first person to say that this system is barbaric is their jailer.

“It’s criminalizing mental illness,” the Cook County sheriff, Thomas Dart, told me as he showed me the jail, on a day when 60 percent of the jail’s intake reported that they had been diagnosed with mental illness. Dart says the system is abhorrent and senseless, as well as an astronomically expensive way to treat mental illness — but that he has no choice but to accept schizophrenic, bipolar, depressive and psychotic prisoners delivered by local police forces.

India, 42, suffers from manic depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. She has spent almost all of her adult life in jails and prisons. John Gress for The New York Times
India, 42, suffers from manic depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. She has spent almost all of her adult life in jails and prisons. John Gress for The New York Times

People are not officially incarcerated because of psychiatric ailments, but that’s the unintended effect. Sheriff Dart says that although some mentally ill people commit serious crimes, the great majority are brought in for offenses that flow from mental illness.

One 47-year-old man I spoke to, George, (I’m not permitted to use last names for legal reasons) is bipolar, hears voices and abuses drugs and alcohol. He said he had been arrested five times since October for petty offenses. The current offense is criminal trespass for refusing to leave a Laundromat.

The sheriff says such examples are common and asks: “How will we be viewed, 20, 30, 50 years from now? We’ll be looked on as the ones who locked up all the mentally ill people.

“It really is one of those things so rich with irony: The same society that abhorred the idea that we lock people up in mental hospitals, now we lock people up in jails.”

New exhibit tells story of NSH

From The Republican
By George Lenker
Tuesday, February 11, 2014

At one time, the Northampton State Hospital was the largest employer in the city.
So it’s no wonder that that now defunct and razed site holds an ongoing fascination for residents. This interest should be even more piqued by a new exhibit at Historic Northampton this month.

“Vanished: The Hospital on the Hill” tells the story of the Northampton State Hospital via the words of former employees, photographer Stan Sherer’s shots, and historical photographs from the collection of Historic Northampton. This exhibition, which runs Feb. 8-March 7, grew out of an oral history project in 1992. Sherer talked about the exhibit last week.

First tell me briefly about the oral history project that initiated this?

In the late 1990s, a group of employees at the Northampton State Hospital approached the Public History Program at UMass with a request to assist in having their stories preserved. Michael Moore, then a graduate student in the Public History Program, began the process of recording the oral histories of as many employees, and former employees, as possible.

When and why did you take photos of the hospital? What drew you to it?

After Michael was under way with this, I joined the project as a photographer. I felt a project like this needed photographs as well as text. There were so many stories to record and we needed to have the faces and the visual environment behind the stories.

Is there an overarching theme to the collection?

The overarching theme to the collection is each employee who was interviewed had complex stories and viewpoints. It was not a simple matter of the hospital being a good or bad place. We tried to paint the hospital’s complex history within the context of medical treatments of the times.

What is Michael’s role?

Michael’s role was the to interview the employees and gather their oral histories. The transcripts of these interviews were sent to the Massachusetts State Archive. Michael wrote the text for the exhibition and catalog. We received support from the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities (now called the Mass Foundation). The exhibition toured the state from the early 1990s through late 1990s.

What has struck you most about both the words and the photos?

I was struck by the deep sense of caring and commitment from the people who worked at the hospital. Their work was terribly difficult and most did the best they could.

Why do you think preserving all this is important?

It has been 30 years since the closing of the State Hospitals. The plan was for many of the patients to be cared for by community services, live in halfway houses, etc. However, as the state budgets shrank, so did money for community services. Patients were living on the street, many unable to obtain their medications. As the years passed, prisons took over the role of the state mental hospitals. In many cases, a large percentage of the prison population is comprised of psychiatric cases. This exhibition draws attention to the fact that we have not come close to achieving adequate care of the mentally ill.

Habeas Corpus video

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Habeas Corpus video
Habeas Corpus video.

A sound installation by Anna Schuleit Haber at the former Northampton State Hospital (Mass.), for which the artist spent three years of getting permissions and building a team of volunteers to wire up the main building of the former Northampton State Hospital before its demolition, using the hollows of the architecture as if they were the hollows of an instrument.The building briefly, for 28 minutes, became a unified soundbody, reverberating and amplifying the sounds of J. S. Bach’s Magnificat (recorded by Philippe Herreweghe, Harmonia Mundi).

Remebering the New Frontier

John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier acceptance speech paved the way to the Community Mental Health Act of 1963. This law provided federal funding for community based programs to replace the centralized psychiatric care model, which we recognize as the constellation of state hospitals.

From The Republican
By Katherine B. Wilson
March 17, 2013

John F. Kennedy’s Community Mental Health Act is worth remembering

JFK's New Frontier speech at 1960 DNC national convention
JFK delivering New Frontier speech at DNC national convention 1960. Image care of JFK Presidential Library.
Fifty years ago this year in a speech to Congress, President John F. Kennedy proposed “a national mental health program to assist in the inauguration of a wholly new emphasis and approach to care for the mentally ill.” Central to a new mental health program is comprehensive community care.

Later that year in 1963, Congress passed the Community Mental Health Act to provide federal funding for community mental health centers and research facilities devoted to research in and treatment of mental retardation. It was the last legislation President Kennedy signed into law before his assassination.

In Western Massachusetts, the Mental Health Consortium, a partnership of several health and mental organizations, was the recipient of federal funding under this legislation. It arrived in the Valley at the same time that Massachusetts began the closing of Northampton State Hospital.

This NIMH funding, along with funding from the Massachusetts’ budget, developed the foundation for the community mental health system in Western Massachusetts. For people in Springfield with mental illness, JFK’s final legislation ended the nightmare of being “warehoused” in secluded hospitals and forgotten institutions.

The law opened the door to a new era of recovery and the hope of moving back into their communities. Since then organizations like Behavioral Health Network have been helping people recover from mental illness and live full lives.

Further reading:

Prospect Meadow Farm

Prospect Meadow Farm, a project of Service Net, is about to celebrate its one-year anniversary. Carrie Saldo visited the Hatfield, MA farm to learn more about its business model, which is in-part, focused on employment of physically, mentally, intellectually, and economically challenged individuals.

Ghosts of healthcare in the valley

From The Daily Collegian
By Nick Losso
Sunday, January 22, 2012

A few years ago I heard about an abandoned school near Amherst. It was a massive campus that once served intellectually handicapped children in the town of Belchertown. The girl I was dating at the time told me about it. She had a dial she had taken from one of the buildings on the bookshelf in her bedroom; an old piece of machinery that seemed like it would fit in perfectly in the underwater metropolis Rapture. I was excited about the idea of exploring the decaying and abandoned buildings.

I have since learned that this place was the Belchertown State School, which lies only a few miles from Amherst center. This massive institution once covered almost 900 acres and housed about 1,100 residents. The grounds included a farm, a power plant and, at one point in time, a large carousel.

Not far to the west of Amherst stood the Northampton State Hospital, a facility for the mentally ill and another institution run by the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health. I never knew much about these places until last year, which is amazing to me, given their size and proximity to Amherst. As I found out more about them, I became fascinated with the history of these institutions and how we, as a society, have chosen to respond to those experiencing mental illness or intellectual handicaps.

Supermax prisons: 21st century asylums

From Al Jazeera
By Helen Redmond
Friday, August 5, 2011

Solitary confinement in the new dungeons of the US trigger mental illness in prisoners.

Supermax prisons: 21st century asylums via Al Jazeera
Lucy Flores, whose husband spent four years in Pelican Bay, at a rally in support of inmates on hunger strike (REUTERS)

The recent hunger strike at Pelican Bay supermax prison in California exposed for three weeks the carefully planned and executed barbarism of life in supermax America. The utter desperation of the human cargo behind the concertina wire, buried deep inside concrete coffins was gut wrenching and heart breaking. Hunger strikes are a tactic of last resort for the completely subjugated; a slow, painful, non-flammable version of self-immolation.

Brian Nelson, a survivor of 12 years in solitary confinement at Tamms supermax prison in Illinois, understands the conditions that drove the men in Pelican Bay to stop eating. Distraught and anxious, Nelson paced in his cell for more than ten hours a day – causing severe, bloody blisters on the soles of his feet. He tried to hang himself. In the year 2000, Nelson went on hunger strike for 42 days with four other prisoners to protest many of the same conditions that exist at Pelican Bay.

The demands of Tamm’s hunger strikers were similar, too: better food, shoes with arches, appropriate clothing, access to education, inmates with mental illness be transferred out, bilingual staff and abolition of the “renunciation policy” – the “debriefing policy” related to gangs that Pelican Bay prisoners demanded be abolished. Guards tried to break the hunger strike at Tamms by leaving carts of fried chicken and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies on the wing. The delicious smells didn’t break Nelson.

Supermax prisoners’ daily lives are chock full of alienating and undignified experiences, so empty of positive human interaction, thousands are willing to risk death than endure such inhumane conditions. That alone speaks volumes about the reality of life in supermax prisons.

One of the most humiliating aspects of life for inmates are the frequent strip searches – forced to be naked, ordered to bend over by guards and spread the buttocks apart to have the anus inspected for contraband while coughing. Strip searches are the old normal. The photos of nude prisoners in Abu Ghraib in Iraq shocked the world, but to be stripped naked for hours or even days is standard operating procedure in supermaxes.

Nelson explained: “Every time you leave your cell you’re strip searched … They do this to degrade and shock you…Sometimes the guards would make ‘homosexual’ comments like: ‘Hey baby, spread your cheeks’. Darrell Cannon, a survivor of a nine-year stretch in Tamms, described the strip search: ‘They tell you to open your mouth, raise your tongue, hold your hands up, they go through your fingers and toes and tell you to turn around and spread your cheeks up against the chuckhole … It’s degrading to have two other human beings looking at you like you’re some kind of specimen. It is extremely degrading.”

CHD to host free July 14th film screening

From The Center for Human Development

‘Open Dialogue’ a documentary about treating mental illness

CHD will host a screening of the documentary film “Open Dialogue: An Alternative, Finnish Approach for Healing Psychosis,” by filmmaker Daniel Mackler, on Thursday, July 14, 2011, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at its main office at 332 Birnie Ave., Springfield MA.

The screening is free and open to the public and co-sponsored by CHD and the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community. The film documents an alternative approach to treating individuals diagnosed with mental illness in Finland called “open dialogue,” developed by a group of innovative family therapists who meet with clients in crisis immediately and often daily until the crises are resolved, avoiding the use of anti-psychotic medications wherever possible.

A discussion with filmmaker Daniel Mackler will follow the screening. Mackler is a New York City writer, musician and filmmaker who spent ten years working as a psychotherapist before ending his practice last year. His writings focus on the causes, consequences, and significance of childhood trauma. His other documentary films, all focusing on psychiatric diagnoses and recovery, include “Take these Broken Wings” and “Healing Homes.”

Please RSVP to Marie Gilberti at (413) 439-2104 or Karen Cabana at (413) 439-2105

For more info about the film please visit the Western Mass Recovery Learning Center & the Center for Human Development.

Worcester State Hospital Exhibit

From Kirkbride Buildings
Monday, May 23, 2011

WSH via
WSH via

It’s too bad I just found out about this (since the opening has already taken place), but I’m sure you’ll still be pleased to learn about an exhibition of objects and photographs from Worcester State Hospital which is currently on display at the Aldrich Heritage Gallery in Whitinsville, Mass. The exhibit will be shown until July 29th. Hours are 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM Monday through Friday—which is tough luck for those that work 9-to-5, but what can you do? It’s free and open to the public, so if you don’t work during the day or can get the time off, check it out. Please report back here if you do! Thanks.

According to a blog post on the Massachusetts Health and Human Service Division’s website, the exhibit is a dry run for a display inside the new WSH hospital building. The final display will reportedly incorporate items from other Massachusetts psychiatric hospital campuses as well.

Funding cutbacks worry counselors

From The Republican
By Beverly Ford (NECIR)
Sunday, March 27, 2011

Twelve days after Jared Lee Loughner shot his way into the American psyche outside a Tuscon, Ariz., grocery store on Jan. 8, a 25-year-old mental health counselor in Revere was kidnapped from a group home and savagely killed, allegedly by one of her clients. Nine days later, it happened again when a homeless 19-year-old with a history of mental problems reportedly stabbed a shelter worker to death in Lowell, just 30 miles away.

No one can say for sure whether either murder had anything to do with funding cutbacks that have decimated the state’s mental health budget, but on the front lines in the war on mental illness, counselors are concerned.

“If you have one woman (counselor) and five men with mental health problems, it screams to me of mental health cuts,” Barry Sanders, a social worker for more than 20 years, says of the group home north of Boston where Stephanie Moulton was working when she was kidnapped and killed on January 20. “Having these kinds of staffing levels is like playing the odds, rolling the dice with someone’s life.”

Across Massachusetts, mental health agencies are feeling the strain of cutbacks that have ripped nearly $85 million from the state’s Department of Mental Health budget since 2009.

“It’s been devastation. Complete and utter destruction and devastation. The entire mental health system is shredded,says Laurie Martinelli, executive director with the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a mental health advocacy and research group.

Massachusetts Department of Mental Health Commissioner Barbara Leadholm takes a more diplomatic stance.

Phoenix Rising

Phoenix Rising: The Voice of the Psychiatrized
(1980 – 1990)

Phoenix Rising
Phoenix Rising, Myths of Mental Illness

The Psychiatric Survivor Archives of Toronto (PSAT) has made Phoenix Rising, an important zine published by ex-psychiatric inmates. From the letter Myths of Mental Illness by Carla McKague which led to the first issue:

The reason that all of us are here, .you and me, is a gigantic problem. Some of you are aware of the dimensions of the problem; some of you may not be fully aware. Let me start by giving you a little bit of an idea.

Right now, this moment, there are 50,000 Canadians in mental hospitals. Tomorrow, another 30,000 to 50,000 will be showing up either at out-patient clinics or at private psychiatrists’ offices. Every year 130,000 Canadians enter psychiatric institutions, and about two-thirds of them are coming back; they’ve been there before, and they’re back. At least one in ten Canadians can expect at some time in his or her life to spend time in a psychiatric institution. And, to switch to financial terms, the cost of maintaining those
institutions in Canada is approximately a million dollars a day. That’s the size of the problem we’re facing.

Now, I don’t know most of you sitting in front of me. I’m not sure why you’re here as individuals. I can make some guesses. Some of you are people who work professionally in the field of “mental illness”; you may be doctors, nurses or social workers who are concerned about the problem. Some of you are plainly and simply–and importantly–members of the
community who are aware that there’s a problem and would like to help do something about it. Some of you have had the experience yourselves of being patients, or have had someone
in your family have that experience. You’re probably concerned; you’re probably confused; you’re probably not quite sure what it is that’s happened to you, and why it’s happened,
and what you can do about it.

Agencies and consumers seek continued state aid

From The Republican
By Fred Contrada
Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Consumers and officials from the agencies that serve them turned out in force Wednesday to urge state officials not to cut their funding.

Secretary JudyAnn Bigby of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services made the trip to the Haskell Building at the former Northampton State Hospital campus for the second in a series of hearings aimed at helping her shape her fiscal 2012 budget.

Alan J. Klein, senior vice president of the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps, said further cuts in state aid to his agency would affect the at-risk children it serves, as well as the workers it employs. Klein noted that the state has not increased the rate for the services his agency provides in six years.

The Executive Office of Health and Human Services oversees a wide variety of programs geared towards helping needy families, veterans, seniors and people with disabilities and mental health issues. The hearing was divided into four, one-hour sessions, each addressing a different area of service.

One of the agencies the office oversees is the Soldier’s Home of Holyoke, which last year saw a $900,000 cut restored that would have resulted in the closure of its outpatient services clinic.

Stephen B. Bernard, the chief financial officer for Health and Human Services, told the audience that the office will have to operate in 2012 without the federal stimulus money that gave it some breathing room this year.

Gov. Deval L. Patrick estimates that the absence of that federal money will contribute to up to a $2 billion gap in the state budget he is currently compiling. With fixed costs such as pensions and health care continuing to rise, Patrick has warned that all areas, including aid to cities and towns, could face cuts as he attempts to balance the fiscal 2012 budget.

Robert Whitaker at MHC December 2

Author of Mad in America as well as Anatomy of an Epidemic Robert Whitaker is scheduled to speak at Mount Holyoke College on Thursday, December 2th at 7:30 at Cleveland Hall.

Mad in America
Mad in America
Robert Whitaker, an award-winning journalist and author best known for his work on mental illness, will speak at Mount Holyoke Thursday, December 2 at 7:30 pm in Cleveland L2. His lecture, titled “What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Rise of Mental Illness in America,” is open to the public.

While on campus that day, Whitaker will also lead a discussion in psychology professor Gail Hornstein’s first-year seminar, Understanding Mental Health, at 1:15 pm in Reese 324.

In his newest book published this past spring, Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America, Whitaker confronts a startling statistic: In the past 20 years, the number of Americans disabled due to mental illness has more than doubled–despite spending $40 billion each year on psychiatric medications.

“In media reports, we constantly hear these drugs being hailed as magic bullets, offering effective treatments for depression, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar illness, and a host of psychiatric conditions,” says Hornstein. “But Whitaker’s exhaustive review of the scientific literature of the past 50 years raises a profoundly troubling question: Do psychiatric medications increase the likelihood that people taking them, rather than being helped, are at risk of becoming chronically ill?”

Hornstein says Whitaker’s book is “important and controversial” and has been called “the Silent Spring of the pharmaceutical industry.”

A violent stigma for mentally ill

From The Irish Times
By Carl O’Brien
Monday, August 24, 2010

John McCarthy via Irish TimesPsychiatric nurses argue that more staff are needed to manage violent patients – but are patients with mental illness any more violent than the rest of the community?

When the union representing psychiatric nurses launched a campaign for extra staff earlier this month, it painted a disturbing and violent portrait of life on the wards of our mental hospitals.

Due largely to hundreds of staff vacancies, the union argued, there has been a sharp increase in assaults on members of staff. It said 1,314 assaults on staff were recorded last year, up from 966 in 2007 and 1,104 in 2008.

On one occasion eight gardaí in riot gear had to come to the assistance of nurses trying to manage a highly aggressive patient at St Brendan’s Hospital in Dublin. In Ennis, it says, a single patient was being managed 24 hours a day by security staff due to a shortage of nurses and secure facilities.

The result, the Psychiatric Nurses Association said, was that patients suffering from depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder were having their recovery threatened by this “frightening and threatening hospital environment”.

The picture depicted by the union, however, has been criticized by some mental health campaigners. John McCarthy, founder of the Mad Pride movement, says the behavior of a small minority of patients has been used to further nurses’ demands for higher staffing levels and better working conditions.

The collateral damage, he says, is that efforts to reduce stigma against people with mental health problems are being undermined.

Madness Radio: Bipolar Medication Myths

From Madness Radio
Thursday, August 26, 2010

Madness RadioIs bipolar disorder a disease? Can medications like lithium correct chemical imbalances and stabilize mood? Do psychiatric drugs act completely differently on the brain than recreational drugs? UK psychiatrist Dr. Joanna Moncrieff, author of The Myth Of The Chemical Cure: A Critique of Psychiatric Drug Treatment, discusses how seeing psychiatric medications as treatments for disease misleads the public about how they actually work, and obscures their potential for abuse as tools of social control.

Rust, decay shadow Shaw’s Motel

From The Republican
By Fred Contrada
Friday, August 06, 2010

Shaw's Motel, photo by Dale Ruff / The RepublicanThe Shaw’s we know was a place where lone men and women with mental-health problems could find some semblance of a home. People down on their luck could get a decent bed and some privacy at Shaw’s. There have been drifters and imbibers, sometimes on the run, looking to step back into the shadows for a while.

A long time ago, maybe 20 years, I interviewed a resident of Shaw’s. I couldn’t find the story in our data base, but I recall that he was among those set adrift by the closing of Northampton State Hospital.

We sat in his little box of a room with a fan humming, and he told me his story. I don’t remember the story, only that he was eccentric and shy and maybe a little blinded by the bright light of life. Inside that box he had everything he needed.

Cooley Dickinson transfers behavioral health services

From The Republican
By Fred Contrada
Thursday, July 29, 2010

Following a trend that has seen other hospitals sever their connections with outpatient mental health and substance abuse programs, Cooley Dickinson Hospital is turning over its behavioral health services to a nonprofit provider.

Clinical and Support Options, a Greenfield-based agency, will assume management of Cooley Dickinson’s behavioral health programs, most of which are based at 10 Main St. in Florence and at 170 University Drive in Amherst. The agency will also manage the response team located in the hospital’s emergency department, which treats people with emergency mental health and substance abuse needs.

Leesa-Lee Keith, Chief Nursing Officer and Vice President of Patient Care at Cooley Dickinson said most hospital employees working in those programs will transfer to Clinical and Support Options and see patients in the same locations.

“We want, for both the clinicians and the patients, to make this as seamless as possible,” she said.

Finding Home release party at Jones Library

From the Amherst Bulletin
By Suzanne Wilson
Thursday, May 21, 2010

Finding Home book coverIt’s a safe bet that no one who lived in this area in the 1970s and 1980s was unaware of the program called deinstitutionalization. The mouthful of a term referred to the decision to end the long-accepted practice of warehousing people with mental disabilities in institutions such as the Belchertown State School and Northampton State Hospital, which were all too often overcrowded, understaffed, filthy and bleak.

The closings of those institutions and others like them across the state and around the country – bitterly opposed by some – represented a seismic shift in attitudes about the meaning of humane treatment of people with disabilities.

The release party with be held at Jones Library in Amherst on May 25 at 5 p.m. You can find out more about the book as well as place an order at Publishing Works Inc.

Also be sure to check out the Center for Human Development, which like other local agencies such as ServiceNet and the Hampshire Educational Collaborative were created or expanded during the Decentralization movement.

May is Mental Health Month

From DMH
Thursday, April 22, 2010

DMH Celebrates Mental Health Month

The Massachusetts Department of Mental Health is promoting this year’s Mental Health Month by raising awareness about mental health and how important it is that all of us enjoy “good” mental health. To help observe Mental Health Month, DMH will host and promote a number of events and activities statewide to promote mental wellness and overall health throughout the Commonwealth.

DMH may close Northampton office

From The Republican
By Fred Contrada
Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Worcester could become the closest Department of Mental Health area office for consumers in Western Massachusetts as the state considers a consolidation plan.

There are currently six areas of service in Massachusetts designated by the Department of Mental Health. Northampton hosts the office for the Western Massachusetts area on the grounds of the former Northampton State Hospital. The city that has long been a nexus for mental health services could soon be bereft of that resource, however.

The Western Massachusetts Area Community Advisory Board for the Department of Mental Health is asking the state to delay implementation of its plan to consolidate its six regional offices into three so advocates can more effectively plan for the change. Eric S. Brown, the board president, is hoping the department will reconsider its plan altogether.

“It makes absolutely no sense to close this particular office down,” he said, noting the void it would create from Worcester to the Berkshires. “How is someone from Williamstown going to get to Worcester?”

Massachusetts Sweeps Restraint and Seclusion Award

From DMH
Friday, April 2, 2010

Massachusetts Sweeps First-Ever National Award for Reducing and Eliminating Restraint and Seclusion

Massachusetts swept the first-ever awards given by the U.S. Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), recognizing sustained restraint and seclusion reduction and prevention work. Five of the ten awards were given to Massachusetts’ facilities, including Taunton State Hospital and the nine child/adolescent statewide programs operated by the Department of Mental Health (DMH).

Massachusetts has led the nation in the reduction and elimination of restraint and seclusion since DMH launched its Restraint and Seclusion Elimination Initiative in 2001. In that time, the use of seclusion and restraint has decreased more than 63 percent statewide with more robust reductions in several facilities like Taunton State Hospital which has reduced its use 88 percent and the DMH child/adolescent statewide programs which have reduced total episodes of restraint and seclusion by 93 percent. The DMH statewide programs were the only youth-serving programs in the country to be recognized by SAMHSA.

“I could not be more proud of the work we have done and will continue to do in Massachusetts facilities and I am fully committed to advancing our restraint and seclusion prevention work even further,” said DMH Commissioner Barbara A. Leadholm, M.S., M.B.A. “Congratulations to all of our award winners — they are a shining example of the positive outcomes we strive for as our system continually transforms and promotes recovery-based practices.”

In addition to Taunton State Hospital and the nine DMH child/adolescent programs, SAMHSA’s “Alternatives to Seclusion and Restraint Recognition Program” also recognized

A painful loss for mentally ill

From The Boston Globe
By Carolyn Y. Johnson
Saturday, December 19, 2009

More than 100 people have benefited from a ‘hospital without walls,’ but state cuts are threatening their gains.

Suffering from bipolar disorder and experiencing psychotic episodes, Linda Ivy Crowder used to wander the streets all night and frequently get picked up by the police and taken to the hospital. Nearly as soon as she was released, she would end up back in the emergency room.

Finally, she was told she would have to go to a state psychiatric hospital, a prospect that devastated Crowder, who prizes her independence, her apartment, and her beloved cat, Tyler.

Then in August 2008, she began to work with a new team designed to provide intensive support for mentally ill people like Crowder who do not do well with existing treatments. Not only has PACT, short for Program for Assertive Community Treatment, kept Crowder out of the hospital, it has helped her get to a point where she pursues hobbies such as painting, reading, and writing and is even looking for a volunteer job.

But now Crowder and more than 100 other people in the state are bracing for the loss of the program, sometimes called “a hospital without walls.’’ Because of a drop in tax revenues caused by the economic downturn, the state Department of Mental Health is cutting $10.3 million from its $644 million budget. That reduction has very real consequences for people like Crowder and others served by the PACT program, because two of its 16 locations will shut down to save nearly $1.2 million.

Gov. cutting $2.4 million from program

From The Republican via CHD
Monday, December 14, 2009
By Dan Ring

Elfie E. Arocho, of Springfield, said her 26-year-old son is turning his life around with help provided by an intensive clinical program in Springfield for the severely mentally ill.

Now, she is concerned that Gov. Deval L. Patrick has announced plans to abolish the program.

“I would be devastated,” said Arocho, 46. “It would be horrible.”

Patrick is cutting the service to save money that will be used to finance the jobs of 84 case managers in the state Department of Mental Health.

The state expects to save $2.4 million on an annual basis by eliminating the so-called Program for Assertive Community Treatment programs in Springfield and Chelsea. The Center for Human Development, a private, nonprofit agency, has run the program in Springfield under a contract with the state since 2002.

Without eliminating the two programs, the 84 case managers would be laid off, according to a spokeswoman for the Patrick administration.

Arocho said she couldn’t find anything that worked until she enrolled her son in the Springfield program about five years ago. Before that, her son would refuse to take medication and was in and out of hospitals, she said. He once grabbed her by the neck and attempted to choke her. She said she was so afraid of him that she couldn’t allow him to come home, forcing him to the streets.

Also see the follow up article:

Families make plea for program

From The Republican via CHD
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
By Dan Ring

A Springfield mother on Tuesday pleaded with an aide to Gov. Deval L. Patrick to cancel plans to abolish a state program that is helping her daughter recover from severe mental illness.

Patricia A. Dickson said her daughter, Takiyah D. Dickson, 25, was in an out of hospitals and plagued by hallucinations and paranoia until about four years ago when she enrolled in a special program for the severely mentally ill called Program for Assertive Community Treatment.

“For this program to end would be devastation for my family,” Dickson told Andrew M. London, an aide to Patrick.

Dickson and her daughter were in a group of parents, mental health professionals and mentally ill people who traveled to the Statehouse to lobby the Patrick administration to retain the special programs in Chelsea and Springfield.

Poor Children Likelier to Get Antipsychotics

From the New York Times
Friday, December 11, 2009
By Duff Wilson

Image care of the New York TimesNew federally financed drug research reveals a stark disparity: children covered by Medicaid are given powerful antipsychotic medicines at a rate four times higher than children whose parents have private insurance. And the Medicaid children are more likely to receive the drugs for less severe conditions than their middle-class counterparts, the data shows.

Those findings, by a team from Rutgers and Columbia, are almost certain to add fuel to a long-running debate. Do too many children from poor families receive powerful psychiatric drugs not because they actually need them — but because it is deemed the most efficient and cost-effective way to control problems that may be handled much differently for middle-class children?

The questions go beyond the psychological impact on Medicaid children, serious as that may be. Antipsychotic drugs can also have severe physical side effects, causing drastic weight gain and metabolic changes resulting in lifelong physical problems.

On Tuesday, a pediatric advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration met to discuss the health risks for all children who take antipsychotics. The panel will consider recommending new label warnings for the drugs, which are now used by an estimated 300,000 people under age 18 in this country, counting both Medicaid patients and those with private insurance.