Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Thinkstock.       

Association For The Chronically Mentally Ill (ACMI) believes there is sea change going on around mental illness and what has worked and what has areas for improvement.  Among the most promising changes is that SAMSHA and mental health “think tanks” as well as community-based organizations like ACMI are discussing the need for additional research on biomedical aspects of serious mental illness rather than just focusing on “stigma” or general mental health or “wellness.” Not enough research dollars are targeted to investigate the root causes of mental illness and effective treatment modalities from medication to effective interventions in housing and social supports. People living with serious mental illness like schizo-affective disorder are trying to survive this devastating biological brain illness. Often without adequate support.

ACMI is encouraged by the proceedings of the White House Mental Health Summit (Dec 2019) which will provide additional funding dollars designated towards research on Mental Illness research.

 Some advocates believe that  “mental health problems tend to be under-researched, undertreated, and over-stigmatized.

We need to start focusing on treatment over punishment. Research that will lead to better treatment and outcomes – measured by changes in jail and prison incarceration rates, number and length of hospitalizations, and treatment compliance over a sustained period of time. Mental health treatments remain largely inaccessible to many, especially those from lower socio-economic or disadvantaged groups. These families often lack advocates for their ill family member and can not afford private attorneys to make the system “bend” to become more patient-focused. One estimate by the Epidemiologic Catchment Area Survey reported that 40 percent of adults with severe mental illness did not receive any psychiatric care within a one-year period. Many individuals will continue to suffer from serious mental illness until we can reduce barriers to treatment access. This is a tragedy — and a likely reason for the recent tragedies in which untreated individuals living with serious mental illness engaged in acts of violence against others in the community. The National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), the nation’s largest funder of mental health research, has seen flat budgets since 2003, and currently funds less than 20 percent of the proposed research trials it receives. This tight funding environment discourages new researchers from entering the mental health arena and slows research progress.

Stigma is important in the general conversation to ensure parents, teachers, physicians and other primary caregivers identify the early signs of mental illness; most are present before the late teenage years.

But, importantly, in Thomas R. Insel, M.D. director of National Institute of Mental Illness directors’ message he indicates the real need for basic research.

This is promising!

If we want to offer the most effective mental health treatments, we need cutting-edge research to test those treatments and understand how they work.

We think it is beneficial for all families to submit comments asking for more research dollars target research for serious mental illness.

CALL TO ACTION!

You can submit feedback online via the NIMH request for information page, or mail your comments to:

NIMH Strategic Planning Team
6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 6200, MSC 9663
Bethesda, MD 20892-9663

From the Treatment Advocacy Center- (December 18, 2019) The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has a history of failing to prioritize serious mental illness in its research. Unfortunately, their recently-released five-year strategic plan draft signals their intention to continue to ignore those with the most impairing disorders.

Despite seeking public comment, the NIMH’s plan, even by the standards of federal reports, is almost unreadable. While the issues are complicated, the explanation of why they are vital shouldn’t be. However, it is not written in a way that is easy to understand or make sense of. For example, Strategy 3.3.C on page 28 reads “Enhancing the practical relevance of effectiveness research via deployment focused, hybrid effectiveness-implementation studies.”

Spearheaded by our founder, Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, the Treatment Advocacy Center has put together a comprehensive analysis of the five-year strategic plan, highlighting how it would fail those with severe mental illness. We identify sixteen concrete examples of research initiatives the NIMH should be pursuing today, initiatives that could help people with serious mental illness recover and live better lives.

Yesterday, the Treatment Advocacy Center submitted our public comment to the NIMH. However, we urge you to submit your own here. Use our comments, but also share your story of how the decisions of NIMH affect you and your loved ones. These stories are vital to help NIMH understand why their proposed priorities are misplaced.

Here are some points to consider:

  • The report fails to reflect the urgency of our national mental health crisis: As Dr. Torrey summarized, “Overall, I would say that this report is promising for people who plan to be affected with a serious mental illness in 2050 or beyond, but for anyone who is currently affected, the report offers no hope. I personally find this unacceptable and inexcusable.”
  • Where are the people who are experiencing the consequences of our failed mental health system? Except for one paragraph on the increasing national suicide rate, there is no indication whatsoever that mental health services for individuals with serious mental illnesses are an increasing public disaster. There is no mention of homelessness, criminalization of mental illness, the fact that emergency rooms are overrun with people with mental illness, or the burden of the failures of the mental health system on law enforcement.
  • Continued misplaced and unbalanced priorities: The strategic plan is strongly weighted towards basic brain science, with a continued strong emphasis on genetic research. It ignores the fact that the genetic research to date has been remarkably unproductive and likely to continue to be so, as described in a paper by Dr. Torrey and Dr. Robert Yolken published in Psychiatry Research in August.

You can submit feedback online via the NIMH request for information page, or mail your comments to: NIMH Strategic Planning Team
6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 6200, MSC 9663
Bethesda, MD 20892-9663

From the National Institute of Mental Health Strategic Plan- here are the four priority areas.

The National Institute of Mental Health
The National Institute of Mental Health
The National Institute of Mental Health
The National Institute of Mental Health

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 From Bedlam- When Dr. Kenneth Rosenberg trained as a psychiatrist in the late 1980s, the state mental hospitals, which had reached peak occupancy in the 1950s, were being closed at an alarming rate, with many patients having nowhere to go. There has never been a more important time for this conversation, as one in five adults – 40 million Americans – experience mental illness each year. Today, the largest mental institution in the United States is the Los Angeles County Jail, and the last refuge for many of the 20,000 mentally ill people living on the streets of Los Angeles is L.A. County Hospital. There, Dr. Rosenberg begins his chronicle of what it means to be mentally ill in America today, integrating his own moving story of how the system failed his sister, Merle, who had schizophrenia. As he says, “I have come to see that my family’s tragedy, my family’s shame, is America’s great secret.”

Dr. Rosenberg gives readers an inside look at the historical, political, and economic forces that have resulted in the greatest social crisis of the twenty-first century. The culmination of a seven-year inquiry, Bedlam is not only a rallying cry for change, but also a guidebook for how we move forward with care and compassion, with resources that have never before been compiled, including legal advice, practical solutions for parents and loved ones, help finding community support, and information on therapeutic options.

 Cheryl Roberts, executive director of the Greenburger Center for Social and Criminal Justice, says “Asylums never went away; they just grew into two varieties: posh for the wealthy (in the form of a handful of fancy $100,000-plus a year mental institutions) and prisons for the poor.”

Jonathan Sherin, MD, PhD, director of Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, doesn’t mince words. He says we did not get rid of asylums in Los Angeles in the 1960s with deinstitutionalization: we just substituted the local asylum for an ‘indoor” one called the Los Angeles County jail and an “outdoor” asylum called skid row. John Snook, director of the Treatment Advocacy Center, agreed that the dismantling of the asylum was really “trans-institutionalization”- transferring the fate of patients from asylums to streets and prisons. We still hospitalize people, they are “micro-hospitalizations”, says Snook, referring to the average length of stay of three to five days. “The state of California is a canary in the coal mine from day one,” he said, because it emptied out its hospitals early. In 1975, the city’s “containment” policy squeezed people with substance abuse disorders, mental illness, and other disabilities into a fifty-block radius skid row- helping it become what a Los Angeles Times reporter called “a dumping ground for hospitals, prisons, and other cities to get rid of people with nowhere else to go.

According to Dr. Edwin Fuller Torrey (an American psychiatrist and schizophrenia researcher. He is the Associate Director of Research at the Stanley Medical Research Institute and Founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center), the United States currently has just 2 to 3 percent of the psychiatric treatment beds that we had sixty years ago: “We have so few beds available for people with mental illness that there’s nowhere to put them.”  Because emergency rooms are legally required to treat anyone who comes through the door, people with serious mental illness (SMI) often wind up staying there for days or even weeks at a time waiting for a psychiatric treatment bed. We see that all across the country.

What Dr. Sherin, Snook, and many other policy experts hold partly responsible for this mess is the IMD (Institutes for Mental Diseases) exclusion rule, enacted in 1965 as part of the Medicaid and Medicare legislation. “The IMD exclusion explicitly prohibited Medicaid from paying for patient care in state or private hospitals that specialize in mental health care. It prohibits federal Medicaid payments for services delivered to individuals aged twenty-two to sixty-four years residing in IMDs, defined as “hospitals, nursing homes, or other institutions with more than sixteen beds that are primarily engaged in providing diagnosis, treatment, or care of persons with ‘mental diseases’ other than dementia or intellectual disabilities. To repeat- no mental hospital with more than sixteen beds.”

ACMI is encouraged by some recent actions:

·         One sign that America is waking up to our mental health crisis is the 21st Century Cures Act of 2016, which provided additional research and treatment reforms.

·         The creation of a mental health czar position in the Department of Health and Human Services now occupied by Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, MD, Ph.D.

·         Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, MD, PhD. has returned to SAMSHA with a priority to address Serious Mental Illness, something that had not been a priority at SAMSHA for years.

·         SAMSHA focusing on evidence-based practices.

·         The recent White House Mental Illness summit (see links below)

·         Increased discussion about changes to the IMD exclusion

·         The rise of celebrity candor about their personal experiences with mental illness.

In Arizona we are fortunate to have strong laws to help persons with SMI that do not have the insight to understand they are ill. We are often contacted by families from other states that do not have our strong laws.

Arizona will also lead the nation is providing a new level of care that is less restrictive than a level 1 psychiatric hospital, but more than community living. This level of care – secure residential treatment – will be a closely monitored program that will assist the chronically mentally ill in their recovery.

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 Below please find information mentioned in the Summit along with full video coverage and a transcript of President Donald J. Trump’s remarks.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD)

Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)

  • National Drug Control Policy Strategy: Establishes the Administration’s priorities for addressing the challenge of drug trafficking and use
  • Federal Rural Resources Guide: A listing of Federal programs that can be used to address substance use disorder and opioid misuse in rural communities
  • Community Assessment Tool: Provides a snapshot of county-by-county data about drug overdose deaths and socio-economic conditions in a county to help leaders build grassroots solutions for prevention, treatment and recovery
  • School Resource Guide: Guide for teachers, administrators and staff about resources available to help educate and protect students from substance misuse
  • Treatment Services Locator: Mentioned in the Federal Leaders Perspective Panel
  • Google Drug Takeback: Mentioned in the Federal Leaders Perspective Panel

U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)