Video Testimony on Where the Hospital Beds Have Gone


(April 7, 2014) If you missed it on C-Span, testimony from a recent House subcommittee hearing examining the disappearance of psychiatric hospital beds is available on YouTube.

murphy3“Individuals with serious mental illness who are unable to obtain treatment through ordinary means are now homeless or entangled in the criminal justice system,” Rep. Tim Murphy said in his opening statement to the House subcommittee on energy and commerce oversight and investigations, which he chairs. Watch Rep. Murphy’s opening statement.

“Community programs serve those who seek and accept treatment. Those who refuse, or are too sick to seek treatment voluntarily, become a law enforcement responsibility,” said Chief of Police Michael Biasotti, Treatment Advocacy Center board member and immediate past president of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police. Watch Chief Biasotti’s testimony.

“Since becoming Sheriff in 2006, I have seen an explosion in the percentage of seriously mentally ill individuals housed in the jail. I have seen first-hand the devastating impact cuts to mental health programs and services has had on the mentally ill in Illinois,” testified Sheriff Thomas Dart, who oversees Cook County Jail in Illinois, the largest jail in the country. Watch Sheriff Dart’s testimony.

A week later, founding Treatment Advocacy Center executive director Mary Zdanowicz was among four witnesses at a House subcommittee hearing on Murphy’s “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act.”

Watch the full hearing here.

Earlier last week, a major component of Murphy’s bill, an assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) demonstration project, was adopted by the House of Representatives and signed into law.

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If I Get Sick Again, Please Give Me Laura’s Law – personally speaking


(April 4, 2014) It's civilized, not criminalized. It gives me my right to live, participate and recover in the community. Some people — who have never been in jail, homeless, or state hospital — say they do not want “forced” treatment. They say it is an abuse of our civil rights. They have no idea what force means.

consumersilhouetteI do.

Force means being ripped away from your family and all those you loved, dumped alone in a distant state hospital, when you were only 5 years old and the delusional hallucinations and voices of your illness first join you.

Force means out of the hospital you are sent to the streets and sleep in dumpsters to avoid being raped because you are too ill to ask for help.

Force means being handcuffed and shackled on the cold, wet cement of a tiny cell with only a tin can for a bathroom.  Force means when the voices became so loud, the hallucinations, so visible, that even the beat cops hear and see them.

Force means being treated like than an animal because no one is willing to help you when you are too ill to help yourself.

Force only stopped for me in 2004 when I was 35-years old and a criminal — not civil — court stepped in to say I needed treatment and the community system should give it to me.

In the community with assisted outpatient treatment, I received my right to participate in my treatment plan. I received my right to explain what my medical history was and what medication had previously worked and what had not. I received my right sleep on a bed, go to school, make friends, love my family, and to get well and stay well with the help of people who really cared about me.

I know the difference between force and assistance. There is nothing civil or right about force. Please protect me from those who want to force their beliefs on me and say it shouldn’t be my right to receive assisted outpatient treatment (AOT). I do not want to go to jail again. I do not want to live in a dumpster. I do not want to die.

Should I ever become so sick again, please give me Laura’s Law.


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My Mother was Mentally Ill


(April 3, 2014) I am my mother’s daughter. I never knew anything other than a life surrounded by serious mental illness. My mother was seriously mentally ill from as far back as I can remember.

murphyhearingGrowing up in our family was like living in a combat zone. It never felt safe because you didn’t know when the other boot was going to drop. The drastic mood changes, intense paranoia, grandiose ideas, impulsivity, delusions, depression and anger created a frightening environment for a child who depended on her. This led to emotion and physical neglect, as well as emotional, verbal and at times, physical abuse. And yet I loved my mother. I watched as my father, and later my siblings and I, were powerless to help her.

My mother had zero insight into her illness. She did not believe she was ill. We call that anosognosia. It affects up to 40% of those with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Because she didn’t believe she was ill, she would not stay in treatment and as a result could not take care of herself, let alone, me.

She had suicidal ideation, delusions I was possessed, multiple hospitalizations and would disappear for spells at a time…sometimes hours, sometimes weeks and we were powerless to do anything but watch her deteriorate.

I believe in self-determination for those who are capable but we must recognize that there is a small group of people, like my mother, who are too ill to self-direct their own care. We can’t pretend these people don’t exist because by doing so, we marginalize them. They are our loved ones. They cower in their rooms believing an FBI planted a transmitter in their heads. They refuse to eat for fear of being poisoned.

The mental health system won’t help them because they are not well enough to volunteer for treatment.

Read Sylvia Thomson’s full testimony to Congress on H.R. 3717

Lawmakers, patient advocates and family members and people living with psychiatric diseases heard testimony today on Representative Tim Murphy’s Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. Read all testimonies from today’s hearing. With more than a dozen democratic co-sponsors in the house, the bill has broad bipartisan support.

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RESEARCH: New Evidence on Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder


(April 2, 2014) Patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have common biological markers with stress and immune reactions, suggests new research from Australia.

brain_scientificWith data from tissue samples taken from the Stanley Medical Research Institute, the Schizophrenia Research Institute compared 35 mentally health individuals, 35 patients with schizophrenia and 34 bipolar patients (“Genes signaling inflammatory stress reactions shared between schizophrenia, bipolar disorder,” Healio Psychiatry, Mar. 21).

The study found that individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia showed the highest levels of an inflammatory-related gene compared to their counterparts diagnosed with bipolar disorder and to those with no diagnosis of mental illness. Individuals with severe mental illness also showed significantly higher levels of stress compared to their healthy counterparts.

"Our data suggest an interrelationship between stress signaling and immune function in the frontal cortex of a portion of individuals, primarily those with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia,” said Stu G. Fillman, the study’s lead author

“Although data on cortisol levels of individuals in this cohort are not currently available," Fillman continued,“it is plausible that elevated cortisol levels in individuals with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder may drive the observed changes in both stress and inflammatory gene messenger RNAs.”

The study also found changes in other areas: immunity factors, cell growth, inhibitory signaling and cell death. The mechanism through which these associations occur will require further study, the researchers said.

The Stanley Medical Research Institute is a supporting organization of the Treatment Advocacy Center.

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Congress Authorizes National AOT Demonstration Project


(April 1, 2014) A national assisted oupatient treatment (AOT) demonstration project is a step closer to reality today, thanks to Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pennsylvania) and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan).

murphy3Last December, Murphy introduced the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (HR 3717), the most significant federal attempt to reform mental health care in the US since the Kennedy era.

Among the bill’s many groundbreaking provisions is a federal assisted outpatient treatment grant program to help local mental health systems launch their own AOT programs. First proposed by the Treatment Advocacy Center in January 2013 as a recommendation to Vice President Biden’s task force on gun violence, the federal grant program would be a godsend to the many local officials who tell us they believe in AOT but are challenged to raise the start-up costs, however modest, in a time of slashed public mental health budgets.

While work goes on to build support for HR 3717 itself – including a hearing this Thursday in the House Subcommittee on Health – Murphy and Stabenow last week added the AOT demonstration project to an unrelated bill to delay a scheduled cut in doctor reimbursements under Medicare (the “Doc Fix”). When President Obama signs the legislation, as expected, the Department of Health and Human Services will have authority to award $60 million for up to 200 AOT start-up grants over the next four years. (Individual grants could award up to $1 million.)

“Authority” represents only half the battle here. For the program to take shape, Congress must next appropriate the necessary funds. To keep up to date on this potentially enormous breakthrough (and help us support the programmatic request at the appropriate time), please make sure you are signed up for our email updates.

In the meantime, we commend and congratulate Rep. Murphy and Senator Stabenow for their great work in bringing the dream of an AOT grant program to life.

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