Fitzsimon File: Chris Fitzsimon
May 30th, 2007
The Senate gave tentative approval to its budget Wednesday afternoon that spends less on education, children’s health care, and other human service programs than the House spending plan, as Senators chose tax cuts over making larger investments in the state’s future.
With one notable exception, the floor debate was more backslapping and self-congratulations than meaningful policy discussion. All but two Republicans joined with the Senate’s 31 Democrats in supporting the budget and listening to the debate made you wonder if the chamber would break out in a verse of Kumbaya before the day was over.
Democrats and Republicans even voted together to remove the most progressive proposal in the budget, a plan by Senator Martin Nesbitt to allow three needle exchange pilot programs to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Nesbitt pointed out that the National Institutes of Health issued a consensus opinion that needle exchange programs not only reduce the HIV infection rate, they also increase the number of people in drug treatment because addicts establish relationships with the professionals in the exchange programs. The HIV/AIDS infection rate in North Carolina is increasing 20 percent a year and many of the new infections can be traced back to IV drug use.
No matter. Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand rose to endorse an amendment by Senator Steve Goss to remove the needle exchange programs from the budget and then Senator Jim Forrester, a doctor who should know better, told his colleagues that the programs “send the wrong message” and encourage risky behavior. Better to just tell drug addicts to stop using drugs than help them protect themselves and their unknowing sexual partners.
The needle exchange provision was taken out of the budget on a 39-10 vote with Republican Stan Bingham and Democratic Senators Atwater, Cowell, Dannelly, Foriest, Graham, Jones, Kinnaird, and McKissick showing the political courage to join Nesbitt in putting people’s lives ahead of political considerations.
The Senate budget does make some important investments in education, economic development and the state’s infrastructure. It provides a 5 percent raise for teachers, a 4 percent pay hike for state employees. Need based financial aid at UNC campuses gets a big boost, as does the Clean Water Management Trust Fund.
But when you compare the Senate budget to the House plan in how they treat people who are struggling in the state, the Senate comes up short almost every time. The House expands children’s health care, the Senate authorizes a study.
The Senate finds $10 million for the Disadvantaged School Supplemental Fund, the House budget has $20 million.
The Senate spends $2.1 million for 42 school nurses, the House has $4 million for 80 new nurses. The Senate allocates $14 million next year for the Housing Trust Fund, the House $15.5 million.
The Senate spends $8 million less on mental health services than the House. (Tuesday’s Fitzsimon File mistakenly said the Senate budget increased mental health funding more than the House.)
That was the theme of the day, Senators hailing the progress for the state made by a budget that invests less than the House plan in almost every important area. All so Senators could cut taxes and produce what Republican Senator and 2008 gubernatorial candidate Fred Smith said was the best budget he has seen since he came to the General Assembly.
Smith hailed the tax cuts in particular and said they made the state more competitive and improved the business climate, a view shared by Senate Democratic leaders. The Senate’s choice of tax cuts over children’s health care comes on the heels of a poll of 300 manufacturing companies by the North Carolina Chamber that found 73 percent of them thought the cost of doing business in North Carolina was either the same or better than in other states.
But what do business leaders know about the cost of doing business? Facts are sometimes not part of legislative budget debates and in one case Wednesday, neither was reality.
Budget Co-Chair Kay Hagan responded to criticisms that the Senate budget process was closed and secret, shutting out most Senators, much less the media and the public. Hagan said the corner room in which a handful of Senate leaders wrote the budget was “open morning, noon and night and on weekends and we didn’t see a lot of people.”
Hagan must think that a meeting doesn’t have to be announced or listed on any calendar to be considered open. You just have to find it. Imagine the money that can be saved as we eliminate all legislative calendars, emails, websites, and other schedules of meetings.
Maybe the savings can help fill some of the holes in the Senate budget, and pay for some of the services not provided to children, families, and the mentally ill. Read more!
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Fitzsimon File: Chris Fitzsimon
Posted by david at 6:21 AM Permalink
Mental Health spending is under the Health and Human Services listing.
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Highlights of the $20 billion 2007-08 state spending plan given tentative Senate approval Wednesday. The figures reflect increases or reductions to base budget expenses, some of them based on projected rises in recurring spending.
Salaries and benefits
-- Average 5 percent salary increase for public school teachers; 5 percent for community college and university faculty and judges; 4 percent for most state employees and non-faculty university workers: $496.7 million.
-- Two percent cost-of-living adjustments for state retirees: $29.6 million.
-- Fifth installment of retirement funds intercepted in 2001 to narrow budget shortfall: $10 million.
-- Cash influx to cover projected shortfall in state employee health plan: $120 million.
-- Replace 170 fewer school buses next year: -$4.5 million.
-- Keep teacher assistant funding at 2006-07 level: -$10.9 million.
-- Implement plans to restructure seven high schools: $1.4 million.
-- Student performance bonuses for teachers: $70 million.
-- Maintain 18-1 student-teacher ratios in kindergarten-3rd grade: $37.5 million.
-- Provide more funding for low-wealth school districts and schools with at-risk students: $13.1 million.
-- Expand "Learn and Earn" high school initiative to nine more schools: $2.5 million.
-- Deliver college courses electronically to high school students through Gov. Mike Easley's Learn and Earn Online program: $6.5 million.
-- Upgrade public school broadband connectivity: $7 million.
-- Increase school district funding for instructional supplies and materials: $2.4 million.
-- Increase district funding for academically and intellectually gifted programs: $1.8 million.
-- Increase district funding for children with disabilities: $5 million.
-- Provide additional money to help small-county school districts: $2.1 million.
-- Hire 30 literacy coaches in schools with eighth grades: $1.7 million.
-- Supplement funding for elementary school cafeterias operating in a deficit: $800,000.
-- Create education reform pilot program in five school districts with after-school programs, teacher recruitment and retention bonuses, teacher mentoring and assistance in science and math curricula: $4.4 million.
-- Establish technology pilot program where computers will be provided to all teachers and students in five high schools: $3 million.
-- Department of Public Instruction computer system upgrades, data warehousing: $4 million.
-- Train mathematics and civics teachers in financial literacy: $1 million.
University of North Carolina system
-- Reductions of 23 positions, other spending cuts recommended by President's Advisory Committee on Efficiency and Effectiveness: -$4.1 million.
-- Reduce campus operating budgets based on future recommendations of advisory committee: -$11.3 million.
-- Restores funding for projected fall university enrollment: $6 million.
-- Provide tuition grants to 1,000 additional students attending private colleges in North Carolina, raise grant to $1,950: $4 million.
-- Provide need-based financial aid for more than 46,500 students at UNC campuses: $27.6 million.
-- Continue funding for UNC Online degree and certificate programs: $4.2 million.
-- Operating funds, equipment and faculty startup funds for UNC programs at North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis: $16.5 million.
-- Create joint graduate School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering at N.C. A&T State University and UNC-Greensboro's Millennium campus: $1.4 million.
-- UNC-Chapel Hill law school operating funds: $2 million.
-- N.C. State University bioengineering program funds: $5 million.
-- Begin Education Access Rewards North Carolina Scholars program, which provides up to $4,000 grants to low-income college students: $50 million.
-- Math and science teacher recruitment efforts for N.C. State University initiative: $1 million.
-- Create research competitiveness fund to support interdisciplinary research for emerging industries in state: $8 million.
-- New tuition waivers for recruiting and retaining graduate students: $2 million.
-- Summer programs for incoming freshman at seven system schools: $1.2 million.
-- Matching funds for UNC system campus endowed professorships: $6 million.
-- Fund Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University to attract federal investment in field at Piedmont Triad Research Park: $8 million.
-- Expand initiatives at Center for Bioenergy Technologies at N.C. State University: $3 million.
-- Fund enrollment for additional 2,300 students: $3.3 million.
-- Increase community college tuition by 6.3 percent: -$7.5 million.
-- Additional funds for Allied Health programs: $5.6 million.
-- Improve community college broadband connectivity: $3.8 million.
-- Expand male minority mentoring program at 10 more campuses: $300,000.
-- Funds for community college efforts at North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis: $1.3 million.
-- North Carolina Motorsports Consortium funds: $500,000.
-- Advanced matching planning funds for campus capital projects: $10 million.
Health and Human Services
-- Various reductions in HHS Secretary's Office: -$8.5 million.
-- Sustain provider network that coordinate free care for low-income uninsured patients: $2.3 million.
-- Competitive grants for community health centers: $5 million.
-- remove 339 children from child-care subsidy waiting list, increase lagging subsidy rates: $8.4 million.
-- Fund 850 scholarships for child care providers studying early childhood education or child development: $1 million.
-- Extra Smart Start funding to neediest counties: $1.3 million.
-- State match to purchase 844,000 treatment courses of antivirals in case of pandemic flu and create climate-controlled storage space: $9.7 million.
-- Fund HIV prevention and activities, including counseling and testing: $2 million.
-- Hire 62 public school nurses: $2.1 million.
-- Help medical care program for uninsured cancer patients: $1 million.
-- Additional screening and diagnostic services for breast and cervical cancer: $2 million.
-- Eliminate Medicaid provider inflationary reimbursement increases, with some exceptions: -$55.8 million.
-- Reduces Medicaid pharmacy payments for certain prescription drugs: -$17.8 million.
-- Medicaid cost containment activities, including increased fraud and abuse detection: -$15.3 million.
-- Savings with required prior authorization for mental health and HIV-AIDS drugs and for personal care services: -$11.2 million.
-- Supplemental payments for critical access pharmacies: $2.3 million.
-- Two hundred additional slots for Community Alternatives Program: $3 million.
-- Expand Medicaid coverage for foster care adolescents age 18-20: $216,000.
-- Fully fund N.C. Health Choice program: $7.5 million.
-- Reduce funds for mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse services based on historical availability of funds: -$2.3 million.
-- Realign mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse services for other programs: -$24.7 million.
-- Fund mental health, crisis services, to be distributed to local management programs: $17.1 million.
-- Fund local crisis services to mentally ill and find employment for mentally ill, developmentally disabled and substance abusers: $2.5 million.
-- Reduce budget of Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh to account for anticipated closure in the fall: -$31.8 million.
-- Reduce budget of John Umstead Hospital in Butner to account for anticipated closure in the fall: -$35.3 million.
-- Open and fund new central regional psychiatric hospital in Butner: $62.4 million.
-- Transfer half of forensic unit from Dorothea Dix Hospital and Broughton Hospital in Morganton: $4.7 million.
-- Operating cost subsidies for housing for the disabled: $2.5 million.
Natural and Economic Resources
-- Transfer Agriculture Department research stations to University of North Carolina system: -$9.2 million.
-- Hire two agricultural safety officers to conduct migrant housing inspections and train farmers: $125,000.
-- County grants to adopt local programs to enforce statewide private well construction standards: $300,000.
-- Eliminates 25 vacation positions in Department of Environment and Natural Resources: -$1.1 million.
-- Various Division of Forest Resources reductions: -$1.9 million.
-- Fund N.C. state aquariums to replace admission receipts: $2.5 million.
-- Matching funds for clean water, drinking water revolving funds: $9.4 million.
-- Promote N.C. viticulture industry, help Surry Community College viticulture program: $10 million.
-- Regional film commission funds: $300,000.
-- Promote International Home Furnishings Market in High Point: $1 million.
-- Create N.C. Green Business Fund, providing no-interest loans to small private business to encourage environmentally based economy: $1 million.
-- One North Carolina Fund for economic development: $14 million.
-- One North Carolina Small Business Fund for economic development: $5 million.
-- Help Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte: $2 million.
-- Fund N.C. Institute of Minority Economic Development: $200,000.
-- N.C. Community Development Initiative: $500,000.
-- N.C. Minority Support Center: $1 million.
-- Support Defense and Security Technology Accelerator, a business incubator to boost economic development in homeland security and defense industries: $2 million.
-- Create incentives for broadband in rural areas, distribute funds for cable access channels through e-NC authority: $4 million.
-- N.C. Biotechnology Center create three "regional centers of innovation": $3 million.
-- Expand N.C. Rural Economic Development Center Economic Infrastructure Fund and establish Rural Economic Transition Program: $19.5 million.
Justice and Public Safety
-- Modernize technology in court system: $8.6 million.
-- Create two new positions for Judicial Standards Commission: $193,000.
-- Hire 155 new prosecutors and support staff, including 60 assistant district attorneys and 15 district attorney investigators: $11 million.
-- Hire 300 new deputy clerks: $11.9 million.
-- Hire 42 new magistrates: $2 million.
-- Funds for 10 new District Court positions: $1.5 million.
-- Funds for three new special Superior Court judges: $285,000.
-- Expand family and drug treatment courts, hire about 19 new positions: $1.5 million.
-- Hire 15 new staff for Guardian ad Litem program: $1.1 million.
-- Raise hourly rate for privately assigned attorney for indigent defendants in non-capital cases: $4.1 million.
-- Eliminate 75 vacant positions in the Department of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention. -$2.5 million.
-- Staff and contractual service costs for flood plain mapping program: $3.7 million.
-- Gang prevention, intervention and suppression initiative grants from Gov.'s Crime Commission: $3 million.
-- Reduce backlog of victims' compensation unpaid claims: $1 million.
-- Hire more sworn agents, staffers and technicians at State Bureau of Investigation, startup cost for Triad regional crime laboratory: $1.8 million.
-- Reduce Department of Transportation division administration funds to pay for Interstate 40 resurfacing project: -$11.8 million.
-- Security management equipment at 31 Division of Motor Vehicle locations: $2.5 million.
-- Purchase one aircraft to upgrade department fleet: $3.4 million.
-- Increase funds for DMV technology upgrade for commercial driver's licenses: $3 million.
-- Hire 40 additional ferry division personnel, pay for rescue boats and generator upgrades to meet Coast Guard regulations, as well as operation expenses: $6.5 million.
-- Reduce expenditures for Triangle Transit Authority's commuter rail project: -$23.4 million.
-- Streamline freight rail operations through relocating or building new tracks and interchanges: $3.9 million.
-- Replace obsolete State Highway Patrol helicopter and establish airborne unit to perform search and rescue operations during disasters: $3.6 million.
-- Create 24 positions to support advanced statewide emergency responder radio network: $2.3 million.
-- Reduces Highway Trust Fund money for urban loops, city streets and other roads: -$6.3 million.
-- Reduces available Trust Fund money with gasoline tax capped at 29.9 cents per gallon: -$8.1 million.
Other agencies and funds
-- Reduce utilities budget needs for Department of Administration: -$1 million.
-- Increase funding for rape crisis and sexual assault funds: $800,000.
-- Hire four additional State Capitol Police officers: $186,000.
-- House remains of Civil War Confederate ironclad CSS Neuse: $500,000.
-- International Civil Rights Museum: $500,000.
-- Expand Arts Council activities: $2 million.
-- Increase operational support for Queen Anne's Revenge archaeology project: $150,000.
-- State aid to local libraries: $475,000.
-- N.C. Housing Trust Fund, including money to build apartments for people with disabilities: $11 million.
-- Continue home foreclosure protection pilot program: $1.5 million.
-- Reduce by 2 percent Department of Revenue items related to temporary employees: -$1.8 million.
-- Redact personal information from Secretary of State business entity database: $813,000.
-- Reserve for morale, recreation and welfare fund distributed to military installation: $1 million.
Reserves and capital projects
-- Continue upgrade of state's human resources, payroll and financial systems: $30 million.
-- Eliminate all non-university position vacant for longer than six months: -$34.4 million.
-- Equipment for state secondary data center: $9 million.
-- State match for water resources development projects: $20 million.
-- Reserve to install fire sprinklers in dormitories across UNC system: $9 million.
-- Special indebtedness for state construction projects, most university buildings: about $1.2 billion.
-- Increase information technology services operations: $9.5 million.
-- Increase judicial fees, dedicated to court system technology and staff upgrades: $36.8 million.
-- Reserves for future tax credits or adjustments: -$30 million.
END Read more!
Posted by david at 6:10 AM Permalink
NAMI's Statehouse Spotlight is a biweekly electronic public policy news resource containing recaps of recent media coverage from across the country.To follow up on any of the items featured in this publication, please contact Angela Kimball at firstname.lastname@example.org
News from the States
Missouri Medicaid Reforms Clear Legislature
The Missouri state legislature has completed negotiations on the state's highly publicized Medicaid reform initiatives, and has sent a package to Governor Blunt. Key components of the agreed-to reforms include: permission for physicians to collect copayments from Medicaid beneficiaries; requirements that beneficiaries be assigned a primary care location and enrollment in a health-improvement plan; and restoration of benefits for 4,000 workers with disabilities and 6,000 children who lost coverage over the last ffew years. The reforms will be monitored by a newly created oversight panel and do not include earlier proposals that would have provided incentives for beneficiaries who live healthier lifestyles. (kaisernetwork.org, May 22, 2007)i
Deficit Threatens Funding for Michigan Hospitals
Michigan hospital administrators are bracing for a 6 percent cut to Medicaid reimbursement rates if the state legislature fails to identify another solution to eliminate a $700 million budget deficit. Opponents of the cuts believe the reduced rates will create barriers to services for people on Medicaid, as fewer providers would opt to participate in the program. The legislature has until June 1 to reach a budget agreement or Governor Jennifer Granholm will begin enforcing the cuts. (mlive.com, May 16, 2007)
Wisconsin Expected to Support New Mental Health Unit for Women Prisoners
The joint finance committee of the Wisconsin state legislature is expected to approve funding for a 45-bed, $11 million treatment center at the state's Winnebago Mental Health Institution. The state's building commission recommended the construction of the free-standing facility in response to a scathing report issued by the U.S. Justice Department on conditions at Wisconsin's Taycheedah Correctional Institution. The report cited examples of inmates being held in administrative segregation because their psychiatric conditions were so severe, there was no other place to put them. The state currently faces legal action from the ACLU and possible action by the Department of Justice over the mental health care within its correctional system. (madison.com, May 24, 2007)
Utah Set to Launch PDL; Access to Psychotropics to Be Preserved
Utah is set to implement a preferred drug list by August with hopes of saving the state $10 million a year in drug costs. The state plans to start with acid reflux and cholesterol drugs and then expand to other categories; however, state legislators are insistent that the list not address psychotropic medications. One of the provisions of the new PDL is that doctors can bypass the list by using "dispense as written" on the prescription. (kcpw.com, May 16, 2007)
Community Forums in Ohio Identify Constituent Concerns
NAMI-sponsored events highlighting concerns about the state's mental health care system have proven interesting to several Ohio legislators who attended the events. Common themes from the meetings included concerns that Medicaid HMO's (new to the state as part of ongoing Medicaid reforms) would use formularies to limit access to mental health medications, and new requirements of local governments to use county funds to match federal expenditures for the state's Medicaid program. Already, the increased use of local funds has compromised a program historically used to support non-Medicaid programs. (athensnews.com, May 10, 2007)
Wisconsin Legislators Seek to Address Mental Health Parity
Legislators in Wisconsin are going to the mat once again to change state law to provide better insurance benefits for persons with mental health conditions. Currently, state law only requires group insurers to cover up to $7,000 annually for mental health or substance abuse treatment. Debate on the subject has demonstrated the economic toll of mental illnesses when insurance coverage is not available, including one couple who has generated over $25,000 in bills related to mental health treatment in just three years. Wisconsin is one of nine states that does offer some form of mental health parity. (thenorthwestern.com, May 24, 2007)
Washington Quick Glance
Debate on Medicare Part D Continues
Conversation about the U.S. Medicare prescription drug benefit is a hot policy topic among presidential candidates of both parties. NAMI has asserted several key priorities related to Medicare Part D for the past two years and encourages NAMI members to use these policy objectives in conversations with federal candidates:
It is critical for Part D drug plans to meet their obligation for broad coverage of medications to treat mental illness-–specifically to cover "all or substantially all" of the medications in six classes, including antipsychotics, antidepressants, and anticonvulsants-–currently required by CMS. NAMI supports efforts to Congress to codify this requirement as part of the permanent Medicare law.
Congress should change Part D to waive cost-sharing for dual eligibles residing in board-and-care homes, psychiatric residential facilities,--and congregate living arrangements-–as is proposed in S 1107, legislation proposed by Senators Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM).
Congress needs to amend Part D to allow for coverage of benzodiazepines, which are currently excluded from coverage.
Recently, the American Psychiatric Association released a report outlining the experiences of Medicare Part D participants in gaining access to medications used to treat mental illness. Information on the report and other resources is available by clicking here. Read more!
Posted by david at 6:04 AM Permalink
Posted: May 30, 2007
Until recently, most doctors didn't talk about recovering from a major mental illness. It was generally believed that conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression were lifelong, debilitating illnesses. Ronald Diamond, a psychiatrist from Madison, is hoping to turn that kind of thinking around. Diamond will be the keynote speaker at a conference Sunday in Milwaukee titled "Hope and Help: You Are Not Alone: A Jewish Community Program on Mental Illness." The program runs from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Congregation Sinai, 8223 N. Port Washington Road, Fox Point. It is sponsored by the Jewish Community Mental Health Education Project, a collaborative program of Jewish Family Services. Admission is free. Diamond, medical director at the Mental Health Center of Dane County, professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin and consultant to the Wisconsin Bureau of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, spoke recently with Journal Sentinel reporter Meg Kissinger.
Q. Why do we make distinctions in our culture between those with mental illness and other illnesses?
A. A lot of people are frightened by mental illness. We are afraid to admit that we might have more in common with people who are mentally ill. We worry, "Will I catch it?"
Q. How does the stigma of having mental illness contribute to people's recovery?
A. It is almost as difficult as recovering from the disease itself. Instead of John or Susan, they are seen as "That Guy with Schizophrenia" or "The Woman with Bipolar." It's very polarizing.
Q.What is your estimate of the number of people with schizophrenia who can manage well?
A. About one-third of those with schizophrenia do quite well. Another third are pretty stable but continue to have trouble. The last third have a persistently difficult course.
Q.Wisconsin is one of a handful of states that does not require parity for mental illness in insurance coverage. Is mental illness that much more expensive to treat than, say, heart disease or cancer?
A. It's a fantasy or fiction that mental health care is really expensive and that people will fake it. The reality is that the prevention is much less expensive than a cure. And, if anything, people are inclined to under-report their mental illness.
Q.How do you help people recover from mental illness?
A. Help engenders hope. Recovery does not mean cure. They live with the risk of recurrence, just as cancer patients do. We are not talking about schizophrenia being gone. We are talking about being able to live as complete a life as possible. We need to let go of expectations. Read more!
Posted by david at 5:57 AM Permalink
By Candice Brooks Higgins
FAIRFIELD — The Butler County Mental Health Board awarded two contracts — totaling $3.7 million — Wednesday night to turn over some existing services to new providers, but not without some controversy.
Forensic Mental Health Services in Hamilton for many years has been contracted to provide 24-hour crisis intervention services and monitoring for the severely mentally ill who have been court-ordered to undergo treatment or admitted to the state hospital, Summit Behavioral.
However, expenses for overuse of the state hospital were allowed to peak to the highest in the state in 2005 while crisis services were cut back to primarily life or death situations, Mental Health Board Executive Director Terry Royer said. In addition, Forensic's executive director and finance director resigned late last year.
Therefore, the board requested proposals for those services and Forensic opted not to bid, Royer said. The Community Counseling and Crisis Center was one of three bidders for the crisis services, but its proposal was rejected because a statement of fiscal accountability was mistakenly excluded. The Oxford agency's director, Amelia Orr, requested a second time Wednesday for her agency — which runs a crisis hotline — to be considered. She was denied.
"The board has to be consistent," Royer said.
Butler Behavioral Health Services instead won the near $600,000 contract for crisis intervention. Forensic was paid $171,000 for the services, but new levy funds were used to expand the contract.
"A crisis service is...our most visible service and it needs to be first rate," Royer said. "I think that what we have that in Butler Behavioral's proposal."
Community Behavioral Health was awarded a $3.1 million contract — about $150,000 more than Forensic's contract — for services to the severely mentally ill.
The board has also decided to allow competitive bidding on expanded services in Middletown, which a recent study showed was underserved.
The decision came after Middletown-based Comprehensive Mental Health Services objected May 16 to Royer's recommendation to give Butler Behavioral, a Hamilton-based agency, that $450,000 contract. Royer's proposal was part of a larger plan to address immediate needs with the first $1 million of the $7.5 million generated annually from the passage of a new 1-mill levy.
Competitive bidding is not required for mental health services, but board member and Butler County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Sage said it makes providers who have historically enjoyed long-continuing contracts accountable for their services.
"I don't believe there should be a closed shop," Sage said. "A free enterprise system is all about providing the best service for the least expense in dollars to the taxpayers."
Sage said he envisions competitive bidding becoming a standard practice after the board's strategic plan — which could be drafted by June 20 — is adopted. With the chance to reinvent the system after a November levy passage, Sage said the board can define the service the community needs and expect providers to bid on that service, rather than providers dictating available services. Read more!
Posted by david at 5:55 AM Permalink
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) _ Someone found mentally incompetent to stand trial in New Hampshire still may be competent to own guns, the state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.
The court overturned a Concord District Court ruling in which a man was denied his weapons after being found mentally incompetent to stand trial on theft, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges for an outburst at Division of Motor Vehicles headquarters in Concord three years ago.
Scott Buchanan took the issue to court after authorities refused to give two guns back.
The court ruled the criteria for being found incompetent to stand trial were different from the legal standard for being declared mentally defective under federal law _ the standard by which gun ownership can be denied.
The high court directed Concord District Court to have another hearing to reconsider whether Buchanan meets the "mental defective" criteria.
The court ruled that a competency determination focuses on whether a defendant has a "rational and factual" understanding of a case and can reasonably assist in a defense. The state competency law does not, however, address the federal "mental defective" standards of whether a person is dangerous or unable to manage personal affairs, the court said.
"Because it appears the trial court ruled as a matter of law that 'adjudicated as a mental defective' means the same thing as incompetent to stand trial, we hold that it erred," the court ruled.
Buchanan was arrested Nov. 24, 2004, after a confrontation with a highway safety officer at the state DMV office in Concord.
Police seized a gun from Buchanan's car, and Buchanan later surrendered a second firearm as a result of a bail order while the charges were pending against him, Senior Assistant Attorney General Ann Rice told The Telegraph of Nashua.
The charges were dismissed after Buchanan was found incompetent to stand trial because of his excessive and unusual paranoia about police and government, according to court records. Read more!
Posted by david at 5:53 AM Permalink
By STEPHANIE HARRIS THOMAS
May 30, 2007
Arkansas First Lady Ginger Beebe was in Hope on Tuesday to visit a family with a child who suffers from mental illness. She met with the family, whose identity is protected, as part of Mental Health Awareness Month.
The first lady has made that a part of a statewide plan to help mentally ill children. It is also in connection with a commission that will be appointed by the governor in the next few months.
“Being a first lady, I support the governor. That is my number one goal,” Beebe said.
She said the motivation for working with these children and families came from information gathered when campaigning.
“This is one of the things that I heard from so many families; some times it was about lack of services. Sometimes, it was about services that were good and they wanted to share that in hopes the state would expand on it,” Beebe said.
Beebe said the some partnering agencies involved are the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, Federation for Families, and the National Alliance of Mental Health, as well as parents of mentally ill children.
Julie Munsell, of the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services, said that advocate groups for this type of thing have been in place for a long time, but they have not seen many real changes.
Beebe and Munsell agree that visiting with individual families will help to provide the best information on helping children with mental illness.
“We hope to show the normalness of mental health - it is just like your physical health. If you break your arm, you do not get stuck into a category like you would if you have a mental health issue,” Munsell said.
“Or a behavioral issue; a lot of children have behavioral issues because of mental health. They need a little support,” she added.
Beebe said she explained mental illness to a child at a benefit walk for the National Alliance for Mental Health. She said she told the four year old, “The difference with a physical illness is that you can see it. With a mental illness you can't see it,” Beebe said.
“Physical and mental illnessess both bleed over on one another,” Munsell said. They hope to lessen the stigma associated with mental illness, Munsell said.
“It is an illness, such as diabetes,” she said.
Munsell said the commission to be appointed originated from an act passed by legislation that created the Children's Behavioral Health Commission.
People who were appointed to the commission were providers, or from associated agencies, and state department of education representatives.
“This is the first year we've had seats for parents,” Munsell said. She said they want to get feedback from parents to meet the needs of mentally ill children. Read more!
Posted by david at 5:51 AM Permalink
DENVER- Gov. Bill Ritter signed seven measures Wednesday aimed at increasing services for the elderly and improving mental health care, including one that will expand the conditions that health insurers must cover.
The new law adds such conditions as post-traumatic stress disorder, drug and alcohol disorders and anorexia to the list of covered problems. Biologically based mental illnesses including schizophrenia and major depressive disorder were already covered under the previous law.
The other new laws also coordinate mental health treatment for children, including those in the juvenile justice system.
Ritter signed four other bills later in the day expanding services mainly for the elderly.
They encourage the use of tracking devices to locate handicapped people who become lost, rebate more tax money to seniors and disabled people, increase funding for such senior services as Meals on Wheels, legal assistance and shopping shuttles, and promote long-term services for the elderly in communities.
Posted by david at 5:41 AM Permalink
By Staff Writer
A couple tries to build two careers, care for two careers, care for two children and build a marriage all at once. They’re stressed. They live in a fast-paced, high striving culture where they try to do all the right things for their children, their employers and each other. They often neglect themselves in the process.
A woman who is successful in her career and seems to have everything she ever wanted in life finds herself crying all the time. She is puzzled by her intense feelings and has tried everything she knows to do to try to “snap out of it,” but to no avail.
A man notices that he is losing his temper with his children and is disturbed by the realization that he is acting as his father did. Anger was common in the family he grew up in, and he told himself he would never be that way but he can’t seem to control himself.
An adolescent who is a good student and has many friends does not get the college scholarship he wished for. He becomes hopeless and considers suicide.
These individuals struggle with depression, anxiety and experience a myriad of physical problems related to their situations. Any of these scenarios sound familiar?
Our personal mental health needs can be the easiest thing to push aside—especially when the consequences of doing so are often not immediately seen or felt.
Later, these needs may catch up with us causing some kind of disease, sleep disturbances, panic attacks, depressions, conflicts in relationships, decreased productivity of work, overeating and a wide range of physical symptoms.
The physical effects of stress--high blood pressure, heart conditions, ulcers, headaches, etc.--are well documented.
Mental health reduces negative physical reactions and improves our overall quality of life. Mental health helps people cope with stress, find balance between personal and professional demands, make good decisions and function responsibly and successfully. Mental health helps us maintain self-confidence, develop healthy relationships and enjoy life.
One barrier to getting mental health help is the common belief that needing help is a sign of weakness or inadequacy, rather than a sign of strength and effectiveness.
Mental health care not only addresses mental illness or substance abuse, but also can help us handle all of the various problems of living, great or small. The need for support, validation and assistance in solving problems in the present, or healing from the past, is a normal human need.
Our culture reinforces the notion of not needing others in its overemphasis on independence and autonomy. Needing others is different than being overly dependent. And equating the need for support or assistance with a lack of autonomy just adds to more stress and bad feelings.
All these negative associations with mental health care contribute to the lack of psychotherapy and the isolation and unhappiness that people then end up living with.
Fortunately we are beginning to see how mental health and physical health are intertwined and the stigma associated with receiving mental health care is lessening. The Mental Health Association of Colorado has declared the month of May as Mental Health Month. The Surgeon General released a report in December of 1999. In that report was the recognition that mental health is integral to physical health, helping to normalize the need for mental health care.
I hope that the stigma attached to psychotherapy, whether it’s sought for significant mental disorder or for a problem in daily living, continues to decrease. And that mental health care is recognized by society, our government and managed care programs as essential for promoting healthy productive lives.
For more information check the Mental Health Association of Colorado at www.mhacolorado.org.
Pennock Center for Counseling is a nonprofit counseling center and a program of the First Presbyterian Church in Brighton. We provide professional counseling to adults, couples, children, adolescents and families. Fees are based on a sliding fee scale according to income. Call the counseling center at 303-655-9065. Read more!
Posted by david at 5:40 AM Permalink
By Christopher Williams , Staff Writer
May 30, 2007
LEWISTON - The man accused of murdering three women and a man over Labor Day last year is expected to claim he was not criminally responsible for his actions because he was mentally ill at the time.
How likely Christian Nielsen is to succeed with that defense will depend on conclusions drawn by his and the state's psychologists, who have investigated his mental state during the slayings.
While the public may view an insanity plea as an attempt to skirt justice, experts say the opposite is true.
An insanity plea is rarely used in Maine because state law requires defendants to provide a preponderance of evidence that they were not criminally responsible.
If Nielsen succeeds in his effort, he would be committed to the state's psychiatric hospital in Augusta for an indefinite period. He might never leave.
Dating back to 1970, nearly 60 people who invoked the insanity defense are in state custody, 22 of them at Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta. The others are living in halfway houses or supervised apartments. A few are serving prison sentences. All but possibly one suffer from mental illness, says State Forensic Service Director Ann Leblanc, a clinical psychologist who oversees the state's mental health evaluations. That one person probably suffered from a personality disorder, she said.
Once committed, the former defendants can't leave state custody until they prove to a judge they no longer pose a threat to themselves or others.
Three were released last year from the custody of the commissioner at the Department of Health and Human Services; three were newly committed.
Rare in Maine
In Maine, the so-called insanity defense is rarely used. Leblanc says a "small percentage" of defendants evaluated by the state's psychologists actually proceed to trial asserting they are not criminally responsible because, as a result or mental disease or defect, they lacked substantial capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of their criminal conduct. That wording is taken from state law.
Only a handful, up to a half-dozen, succeed each year, she said.
She doesn't track the number of cases that go to trial. National statistics are outdated and wouldn't necessarily be accurate because other states have different insanity laws, she said. Maine's has changed substantially over the years. Four states allow no insanity defense.
In nearly all insanity cases in Maine, the defendants were charged with serious felonies, such as homicide, kidnapping or arson, and were facing long prison sentences if convicted. Otherwise, the unknown length of stay they face if committed to Riverview is not an attractive alternative.
RELATED STORY: State requests results of Nielsen examination
RELATED STORY: Nielsen amends plea in 4 deaths
RELATED STORY: Judge rules Nielsen can be force-fed
RELATED STORY: Expert: Motive can determine jail behavior
RELATED STORY: Competency test ordered for Nielsen
According to statute, only those who suffer "severely abnormal mental conditions that grossly and demonstrably impair a person's perception or understanding of reality" are eligible for an insanity defense.
Many have tried to fake it, but it's not easy to feign severe mental illness for more than a couple of days or even hours, Leblanc said.
"Most people can't do it long enough to be convincing," she said.
Those who try to deceive experts likely suffer from mental illness but attempt a more severe form or a different diagnosis from their own, she said.
'Very difficult' burden
And just because somebody is diagnosed with mental illness doesn't necessarily mean that person lacked the substantial capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of their actions, said Charles Robinson, a consulting psychologist from Manchester who has testified in about a dozen insanity cases over two decades.
Not every evaluation results in a court appearance, he said. In fact, most don't.
"In the last three or four cases, I told the lawyers, 'OK, here's what I think.' There was no trial," he said.
If his conclusions match those of the state's experts, an agreement for commitment might result or the defense might not seek an insanity defense at all. That is happening more as the science of mental illness progresses, leaving less room for conflicting conclusions, he said.
Most defendants found not criminally responsible in the cases in which Robinson has been involved suffer from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, he said.
Proving a defendant is not criminally responsible is a hard tack to take in court, the Manchester psychologist said.
"It's a very, very difficult burden to meet," he said.
At most criminal trials, the burden is on the state to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The insanity plea is called an affirmative defense because the defendant bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of evidence that he or she is not criminally responsible.
Robinson said he simply shares his findings and facts with the court when he takes the stand and doesn't try to persuade anyone to see things his way. Judges and juries would be able to see through that.
"It's not possible to be slick or to fool people," he said.
Melvyn Zarr, a law professor at Maine Law School in Portland, said the outcome of insanity cases hangs on the testimony provided by psychologists.
"Usually, the result is dictated by what the experts say," he said.
A sharp prosecutor will try to exclude the defense evidence supporting an insanity plea and ask the judge not to give the jury the option of finding the defendant not criminally responsible due to a lack of evidence.
Nielsen had no history
Nielsen's attorney has said his 32-year-old client had no history of violent behavior before the slayings. Since he has been in custody, however, he reportedly has attacked another jail inmate and slashed his own forehead with a razor.
Robinson said a person's history of mental illness and past actions are not always predictors of future behavior.
Some people are able to control their mental illness. Sometimes an illness progresses to a point where the person experiences a break and snaps into violent behavior.
In determining whether a person was not criminally responsible at the time of his or her actions, Robinson said he conducts an investigation that goes far beyond an interview with the defendant, which usually ranks near the bottom of his evaluation.
That investigation will include interviews with other people familiar with the defendant, medical and other personal records and videotapes of police interviews with the suspect. All elements are assigned different levels of importance, he said.
Most people who end up pleading not criminally responsible are quickly caught by police, Robinson said.
That was the case with Nielsen, who confessed to killing the four victims, according to a Maine State Police affidavit.
He said he shot James Whitehurst, 50, of Arkansas, in the back of the head on their way to Upton for some fishing. He started to dig a grave to bury Whitehurst's body, then attempted to burn it. He never told police why he killed Whitehurst.
At the Black Bear Bed and Breakfast in Newry, where he lived, Nielsen decided to shoot the inn's owner, Julie Bullard, 65, in the chest three times because she might suspect him of being responsible for Whitehurst's disappearance, he reportedly told police.
He shot Bullard's daughter, Selby Bullard, 30, and her friend, Cindy Beatson, 43, in the head after they surprised him at the bed and breakfast, according to police reports.
He took the bodies outside and dismembered them with a chain saw and a hacksaw, police said. Read more!
Posted by david at 5:37 AM Permalink
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Twenty percent of soldiers and 15 percent of Marines were found to have a mental health problem, defined as anxiety, depression or acute stress.
By PAULINE JELINEK
WASHINGTON — Life for U.S. troops in Iraq can be boring and commanders can sometimes seem petty.
Morale for each Army soldier and Marine in the war depends foremost on how much combat they have seen. But it also is about the trivial and mundane — a lack of privacy or a resented rule that dictates the color of T-shirts they must wear.
It's about the triumphs, too.
"It's up and down," said Spc. Christopher Hagen, assigned to Baqouba in the increasingly violent Diyala province north of Baghdad.
When troops score a success against militants, "morale goes through the roof," said Hagen. "But when you hear one of your friends gets hurt, it drops to an all-time low."
A recently released Pentagon mental health study of troops in Iraq found 45 percent of junior enlisted Army soldiers rated their unit's morale as low or very low. Twenty percent of soldiers and 15 percent of Marines were found to have a mental health problem, defined as anxiety, depression or acute stress.
Researchers found both depend partly on how long each person has been there, how many tours of duty they've served and what their personal experiences have been.
"We have it pretty good here," said Sgt. Jesus Cruz, who organizes helicopter flight logistics in Baghdad's Green Zone. The heavily fortified zone houses Iraqi government offices and is only sporadically hit by mortar. Assignment there means good dining hall food, regular work schedules and access to the U.S. Embassy swimming pool.
"A lot of guys out there have it a lot tougher," Cruz said.
About two-thirds of those surveyed said they knew someone who had been killed or injured. More than three-quarters of soldiers and Marines said they had been in situations where they could have been killed or seriously injured.
Events that made them feel "intense fear, helplessness or horror," were described by nearly 40 percent.
Reported anonymously in the publicly released version of the study, the events included:
_"My sergeant's leg getting blown off."
_"A huge ... bomb blew my friend's head off like 50 meters from me."
_"Doing raids on houses with bad intel."
_"Working to clean out body parts from a blown up tank."
_"Convoy stopped in dangerous areas due to incompetent commanders."
_"A Bradley (tank) blew up. We got two guys out, three were still inside. I was the medic."
The report, released May 4, was based on data collected from some 1,300 soldiers and nearly 450 Marines in Iraq last fall. When it was released, most attention focused on the study's first-ever survey of ethics among troops at the front.
The report also found:
_The ratings on morale and instances of mental health problems were at about the same levels as in the previous study, done in mid-2006.
_Fifty-six percent of soldiers were highly concerned about the long tours.
_Eleven percent of those deployed for the first time had a mental health problem, compared to 27 percent of those on repeat tours.
_ Lack of privacy was a major concern among 39 percent of soldiers, whose housing ranges from two-person trailers to 20-person tents.
_ Boring and repetitive work was a main concern for 39 percent of soldiers and 33 percent of Marines.
_Among soldiers exposed to a low level of combat, 11 percent had a mental health problem; it was 30 percent among those who saw a high level of combat.
_More than a third of soldiers and Marines reported being in threatening situations where they weren't allowed to use force. After Iraqis began throwing gasoline-filled bottles at them, for instance, troops were banned from responding with force for nearly a month until the rules of engagement were changed.
_Many resent senior leaders for what they say are harassing rules — like the one on the T-shirt rules.
When asked in focus group interviews specifically what affected morale, troops consistently mentioned two things: base rules they disliked and what they saw as an unfair system on morale-boosting programs, the study said.
In some places, soldiers were not allowed to wear tan Army T-shirts with black Army shorts — they could only wear gray T-shirts with the black shorts.
In one unit, it was ordered that when two or more soldiers were walking together, they had to be dressed alike.
Such rules can be aimed at maintaining order and discipline, but troops felt "they had no other practical purpose other than to harass" them, said the report.
Soldiers also said those who went off-base to do the most dangerous duty had to wait in long lines to use phones or e-mail, could rarely take the afternoon off to attend concerts or other events, and found it harder to take R&R because they are needed in the fight.
Those who rarely, if ever left base had unfettered access to those morale-boosting programs — not to mention got "first dibs" on new items coming into the post commissary.
"It is probably not any single" thing, but rather "the accumulation of all of them that tends to wear down the soldiers' and Marines' morale," the study said.
Associated Press Writer Todd Pitman contributed to this report from Baghdad. Read more!
Posted by david at 5:55 AM Permalink
Doctors have diagnosed bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder.
By Jonathan D. Jones
GREENSBORO — The killer sat silent throughout his trial.
Staring forward, avoiding eye contact, rarely speaking with his attorneys. At times it was easy to forget William James Schreiber was even in the room.
So it was no surprise that Schreiber showed little emotion when his sentence, the result of a hung jury, came in Tuesday night: two life sentences. One for murdering an 8-month-old baby. One for butchering her mother.
He was spared the death penalty.
Schreiber, 35, stabbed his girlfriend, Teri Marie Sokoloff, to death on Sept. 19, 2005. He then drowned her baby, Skye.
A Guilford County jury deliberated Schreiber’s fate for nine hours Friday and Tuesday. It found him guilty of two counts of first-degree murder last week.
But during the sentencing phase, the jury deadlocked
8-4 Tuesday in favor of a death sentence. That caused Superior Court Judge James Hardin to declare a mistrial in that phase, meaning the only sentence that could be imposed for each killing was life without parole.
Sokoloff’s father, John Land, said he was disappointed Schreiber wasn’t sentenced to die.
"If the vicious sneak attack on a 31-year-old sleeping female, stabbing her 14 times including in the neck, and the drowning of an infant doesn’t fit the parameters of the death penalty, then what kind of viciousness does?" Land said. "At the same time, I can understand that some people do not vision any situation under which the state should put someone to death."
None of the jurors contacted after the trial would comment.
Hardin gave Schreiber consecutive sentences at the state’s request. Prosecutor Bill Wood wanted to make sure Schreiber would stay in jail if the state ever considers granting early release to prisoners serving life sentences.
Schreiber remained mostly silent throughout the trial, opting not to take the stand in his own defense and not to speak during his sentencing.
Defense attorneys Wayne Baucino and William Causey were relieved that their client had been spared the death penalty. Causey called it a "miracle verdict."
They focused their defense of Schreiber on his mental illness and asked the jury to weigh that when considering the death penalty. At various times doctors have diagnosed bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder in Schreiber.
His defense team conceded at the start of the trial that he was guilty of second-degree murder but argued that his mental illness prevented him from being able to formulate the intent needed for a first-degree murder conviction.
During his sentencing hearing Thursday morning, James Aiken, an expert on prisons, testified that there is a strong likelihood of Schreiber being victimized by other prisoners because he killed a child and that his life in prison will be particularly rough.
Land said he hopes Aiken’s assessment of life in prison for Schreiber is accurate.
"I hope (Schreiber) realizes that every day, when it comes to a close, no matter what kind of hell that day was, all it did was bring him one day closer to the final penalty," Land said. "And that will be for eternity." Read more!
Posted by david at 5:46 AM Permalink
The Fitzsimon File: Chris Fitzsimon
May 29th, 2007
Democratic Senators had a surprise waiting for them when they arrived back at the General Assembly Tuesday morning after the Memorial Day Holiday, the Senate budget delivered to their offices at 8:30.
The Senate Democratic Caucus met at 9:00 to discuss the 272-page budget bill and the accompanying money report that runs close to 100 pages, documents that most Senators had not seen in their entirety until Tuesday morning.
After an hour and half meeting, Democrats adjourned to get ready for the budget subcommittees that met at 11:00.
Republican Senators got their first look at the $20 billion spending plan a few minutes before the 11:00 meetings, when it was delivered to their offices.
In many ways the details of the budget are as disturbing as the private and exclusionary process used to put it together. The Senate budget tracks the House budget fairly closely in terms of what is funded, but the amounts are different because of the decision Senate leaders made about taxes.
The Senate budget allows the 2001 temporary increases in the sales tax and income tax on the wealthy to expire, which means a loss of $300 million in state revenue. The House voted to keep the taxes on the books and still wasn’t able to meet many of the vital needs of the state, particularly in mental health.
The Senate budget cuts the taxes and provides less funding for the important programs that the House budget expands, health care for children, school nurses, teaching assistants, and affordable housing.
The House budget includes $4 million for Kid’s Care, a program to provide health coverage for children in families with incomes from 200 percent to 300 percent of the federal poverty level. The Senate declined to fund the program, instead calling for a study of expanding health care for children.
Advocates had urged the House to do more and allow parents who earn too much to qualify for the program buy into it by paying the full cost of the premium. The House balked at that logical expansion and the Senate decided to do even less, which is what happens when tax cuts are more of a priority than helping families with health care.
The Senate budget does spend slightly more on mental health services, but like the House, finds most of the money by reallocating it from other mental health programs. Advocates for the mentally ill think the Senate budget may actually be worse than the House proposal because of some of the restrictions put on the money in the Senate plan.
The one place the Senate did outspend the House was in borrowing money for university projects and state buildings, including $1.2 billion in certificates of participation, a type of bond that does require voter approval. The House budget was attacked for paying for $400 million worth of construction projects with those kinds of bonds.
The Senate budget cuts taxes, but does not include a Earned Income Tax Credit that the House voted to establish in the second year of the two-year budget cycle. It is an initiative that provides targeted tax relief for the working poor. (Look for more details about the plan in Wednesday’s Fitzsimon File.)
One important exception to the mediocrity that defines the Senate bill is the funding for three pilot needle exchange programs to help reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS. That’s a tribute to the persistence of Senator Martin Nesbitt.
The budget now goes to the Senate floor, but don’t expect much of a debate if Tuesday’s committee votes are any indication. After the budget committee heard the bill explained and discussed a few minor amendments, Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand said he had heard enough and cut off debate.
It was the Senate leadership flexing its muscle again, tolerating no more discussion, much less dissent about a plan that cuts taxes and spends less than the House on education, human services, and helping children.
It was the perfect ending to the Senate budget day. Read more!
Posted by david at 5:43 AM Permalink
Letter to the editor:
In response to the May 25 article "Family: Stories differ on shooting," the family and the community await a more definitive and conclusive statement from investigators. Appropriately, this incident has encouraged continued discussion on speeding, police pursuit and the relationship between gun control and those who have mental illnesses.
According to your article, four officers fired between 10 and 39 shots at Stephen Gibson as he tried to exit the car while holding a gun. It seems that the victim was hit by two bullets.
In addition to an unacceptable shooting percentage by trained professionals, this seems to be an excess of force that concluded with the worst possible result.
While most people would strongly advocate for law enforcement officers to protect themselves and the public, I doubt that many citizens approve of this show of violence. It is disturbing to imagine that the Highway Patrol has policies, procedures or training that encourage officers to respond in this way.
The lack of public or editorial dissent in this tragic incident is equally disturbing. For the editorial staff at The News & Observer to call these actions "justified" in a May 25 editorial is insidious.
Editor's note: The editorial recounted Stephen Gibson's armed robbery of a store in Magnolia and the ensuing chase on I-40. It then said, "When it [the chase] ended in a crash, he is said to have held out a handgun while emerging from the car. The decision by law officers to use deadly force appears to have been justified, provided their initial version of events proves accurate. Read more!
Posted by david at 5:37 AM Permalink
Excerpted from "Under the Dome" column
A UNC system campus safety task force on Tuesday started to hash out the difficult issues raised by the shooting rampage at Virginia Tech last month.
A group of chancellors, administrators, police chiefs, faculty and students began what is expected to be a six-month examination of safety on UNC campuses.
The panel will look at a variety of issues, such as how to identify and respond to threats, how to deal with students who have mental illnesses, and how to handle problems involving alcohol, drugs and weapons. Also on the table will be a look at technology that could improve emergency communications and make campus buildings more secure.
Another task force will look at safety on all campuses, including private colleges, community colleges and UNC campuses. That panel is likely to be appointed by the end of the week by Attorney General Roy Cooper, said Leslie Winner, the UNC system's vice president and general counsel.
A key question will be how and when campuses can notify parents or law enforcement if students pose a danger to themselves or others. Federal privacy laws and medical confidentiality rules often prevent counselors and others from communicating with relatives and sharing information with university officials who might be in a position to intervene. The issue will be be taken up by Congress.
Laws provide for notification in cases of imminent danger. Some suggested trying to lower that standard to include cases in which there is a reasonable likelihood of harm.
Another problem, say campus officials, is how to prevent students from buying guns. It is a felony to possess a handgun on a university campus in North Carolina, but that law does not keep it from happening, police chiefs say.
While improvements can be made, some cautioned that there is only so much universities can do to protect students.
"I don't think you can walk out of this task force telling parents that you can prevent Virginia Tech from happening again," said Phillip Dubois, chancellor of UNC-Charlotte. Read more!
Posted by david at 5:35 AM Permalink
In a small strip mall in an area in northern Charlotte known for crime, evangelist Betty Smith is fighting back with food, shelter and preaching.
But the city wants to close her street mission for violating zoning rules. Some officials also say her efforts actually hurt a distressed neighborhood.
Smith, known widely as "Mother Betty," is upset because she deliberately opened a makeshift homeless shelter where she believes it's needed most.
She wonders why the city is trying to close her Deeper Life Mission but not the neighboring businesses, which include a topless bar and a pool hall.
"There are drugs everywhere around here, but they don't bother nobody but us," said Smith, 78.
Authorities acknowledge Smith's good intentions but disagree with her methods.
"Her heart's in the right place, but rules are in place for a reason," said Walter Abernethy, the city's code enforcement director.
Smith's effort is a personal crusade in the face of a larger problem. Her facility has housed up to 40 people a night, but Charlotte has an estimated 5,000 homeless people, with fewer than 2,000 available beds.
`We never close the door'
Smith said she grew up in Salisbury, an orphan raised by relatives and neighbors. She often relied on the generosity of others for food and necessities, she said.After moving around the country, she came to Charlotte in 1998. Since then, she has lived and conducted her ministry in the same neighborhood along Statesville Avenue north of uptown.
At one time, she used an amplifier and microphone to preach the gospel from the front porch of her home. Her Sunday sermons at a different storefront once played on public access cable television.
In December, she started renting a former barbershop for $500 a month, paid for with her own money. She cooks for the homeless, and some food is donated. The homeless sleep on chairs or on the floor and sometimes supervise the facility themselves.
Smith ministers at the storefront on a regular basis to some of the hardest cases on the street, drug addicts and those suffering from mental illness.
"I hate to see men going down like this," she said. "That's why we never close the door."
She has until June 11 to close or face fines. She says she may hire a lawyer to keep her mission open or find another location.
Three weeks ago, a city zoning inspector ordered Smith to close after police complained that she was running an unlicensed shelter.
The inspector, Derrick Caudell, said he issued a cease-and-desist order because the property is zoned for commercial business and a homeless shelter requires a 2-acre parcel. The strip mall property is less than one acre.
Smith also did not obtain proper licensing or seek rezoning, Caudell said.
Some tenants in Smith's building are suspects in a rash of break-ins and contribute to loitering and drug trafficking around the strip mall, said Officer Donnie Penix, who patrols the area.
For three years, he said, police targeted the strip mall, the site of shootings and drug trafficking.
Penix said police have unsuccessfully tried to shut down the pool hall. Some of the homeless men drink in the pool hall, which does not have a liquor license.
"It's a mess," Penix said. "Every day I pull into the parking lot and someone is drinking and loitering. It's a huge eyesore."
Smith denies that her clients have caused trouble. "Nothing goes on in here except the word of God," she said.
`This gave me hope'
If Smith's mission closes, many of the men say they will have no place to go. Some can't function in group settings, and others have been kicked out of shelters for breaking the rules.
Robert Jones, 48, said a stroke has left him physically unable to keep his construction job. He said he is blind in one eye and receives monthly Social Security checks, but it isn't enough to pay for rent.
He said Smith's counseling has helped him kick drugs for three months. "This gave me hope," he said.
Bobby Carter said he has slept at the mission since February. He said he is No. 1,540 on the Charlotte Housing Authority's waiting list for public housing, but that means he will likely have to wait at least two years for an opening.
Police: Good idea, bad place
Police were called to the area around the strip mall almost 600 times last year. Many reports were for assaults, prostitution and drugs.
On a recent night, police officers searched a laundromat while responding to a report that someone was using drugs there.
Police Maj. Eddie Levins said those kind of reports make Smith's operation a bad idea for that location. He said that Smith is trying to "do the right thing" but that it's detrimental to the homeless and the neighborhood.
For her part, Smith said she won't stop. She'll let the men go to her house if her mission is closed, she said.
Last week, she stood in the doorway of the building shouting "God loves you" repeatedly to a 16-year-old boy who was throwing a bottle near the shelter.
Smith called him over and spoke to him gently through a fence. She gave him a business card. Call anytime, she told him, and the boy agreed to stop throwing bottles.
"He's a sweetheart," Smith said. "He's angry. I asked him where his parents where, and he said they were out using drugs." Read more!
Posted by david at 5:30 AM Permalink
By Stephanie Heinatz
May 29, 2007
HAMPTON, VA -- By admitting themselves to the psychiatric unit at the Hampton Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Floyd "Chip" Washabaugh and Glen Brennan were asking for help.
Washabaugh, a 63-year-old combat veteran wounded in Vietnam, was suffering from depression. He didn't want to commit suicide, he told physicians, but was convinced that he would soon die.
Brennan, a 35-year-old husband and new father, wanted to kick a drug addiction that he'd fought for several years.
Both men died at the VA hospital after frequent complaints of physical pains: Washabaugh was often short of breath, and Brennan had back pain - later determined to be from a fractured vertebra.
Their complaints were largely ignored by the staff, according to Washabaugh's medical record and a malpractice lawsuit filed by Brennan's widow.
Their deaths, a physician and three nurses familiar with the unit told the Daily Press, aren't anomalies. They are part of a pattern of mental health patients not receiving treatment - or receiving the wrong treatment - for physical problems.
"There is a callous disregard for medical issues of patients on the unit," said the doctor, who asked not to be named. "The unit is the most dangerous place to be at the VA."
When Washabaugh complained of trouble breathing, a doctor in the unit prescribed Washabaugh an anti-anxiety medication.
Washabaugh died in January of a blood clot in his lungs.
The unit's medical staff decided that Brennan's complaints of back pain were an attempt to get drugs, according to his widow's lawsuit. He died in 2001 of a drug overdose, which his family thinks was his way of self-medicating.
This year, the hospital paid $210,000 to settle the lawsuit and acknowledged that it was responsible for Brennan's death.
A spokeswoman for the hospital said there had been three deaths in the unit in the last 10 years. "That is very minimal in a 10-year span of time," said Wanda Mims, director of the Hampton medical center.
But that number doesn't include patients, such as Washabaugh, who got sick in the unit and then died after being transferred to the intensive care unit or the emergency room.
The Daily Press asked two weeks ago how many patients from the unit have died after being transferred to the ICU or the ER, but the hospital has yet to provide that information, saying it would require extensive research.
Mims said each death was taken seriously.
"We're all about providing quality care," she said. "Are we perfect? No. No institution is perfect. But we do have systems in place to identify (problems) to ensure we are addressing issues. We're here to provide great care to our patients."
The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, which accredits the Hampton VA, requires hospitals to review any deaths considered unexpected, and its guidelines "encourage" hospitals to submit reports about those deaths.
Submitting the reports, the commission says, sends a "message to the public that (the organization) is doing everything possible to ensure that such an event will not happen again."
It also allows hospitals to learn from one another's experiences.
The VA hospital didn't report the deaths of Washabaugh and Brennan to the commission, though the information is available if the commission requests it.
Leigh Starr is the medical center's chief of quality management. She said that all deaths at the medical center were reviewed and that any deaths considered unexpected - such as Brennan's and Washabaugh's - received an immediate peer review to evaluate the medical care.
She said VA staff also conducted a "root-cause analysis" - a study of whether systems broke down to lead to a death.
In a letter to Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, Mims wrote, "A clinical review of the circumstances of the case of Mr. Washabaugh was conducted, and based on this assessment, we feel confident that the highest patient care was provided in a timely manner."
Some current and former psychiatric unit staff members - both nurses and doctors - say the Hampton VA has done little to ensure that patients' complaints about physical problems aren't merely dismissed.
Instead, the unit's policies and procedures perpetuate that culture, the staff members said.
It was only recently - after a Daily Press investigation led to pressure from Webb - that one such policy was rescinded.
Until last month, no patients in the unit were allowed to have visitors - a policy put in place in late 2004 that Dr. Priscilla Hankins, the hospital's chief of mental health services, said was a response to Brennan's death in 2001.
But the doctor with knowledge of the unit said, "Wives are the most valuable asset on picking up on medical problems. (Washabaugh) very well may have lived if he got prompt medical attention."
VA officials say medical attention for patients in the unit starts when they are admitted.
Patients must be physically examined and their medical histories recorded before they arrive in the unit, Hankins said.
The unit is authorized to hold 60 patients at a time and is divided into two wards: acute and sub-acute. Patients are admitted into the acute ward.
Hankins said most of the patients arriving in the acute ward are suicidal, severely psychotic, depressed, confused, combative or going through detoxification from drugs or alcohol.
After patients are stabilized and have completed an initial phase of treatment, they're transferred to the subacute ward.
Nurses and doctors in the entire unit are supposed to monitor patients' physical well-being, as well as their mental struggles.
Specialists can be called to the unit to meet patients with suspected problems, Hankins said, and patients can be transferred to the emergency room or intensive care unit if they get into any acute distress.
"That's just standard patient care," Mims said. "When a need arises to transfer a patient to a more acute setting, whether that be the ER or ICU, that's what we do. That's what the nurses are required to do. That's what the docs are required to do, as necessary."
In the meantime, patients' vital signs - temperature, blood pressure and pulse - should be taken at least daily, Hankins said. The medical center's protocol calls for vital signs to be recorded in each patient's medical record. A nurse who used to work on the unit - and who asked not to be named - said that didn't always happen.
"If a patient was sleeping, nurses won't take the vitals," the nurse said.
Based on the number of times that vital signs were recorded in Washabaugh's medical record - including on the morning he died and the physical exam done when he was admitted - medical staff took his vital signs five times. He was on the unit for 13 days.
During that two-week period, Washabaugh frequently complained of shortness of breath.
According to his medical records, it wasn't until the last few hours of his life that anyone measured the oxygen saturation level in his blood.
That measurement is done with a pulse oximeter - a small clip that goes on a finger and shines a laser into the nail bed.
"If somebody told me they were feverish, I would take their temperature," said Dr. John Perry, a pulmonary specialist with Peninsula Pulmonary Associates in Newport News. "If they tell me they're short of breath, I check their blood oxygen level."
Audrey Moore, the medical center's assistant director of patient care, said pulse oxygen readings were taken as needed. When a patient is having a hard time breathing or complains of shortness of breath, Moore said, a reading should be done.
There are several pulse oximeters in the unit, Hankins said.
According to his medical records, when Washabaugh complained that he was having trouble breathing, he was given Ativan, an anti-anxiety medication - even on the morning he died, when his difficulty breathing didn't subside for hours.
At 7:50 a.m. Jan. 24, according to a staff nurse's note, Washabaugh was "sitting in wheelchair, somewhat sweaty with rapid breathing. Patient appeared to have an anxiety attack."
Anxiety almost always accompanies pulmonary embolism, according to a nursing textbook. The textbook says it's crucial to frequently monitor the patient's blood oxygen level.
The nurse that morning gave Washabaugh a "paper bag to breathe in ... cold cloth to his forehead."
That was the wrong response. According to Perry, the paper bag technique - typically used for someone hyperventilating - further reduces the oxygen that someone breathes in.
About 20 minutes later, Washabaugh again complained that he was having trouble breathing.
A pulse oximeter reading - the first since he'd started complaining of shortness of breath - was 88. The normal range is between 95 and 100.
Perry said a reading as low as 88 was "never a normal number. Something certainly is causing it.
"Would you know it's a blood clot? Not necessarily. It could be heart failure, a collapsed lung. But it should prompt some kind of evaluation."
Washabaugh's nurse wrote that she referred him to the doctor and then the "patient (was) encouraged to relax."
At 8:55 a.m., Washabaugh was seen by a medical student who noted that "he denied chest pain ... but did feel anxious and somewhat short of breath. He was breathing more rapidly than normal."
Between 9:15 and 9:27 a.m., Washabaugh received a small dose of an anti-anxiety medication.
According to the doctor's notes, Washabaugh's "pulse ox at this time revealed a reading of 85."
A nurse wrote that she "wheeled patient to a quiet area and attempted to direct patient to breathe through his nose and out through his mouth. Patient was able to slow his breathing down a little but would start breathing fast again. His facial color was pale at first, then he regained color."
About 9:30 a.m., Washabaugh asked to be wheeled back to the nurses station. His pulse ox dropped to 59.
Washabaugh was taken to the intensive care unit and pronounced dead at 10:35 a.m. Cause of death: massive pulmonary embolism, or blood clot in his lungs.
His autopsy report revealed that in addition to the massive clot, there were several patches of dead tissue in his lungs.
"Usually - and 'usually' is the key word - that means he's had several smaller emboli (blood clots) and that those areas of (dead lung) were happening before the major clot that came," Perry said.
Essentially, each time when Washabaugh complained of shortness of breath in the days before his death could have been when those smaller blood clots were hitting the lung.
Pulmonary embolisms are the third-leading cause of death in hospitals.
Long periods of inactivity can lead to a blood clot.
It's why doctors encourage patients to get up and move around as soon as possible after surgery and why family physicians have long been telling patients to frequently get up and walk around during long plane rides.
Washabaugh's records are littered with reports that he was only "out of bed for dinner and a phone call" or "patient has been sitting in bed for long periods."
Before Washabaugh was transferred to Hampton from another VA hospital, his wife, Nancy, frequently visited him and made a point of getting him up and walking around.
The medical staff in Hampton wouldn't let her see her husband.
In the two weeks when Washabaugh was in the unit, Nancy was allowed to see him only once - for a treatment consultation - before she received a phone call from the hospital, telling her that her husband was dead.
Jan Garrity is a retired Navy commander who served as a combat-stress nurse. She described another problem in the unit:
Garrity used to teach a nursing course at a local university. She brought her students to the unit for clinical work and said she immediately noticed that if it weren't for her students and the hospital chaplains, the patients would have little to no interaction with the unit's staff.
"There wasn't any programming on that unit to get the patients up and moving or to help heal them holistically," Garrity said. There were group meetings in the morning and in the evening, but nothing in between, she said.
"I raised this concern several times," she said. "Nothing was done."
Staff researcher Tracy Sorensen contributed to this report. Read more!
Posted by david at 5:19 AM Permalink
Patients in danger, warn regulators after fatal attack at Columbus facility. State is doubling nurses.
By Alan Judd, Andy Miller
Days after a patient died from a severe beating, federal regulators have ordered the state mental hospital in Columbus to quickly correct dangerous conditions that may have contributed to the assault.
Patients at West Central Georgia Regional Hospital, where Luis Marrero was severely beaten, are in "immediate jeopardy" of harm, regulators said Tuesday. If the facility doesn't reverse the situation shortly, it could lose its federal funding.
Late Tuesday, the state Department of Human Resources, which manages Georgia's seven mental hospitals, said it was doubling the number of nurses at West Central Georgia Regional from 18 to 36. DHR spokeswomen said staffing was a "key issue" in the regulators' complaint and a problem at all seven of the hospitals.
The action by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services amounts to the latest indictment of Georgia's troubled psychiatric health care system. Already, the U.S. Justice Department is investigating whether conditions in the state hospitals violate patients' civil rights, auditors have issued blistering reports on the quality of care in two of the facilities, and a state commission is preparing to study ways to overhaul the entire system.
These inquiries came in response to a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution series, "A Hidden Shame," that reported on deaths, patient neglect and abuse, overcrowding and understaffing in the state hospitals. The newspaper found that at least 115 patients died under suspicious circumstances from 2002 through 2006 and that more than 190 cases of patient abuse by hospital staff members had been substantiated during the same period.
The citation of the Columbus hospital came from a recent inspection shortly after Marrero, 53, died from injuries suffered in a beating in early May. Police charged another patient, Terry Cox, in connection with the attack.
The Marrero case is under investigation by both DHR and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Marrero, a U.S. Army retiree, had been hospitalized with schizophrenia at West Central Georgia Regional in April after getting into an argument at the Columbus group home where he lived, relatives said. The fatal beating came about two weeks after he was admitted.
He had had violent episodes in his past, including a case that led to a manslaughter conviction in the late 1980s. His family attributes that incident to his mental illness.
Officials at the Columbus facility have begun responding to the federal citation, said Kenya Bello, a DHR spokeswoman. She said the hospital would hold a "hiring fair" in Columbus today in an effort to hire 18 more nurses by Friday.
"The key issue was staffing," Bello said. "That is being managed appropriately."
Inadequate staffing levels, according to another DHR spokeswoman, Dena Smith, "is a problem at the hospital and other hospitals."
West Central Georgia Regional has often been overcrowded and understaffed, according to patient advocate Sue Marlowe, president of the Columbus chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
"Full staffing levels at the hospital must be made a priority in order to maintain the safety of patients and staff," Marlowe said Tuesday.
Federal officials declined Tuesday to say whether regulators had cited the hospital because of the Marrero case. They also would not say specifically what the recent inspection found.
Lee Millman, a spokeswoman for the federal Medicare and Medicaid centers, would say only: "It is a crisis situation relating to the health and/or safety of patients."
However, DHR has declined to say how many patients were in the Columbus facility when Marrero was attacked or how many employees were on duty. Both issues, the department said, are part of an investigation into Marrero's death.
The Medicare and Medicaid centers gave the hospital until June 16 to draft a plan to correct its deficiencies. Regulators will conduct another unannounced inspection to see whether the plan is working satisfactorily.
A cutoff of federal funding is rare and could cripple operations of the Columbus facility. DHR could not say Tuesday how much federal money is at stake in Columbus. The case reflects the violence that regularly occurs in the state hospitals.
The Journal-Constitution reported in January that overcrowding in many hospital units, coupled with understaffing, contributes to an atmosphere where injuries are common.
Employees and inspection reports have cited frequent patient fighting, either against staff members or other patients. Hospital employees claim more injuries from altercations with patients than from all other causes combined, according to the Journal-Constitution's analysis of state workers' compensation data. Read more!
Posted by david at 5:16 AM Permalink
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
GEORGETOWN, Del. (AP) -- A man accused in a deadly two-state shooting rampage believed his victims were space aliens trying to abduct his daughter, his attorney said Tuesday at the start of his murder trial.
Allison Lamont Norman, 27, was in the middle of a psychotic episode and believed he was protecting his 5-year-old daughter during the time he is accused of killing two people and wounding four others in Maryland and Delaware in April 2005, defense attorney Brendan O'Neill told jurors.
''He thought there were aliens everywhere,'' O'Neill said.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Norman in the slaying of Jamell Weston, 24, in Laurel, Del.
Norman also is accused in the shooting death of DaVondale M. ''Pete'' Peters, 28, in Salisbury, Md., but that charge and others were dropped so the Delaware case could go forward. A Maryland prosecutor cited differences in the way the two states handle insanity pleas.
Both O'Neill and prosecutor Peggy Marshall told jurors that neither will dispute that Norman pulled the trigger.
''This case is not a whodunit. ... The issue in this case is what was Mr. Norman's mental condition, what was his state of mind, when he did these things,'' O'Neill said.
O'Neill told jurors they would hear seemingly far-fetched testimony that Norman stuck his head in a toilet, drank his own urine and ate his own feces after being arrested.
He was trying to ''prove his worthiness'' to get his family back, O'Neill said.
Marshall said Norman's state of mind would be the key issue and urged jurors to keep their own minds open.
The attacks began in Laurel, where Weston and another man were shot at an apartment complex, and a third man was shot at a nearby shopping center.
Investigators say Norman, wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying a handgun, then stole a car and drove about 13 miles to Salisbury, where he shot Peters, two other people and two dogs. One of the Salisbury victims was left paralyzed and Peters was killed.
The girl Norman believed was his daughter, Donesha Sturgis, took the stand to testify Tuesday. O'Neill said after court that Norman's girlfriend told him he was the girl's father, though there has never been scientific confirmation.
Sturgis, 7, told the court that the night before the shootings, Norman corralled her and her sisters in a corner of their apartment while her little brother was left alone in a hallway, screaming. According to O'Neill, Norman believed that the screams of the children helped keep the aliens at bay, and would pinch them to keep them yelling.
''He tore down the curtains in the kids' bedrooms so he could see the aliens at night,'' O'Neill said.
Also testifying Tuesday was Weston's cousin, Marcus Cannon, 20, who was wounded in the arm during the Carvel Gardens shooting. Cannon said that after seeing Norman shoot Weston, he ran for safety as Norman turned the gun on him.
Marshall asked Cannon what he was thinking as he sought safety.
''That I was going to die that day,'' Cannon replied.
Posted by david at 4:58 AM Permalink
By Jane Siguenza
Special to The Argus
Mental health concerns play an increasingly significant role in everyone's lives, but awareness of problems and treatment is still low. According to the Oregon Department of Human Services, nearly 13 percent of Oregon's children and adolescents experience moderate to severe mental health disorders. Public health agencies are able to serve only a third of them.
What are the consequences? DHS data shows that youth suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth ages 15-24 in Oregon. Children with mental health disorders are 50 percent more likely to drop out of school. Untreated youth mental health disorders affect child development, produce legal and financial consequences and can create even more problems in adulthood.
What helps? In other states, coordinated, community-based mental health care has been found to improve school attendance and grades, increase parents' ability to work and decrease arrests. Arrest rates for Oregon adolescents who receive mental health treatment are a third lower after treatment than before treatment.
In the Hillsboro School District, seven mental health care coordinators work with school counselors and staff, law enforcement and community agencies to help youth find the treatment they need. Their services are available to all the district's students and families.
"Success stories - I could write about many," states Shelley Corry, assistant principal at Century High School. "Two boys in our school are now finding the support of mental health agencies they have previously been unable to afford. Another student who is struggling with school phobia and anxiety (is learning) to cope with emotional issues that are keeping her from coming to school."
Corry added, "What makes this work is the camaraderie and single focus of all the participants - to get our students to school, keep them in school and focused on academic success. (Care coordination) has great value for us and our students (and) families."
Care coordinators not only act as the families' bridge to services, but they also review warning signs for at-risk behavior ranging from withdrawal, anger and disciplinary problems to severe rage, self-injury, property destruction or violence.
"Our data shows a significant drop in discipline issues this year as compared to last, and one of the major components of that change process has been integrating the care coordinator to our truancy and violence prevention plan," stated Greg Mitchell, assistant principal at Glencoe High School, in a service evaluation.
The care coordinators' partnership with schools also helps them keep tabs on trends in students' mental health concerns.
"We're seeing more mood disorders, teen depression and childhood anxiety," Care Coordinator Peter Knysak said. "There's pressure on kids and adults for success in school as well as a (negative) influence from a sensationalist media and environment."
Cultural and economic stresses also are major factors affecting youth and families. With increased awareness and access to treatment, more serious problems can be avoided.
May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. Be informed. Find help if you or a friend need it. Resources include school counselors, Washington County's mental health crisis line at 503-291-9111 and the federal site www.samhsa.gov.
- Jane Siguenza is a Communications Specialist for Hillsboro School District's Hillsboro Together, funded by a federal Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant. Read more!
Posted by david at 4:24 AM Permalink