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A Reason to Smile

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(July 21, 2014) It’s no secret that giving to others feels good. Now, Amazon is making it even easier to give to the Treatment Advocacy Center and help eliminate barriers to treatment for the most severely ill.

amazonsmileWhen you shop at amazon.com, every purchase you make can help the Treatment Advocacy Center make treatment possible for more people with severe mental illness – at no extra cost to you. That’s because the Treatment Advocacy Center is a participant in the AmazonSmile program. Every time you buy something through the AmazonSmile portal, 0.5% of your dollar goes to the Treatment Advocacy Center.

Here’s how AmazonSmile works:

To shop at AmazonSmile simply go to smile.amazon.com from the web browser on your computer or mobile device. You may also want to add a bookmark to AmazonSmile to make it even easier to return and start shopping. Select the Treatment Advocacy Center from the dropdown menu as the charity you wish to support. Once you do this, every time you shop at smile.amazon.com, a portion of your purchases will aid our organization.

The Treatment Advocacy Center is the only national nonprofit dedicated exclusively to expanding treatment access for people with the most severe mental illness. Designating us to receive your AmazonSmile dollars will help eliminate barriers to treatment for the people who need help the most.

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RESEARCH: Antipsychotics Linked to Reduction in Violent Crime

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(July 17, 2014) Antipsychotics like clozapine and mood stabilizers like lithium are a critical tool for reducing violent crime in people with severe mental illness, according to a study published in the Lancet (“Antipsychotics, mood stabilizers and risk of violent crime,” May 8).

medication taking-pillBased on data collected by Swedish national health registries from 2006 to 2009, researchers observed the effects of antipsychotics and mood stabilizers on a sample of over 80,000 patients.

The researchers found that people who take antipsychotic medication are approximately 50% less likely to commit a violent crime than those with bipolar disorder who do not take medication.

 "Patients with psychiatric disorders are at risk of perpetrating violent acts, as well as being victims,” said Dr. Seena Fazel, lead researcher on the study.

“Until now, we have not known whether antipsychotics and mood stabilizers reduce risks of violence,” she continued. “By comparing the same people when they are on medication compared to when they are not, our study provides evidence of potentially substantial reductions in risk of violence, and suggests that violence is to a large extent preventable in patients with psychiatric disorders."
 
The results of this study show that many people with serious mental illness who commit violent acts have done so as a result of untreated psychosis or other symptoms of the illness rather than malicious intent.

The authors highlight the importance of effective medication management in treating serious mental illness, specifically the use of mood stabilizers and antipsychotics to reduce violent crime among patients suffering from psychosis.

It is important to remember that most people with mental illness are not violent and are almost 4x more likely to be the victim of a crime than to perpetrate a crime. In either case, better assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) laws would facilitate effective medication management for the most severely ill.

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Mentally Ill Bear Brunt of Growing Violence at Rikers

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(July 16, 2014) Seventy-seven percent of inmates injured in attacks at Rikers had a diagnosed mental illness, report journalists Michael Winerip and Michael Schwirtz for the New York Times (“Rikers, where mental illness meets brutality in jail,” July 14).

rikersinmateThe growing number of mentally ill inmates is a major contributing factor to the escalating levels of violence at Rikers, Winerip and Schwirtz say. But Rikers is also not equipped to handle this surge of mentally ill inmates. Supervision is provided by officials who are not trained mental health professionals and “instead rely on pepper spray, take-down holds and fists to subdue them.”

Inmates with mental illness are also especially vulnerable in the harsh environment of incarceration. They are “often the weakest in a kind of war of all against all, preyed upon by correction officers and other inmates.”

“There’s lots of brutality,” said Daniel Selling, the former director of the jail’s mental health services. “Horrible brutality.”

This horrific brutality should hardly come as a surprise. With 12,200 inmates, Rikers Island Jail in New York City is the largest de facto “mental institution” in New York and prison workers “complain that they do not have the tools to properly care for inmates with mental health problems.”

Complicating the problem is that many of the inmates who need treatment the most are left untreated, according to a Treatment Advocacy Center study which found that New York is one of the most difficult places for prisoners with severe mental illness to receive involuntary treatment. Without proper treatment, systems are likely to worsen.

Until we maintain a functional public mental health treatment system, people with mental illness will continue to languish in jails and prisons with staff that are ill prepared to handle mental illness.

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Los Angeles Takes Laura's Law County-Wide

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(July 15, 2014) The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to implement Laura’s Law countywide today, making it the third major California county – and the largest – to embrace court-ordered treatment as a tool for making treatment possible to individuals with severe mental illness who are too ill to seek help for themselves.

lauraslawtestimonyA year ago, Los Angeles was running a small but successful pilot assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) program and only Nevada County was operating a countywide program.

What a difference a year makes.

In the last two months, San Francisco and Orange counties have voted to implement Laura’s Law. In June, Yolo County implemented its use.

With the Los Angeles supervisors’ vote, more than half of California’s population now will live where assisted outpatient treatment is available to individuals who qualify under the state’s strict criteria, which include a history of non-compliance, hospitalization and/or violence to self or others.

“The scales have finally tipped in favor of providing treatment before tragedy,” said Doris A. Fuller, executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center. “The calls of families rendered optionless and the mentally ill abandoned to our streets, jails and prisons are finally compelling legislators to implement laws that provide timely and effective treatment.”

California was unique in the United States when it included in Laura’s Law a requirement that each county opt in with a vote by its Board of Supervisors. With the Los Angeles vote, five California counties have fully implemented the law, but families in the state’s other 53 counties are still without access to this proven method of supporting recovery from the most severe mental illness and saving taxpayer dollars.

Nevada County, which implemented Laura’s Law in 2008, estimates it saves $1.81 for every $1 invested. A recent study in New York, where every county has implemented its version of Laura’s Law, found that mental health services could be expanded beyond AOT participants with the savings from these high utilizers of public systems staying in treatment.


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San Francisco Adopts Laura's Law by a 9-2 Vote

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(July 9, 2014) San Francisco supervisors voted to implement Laura’s Law Tuesday¹, making it the second large California county in three months to authorize court-ordered outpatient treatment for at-risk individuals with serious mental illness who meet the state’s strict criteria.

laurawilcoxDoris A. Fuller, executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center, called the vote a “watershed.”

“San Francisco is famously one of California’s most liberal counties, just as Orange County is historically one of the most conservative,” she said. “The fact that both counties have adopted Laura’s Law in the span of three months speaks volumes about the desperate need – and nonpartisan support – for expanded access to treatment for California’s most vulnerable population.”

The law is named after Laura Wilcox, a university student who was shot to death while she was volunteering in a mental health clinic by a man with untreated schizophrenia. The law was passed to provide a pathway to recovery for the individuals most at risk for violence, incarceration, homelessness and other ills because they struggle to stay in treatment.

“Laura’s Law will give San Francisco a critical lifeline for patients who refuse treatment and end up on the streets, a risk to themselves or others, in jail or worse,” Fuller said.

San Francisco voters overwhelmingly supported implementation of Laura’s Law, with polls finding more than 70% of the population in support. NAMI California and numerous public leaders – San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, District Attorney George Gascón, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, Public Health Department Chief Barbara Garcia, Police Chief Greg Suhr, Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White and the police and firefighters' unions – also endorsed implementation.

Even though San Francisco will make five counties using the law, families in the state’s other 53 counties that have not yet implemented the law remain virtually powerless to help their loved ones and communities escape the consequences of untreated severe mental illness.

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