Reprinted from Schizophrenia Digest, Summer 2007
By Sandy Naiman
Martin Cohen’s life changed forever one February night in 1981 when all of his favorite rock stars came flying out of the sky, led by Peter Gabriel as the Antichrist, and King Tut rose out of his bed. Terrified, the then 22-year-old Cohen began hurling soda-pop bottles and telephones, shattering a 30-foot wall of windows in his parents’ Long Island home, along with—or so he thought— his dreams of being an artist.
Cohen was alone in the house at the time while his parents were vacationing in Florida. Police were summoned to the residence after his destructive behavior set off a security alarm. Now 47, Cohen reluctantly recalled this experience recently at the Bombay Express, one of dozens of trendy restaurants on Ninth Avenue in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen. The place is only a few blocks from the Fountain Gallery—which Cohen was instrumental in founding in 2000, and where he is a prominent artist.
Early in the dinner hour on a balmy spring afternoon, the restaurant is empty. Cohen is tall, gentle, and soft-spoken, a teddy bear of a man with clear blue eyes and thick, wavy light brown hair tinged with grey that curls around the collar of his pale blue shirt. Initially, he seems tired after his shift as an internal messenger at Neuberger Berman, an East Side brokerage firm, but after ordering a mutually an appetizer platter, chicken biryani, and a Diet Coke, he unwinds and continues his story. “I was hospitalizedand I slept for days, but when I finally woke up and was discharged, they gave me no medication, no diagnosis, and no follow-up care. They just thought I was greater than a kid doing drugs.” Martin’s father, Isreal Cohen, recalls that a few weeks before his son’s psychotic break, Martin had attended an est (Erhard Seminars Training) transformation program in Manhattan on a friend’s recommendation. “Marty came home flying. All he talked about was this program,” Isreal says.
Est was a controversial self-help movement that burned through the United States during the 1970s and 1980s, promising to “strip people of the mental and emotional ‘trappings’ imposed on them by the outside world and to teach them to accept themselves and take responsibility for their lives, rather than blaming others for what they are,” according to a 1977 article by New York Times health writer Jane Brody. For many hours over a weekend, est trainees were forced to sit without eating, smoking, going to the bathroom, or leaving the room while an overbearing leader taunted them and battered their self-esteem. “Many were reduced to tears; others fainted or rolled on the floor; some vomited,” Brody reported.
Often the most vulnerable and fragile individuals were drawn in by the est promise. Rather than self-acceptance, however, many est alumni ended up emotionally damaged. A 1977 American Journal of Psychiatry study reported that a number of est participants were devastated and developed permanent psychosis.
Isreal Cohen believes the night his son “almost destroyed the house,” shortly after returning from his est weekend, “was the start of all Marty’s problems.” Before that, he says, “he was one of the sweetest guys you could meet, with a great bunch of friends.”
Development of an artist
The eldest of three children, Martin Cohen was born in Flushing, Queens. Later, as his father’s health-care personnel and equipment business prospered, the family moved to the more affluent village of Roslyn on Long Island.
“He had a pretty normal upbringing and was a well-rounded kid who excelled at sports, but art was always a big part of his life,” his father says. “He attended a school which championed artistic and creative children.”
Martin Cohen says he has always found a sense of peace creating his art. “I used to feel safe when I was drawing or painting,” he says. “Art was my escape, my sanctuary. It was something I needed to do, that needed to be expressed, that I had to explore. I even loved the smell and feel of the oil paint, the oil pastels—all the materials I used.”
Throughout junior high and high school, Cohen studied life drawing. He became a protégé of the late Viggo Holm Madsen, a nationally known printmaker and teacher who encouraged him to experiment with a variety of materials, techniques, and artistic styles.
Later, when Cohen was an undergraduate in the bachelor of fine arts program at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Purchase—despite his 1981 breakdown, he was able to return to college—art critic Irving Sandler introduced him to the work of the Abstract Expressionists, including Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, and encouraged him to delve into the abstract in his own painting.
For two years after graduating from Purchase in 1982, Cohen studied at The New York Studio School before enrolling in graduate school at the College of Fine Arts at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University. There, the contemporary artist Sam Gilliam took him under his wing and fostered his serious forays into Abstract Expressionism, now Cohen’s defining artistic style.
After completing his master of fine arts degree at Carnegie Mellon in 1986, he moved back to New York to pursue his life as an artist.
Brilliant and prolific
Cohen has meticulously catalogued every piece of art he has ever created, in dozens of large black art books stacked in his one-bedroom apartment-cum art studio: pen and ink reclining nudes he drew at the age of 10; vibrant, pulsating oil pastel landscapes he did at 12; and delicately shaded architectural studies of wooden structures in pencil, created at age 14.
Other books contain a seemingly endless collection of his sly, satirical, witty collages—photo-montages in which he juxtaposes cutouts of hundreds of heads of self-important political figures with the bodies of other famous personalities, or gargoyles, “so I can make fun of people who take themselves too seriously,” he quips.
Page after page, his progress, his artistic development, his playing with style, his prodigious output, are brilliantly evident and dizzying.
His more recent paintings are intricately detailed, dynamic, splintered and shard-like mixed-media images on huge canvases. These Abstract Expressionist works include a series of 30 “Doors of Expression” painted on six-and-a-half-foot-tall wooden doors he began working on in 1988. Several hang crowded together among his smaller canvases on every wall of his apartment, even in the windows, blocking almost all the natural light.
Cohen’s representational works include stunning portraits of his favorite pop musicians—Jim Morrison, Neil Young, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, Madonna, George Harrison, Paul McCartney and John Lennon, Frank Zappa, and others.
Synergy of art and illness
After 9/11, Cohen began trying to depict the horror of that day on nine door panels to create one sweeping 30-foot-long panorama called “Ground Zero.” He grew so upset and intense, so involved in this ambitious project, that he “got himself into trouble and had a psychotic break,” his psychiatrist, Ralph Aquila, MD, says (after receiving permission from Cohen to discuss his history). “He’s had one or two subsequent ones since, and usually around his artwork, but we’ve been able to prevent a lot.”
Cohen says he works most passionately when his illness is at its worst. He listens to jazz, rock, or classical music while “acting out” on paper and canvas instead of in real life. His mood swings and hallucinations and his art can be singularly synergistic—he feels that in combination, they can enhance his creativity and his work.
Despite the shock of his first psychotic episode while he was a student at SUNY Purchase, his artistic future was far from shattered. Admittedly a “mood-oriented artist,” he says the deaths of his mother and grandmother, as well as the suicide of a close high school friend, have influenced his art.
“My illness has informed my work and made me more willing to experiment. It was also therapeutic because it allowed me to express my suffering artistically.”
While Cohen regularly takes his medication now, there are times when he becomes so wrapped up in his painting, so involved, that he can forget, says Aquila. “And because he’s very sensitive, in a couple of days he can get into trouble. But he’s never intentionally not taken his meds.”
Cohen’s father recalls that following his son’s first breakdown in 1981, the next 14 years “were very confusing and hard on Marty,” with different doctors diagnosing him variously with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia before eventually settling on schizoaffective disorder. Martin was repeatedly in and out of mental hospitals, where he was prescribed “heavy-duty chemicals” to ease his episodes of mania, depression, and psychosis. “He could-n’t handle the side effects, he’s so sensitive, and it was a very difficult time,” his father says.
But when he was well, Cohen’s energy was limitless. Between 1986 and 1992, he worked as a fine art installer for several art galleries and museums, while producing his own paintings and collages. In 1992, he acquired his own East Village gallery space and framing business—called Ten B.C.—through a friend of his father’s. There, living with his brother in an apartment above the gallery, he staged his first New York exhibition and practically sold out. After several successful group and solo exhibitions, his complex, energetically colorful mixed-media canvases and collages were starting to attract attention in Manhattan’s mega-competitive art world.
Yet he was constantly struggling financially, and although he was seeing a psychotherapist, Cohen says, the therapy wasn’t helpful. “I got sick of therapy and I wanted to work.”
Enter Esther Montanez.
A life-changing meeting
It was 1995. Cohen needed to get a prescription filled, but the pharmacy wouldn’t process it, claiming something was wrong with his Medicaid. He left and was walking down the street when a woman stopped him and said, “You look upset. Can I help you?”
“I told her what had happened,” Cohen says, “and she said, ‘Come with me.’”
Esther Montanez took Cohen’s arm and marched him right back into the pharmacy, where she said, “Hey, this is a good friend of mine. Give him his medication. He needs it.” And they did.
Montanez was the director of special projects at Fountain House, a 59-year-old pioneering community-based and multifaceted mental health service called a Clubhouse run by and for people with mental illnesses. Cohen became a member of Fountain House and Montanez became his close friend and ally.
At the same time, Cohen came under the care of his current psychiatrist, Ralph Aquila, MD, at The Store Front practice, located minutes away from Fountain House.
The Store Front is a one-stop shop for Fountain House members. Aquila, who directs the St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center’s Residential Community Services, specializes in treating people with serious and persistent mental illnesses, 60 percent of whom have been homeless. People in this population often have many more medical illnesses than the general population, so The Store Front emphasizes treating the whole person.
Aquila calls The Store Front’s multi-prong approach—which, in addition to psychotherapy, relies on such programs as A.A. and Weight Watchers, as well as caseworkers to communicate a message of hope and provide practical support—“the rehabilitation alliance.”
“I try to see Marty every seven to 10 days just to make sure everything is okay. I work with his two key caseworkers so he doesn’t start to doubt himself,” Aquila says.
“One of Marty’s problems right now is self-stigma. Our main objective is to get him to do his art and work as a teacher, but the main obstacle to that is self-stigma. He doesn’t believe in himself and the fact that he can do it, so it’s a constant struggle around those issues. He’s a great guy, a great teacher, and he has a lot to share with a lot of people.”
Aquila and the Fountain House caseworkers meet with Cohen on a regular basis to emphasize his strengths, communicate with each other, and try to stay on top of any potential problems. As a team, they encourage him to be successful.
“During the time that I’ve been working with him, Marty’s become a much deeper and more perceptive artist,” says Aquila. “His capacity to do his artwork and teach, and the knowledge he brings to his art, have dramatically improved over the years.”
And according to Isreal Cohen, Aquila has done more for his son than anyone else ever has.
“He talks to him on his level and they’ve developed a friendship,” Cohen’s father says. “Also, he makes sure that Marty takes his meds. I know he loves my son.
More than a gallery. A movement.
Once settled into the Fountain House community, Martin Cohen embraced one of Montanez’s innovations—the Artist of the Month Club—and along with other Clubhouse members began displaying his art around the Club-house’s elegant Georgian Colonial headquarters on West 47th Street.
“Esther was a whirlwind, a powerhouse,” Cohen says. “One day she came to me with the idea of opening an art gallery at the Fountain House Thrift Shop (at the corner of 48th and Ninth Avenue), and she asked me to help.”
The initial idea came from Fountain House executive director Kenn Dudek, who regularly visits many of the more than 300 international Clubhouses that sprang from the Fountain House model. When he saw beautiful paintings by a member displayed in a Scandinavian Clubhouse, he suggested that Fountain House open its own gallery.
A number of talented members, including Cohen, jumped at the chance to run a Manhattan gallery for Fountain House artists. Montanez, “with her usual flair,” Dudek recalls, engaged a large group of members, volunteers, and recruits she grabbed off the street. “She was famous for that,” he says.
Today, two of Cohen’s Abstract Expressionist works, called “Esther’s Wings,” hang at Fountain House opposite a striking portrait of Montanez that he and another Fountain Gallery artist painted. One of these “Wings” is in memory of Cohen’s grandmother, also named Esther, and the other honors Montanez, who championed him and his art. A driving force behind Fountain House for more than 40 years, Esther Montanez died in 2005 at age 70.
Fountain Gallery opened in June 2000 as a nonprofit co-operative run for and by Fountain House artists living with mental illnesses. Beginning with a coterie of six artists, today close to 40 painters, sculptors, and photographers not only contribute to New York’s art scene but are challenging and changing common myths and misperceptions about people with mental illnesses, in keeping with the Fountain Gallery motto: “More than a gallery. A movement.”
Cohen’s work is included in several important corporate collections, among them that of the Estée Lauder Companies Inc., which is overseen by curator Elizabeth Szanzer Kujawski. Kujawski is also responsible for Ronald S. Lauder’s personal art collection, described by Glenn Lowry, director of the Museum of Modern Art, in a recent New Yorker article as “the finest collection of modern art assembled by an individual in the world today.”
“Marty is a very good artist in his use of color and application of materials,” Kujawski says. “His paintings are striking and very beautiful.”
Last fall, the Estée Lauder Companies Inc. sponsored a solo show of Cohen’s art at Vivian Horan Fine Art on East 67th Street. It was a departure for Cohen, outside the nurturing fold of the Fountain Gallery, but the opening was packed and his paintings looked spectacular on the walls of the elegant second floor townhouse gallery. “It was a great evening and a great opportunity for me,” he says.
That was Cohen’s most recent solo exhibition; several of his pieces were part of a group show at the Fountain Gallery May 3 to June 30 called “Transitions.”
Right now, Cohen is actively looking for teaching opportunities, but he is also buying new materials, oil paints, and canvases, and conceptualizing the next phase of his creative vision.
Sandy Naiman, an award-winning mental health advocate and journalist for more than 30 years, lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
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Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Reprinted from Schizophrenia Digest, Summer 2007
Posted by david at 9:26 AM Permalink
$225,000 exceeds formula set by state
Mark Johnson, The Charlotte Observer
RALEIGH - State officials say the salary for an Eastern North Carolina mental-health director remains too high even after the director's board slashed his pay.
The Office of State Personnel has told officials at the Albemarle Mental Health Center that Executive Director Charlie Franklin's salary, reduced last month from $319,000 to $225,000, still exceeds a state formula for salary ranges. The state personnel office must approve pay plans for local agencies that are subject to the state personnel act.
Franklin, 65, did not return a telephone message Monday to his Elizabeth City office.
Published reports in June about Franklin's pay stirred sharp criticism from legislators and Gov. Mike Easley. Franklin remains the highest-paid mental-health director in the state. Mecklenburg's director, for example, makes $142,000 to run a system with seven times as many clients as Albemarle. Easley makes $136,000.
The chairman of the center's board, former Chowan County Commissioner James "Pete" Dail, issued a statement Monday through a spokesman at a Raleigh public relations firm. He said the Albemarle board was adjusting Franklin's salary range to comply with the state formula.
The spokesman, Greer Beaty, did not say whether Franklin's salary would change, or the salary range for his job. Nor did Beaty make the new range available.
Helper earns $143,000
State Auditor Les Merritt also is investigating Franklin's salary. The General Assembly on Monday approved a state budget that requires mental-health agencies to follow a state-mandated pay scale for the director and restricts any pay increases to 10 percent above the salary range set by the State Personnel Committee. The legislation was generated by the controversy around Franklin.
Under the state personnel office formula, the bottom end of the salary range for Franklin's position cannot be more than 60 percent higher than the bottom end of the salary range for his highest-paid subordinate.
Franklin's pay range exceeds that difference. His top-paid subordinate, Linda Triplett, is his assistant who, with no college degree, earns $143,000 a year.
Albemarle officials asked for an exception for his salary.
"There isn't going to be an exception granted," said Drake Maynard, whose division at the state personnel office handles state universities and local agencies.
Also out of range
An additional problem with Albemarle's salary plan, though not with Franklin's pay, is that several other salaries exceed the pay range of comparable jobs in some of the 10 counties that Albemarle serves. All 10 are in northeastern North Carolina, and the group includes some of the poorest counties in the state.
Albemarle Mental Health Center's administrative functions are funded primarily with state tax dollars. The center, like other mental-health agencies, does not report to state officials in Raleigh but to a local board with members from each county covered.
Franklin retired in 2005 but continued doing the same job as an independent contractor for the same salary of $289,000. The board gave him a $30,000 raise last year. On top of his salary, he received $157,000 in pension payments before the state treasurer's office stopped those checks, arguing that Franklin never actually retired.
An administrative law judge in May agreed with the treasurer's office and ruled that Franklin's contract was void from the beginning.
In June, Albemarle's board cut Franklin's salary by nearly $100,000 and eliminated his $1,000-a-month automobile allowance, though the car money was about to be eliminated by the state budget language. One board member said the cuts came partly in response to Easley's criticism reported in The Charlotte Observer. "It influenced the decision of the board," said Cecil Perry, chair of the Pasquotank County commissioners and a member of Albemarle's board. Read more!
Posted by david at 8:45 AM Permalink
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) -- The father of a man who jumped to his death off the Monroe Street Bridge is wondering why police shocked his son seconds before the fatal fall.
Josh Levy, 28, jumped to his death Friday afternoon after spending some 20 hours threatening to jump from the downtown bridge over the Spokane River.
Levy was shocked by a Taser right after police negotiators managed to talk him away from the bridge edge. But the Taser did not disable Levy, who then jumped over the railing and died when he hit the rocks below.
"I was assured all day that no violence would be taken toward my son," Dave Breidenbach told The Spokesman-Review on Saturday. "I don't believe that firing a Taser at a nonviolent potential suicide victim is a tactical maneuver."
Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick said the Taser use was part of the hostage negotiations that led Levy to get off the bridge edge.
But only one probe of the Taser made contact with Levy, Kirkpatrick said.
"One of the success options that we give people in distress is, 'You make it look like we took you into custody,' and that was exactly what we were doing in talking with him," Kirkpatrick said. "Our tactical plan was to apply one application of the Taser to bring him to the ground so we could get him in that custody."
Levy climbed onto a bridge ledge on Thursday afternoon. The towering, four-lane bridge was closed for about 20 hours as officers tried to talk him down.
Breidenbach said his son had dealt with severe depression for years and had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Earlier in the week, Breidenbach had picked up his son from Western State Hospital and brought to stay with him in Spokane. Levy grew up in Spokane and later, Bainbridge Island, where his mother still lives.
Levy had attempted suicide before and jumped from three bridges in Western Washington without suffering significant injuries, Breidenbach said. Levy also had been talked down on other occasions from Western Washington bridges.
Kirkpatrick said her negotiators were upset by the suicide
"The officers invested their hearts, their souls into helping him," Kirkpatrick said. "So for them to see that occur is truly devastating to them as well."
But Breidenbach compared the event to last year's death of Otto Zehm, a janitor who suffered from mental illness and died after he was falsely accused of a crime and Tasered and hogtied by police.
"We're going to give substantial time and effort to see that this never happens again to another person who is non-confrontational and non-aggressive," Breidenbach said. "I just want this not to happen again."
Posted by david at 8:40 AM Permalink
By Kiley Kellermeyer
Plainfield — Sharon Smith is a stay-at-home mother of three — two boys and a girl.
In some ways, her children are very much like other children. Quinn, 11, enjoys swimming and is fascinated with Transformers. Noah, 9, is very artisitc. Adriana, 7, enjoys listening to music.
But Quinn, Noah, and Adriana have all been diagnosed with some form of autism.
Autism is a brain disorder that begins in early childhood and persists throughout adulthood. It affects three crucial areas of development: communication, social interaction, and creative or imaginative play.
“It’s like having big 2-year olds,” Smith said. “They’re developmentally behind, but they’re a lot bigger and very strong and very determined, although the communication is not there.”
Smith said autistic children are generally diagnosed around 18 months of age, and are usually tested when they are not talking by that time.
With her family, though, her second born, Noah, was tested before her oldest, Quinn, and just after Adriana was born. After it was determined that Noah was autistic, the pieces all fell into place.
“Once we got the little two diagnosed, we ran across Asperger’s Syndrome,” Smith said, which is what Quinn was diagnosed with. Asperger’s is a pervasive developmental disorder that is similar to autism but without clinically significant language delay. The distinction between Asperger’s and autism is unclear.
The following years brought inevitable challenges to the Smith family in the form of tantrums, escape attempts, and communication barriers: pressure under which many families might crack.
Smith, however, chose to take what she had learned as a mother of three autistic children and share her knowledge with other families. She created a website, www.sharonsweb.com, and also ministers to special needs children.
“‘Jesus makes all the pieces fit’ is our theme (of the website),” she said.
And she is convinced that God has a plan for her unusual family.
“Sharonsweb.com is where I have information on Sharonsweb Autism Foundation,” Smith said. “It’s a non-profit ... people can donate ... money donated would go to our special needs ministry anywhere that it is needed.”
On the site, people can find “meet-up” groups, support groups with activities for autism spectrum children and their families.
Sharon also sells autism awareness items, with proceeds going to the foundation. They can also find information about fundraisers and post questions and ideas to Sharon and her helpers.
Mother reaches out to autistic children
By Kiley Kellermeyer
“It’s like an online support group,” Smith said. “[I want to accomplish] more awareness on autism, help other families.”
Smith said she started the site three or four years ago when she realized how difficult it was for middle-class families to get what they need for services and support from the government.
“We’re just kind of left out,” she said.
She also said there’s a niche in Hendricks County for her site.
“There’s not really much in Hendricks County, so [I want to] make it convenient, try to help families like ourselves that aren’t close to anything,” she said.
Smith and a friend from her church, Center Community Church, provide a Veggie Tales ministry for autistic children who are nonverbal, or who cannot yet form their own words.
“My two little ones repeat Veggie Tales songs,” Smith said. “We use that as part of the ministry.”
With that particular ministry, Smith explained, the ideas and messages in the videos get through to the very visual learners.
Smith also tries to integrate her autistic students into activities with the other children, which, she said, takes understanding on behalf of the congregation members.
Overall, Smith said, autism is misunderstood.
“If people don’t understand autism, my children may look like they’re not behaved,” she said. “It looks like they’re having a tantrum when they jut can’t verbalize what they want.”
That is the main challenge of autism — communication.
And Smith is trying to overcome that obstacle, at least, she hopes to break down communication barriers between families that she feel should be sticking together.
“[Visiting Sharonsweb.com] would help with the support,” Smith said. “They’d be able talk to other families.”
Posted by david at 8:37 AM Permalink
A disconnect seems to be developing between the state's response to the shootings at Virginia Tech and the response of some of the victims' families.
The state's response is measured, weighty with procedure — and seemingly self-protective. Witness a recent observation by Gerald Massengill, chairman of the panel formed by Gov. Tim Kaine to investigate the shootings. Massengill said he doesn't think university officials or police could have done anything differently that morning — an interval that includes the first shootings in a dorm and the massacre two hours later in a classroom building — that absolutely would have saved lives.
That is preposterous. There are no absolutes, and hindsight is 20/20, but two decisions that might have saved lives come immediately to mind: One, to order a stay-put-and-lock-the-door order after the first incident. Two, not to spend so much time pursuing the wrong suspect. That isn't to blame the people who made the decisions, only to acknowledge that different decisions might have produced a different outcome.
Massengill's words — and the university's insistence that "it did everything it possibly could" that day — hint that there will be no mea culpa on the state's part, at least when it comes to the response once the shooting began. We'll have to wait for the panel's final report to see how well it sorts out responsibility for decisions made before that day.
Here, too, different choices might have made April 16 an ordinary day on campus. On the university's part, to respond more effectively to a student many people knew was seriously troubled. And on the state's part, to fund and organize local mental health services to intervene once he was declared mentally ill.
An impartial critique, a clear accounting of responsibility, official acknowledgment of any failures by agencies of the state, seems to be what the families are crying out for.
It looks as though the panel will focus on what can be improved to prevent a recurrence. That's essential, but we must forgive families if the issue that consumes them isn't how another child or husband or wife can be protected, but why theirs died.
Also understandable is some families' insistence on compensation. Money can't fill the hole left by a death. But it can help with the bills it leaves, and can bring comfort in the form of acknowledgment-by-checkbook of responsibility for their loss.
The compensation already proposed will come from donors who contributed $7 million to the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund: $150,000 each would go to families of those killed, with smaller amounts to those wounded.
But some families seem to want compensation from the state, and in much larger amounts. That demand may not be just about money, but about a yearning to make the state pay for what happened to a person they entrusted to its care.
A lawyer who says he represents 22 families has talked of at least $2 million each, a figure pulled — inappropriately — from the average payout from a fund set up by Congress for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The idea is that the additional compensation would come from a fund set up by the state, with taxpayers making up any shortfall if donors don't send in enough. The implied threat that accompanies that talk — that a lawsuit could be forthcoming if that compensation isn't — may be another manifestation of some families' anger over the state's actions that day, and frustration with its handling of the matter since then.
What Virginia really owes the victims and their families is an honest and complete accounting of why they were victims. Of whose decisions and indecision, actions and inaction — the shooter's, the university's, the mental health system's — contributed to the terrible denouement of a situation that could have turned out differently. The question of whether it legally owes them money may be one for the courts, but the question of whether it owes them the truth, and apologies, is one any human heart can answer.
Posted by david at 8:33 AM Permalink
Commentary: By Gary Bembry
Recently, Florida Department of Corrections Secretary James R. McDonough announced a significant change to the agency's mission statement. To those concerned with the safety of our communities, it is an important change of direction.
The revision, according to Secretary McDonough, places a "renewed emphasis on the preparation of inmates for reentry into society as part of our mission. This is an anti-crime measure of the utmost importance to our state."
We commend the secretary's vision and understanding of the problem. But this is not a battle any one person can win. He will need the help of our Legislature, other state agencies and Florida's communities.
Too many ex-offenders leave prison unprepared for life on the outside and eventually return. In April there were nearly 92,000 inmates in Florida's prisons; more than 44 percent had been there before.
Recidivism is especially troublesome for those with a mental illness. It is estimated that 20 percent of the prison population has a serious mental illness and nearly three-fourths of inmates with a mental illness also have a substance-abuse disorder.
Mentally ill offenders have a higher-than-average rate of recidivism, cycling in and out of criminal justice settings with alarming regularity.
It is easy to see why this is such a problem. In prison, those with mental illness often experience rapidly declining physical and mental health, which makes a life of homelessness, poverty and a pattern of recurring crime, arrest and re-incarceration all the more likely.
So what happens to them? The sad truth is that unless they are arrested again, we often have no idea. We do know, however, that we are setting them up to return.
As Secretary McDonough moves forward, we hope he focuses on issues such as having transitional housing for ex-offenders with a mental illness. If we don't, then we are placing them directly into homelessness, for which they can be sent back to jail.
If we are trying to avoid seeing repeat offenders, this is an odd way to go about it.
Those with a known mental illness should be connected to local mental health and substance abuse counseling services prior to release. We need some sort of tracking that may include a period of parole and a way to know if they are treated in a hospital emergency room or have an encounter with police.
We need to work directly with law enforcement to explore additional means of intervention other than re-incarceration.
Establishing this tracking system is crucial, as the highest risk of recidivism of mentally ill ex-offenders is in the first six months after release from prison.
In addition to public safety concerns, our lack of success in keeping ex-offenders from re-entering prison costs taxpayers millions each year. With 20 percent of the 10,000 ex-offenders released every year having a significant mental illness, we are paying $120 million annually for their reentry into the prison system.
That is more than our state spends on all children's mental health services in a year.
Investing in community-based transitional centers and support staff is the key to tracking, counseling and guiding ex-offenders with mental illness toward safe and healthy actions and away from our prison gates.
It's what is best for them and our communities.
Gary Bembry is chair of the Florida Council for Community Mental Health. He is CEO of the Lakeview Center in Pensacola. Contact him (850) 469-3702, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more!
Posted by david at 8:30 AM Permalink
Clients and staff alike are saddened by the closure of three longtime county resource centers.
By Lakiesha McGhee - Bee Staff Writer
They have gathered each year to congratulate each other on the year's accomplishments.
Friends have swapped stories about a new apartment or job that was found, a milestone reached in their lives or a hurdle overcome.
The annual picnic for staff and clients of Yolo Community Care Continuum always has been a time to celebrate the nonprofit for providing mental health services to Yolo County residents.
Last week, the picnic also was a time to say goodbye to longtime mental health resource centers in Davis, Woodland and West Sacramento.
The county Department of Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services cut funding to the Community Care Continuum because of a projected $5.2 million budget shortfall. The cut resulted in the closure of the resource centers July 1.
For people trying to cope with depression, schizophrenia and other mental illnesses, the centers were a lifeline. For the staff, they were a way to reach out and form bonds in the community.
"I'm going to miss you," said Kate Hutchinson, who is resigning as executive director of Yolo Community Care Continuum after 13 years. She hugged Deborah Koebel inside the Farmhouse in Davis, one of the agency's long-term mental health treatment residences and picnic site.
Koebel had been a client at Haven House Resource Center in Woodland since 1994. When the center closed, she had to give up her regular case manager and get help for bipolar disorder from a county office, she said.
"Remember, we have a lunch date when you get back from vacation," Koebel said.
"I love you," Hutchinson said.
Yolo's mental health services department is in the midst of a financial crisis. It is expected to end the year with an operating budget shortfall of $5.2 million, according to a county report.
About half the deficit is due to a high number of people being treated in 24-hour residential care facilities and hospitals, mostly outside Yolo County, said Richard DeLiberty, the department's interim director.
Mental health services are being reorganized, and the department is seeking more ways to keep people out of expensive long-term facilities.
"I can't stress enough that Yolo County is not unique in our current fiscal bind," DeLiberty said, adding that Fresno County cut more than $10 million in mental health programs and Santa Cruz County cut 36 positions and about $800,000 in community contracts.
Rural counties seem to be having the most difficulty. Shasta and Glenn counties recently considered no longer providing mental health services to Medi-Cal patients and returning the program to state control, DeLiberty said.
Money woes date back several years for Yolo mental health services. However, recent problems are attributed partly to $325,000 in unplanned expenses associated with moving to a new building last year. Department staff was moved to the site on North Cottonwood Street in Woodland from various county offices that were old and had structural problems, DeLiberty said.
The county also lost $668,000 in Medi-Cal and Medicare revenue, and a state audit is requiring a $2.1 million payback. The large payback is attributed to disallowed claims that resulted from changes in county mental health practices, according to a county report. The audit is currently under appeal.
The mental health community in Yolo County is struggling with the changes and uncertainty.
"The first priority is to not have to lay off county workers, and that's why some of these difficult decisions are being made," said Marilyn Moyle, chairwoman of the Yolo County Local Mental Health Board.
The county analyzed its mental health services and programs and found that the YCCC resource centers were not providing the level of services needed, officials said. About $360,000 in funding to YCCC was directed to mental health programs instead.
Outpatient offices in Davis, West Sacramento and Woodland will replace the resource centers. A clinical supervisor has been established at each office, and a new division is being created to oversee case management, discharge planning and crisis services.
After speaking with several clients, clinicians and visiting sites, Moyle said that things appear to be going well. She said YCCC has an opportunity to bring forth a proposal to restore programs at a lower cost.
"It's heartbreaking when we have to cut funding to such a strong organization," Moyle said. "We are all really concerned about the clients, and we are watching to make sure they get what they need."
For Koebel, 44, any change is difficult. At the Farmhouse, surrounded by a spread of hamburgers and hot dogs, she talked about coping with bipolar disorder and social anxiety since childhood. Staff members at the Woodland resource center were like family, Koebel said.
In addition to counseling, they helped Koebel with her budget, grocery shopping, doctor appointments and moving into a new apartment shared with two cats.
When she learned that the resource center would close, she said, "I felt like I was going to fall back into my depression."
Hutchinson said the resource centers provided comfort in a home-like environment. They served 137 clients in Yolo County, and most staff members worked with their clients an average of eight years.
The county continues to fund 90 percent of YCCC's $1.2 million annual budget, which includes operating the Farmhouse in Davis and Safe Harbor House in Woodland, Hutchinson said.
Posted by david at 8:28 AM Permalink
Oregon changes how -- and where -- it treats mentally ill kids, favoring home over a facility
At age 7, Zachary Hogan took his first psychiatric medication and spent his first of many nights away from his family in residential care.
Now 14, he's living at home, learning to cope with his mental illness in everyday life and working toward another first: attending regular public high school.
That goal would have seemed impossible two years ago, before a radical shift in the way Oregon pays for and allocates mental health services for 37,500 low-income children.
Following a nationwide trend, the state now aims to treat its most severely disturbed children primarily in their homes and communities instead of institutions. The change is part of a larger push from the state mental health, education, social service and juvenile crime authorities to work together to provide "wraparound" services to children.
The state's new mantra is every child should be "at home, in school and out of trouble."
The mental health system based its changes on evidence that children do better over the long run if they receive coordinated services and support in their regular environment. Their school attendance and performance improves. They are less likely to be arrested and spend time in juvenile detention. And they have fewer emotional and behavioral problems. That's according to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Keeping those children at home requires a web of care and support that typically costs about $3,000 to $5,000 a month in Multnomah County, less than the $8,500 a month for residential care. But the price of community-based care varies widely depending on each child's needs, and Bill Bouska, manager of the state's Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, expects the new system to cost about the same overall as the old one.
For Zachary, that means a battery of therapists and trainers from the Albertina Kerr Centers drives to his family's mobile home in Welches several times a week to work with him, his mother and twin sister. If there's ever an issue the family can't handle alone, they can call a 24-hour crisis line.
"They've enveloped us as a family," Pam Hogan, Zachary's mother, said. "They're not just treating Zachary, they're treating the family."
Zachary can tell the difference, too.
"It's the first place that has really committed to helping me and hasn't given up," he said. "They are there through thick and thin."
Less time in facilities
Under the old system, Oregon contracted with residential psychiatric care providers and paid them directly for each child served.
There was often no alternative to residential care for children needing intense services, and there was only a limited system of monitoring cases locally to determine whether the placement was really needed, how long the child should stay or what happened after the child left.
Now the money is routed through one of nine mental health organizations, which manage each child's case and determine the best services for the child. With a team of local people monitoring treatment, more children are avoiding residential care or staying there no longer than necessary.
Since the change took effect in 2005, the average length of a child's stay in residential psychiatric facilities in Multnomah County has gone from 205 days to 115 days. Statewide, it decreased from 175 to 136 days.
Judge Nan Waller, chief family law judge in Multnomah County, said residential care still has a place. "It is needed sometimes, to stabilize. But I think everyone would agree that's not where we want to put our highest priority for kids. We want to keep them in as normalized a situation as possible."
"They just want to be regular kids," she added. "For some kids what I really see is that we are providing them with some hope."
Struggle since birth
Zachary and his twin sister, Zoe, were born about three months prematurely, each weighing about 21/2 pounds. Doctors thought they would die, and life has been a battle for Zachary ever since.
Pam Hogan's first indication that something wasn't right with Zachary was at age 4, when he would claw himself and pull his hair out if he didn't get his way. No one seemed to have any answers.
He was kicked out of his first preschool in Hawaii, where the family lived at the time, because the staff had to spend too much time chasing him. In his second preschool, he urinated on everything and everyone around him during nap time, prompting his first full psychological evaluation.
Over the years, he has been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and oppositional defiant disorder, according to Hogan. She said he also has post-traumatic stress disorder caused by how his father treated him.
When Zachary first went into residential care at age 7 in Hawaii, "it was like he was swallowed up by darkness," his mother said. "It was horrible. When I did see him, he was so miserable."
Hogan moved Zachary and Zoe to the Portland area from Hawaii five years ago to make a fresh start.
The family lives on Hogan's financial aid from Eastern Oregon University, where she plans to take online classes in the fall, and federal disability benefits for the children. Zoe, who attends Sandy High, has a mild form of cerebral palsy in her legs and has received special education services.
When Zachary was upset, he sometimes became violent, hurt himself and threatened or attacked others. His mother often had to place him in a physical hold to keep him safe. When she couldn't handle him at home, he stayed in residential care, sometimes for months at a time.
Zachary, who is intellectually bright, made major behavioral strides after Oregon created its system to keep children like him out of institutional settings whenever possible.
He attends Kerr's day treatment program in east Portland. When he gets too worked up, he can take a break in respite care at a residential facility for a few days, instead of a month or longer.
Pam Hogan now feels that she has a larger role in decisions about her son's care and enough support from Kerr to keep him at home.
"It's really working," she said. "The people who knew us in Hawaii would be shocked to see him now."
A paid role model
One morning at the beginning of July, Zachary built a shed outside the family's mobile home in Welches with Ian Mouser, who teaches music at Kerr's day treatment program and spends several hours a week with Zachary.
The lanky 28-year-old with shaggy hair is Zachary's skills trainer. Playing the role of a mentor and older brother, he shows Zachary positive ways to deal with his emotions and interact socially.
He helps provide stability for Zachary in other ways, too. When he heard that the family would be kicked out of the mobile home park if they didn't paint and fix up their home, he arranged for Home Depot volunteers to do it for free.
Without help, "we would have lost our home," Hogan said. Kerr is "the first to understand that part of the process is everyone feeling safe and secure and that we'll be there for a while."
That morning, Mouser and Zachary sat cross-legged in the shade to read the shed directions.
"What do you think is the likelihood of our building this the first time perfect?" Mouser asked.
"Not very likely," Zachary replied.
Mouser showed him how to measure and saw the wood into 3-foot pieces. That was just the first step in a complicated project, and Zachary soon grew annoyed with the slow progress.
"This is frustrating and boring," he said, before retreating inside the mobile home to complain to his mother. He sat on the floor, laid his head on his knee and rubbed his cat.
Mouser and Hogan spoke quietly to him, trying to calm him. Zachary soon curled up on a futon next to his mother with his back to Mouser and announced he wanted to take a nap.
What's key is what didn't happen, his mother said later. Zachary didn't fly into a rage. He didn't try to hurt himself or his mom. She didn't have to put him into a hold to keep him safe. She hasn't had to do that for about two years, since his last stay in residential care. She now gives him hugs instead.
"Something as simple as saying 'no' could set off a domino-type event that before might have ended up in some kind of crisis situation," Hogan said. "Now we're able to talk about feelings and reasons why."
Zachary hopes to attend Sandy High School in about a year. His mother said he's smart enough to do well there. But the social and behavioral expectations of a large public high school pose a major challenge for him. For now, he's still working on managing his fear and anger.
"I just want him to get along in the world," his mom said.
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Posted by david at 8:27 AM Permalink
By LOMG HWA-SHU
WAUKEGAN -- For years, Diane Verratti, president of Waukegan Main Street, would stop at Uptown Cafe to have breakfast with her husband every Monday. But now the eatery has shut down.
"We really missed it. It was a nice addition to downtown," she lamented Monday. "The food was very good and the people were so nice."
After nearly six years, the cafe at the corner of Grand Avenue and County Street was forced to close because of the new Rule 132 from the Mental Health Division of the Illinois Department of Human Services.
In a nutshell, under the rule the cafe, which was funded in part with a state grant, may not employ the mentally handicapped even though it can try to find jobs for them, according to Brendan Kennedy, a mental health worker from Thresholds, a non-profit mental health rehabilitation organization based in Chicago. The group had been running the cafe, known by the lunchtime crowd for its overstuffed sandwiches, including the Jack Benny Sandwich -- a triple-decker turkey pastrami and Swiss cheese with Russian dressing on toasted white bread.
Officials at the state agency could not be reached for comment.
Ironically, Kennedy said the cafe has been converted into a service center for the mentally ill by Thresholds since closing June 29.
"It is very much alive, but we can't serve any food," he said, adding, "We had to terminate the six people who worked there and found them jobs elsewhere."
"We're disappointed, heart-broken, so are a lot of other people." Kennedy stressed.
The cafe, originally run by the non-profit Lake County Enterprises, was meant to help the severely mentally ill with jobs to enable them "to gain confidence and self-esteem." It was later taken over by Thresholds, known as the largest and oldest psychiatric rehabilitation organization with 30 service centers and 75 housing locations in the state.
The cafe which also provided catering never made money. It was run under a $250,000 annual budget including a $75,000 grant from the state. Most of funds came from Thresholds, according to Michael Pollock, Thresholds vice president for external affairs. Other funding came from money raised by Lake County Enterprises and donations. One reason the cafe did not make money is that it was out of the way, away from the traffic flow, according to Kennedy.
"The irony is that we can't employ people within the same organization trying to serve them," he said.
The Waukegan center, as the other centers, is trying to open doors of opportunity for those in need. One good thing about Rule 132 is that it has enabled Thresholds "to help more people," said Pollock.
Equipped with computers and staffed with six professionals from Thresholds, the center attempts to find jobs, housing and medical services for those in need.
Thresholds officials say that 80 to 85 percent of those participating in its rehabilitation program successfully integrated into the community for an entire year without psychiatric hospitalization.
Posted by david at 8:18 AM Permalink
By KEVIN HELLIKER
A growing number of therapists are recommending something surprising for depressed and anxious patients: Read a book.
The treatment is called bibliotherapy, and it is gaining force from a spate of research showing that some self-help books can measurably improve mental health. In May alone, the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy published two studies demonstrating the effectiveness of bibliotherapy in patients with depression or other mood disorders. The national health system in Britain this year is prescribing self-help books for tens of thousands of people seeking medical attention for mood disorders.
Decades after the emergence of the self-help book, it remains one of publishing's hottest categories. This year, U.S. revenue for the category will exceed $600 million, a single-digit jump from 2006, says Simba Information, a market research firm in Stamford, Conn.
Yet this category is reminiscent of the market for elixirs, oils and pills before the advent of federal regulation. Despite the growth in research, fewer than 5% of the tens of thousands of self-help books on the market have been subjected to randomized clinical trials. And authors with no scientific credentials are just as likely to hit the jackpot as are renowned physicians. "When the book cover announces that it's a bestseller, that means nothing," says John Norcross, a University of Scranton professor of psychology and researcher on the effectiveness of self-help books.
Now, mental-health professionals in the U.K., the U.S. and elsewhere are determined to distinguish the most proven offerings. The aim is to recommend books that have been shown to be successful in published trials conducted by reputable, independent researchers. Trials are conducted much the way drug research is done, comparing patients' depressive symptoms before and after treatment, compared with patients who didn't undergo the treatment. For instance numerous clinical trials have shown that "Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy," a 1980 tome by Stanford University psychiatrist David Burns, reduces depressive symptoms in large numbers of readers.
In the U.K., where the wait for professional treatment can stretch six months, the national health system has embraced bibliotherapy as the first line of treatment for non-emergency cases. The program varies but in most parts of the country, health officials have approved a list of about 35 books that have been stocked at local libraries. Seekers of non-emergency mental-health services receive a prescription enabling them to check out a book without a library card and for 12 weeks, four times longer than other books.
In a small but significant percentage of cases, bibliotherapy reduces symptoms sufficiently that the sufferers no longer seek additional treatment, says Neil Frude, a Cardiff University psychology professor who helped develop the U.K. program.
In the U.S., no official list of bibliotherapy treatments exists. But thousands of mental-health professionals have contributed to a self-help manual that Dr. Norcross -- co-author himself of a self-help book, "Changing For Good" -- has been updating since 2000. "The Authoritative Guide To Self-Help Resources in Mental Health," available from many commercial booksellers, ranks more than 1,000 self-help books according to their effectiveness, based on clinical trials and on the clinical experience of professionals.
Bibliotherapy works best on mild to moderate symptoms, and isn't regarded as a replacement for conventional treatments. A 2003 article in the Journal of Clinical Psychology reviewed the published research on bibliotherapy and concluded that it could successfully treat depression, mild alcohol abuse and anxiety disorders, but was less effective with smoking addiction and severe alcohol abuse.
Most research suggests that bibliotherapy is most effective when used in conjunction with conventional therapy or while waiting for conventional therapy to begin.
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Posted by david at 8:14 AM Permalink
Will undergo mental evaluation for 18 months before his final sentence is determined
By Stephen Hunt
The Salt Lake Tribune
A mentally ill Kearns man who two years ago killed his 72-year-old mother will undergo up to 18 months of treatment at the Utah State Hospital before his final sentence is decided, a judge said Monday.
Matthew Alex Kirkham earlier this year pleaded guilty and mentally ill to second-degree felony manslaughter for the June 4, 2005, slaying of Joeann Kirkham, whom he hit in the head with a rock and then smothered in a plastic bag filled with paint fumes.
After her death, Kirkham fractured 15 of her ribs and severed her spinal column, according to an autopsy.
At a Monday sentencing hearing, attorneys said Kirkham, now 37, believed his mother was "another entity," emanating voices that threatened to make his head explode.
Kirkham was initially charged with first-degree felony murder, but prosecutors offered a plea deal after mental health experts reported he lacked the ability to form the intent to kill.
Prosecutor Alicia Cook said Kirkham had been on medication for schizophrenia and had been stable for five years before the murder. But Kirkham's attorney, Michael Peterson, said the medication was discontinued just prior to the homicide by a counselor at Valley Mental Health, who decided Kirkham had been misdiagnosed.
Soon after, when Kirkham and his mother began arguing - apparently about her plans to kick her son out of her house - his schizophrenia was "simply raging," Peterson said.
Kirkham's guilty and mentally ill plea gave 3rd District Judge Randall Skanchy sentencing options ranging from probation to a prison term of one to 15 years. The judge compromised by imposing the prison term, but ordering Kirkham sent to the state hospital.
Kirkham will be treated there for up to 18 months, or until he has received the maximum medical benefit. Skanchy said he would review Kirkham's progress on Feb. 11.
Once the hospitalization is completed, Peterson said Kirkham should be sent to a halfway house.
But Cook argued that prison is the only place secure enough to keep Kirkham from harming others. "This is not someone we can release to the community," she said.
Cook noted that, according to family members, Kirkham had occasionally stopped taking his medications. She also said that Kirkham is unable to provide himself with "the basic necessities of life."
Kirkham told the judge his mother believed she was "a terrible mom." But Kirkham noted she had taken him to therapy sessions for five years running.
"When this happened, she was still trying to help me," Kirkham said. "I wish I could tell her she was not the worst mother in the world."
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Posted by david at 7:19 AM Permalink
By Jim Abrams
The House took steps Monday to improve counseling and care for the tens of thousands of military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The bill, one of four veterans bills passed by the House, requires the Veterans Affairs Department to provide outreach and mental health services to veterans of the two campaigns. The VA secretary is also directed to contract with community mental health centers in areas not adequately served by the VA.
The VA in April reported that one-third of veterans of the two wars have sought VA health care since fiscal 2002, and that mental disorders comprised 37 percent of possible diagnoses among recent battlefield veterans.
It said that of 84,000 patients that received a diagnosis of possible mental disorder, almost half were provisionally diagnosed with PTSD.
That number could be low, said Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner, D-Calif.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Maine, also allows the VA secretary to make grants to conduct therapeutic workshop programs in such areas as music and the arts.
The bill provides grants for rural veterans service organizations to help transport veterans in remote areas, makes permanent a program to treat participants in Defense Department chemical and biological testing, expands counseling services for veterans emerging from prison who are at risk of homelessness, and provides housing assistance to very low-income veterans.
A second bill waives co-payment for veterans receiving hospice care at home or at acute-care facilities, and another assures that disabled veterans living temporarily with a family member are eligible for adaptive housing assistance.
The fourth bill extends pension benefits to World War II veterans of the U.S. Merchant Marine who were deprived of the benefits given most veterans after the war.
Merchant Marine veterans were ineligible for the GI Bill and other housing and health benefits, and it wasn’t until 1988 that they received veterans status. The bill authorizes $485 million over five years to pay $1,000 a month to Merchant Marine veterans and surviving spouses.
According to one VA estimate, about 13,000 surviving mariners and 6,000 spouses would qualify for the benefit.
All four bills passed by voice vote and now go to the Senate.
Posted by Marlisa at 7:17 AM Permalink
By BENEDICT CAREY
In a recent experiment, psychologists at Yale altered people’s judgments of a stranger by handing them a cup of coffee.
The study participants, college students, had no idea that their social instincts were being deliberately manipulated. On the way to the laboratory, they had bumped into a laboratory assistant, who was holding textbooks, a clipboard, papers and a cup of hot or iced coffee — and asked for a hand with the cup.
That was all it took: The students who held a cup of iced coffee rated a hypothetical person they later read about as being much colder, less social and more selfish than did their fellow students, who had momentarily held a cup of hot java.
Findings like this one, as improbable as they seem, have poured forth in psychological research over the last few years. New studies have found that people tidy up more thoroughly when there’s a faint tang of cleaning liquid in the air; they become more competitive if there’s a briefcase in sight, or more cooperative if they glimpse words like “dependable” and “support” — all without being aware of the change, or what prompted it.
Psychologists say that “priming” people in this way is not some form of hypnotism, or even subliminal seduction; rather, it’s a demonstration of how everyday sights, smells and sounds can selectively activate goals or motives that people already have.
More fundamentally, the new studies reveal a subconscious brain that is far more active, purposeful and independent than previously known. Goals, whether to eat, mate or devour an iced latte, are like neural software programs that can only be run one at a time, and the unconscious is perfectly capable of running the program it chooses.
The give and take between these unconscious choices and our rational, conscious aims can help explain some of the more mystifying realities of behavior, like how we can be generous one moment and petty the next, or act rudely at a dinner party when convinced we are emanating charm.
“When it comes to our behavior from moment to moment, the big question is, ‘What to do next?’ ” said John A. Bargh, a professor of psychology at Yale and a co-author, with Lawrence Williams, of the coffee study, which was presented at a recent psychology conference. “Well, we’re finding that we have these unconscious behavioral guidance systems that are continually furnishing suggestions through the day about what to do next, and the brain is considering and often acting on those, all before conscious awareness.”
Dr. Bargh added: “Sometimes those goals are in line with our conscious intentions and purposes, and sometimes they’re not.”
Priming the Unconscious
The idea of subliminal influence has a mixed reputation among scientists because of a history of advertising hype and apparent fraud. In 1957, an ad man named James Vicary claimed to have increased sales of Coca-Cola and popcorn at a movie theater in Fort Lee, N.J., by secretly flashing the words “Eat popcorn” and “Drink Coke” during the film, too quickly to be consciously noticed. But advertisers and regulators doubted his story from the beginning, and in a 1962 interview, Mr. Vicary acknowledged that he had trumped up the findings to gain attention for his business.
Later studies of products promising subliminal improvement, for things like memory and self-esteem, found no effect.
Some scientists also caution against overstating the implications of the latest research on priming unconscious goals. The new research “doesn’t prove that consciousness never does anything,” wrote Roy Baumeister, a professor of psychology at Florida State University, in an e-mail message. “It’s rather like showing you can hot-wire a car to start the ignition without keys. That’s important and potentially useful information, but it doesn’t prove that keys don’t exist or that keys are useless.”
Yet he and most in the field now agree that the evidence for psychological hot-wiring has become overwhelming. In one 2004 experiment, psychologists led by Aaron Kay, then at Stanford University and now at the University of Waterloo, had students take part in a one-on-one investment game with another, unseen player.
Half the students played while sitting at a large table, at the other end of which was a briefcase and a black leather portfolio. These students were far stingier with their money than the others, who played in an identical room, but with a backpack on the table instead.
The mere presence of the briefcase, noticed but not consciously registered, generated business-related associations and expectations, the authors argue, leading the brain to run the most appropriate goal program: compete. The students had no sense of whether they had acted selfishly or generously.
In another experiment, published in 2005, Dutch psychologists had undergraduates sit in a cubicle and fill out a questionnaire. Hidden in the room was a bucket of water with a splash of citrus-scented cleaning fluid, giving off a faint odor. After completing the questionnaire, the young men and women had a snack, a crumbly biscuit provided by laboratory staff members.
The researchers covertly filmed the snack time and found that these students cleared away crumbs three times more often than a comparison group, who had taken the same questionnaire in a room with no cleaning scent. “That is a very big effect, and they really had no idea they were doing it,” said Henk Aarts, a psychologist at Utrecht University and the senior author of the study.
The Same Brain Circuits
The real-world evidence for these unconscious effects is clear to anyone who has ever run out to the car to avoid the rain and ended up driving too fast, or rushed off to pick up dry cleaning and returned with wine and cigarettes — but no pressed slacks.
The brain appears to use the very same neural circuits to execute an unconscious act as it does a conscious one. In a study that appeared in the journal Science in May, a team of English and French neuroscientists performed brain imaging on 18 men and women who were playing a computer game for money. The players held a handgrip and were told that the tighter they squeezed when an image of money flashed on the screen, the more of the loot they could keep.
As expected, the players squeezed harder when the image of a British pound flashed by than when the image of a penny did — regardless of whether they consciously perceived the pictures, many of which flew by subliminally. But the circuits activated in their brains were similar as well: an area called the ventral pallidum was particularly active whenever the participants responded.
“This area is located in what used to be called the reptilian brain, well below the conscious areas of the brain,” said the study’s senior author, Chris Frith, a professor in neuropsychology at University College London who wrote the book “Making Up The Mind: How the Brain Creates our Mental World.”
The results suggest a “bottom-up” decision-making process, in which the ventral pallidum is part of a circuit that first weighs the reward and decides, then interacts with the higher-level, conscious regions later, if at all, Dr. Frith said.
Scientists have spent years trying to pinpoint the exact neural regions that support conscious awareness, so far in vain. But there’s little doubt it involves the prefrontal cortex, the thin outer layer of brain tissue behind the forehead, and experiments like this one show that it can be one of the last neural areas to know when a decision is made.
This bottom-up order makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. The subcortical areas of the brain evolved first and would have had to help individuals fight, flee and scavenge well before conscious, distinctly human layers were added later in evolutionary history. In this sense, Dr. Bargh argues, unconscious goals can be seen as open-ended, adaptive agents acting on behalf of the broad, genetically encoded aims — automatic survival systems.
In several studies, researchers have also shown that, once covertly activated, an unconscious goal persists with the same determination that is evident in our conscious pursuits. Study participants primed to be cooperative are assiduous in their teamwork, for instance, helping others and sharing resources in games that last 20 minutes or longer. Ditto for those set up to be aggressive.
This may help explain how someone can show up at a party in good spirits and then for some unknown reason — the host’s loafers? the family portrait on the wall? some political comment? — turn a little sour, without realizing the change until later, when a friend remarks on it. “I was rude? Really? When?”
Mark Schaller, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, has done research showing that when self-protective instincts are primed — simply by turning down the lights in a room, for instance — white people who are normally tolerant become unconsciously more likely to detect hostility in the faces of black men with neutral expressions.
“Sometimes nonconscious effects can be bigger in sheer magnitude than conscious ones,” Dr. Schaller said, “because we can’t moderate stuff we don’t have conscious access to, and the goal stays active.”
Until it is satisfied, that is, when the program is subsequently suppressed, research suggests. In one 2006 study, for instance, researchers had Northwestern University undergraduates recall an unethical deed from their past, like betraying a friend, or a virtuous one, like returning lost property. Afterward, the students had their choice of a gift, an antiseptic wipe or a pencil; and those who had recalled bad behavior were twice as likely as the others to take the wipe. They had been primed to psychologically “cleanse” their consciences.
Once their hands were wiped, the students became less likely to agree to volunteer their time to help with a graduate school project. Their hands were clean: the unconscious goal had been satisfied and now was being suppressed, the findings suggest.
What You Don’t Know
Using subtle cues for self-improvement is something like trying to tickle yourself, Dr. Bargh said: priming doesn’t work if you’re aware of it. Manipulating others, while possible, is dicey. “We know that as soon as people feel they’re being manipulated, they do the opposite; it backfires,” he said.
And researchers do not yet know how or when, exactly, unconscious drives may suddenly become conscious; or under which circumstances people are able to override hidden urges by force of will. Millions have quit smoking, for instance, and uncounted numbers have resisted darker urges to misbehave that they don’t even fully understand.
Yet the new research on priming makes it clear that we are not alone in our own consciousness. We have company, an invisible partner who has strong reactions about the world that don’t always agree with our own, but whose instincts, these studies clearly show, are at least as likely to be helpful, and attentive to others, as they are to be disruptive.
Posted by Marlisa at 7:13 AM Permalink
Monday, July 30, 2007
By Olesya Dmitracova
MOSCOW (Reuters) - A member of a Russian opposition group has been hospitalized in a psychiatric facility "out of revenge" for criticizing a clinic's use of violence against mentally ill patients, her colleague said on Monday.
Yelena Vasilyeva, who heads a regional branch of the United Civil Front, said Larisa Arap had told her on the telephone that police had pushed her into an ambulance on July 5 and taken her to the hospital in Russia's Murmansk region near Finland.
She said Arap was forcefully injected with drugs.
"It was out of revenge that Larisa was hospitalized," Vasilyeva told Reuters in an e-mail.
Police were not available for comment. The clinic where Vasilyeva said Arap was kept confirmed they have a patient under that name.
Arap's doctor said she could not discuss the details of her illness over the telephone and told Reuters to call the clinic's chief doctor. The chief doctor was out of the office on Monday.
The United Civil Front activists, led by world chess champion Garry Kasparov, are vocal Kremlin opponents who accuse President Vladimir Putin of destroying democracy.
They say civil society, human rights and the rule of law had all suffered greatly under the Russian leader.
A local opposition newspaper in June published an article based on Arap's comments. It said patients at a clinic in the Murmansk region were beaten and raped.
When Arap returned to her doctor after an examination to pick up medical documents showing she was in good mental health to renew a driver's license, the doctor asked her whether she was the article's author and called the police, Vasilyeva said.
"In Stalin's times and in Brezhnev's times, psychiatric hospitals were additional prisons for dissenters," Vasilyeva said referring to Soviet leaders Josef Stalin and Leonid Brezhnev. "I do not think we want a return to those shameful pages of history."
Leaders of the United Civil Front are preparing a letter addressed to Russia's rights ombudsman demanding immediate interference with Arap's case, Vasilyeva said.
Posted by Marlisa at 1:13 PM Permalink
By AMY JETER, The Virginian-Pilot
NORFOLK -- School Board members and parents are questioning the timing of a plan to reshuffle about 300 elementary students with disabilities to different classes or schools.
The change will move more special education students to regular classrooms. It is intended to help the school division raise test scores, meet new state standards, and even out the number of students with disabilities among Norfolk's elementary schools.
Administrators decided in April to implement the plan this fall, but some people disagree with that time line.
"It's ill-conceived," said Ginny Bobby, whose 7-year-old daughter, Lilly, has autism and might need to switch classes or schools. "They're not preparing the children and the families."
Board member Stephen Tonelson, a professor of early childhood and special education at Old Dominion University, worried that the plan might not give schools enough time to adjust to the change, including making sure there are enough staff members in the schools to meet special needs, such as speech therapy.
"I'm not sure that we didn't pull the trigger a little quickly on this one," Tonelson said.
After hearing about the plan this month, School Board members scheduled a two-hour work session for Tuesday to discuss it more. The meeting will begin at 5 p.m. on the 12th floor of the School Administration Building.
The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires that students with special needs spend as much time as possible with their peers in a regular classroom.
In Norfolk's elementary schools, many students with disabilities typically have been grouped together in classes headed by a special education teacher and an assistant. T he children often traveled out of their attendance zone for these classes, and had to change schools after a few years because of space considerations.
The new plan calls for transferring about 118 students from self-contained classes in 13 schools back to their home schools, said Joan Anderson, senior director of special education services.
The change would affect some students with learning disabilities, developmental delays, autism, and orthopedic or mild cognitive impairments. It will not pose an extra cost to the school division, Anderson said.
"Our goal is to always give kids the opportunity to be academically and behaviorally successful in general education," Anderson said.
Up to 200 other students who are considered "trainable mentally disabled" or who have autism, multiple disabilities or disabilities that are severe or emotional will continue to be in classes away from the general population, Anderson said.
Several of the classes would be moved to different schools, however.
"They need to be in an elementary K-5 (school), the same one, and know they will not be moved," said Mary Beers, principal of Crossroads Elementary and a member of the committee that worked on the plan.
A proposal to integrate Norfolk elementary special education students had been in the works for years. It has taken on more urgency in recent months, after the Virginia Department of Education published new benchmarks for special education students in order to comply with new federal regulations.
One goal states that 14 percent or fewer of special education students should spend most of their time outside a regular classroom. In Norfolk, that number was 27 percent in 2005-06 - the highest percentage among South Hampton Roads school divisions.
The overall academic performances of Norfolk's special education students also missed state targets. In Norfolk, 55 percent of special education students were proficient in English/reading, and 46 percent were proficient in math. The Virginia Department of Education's benchmarks are 69 percent in English/reading and 67 percent in math - targets that no local school divisions met.
Norfolk officials think students with disabilities will learn more if general education teachers handle as much of their instruction as possible, with assistance from special education teachers when needed.
Elementary principals also said they would like to change the uneven distribution of special education classes. That distribution meant that some administrators were required to handle more of the additional responsibilities associated with special education classes.
Also, if a high number of special education students post low scores on the Standards of Learning tests, they can drag down pass rates used to determine a school's state accreditation status.
Muriel Hecht, a parent who chairs the school division's Special Education Advisory Council, said she generally supports the school division's plan, but is worried that families are learning about the change just weeks before school starts.
"They will be going cold turkey to a new school and a completely different type of learning environment with many more children in the classroom," Hecht said. "The transition would be much smoother if teachers had time to prepare their students during the school year and gradually transition them into their new classrooms."
Anderson said a letter was mailed to parents on June 15.
School Board members requested a formal time line for the move, but Anderson said there wasn't one.
They worried that parents had been cut out of the process and requested additional information about the plan, including ramifications of delaying it.
Tonelson said he is concerned that the board was unaware of the plans as they were being made.
"We really didn't know anything about this," he said, "and it does seem to be a fairly significant policy shift."
Amy Jeter, (757) 446-2730, firstname.lastname@example.org Read more!
Posted by david at 9:04 AM Permalink
Conflicting reports try to explain if the 22-year-old mentally ill mother, Ashley Ingraham, wanted the child.
BY NICOLE E. SQUIBBS, SUN STAFF WRITER
Alexa Angel Garza was born behind bars in the Yuma County jail. Her life started on a bloody mattress in a jail cell around 1:10 a.m. on Sept. 10, 2006.
No doctors or nurses were present. No medical equipment was available - not even a towel or running water. The only medication given to her mother was Tylenol.
The Sun received a copy of an official internal investigation detailing the 12 hours leading up to Garza's premature birth at roughly five months gestation.
Conflicting reports try to explain if the 22-year-old mentally ill mother, Ashley Ingraham, wanted the child. And pages of the report attempt to verify if Ingraham intentionally fell on her stomach in her jail cell, and if jail and medical staff followed the correct procedure when they gave her sanitary napkins for her vaginal bleeding, had a nurse visit her for the first time more than three hours after the bleeding began, took her vitals and doubted that she was in labor.
The Sun recently obtained the Yuma County Sheriff's Office report from Michael McGregor, the jail administrator who is currently on paid leave - in part - due to this incident.
According to the report, Ingraham was alerting jail staff that she was having "slow-timing contractions" since her booking in jail on Sept. 7.
"(I told them that) I need to see an emergency room doctor immediately," she stated in the report. "(They) tried to tell me that I was faking it, that I'm not contracting."
She was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and domestic violence for allegedly hitting her then-boyfriend and the father of the baby, Alex Garza, 31.
The report states that a local mental health hospital had treated her for bipolar disorder, a manic-depressive illness that causes sudden mood changes, but did not specify when.
Inmates - who couldn't see into Ingraham's cell - first alerted jail staff that Ingraham was allegedly jumping off her bed and onto her stomach prior to 12:30 p.m. on Sept. 9. The report does not state what her exact actions were that day in her cell and what time they began. In the report, it states that a jail investigator told Ingraham that he had reviewed a DVD which "shows her intentionally falling on her stomach."
Ingraham admitted in the report that she resorted to the tactic to convince jail officials to take her to the hospital because she felt the medical staff was ignoring her and that this was the only way to get to the emergency room.
Ingraham told the investigator, "I might have accidentally fallen off my bed a few times ... I wasn't trying to fall on my stomach, I was trying to actually do exercise and stuff so I could try to ignore my pain and everything because (they were) not going to do nothing."
According to Ingraham, "My belly only hit the floor only amount of once ’cause I kind of slipped."
When the jail staff was first alerted of her actions at 12:30 p.m. Sept. 9, Ingraham had vaginal bleeding. The officer gave her a sanitary napkin so that medical staff could monitor the situation.
After leaving messages with seven local obstetricians, The Sun was unable to interview one to determine the possible impact of Ingraham's actions on her pregnancy.
Ingraham told a sergeant around 3:34 p.m. that she did not want to have the baby and that she was a bad mother for being in jail.
The first nurse to see Ingraham that day was nurse Radu Timis at 4:15 p.m. According to the report, Ingraham told Timis that she did not want to be pregnant. Timis said Ingraham was "faking it" and "there was nothing wrong with her, she was not in labor" and advised her to rest, according to the investigation.
However, also according to the report, Ingraham's midwife, Anette Casey, who cared for her during her pregnancy, said Ingraham "made her appointments on a regular basis and was excited about her pregnancy."
From 12:30 p.m. Sept. 9 until 1:10 a.m. Sept. 10, there are at least 11 instances where jail or medical staff either checked on Ingraham, noticed blood in her cell, gave her sanitary napkins, took her vitals, told her to rest, told her she was not in labor or reported her pleas for help to a higher jail official.
A security control officer stated in the report that "It angered me, the way (nurse) Timis handled the situation. He should have been more tuned in and gotten her butt downstairs (to go to the hospital)."
The second nurse to treat Ingraham that evening, Irene Naputi, told a shift supervisor sergeant that "I bleed more on my period than she's bleeding. She's OK," the report stated.
A unit manager for Ingraham's unit also said in the report that Ingraham's bleeding had alarmed him.
"There was a lot. There was pad, upon pad, upon pad, toilet paper and just anything you can think of in there," according to the unit manager, who was referred to as Officer B. Wilson in the report. Wilson said he spoke to his sergeant about his concern, but the sergeant told him they needed to follow the nurse's instructions.
"Regardless if she may be complaining of contractions, or whatever, she's bleeding," Wilson stated. "I can still see the toilet perfectly, and it's just like, how could somebody walk in the unit and not see that as like WOW."
Wilson added that he did not think medical personnel took Ingraham seriously.
An inmate in a cell near Ingraham's, Michele Inman, agreed. She told the investigator: "I think in the beginning ... nobody believed her, and nobody did anything ..."
Inman stated in the investigation that it "was ’round lockdown" near 9 p.m. (on Sept. 9) when "(a) person came and said they were going to get medical, but medical didn't come for a long time."
For Ingraham, the only people who could hear her cries for help that night could do nothing to help her - inmates locked in cells next to her.
Inman said she awoke because she heard Ingraham make "a cry I haven't heard" and "panicking banging."
"She was screaming and crying, but there was no officer. Nobody would come, and I swear I heard that probably a half-hour," Inman said in the report.
By the time a jail official did respond to Ingraham's cell, it was too late.
"The contractions were minutes apart, and I kept on calling for the detention officers, and they wouldn't do nothing, and then I just laid on my bed, and the baby came out," Ingraham stated.
"I began to yell and told them the baby was here. I had to put my mouth over the baby's mouth and suck out the fluid and spit it out and make sure the baby was moving," Ingraham told the investigator.
The crying stopped before 1:21 a.m., when a jail manager found Ingraham standing in her cell, holding a baby, with the umbilical cord still attached.
The Sun contacted Northend Health Associates, the former medical contractor for Yuma County jail, but officials there said nurses Timis and Naputi were no longer employed by Northend. Northend Health Associates' contract ended with the jail on June 18. The county did not renew its contract.
In the report, nurse Timis told the investigator, "I did not consider that is (sic) necessary to go to the hospital, because clinical signs were not showing me an emergency situation to send her to the hospital."
Numerous calls to YCSO spokesman Capt. Eben Bratcher for comment were not returned to The Sun by press time.
According to the report, Emergency Medical Services arrived at the jail around 1:21 a.m., about 11 minutes after the detention officer discovered the birth of the baby.
Around 1:42 a.m. the baby was transported to Yuma Regional Medical Center, where the newborn was placed into the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit in critical condition, due to "extreme prematurity," "respiratory failure" and brain hemorrhaging, and she was not expected to live.
She was transported to the University Medical Center in Tucson on Sept. 12, according to the report.
The Sun was unable to confirm when Alexa Garza was released from Tucson.
The child is now under Child Protective Services and residing with a nurse in Lake Havasu City, according to the father.
Ingraham was released from Yuma County jail on bond on Oct. 13. On Nov. 30, she was again booked into Yuma County jail and was released on Jan. 22. The Sun was unable to confirm the most recent charges that landed Ingraham in the local jail.
According to the baby's father, Ingraham is in a halfway house in Phoenix. The Sun was unable to confirm her location.
TIMELINE OF EVENTS LEADING TO THE BIRTH OF ALEXA ANGEL GARZA:
SEPT. 9, 2006
- 12:30 p.m. - An inmate alerts a detention officer that Ashley Ingraham is jumping off her bed and landing on her stomach. Ingraham tells the officer she was bleeding in her toilet. The officer gives her a sanitary pad so medical personnel can monitor the bleeding. Ingraham tells the officer she was jumping off her bed. The officer notifies a sergeant about the situation, who tells the officer to call if anything else happens.
- 3:34 p.m. - A sergeant speaks to Ingraham, who cries and says she does not want to have the baby and that she is a bad mother for being in jail and having mental issues.
- 4:15 p.m. - Nurse Radu Timis checks on Ingraham, who says she does not want to be pregnant and that is why she is behaving that way. Timis advises her to rest and decides Ingraham is not in labor.
- 7:15 p.m. - A unit manager reports to a sergeant that Ingraham has begun bleeding again. Timis returns and again says she is not in labor. Timis places Ingraham on bed rest and a feminine pad count to be collected at the end of each shift. The sergeant asks Timis if she should be taken to the hospital, and Timis says "no."
- 9 p.m. - Ingraham reports her mucus plug came out. Timis again responds and says that was not the case. The sergeant places her in a dry cell, with no flushing toilet or running water. According to the American Pregnancy Association, a mucus plug remains in front of the cervix to prevent bacteria from entering the uterus. Typically, close to birth, the plug is expelled to allow the fetus to pass through the birthing canal.
- 10:30 p.m. - Ingraham's vital signs are taken by medical personnel and appear to be normal.
- 10:45 p.m. - The sergeant passes Ingraham's information to the sergeant taking over the shift.
SEPT. 10, 2006
- 12:15 a.m. - An officer tells the sergeant that Ingraham has been yelling and complaining she is in labor. Ingraham tells the sergeant she is in labor and needs to go to the hospital and is in a lot of pain. The sergeant tells Ingraham to relax, and he will try to see a nurse about her problems.
- 12:20 a.m. - The sergeant speaks with nurse Irene Naputi, who says she has been monitoring the situation. Naputi states she "bleeds more on her period" than what Ingraham had bled onto feminine pads.
- 12:30 a.m. - A sergeant takes a medic to Ingraham to check her vitals, which Naputi says are fine.
- 1:10 a.m. - An officer tells medical personnel Ingraham has prematurely given birth to a baby girl in her cell.
- 1:21 a.m. - Emergency Medical Services arrives at the jail.
- 1:42 a.m. - The baby is transported to Yuma Regional Medical Center.
- 2 a.m. - A call is placed to jail administrator Michael McGregor. It was the first call placed to McGregor about Ingraham.
FATHER GIVES UPDATE ON BABY'S CONDITION
"She's doing as well as a premature baby can do. She still has a lot of problems we're gonna be facing in the future," Alex Garza, father of Alexa Angel Garza, told The Sun recently.
Garza said Alexa has respiratory and developmental problems, and although she is almost 11 months old, she is only at the developmental stage of an average 4-month-old baby. He said doctors have told him her motor skills and mentality are not going to keep up with her age.
Garza said Alexa is in the care of Child Protective Services. She is residing with a nurse at a home in Lake Havasu City and he sees her twice a month. He was unable to provide The Sun with phone numbers or names of the baby's doctors and nurses.
He said he is not dating the baby's mother anymore, and he believes Ashley Ingraham is on parole and living in a half-way house in Phoenix. He said he has not spoken to her in eight months.
Garza said he hopes to share custody of Alexa with Ingraham, unless she is not interested in custody, in which case he will try to gain full custody of their child. He is hoping Alexa will be able to come home to Yuma within the next four to five months.
"I'm trying to get an apartment of my own with a bedroom for the baby," he said.
Garza said the baby was named after him, and her middle name, Angel, was added from "the circumstances she was born under."
"Every time I talk about her, I start to get a little teary-eyed. Not only did they (Yuma County jail officials and medical personnel) mess up my child's life, but I was unable to be there in the hospital when she was born. They took that from me and from her.
"It's totally wrong what they did. Whoever's decision it was not to send her to the hospital, I hope he loses his job."
Garza said he has retained an attorney from Tucson, James Steadwell, and has filed a lawsuit against Yuma County and the jail's medical personnel.
Steadwell confirmed he made a claim to Yuma County and to Northend Health Associates "many months ago" and that the claim status was "pending," meaning it would either be resolved or go to formal litigation.
Yuma County Sheriff's Office Capt. David Reyes said the county did receive notice of a claim filed by Steadwell. Read more!
Posted by david at 8:54 AM Permalink
By Angela Williams
First Coast News
JACKSONVILLE, FL -- Booker T. Oliver says looking back on his life things would have been different without help.
"To be honest with you, I'd either be in the graveyard or in prison. That's what the bottom line is," says Oliver.
Oliver received help from the Community Rehabilitation Center. The center is designed to get the mentally ill proper medication and work them back into society.
"There's a known 65,000 individuals here just in Duval County that have been diagnosed with chronic mental illness. There are probably about another 30,000 that have not been diagnosed," says CRC Clinical Director Jimmy Hicks.
Without funding they won't be diagnosed. The center receives funding from the state and the city. The facility says a trickle down of budget cuts force the city to reduce funding and the center to reduce its staff.
"We're getting the bulk of the clients because on any given day you may catch 300 people receiving services, but we just don't have the space. We just don't have the individuals to do the service," says Hicks.
As of now the center is taking it day by day and will continue trying to make a difference in the lives they can reach for now.
"Without them I don't know what we would do because like I said, people don't really respect us no way because we are mentally ill and they say you're crazy," says Oliver.
Posted by david at 8:51 AM Permalink