URGENT! CALLS TO GOVERNOR PATAKI NEEDED:
PLEASE CALL OR E-MAIL GOVERNOR PATAKI TO TELL HIM TO SIGN LEGISLATION
TO ‘BOOT THE SHU’ AND TO ESTABLISH MENTAL HEALTH HOUSING
Go to http://184.108.40.206/govemail
Tell Governor Pataki To:
1) “Sign the Mental Health Housing Waiting List legislation
2) “Sign the bill to “Boot the SHU” (A.3926-a)
and improve prison conditions and safety.”
THE FOUNDATION OF ADVOCACY FOR MENTAL HEALTH, INC. PRESENTS
“AN AUGUST EVENING IN SARATOGA”: Evening
fundraiser will feature musical entertainment and silent auction.
August 16, 2006
5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Saratoga Reading Room, Saratoga Springs, NY
information and RSVP at http://www.foundationofadvocacymh.org
IN THE NEWS:
Depression Findings Could Alter Treatments. By Benedict
The New York Times, August 8, 2006
The results of two new studies may signal a substantial shift
in the way psychiatrists and researchers think about treatment
for severely depressed patients.
one, government researchers found that an injection of a powerful
anesthetic drug dissolved feelings of despair in a small group
of severely depressed patients in a matter of hours, and that
the effect lasted for up to a week in some participants.
cautioned that the study was very small, and that the drug, ketamine,
is a tightly controlled substance sometimes used as a club drug
that can cause hallucinations, confusion and dangerous reactions,
especially when ingested in unknown doses.
the other, psychiatrists in New York found evidence that antidepressant
drugs significantly increased the risk that some children and
adolescents would attempt or commit suicide. Doctors have debated
this risk for years, but the authors of the study were skeptical
of it, and their report may sway others.
studies are being published in The Archives of General Psychiatry.
the first study, Dr. Carlos A. Zarate of the National Institute
of Mental Health led a team of researchers who treated 18 chronically
depressed men and women with the anesthetic ketamine.
participants recovered from depression in the first day and were
still significantly improved a week later. Most patients also
received a placebo treatment during the study, an injection of
saline solution, and showed no improvement.
Zarate said experimenting with novel approaches was crucial because
the current crop of antidepressant drugs worked slowly and weakly,
if at all, for millions of patients.
affects the brain in a way entirely different from drugs like
Prozac, and it has shown some antidepressant effects in animal
studies. It had not been tried for depression in humans.
the study tells us is that we can break this sound barrier, in
effect, and get an almost immediate response that we cannot get
with other drugs,” Dr. Zarate said.
is not approved for depression, and it has a checkered past in
psychiatric research. The drug often induces hallucinations, like
whispering voices and light trails, and researchers used it in
the 1990’s to induce psychotic reactions in people with
schizophrenia — an experiment widely criticized as unethical.
Zarate said that neither doctors nor patients should use it for
depression outside of carefully controlled research settings and
that the results of the current trial should be considered suggestive.
“This drug should be seen as a tool for understanding what
mechanisms might be involved in rapid relief,” and not as
a treatment, Dr. Zarate said.
study of suicide risk, led by Dr. Mark Olfson of Columbia University
and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, was based on an
analysis of Medicaid records of more than 4,400 people who were
hospitalized for depression in 1999 and 2000.
researchers found no link between the antidepressant drugs and
suicidal behavior in depressed patients 19 or older. But children
and adolescents in the study who were taking antidepressants were
about 50 percent more likely than those not on the drugs to try
to kill themselves. And they were about 15 times as likely as
those not on the medications to complete the act, although the
number of suicides was too small to draw definitive conclusions,
the authors cautioned.
addition, there could be differences between the two groups that
the Medicaid records didn’t reveal: the children who received
the drugs may have been more severely ill, skewing the results,
2004, the Food and Drug Administration required strong warnings
on the labels of antidepressant drugs alerting parents and doctors
of a possible suicide risk in some children. Since then many psychiatrists
have been skeptical of the suicide link.
was surprised by what we found,” Dr. Olfson said. “I
set out thinking we’d find that the drugs” significantly
reduced suicide risk.
findings may prompt researchers to look at which children are
most at risk, rather than continuing to debate whether the risk
exists, he said.
Law Would Help Pay Insurance. by Amanda Derby
Auburn Citizen, August 8, 2006
we can't celebrate it as a law yet, Timothy's Law may just become
that, after an agreement was reached in Albany between the Senate
and Assembly in late June. Timothy's Law is a bill that would
provide parity in insurance coverage for mental illnesses. This
agreement is expected to be acted on officially once the Legislature
four and a half years, it is gratifying to see the Legislature
coming together and recognizing the difficulties confronting families
who need mental health insurance coverage. I look forward to the
day when Timothy's Law is the law, and I urge this bill to be
finalized as soon as possible,” said Thomas O'Clair, Timothy's
father after the agreement was reached.
Law was named after Timothy O'Clair, who hung himself in March
of 2001 at the age of 12. His parents spent nearly five years
trying to seek the necessary supports and services for his emotional
disorder without success. The O'Clair's had health insurance through
Thomas O'Clair's job with the New York State Thruway Authority.
Their policy only allowed 20 outpatient visits per year for the
psychiatrist and psychologist combined. Initially their physical
health and mental health insurance co-payments were $10 per visit;
however mental health visits became $35 each after just a few
visits. As the family used up their coverage, they had to begin
to pay for all appointments. Additionally, they found themselves
having to pay for his extended hospitalization stays.
Timothy's Law Campaign announced the agreement. “The agreement
requires health insurance policies sold in New York state, not
exempt under Federal law, to provide at least 30 inpatient days
and 20 outpatient visits for mental health treatment. Perhaps
more importantly, co-payments for accessing such services will
be equalized with other co-payments for physical health needs
included in a policy. This will bring to an end the exorbitant
co-payments, often in excess of $50 per visit, commonly required
to access mental health services. Affected insurance plans will
have to cover conditions in a manner comparable to the insurance
state employees and state legislators have access to under the
Empire Plan. Small employers of 50 or fewer employees will be
held harmless from any potential premium increases,” the
Web site reported.
agreement would also require insurance companies to fully cover
treatment of biologically based mental illnesses including bipolar
disorder, major depression, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive
disorder, anorexia, bulimia, schizophrenia/psychotic disorders,
attentiondeficit/ hyperactivity disorders, disruptive behavioral
disorders and pervasive developmental disorders. Small employers
would have the option to purchase this same coverage.
should be noted that when Assembly bill 2312-A went up for a vote
in the Assembly this past March, 134 Assembly members voted for
it, nine voted against it. Of our Assembly members, only Assemblyman
Gary Finch voted in the affirmative. Both Assemblymen Brian Kolb
and Bob Oaks voted against it.
is only an agreement, so celebration for healthcare parity might
be premature. We'll let you know once the Legislature reconvenes
if this agreement becomes official and Timothy's Law is voted
on and then signed by the governor.
Derby is the housing advocate for Options for Independence
Group Fights to Get Housing for the Mentally Ill.
By Bob Conner
Schenectady Daily Gazette, August 9, 2006
for the mentally ill on Tuesday urged Gov. George Pataki to sign
legislation they said would help people get the services and housing
Coe, chairman of a coalition of community groups, the New York
State Campaign for Mental Health Housing, said the state needs
to work with local groups to create an updated waiting list of
those mentally ill adults in need of housing.
a news conference with other supporters of the Community Mental
Health Housing Waiting List Bill, Coe said the state Office of
Mental Health has opposed the legislation. Critics, Coe said,
have raised fears that too many people would get on the list and
that it might spur lawsuits.
and other advocates said the concerns are unwarranted. They cited
a 2001 University of Pennsylvania study as demonstrating that
supportive housing is "the solution that pays for itself'
because of the higher costs of leaving people homeless and untreated.
the list would not itself be costly, said David Seay, executive
director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness' state chapter.
If, as others claim, there is enough housing, there would be no
additional cost, he said.
Reif, a spokesman for Pataki, said the bill was one of more than
300 delivered to the Governor from the Legislature on Aug. 4.
As is customary, Reif declined to comment on whether the governor
would sign or veto it but said action on all of the bills is expected
on the last possible day, Aug. 16.
Daniels, spokeswoman for OMH, said its policy is not to comment
on pending legislation.
Lasicki, executive director of the Clifton Park-based statewide
advocacy group Association for Community Living, said the population
of state psychiatric centers has declined from 93,000 40 years
ago to 4,000 today. About 25,000 people are in appropriate "mental
health housing," she said, mostly run by nonprofit agencies,
where they can get needed support and be helped to recover from
their mental illness.
she and other advocates said, many thousands of others arc homeless,
in jails, prisons or general hospital psychiatric units from which
they will be released, staying with aging family members or in
"adult homes" run for profit. The latter category, Lasicki
said, often means "flophouses."
at the news conference included two people who have suffered from
mental illness, Gary Levin and Shavon Jackson, who said they needed
supportive housing in order to be able to learn to live independently.
a youth advocate for the Mental Health Association of New York
City, said, "Soon I will be maintaining my own home, paying
bills and living a life just like anyone else."
At a Glance – Mental Health
Crain’s Health Pulse, August 9, 2006
New York State Campaign for Mental Health Housing is urging Gov.
George Pataki to sign the Mental Health Housing Waiting List bill
(A-2895a) sent to him on Aug. 4. He has 10 days to sign the legislation,
which has more than 125 groups supporting it.
Care Needed for Mentally Ill Inmates. By Mary Beth Pfeiffer
Poughkeepsie Journal, Op-Ed, August 10, 2006
suicides of three inmates at the federal military prison at Guantanamo
Bay in June prompted an uproar among citizens concerned about
the activities of the government in their name. But little public
angst is expended on a more common, preventable and equally tragic
kind of suicide: The ones that regularly occur in the disciplinary
confinement cells of New York state prisons.
bill that would prevent many of these deaths — and provide
urgently needed care for mentally ill inmates — is awaiting
a signature by Gov. George Pataki. He should sign the measure,
which in the long run will not only save lives but money.
1998-2004, at least 52 New York state prisoners committed suicide
while housed in isolated confinement, mostly in what are euphemistically
called special housing units. That's nearly half of prison suicides
among less than 10 percent of the population. Among these deaths
were three local residents: James Butler, 36, and Jessica Roger,
21, both of Poughkeepsie, and Jesse McCann, 17, of Kingston, the
youngest prison suicide in at least a decade.
quarter of the inmates routinely kept in these disciplinary units
— which inmates call "the box" — are mentally
ill, many suffering from serious disorders such as schizophrenia.
The reason for this is mentally ill inmates have difficulty conforming
in the rigid world of prisons, leading to disciplinary infractions
and sentences to the box. Such offenses may have been committed
when inmates were psychotic or otherwise unable to control their
the bill passed by the Legislature, inmates with serious mental
illness would be barred from being placed in disciplinary confinement.
The prison system would also be required to set up alternative
residential units for mentally ill inmates, and correction officers
would be better trained in handling inmates with mental illness.
If the governor signs the bill, New York would join a handful
of progressive states that ban the placement of extremely ill
people in isolated confinement — an overused and ultimately
counterproductive form of inmate management.
Currently, 4,335 inmates, or 6.8 percent of the prison population,
are housed in these cells, experiencing conditions similar to
those of prisoners of war. They live day and night for an average
of three years in small, dim cells and in an atmosphere of sensory
deprivation that is known to cause emotional harm and breakdown.
Inmates eat, sleep, shower, eliminate and live in these closed
worlds, leaving only for an hour of recreation, often alone and
in an empty cage. Food is delivered through a "feed-up"
slot in the solid steel door. There is no television, and limited
radio and reading material. Inmates are allowed few personal photographs
or possessions. The walls are bare and the air filled with the
din of inmates who scream, bang on walls and often try to hurt
themselves. Those who did not suffer mental illness before they
went into the box often develop symptoms there.
bill passed by the Legislature will cost the state money at the
outset. But mentally ill inmates are often denied parole because
of poor disciplinary records in prison, costing taxpayers $32,500
for each additional year they are incarcerated. They also often
leave prison in worse shape than when they went in, in large part
due to long terms in isolated confinement. This increases the
chance they will be unable to function when released and will
ultimately return to prison. Since the 1950s, New York state has
eliminated more than 80,000 beds in public mental hospitals, the
outgrowth of better drugs to manage illness and court rulings
in favor of patients' rights to refuse treatment. Lacking a system
to take their place, prisons have become the new mental institutions
of the 21st century.
the state government figures out how to undo a half-century of
failed policy, it must do the next best thing: Provide for mentally
ill inmates in humane and compassionate ways.
The Time is Now for a Housing Waiting List Law in New
York. By Senator Thomas P. Morahan and Assemblyman Peter
M. Rivera, Chairs of respectively New York State Senate and Assembly
Mental Health Committees
Yonkers Tribune, Letter to the Editor, August 3, 2006
been more than ten years since New York State has conducted a
needs assessment on housing and services available to those with
that time, we’ve taken positive steps to address what we
can only estimate is a growing need for a safe, affordable housing
with adequate support services, like job training and counseling,
for people with mental illnesses. For example, under the governor’s
watch, the New York – New York agreements are making it
possible for the state, New York City, and non-profit agencies
to work together to create additional housing units for homeless
people with mental illness. These and other initiatives are helping
to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses that are
in and out of homeless shelters, hospitals, emergency rooms, and
these successes, New York has no method of tracking its progress
so that we can use proven models to make the wisest investment
of state funds. A statewide Mental Health Housing Waiting List
law would bridge this gap.
Pataki has such a bill on his desk. Bill A.2895-A/ S. 3653-A,
which we co-sponsored, would allow us to build on recent successes,
furnish the state, counties, and local housing providers with
a roadmap for smart planning, and do the right thing for those
with mental illnesses and their families. The governor should
move quickly to sign this bill into law.
bill calls for the New York State Office of Mental Health to collect
data from around the state on the number of people who have applied
and waiting for housing. They would then publish the data monthly
so that we can identify and track what works, what’s needed,
and where to target state funds.
common-sense legislation is long overdue.
bill has the support of New York City Mayor Bloomberg, the New
York State Conference of Local Mental Hygiene Directors, and a
coalition of over sixty mental health providers, consumers, family
members, housing developers, social policy experts, and legal
is no doubt that safe, affordable supportive housing increase
chances of recovery for people with mental health illness. President
Bush’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health states that
the lack of decent, safe, affordable and integrated housing is
one of the most significant barriers to full participation in
community life for those with mental illnesses.
proper planning and an adequate supply of community housing with
supports, we reduce the number of homeless people with mental
illnesses on our streets and provide them with an opportunity
to live productive lives. We assure a home for children with mental
health illnesses who are aging out of foster care. We provide
peace-of-mind to families who worry loved ones suffering from
mental illnesses will have no place in the world when they’re
gone. And we keep those with mental illnesses from being shuffled
between shelters, hospitals, and jails.
also save money and assure a smart investment of state funds.
For example, studies have shown that the cost of leaving people
homeless and relying on emergency interventions is far more expensive
that redirecting funds toward community-based housing and services
that increase chances for recovery.
fact is, by putting in place long-term planning tool for decent,
appropriate housing for people with mental illnesses, we do a
great service to those who suffer from mental illnesses, to their
families, and to our communities as a whole. Without a means of
tracking what works statewide, we are forced to target state dollars
in a way that is neither the most responsible, not the most effective.
agencies, like the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental
Disabilities conduct annual needs assessment and maintain waiting
lists. In fact, their data resulted in the nationally renowned
New York Cares Housing Program for the developmentally disabled.
With this legislation, New York State has the opportunity to create
a similar successful program for people with mental illnesses.
York has come a long way in the effort to provide needed housing
for people with mental illnesses. Let’s build on these efforts
with the tools we need to wisely now and into the future. It’s
time for the governor to take the next step and sign out Mental
Health Waiting List legislation into law.
The writers are chairs of respectively New York State Senate and
Assembly Mental Health Committees
Pataki Should Sign Bills that Help Mentally Ill.
Letter to the Editor.
Albany Times Union, August 10, 2006
agree wholeheartedly with your recent editorial calling on the
governor to quickly sign legislation banning the inhumane treatment
of prison inmates with mental illnesses ("End the cruelty"
the same time he is signing into law a bill to end the cruel punishment
of prisoners with mental illnesses, he should put his signature
on A-2895a (Mental Health Housing Waiting List), which is also
about to be sent to him for action. The bill encourages the use
of housing with supportive services as an alternative to prison,
emergency services, and homelessness for those with mental illnesses.
Safe, affordable housing with support services, such as job training
and counseling, has been proven to increase the rate of recovery
for people with mental illnesses.
bill calls on the state Office of Mental Health to work with local
communities to develop and publish a monthly list of people with
mental illnesses who are waiting for housing that meets their
needs. It's been more than a decade since a needs assessment has
been conducted in this area to gauge our progress and document
what works. This law would create a necessary planning tool to
meet the basic needs of our mentally ill citizens.
mental health directors have unanimously endorsed this bill, citing
the need for "... access to accurate information on the number
of seriously mentally ill adults on waiting lists for specialized
housing in their jurisdictions. This legislation is an important
step in facilitating the reporting of, compilation of, and dissemination
of such information."
of these bills would result in common-sense laws that assure people
with mental illnesses are treated in the most humane and cost-effective
way possible. The governor should sign them both into law.
New York State Campaign for Mental Health Housing
New York City