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Coalition Partners request independent third party objective review

January 28, 2011

Barbara A. Leadholm, M.S., M.B.A.

Commissioner, Department of Mental Health

25 Staniford St., Boston, MA  02114

Dear Commissioner Leadholm:

In the wake of the horrific tragedy involving the murder of a residential staff person at North Suffolk Mental Health, we are requesting that the Department of Mental Health appoint an independent third party to conduct an objective and comprehensive review of the publicly funded community based mental health system.

Residential services do not exist in a vacuum.  In the context of this tragedy, the review should include but not be limited to an examination of: the impact of budget reductions on community services; the linkages among acute and continuing care hospitals and community services; the process of matching services and supports to meet the specific needs of individuals with mental illness; development of and monitoring individualized treatment plans, including medication compliance; reviewing staff training and safety provisions; and, public accountability and oversight provisions.  It is our belief that the review examines all of the systemic issues raised by this tragedy.  This review should be a top down and full review.  We also call for the review to be conducted in timely manner and to be made public.

Without this review, it is our belief that individuals with mental illness will be further stigmatized and marginalized.  Individuals must receive the appropriate level of staff support and services in order to manage their symptoms, to recover and to be successful.

We make this request as advocates, friends and supporters of DMH, its partner agencies, consumers, family members and all people of good will who want the very best for our public system of care.  We believe DMH needs to forcefully and directly examine all the systemic issues raised by this tragedy, or that task could be assumed by others with an agenda to dismantle rather than to improve the system.

We are available to assist in any appropriate way with the formation of the review, including suggesting individuals who might be willing to assume this responsibility.

Sincerely,

Bernard J. Carey, Executive Director, Massachusetts Association for Mental Health

Cliff Cohn, Director of Operations, SEIU, Local 509

Jonathan Delman, JD, MPH, Ph.D. (cand), Consumer Advocate

Vicker V. DiGravio, III, President & CEO, Association for Behavioral Healthcare

Marie H. Hobart, M.D., President, Massachusetts Psychiatric Society

Laurie Martinelli, Executive Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts

David Matteodo, Executive Director, Massachusetts Association of Behavioral Health Systems

Marylou Sudders, President & CEO, Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

Anne Whitman, Ph.D., President, Cole Mental Health Resource Center

Co-Executive Director, Metro Boston Recovery Learning Community

cc:        JudyAnn Bigby, M.D., Secretary, Executive Office of Health and Human Services

We fully understand there’s a budget crisis, however…

NAMI Massachusetts

Budget Summary

There is a disturbing pattern of disproportionately higher cuts to services to people with mental illness. We fully understand there’s a budget crisis, however, the Administration needs to recognize the domino effect these cuts will have on people with mental illness and their families.  Here’s a summary of what the Governor’s budget does:

  • The Executive Office of Health & Human Services (EOHHS) of which DMH and the other health, human social service agencies report, will receive a $91 million cut or 1.9% of the total state budget.  A $21.4 million cut will go to DMH and $26 million cut to the Department of Public Health. This means that over half (52%) of the total cuts to EOHHS will come from DMH and DPH;
  • The Governor recommends a DMH total budget of almost $607 million which is a 3.4% decrease from DMH’s appropriation last year;
  • DMH will cut 160 inpatient beds from its current hospital capacity of 658 beds, a reduction of almost 25%. We don’t know where yet or how these cuts could happen as the budget does not call for any extra money for community mental health services;
  • $2 million reduction in Child & Adolescent Mental Health flexible support Services; (175 children and families will no longer receive DMH services);
  • $3 million reduction in adult mental health services which will result in a loss of Clubhouse services for more than 2000 consumers;
  • Some good news in the budget is that DPH’s Bureau of Substance Abuse, Suicide Prevention and Gambling Addiction programs have not been cut.

    What you can do? Now is the time to get worked up about these cuts and call your elected official at the State House.  We want all Senators and Representatives in the State House to hear your concerns and complaints about these cuts and any personal stories you can give.

    If you don’t know the phone number for your elected official, you can call the central number 617-722-2000 and ask for their office. If you don’t know who your elected official is you can find out who they are here: http://www.malegislature.gov/People/FindMyLegislator. Stay tuned for more information but please call as soon as you read this.

    Lessons to be learned…

    Official statement of NAMI Mass Board of Directors

    January 25, 2011

    NAMI Massachusetts deplores any and all acts of violence.  We mourn the death of Stephanie Moulton and our hearts go out to her family, to her fiancé, to her friends and colleagues, and to her clients.

    Stephanie Moulton was committed to helping others; for her, it was helping individuals with mental illness live in the community.  Each and every day, hundreds of individuals like Stephanie help support individuals with mental illness.  They are heroes.  The thousands of individuals whom they help are our loved ones, our sons and daughters, our husbands and wives, our friends.  They have a mental illness and need assistance getting the appropriate treatment and supports so that they can be successful.

    It is our expectation that the criminal justice system will conduct a complete investigation and that justice will be served.  We urge the Suffolk County District Attorney to engage in a thorough and transparent investigation of the facts of this horrific tragedy.

    One in seventeen adult Americans (about 6%) lives with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression, or bipolar disorder.   Mental illness is an equal-opportunity disease, affecting individuals of all ages, races, ethnicity, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

    Violence permeates our society on a daily basis.  The vast majority of violent crimes in the United States are not committed by individuals with mental illness.  With treatment, individuals with serious mental illness are no more violent than the general population.

    Individuals with mental illness must have timely access to treatment and community supports in order to manage their symptoms, to recover and to have meaningful lives.  Funding for high quality community based mental health services has been eroding for years in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  There is an expectation that the community based system can provide more services with less funds; the reality is that the mental health safety net is in shreds.  The lack of a robust community-based mental health system and access to timely treatment can result in the unintended consequences of homelessness and incarceration.

    The only good that will come from this horrific tragedy is to understand the facts and to take every prudent measure of providing mental health services that truly meet the needs of individuals with mental illness.

    NAMI Massachusetts is a grassroots organization dedicated to support people with mental illness and their families, to educate about the nature of mental illness and its treatment, and to advocate at all levels for the best treatment and services for individuals and families affected by mental illness.

    The Arizona Tragedy: A Teachable Moment

    In the wake of the tragedy in Tucson, the nation is now asking questions about the treatment available for people living with mental illness. NAMI has been in the middle of the discussion, responding to media questions and helping to direct the public’s attention towards a treatment delivery system we have long known was in crisis.

    NAMI has weighed in on articles in C-Span, Newsweek, Time, USA Today, The Huffington Post and The New Republic, to name a few. People far beyond the borders of Arizona have been shaken by the events, but if there is one bright point it is that we can use this opportunity to educate a new generation of reporters–and citizens–to better understand mental illness and the urgent need to deliver treatment efficiently and compassionately. Use the resources below to help educate your social network about mental illness and treatment.

    The Convergence of Mental Health and Social Media

    By Amy Kiel

    I am a person who is challenged with my own personal mental health issues and I also work to create awareness, share candidly, and inspire others to work to help in the efforts to end stigma and make change in the mental health world. I have identified myself as this kind of person for a couple of years now. It has been a journey from dark times to times of adjustment and learning, to times of managing and living life in a more healthy way. I have a great inner sense or desire to continue sharing and working to bring about a better understanding of mental health, mental illness and mental wellness.

    Part of my journey has been participating in social media and more specifically Twitter. It has been a gift to me in a multitude of ways, as I have been able to connect with so many others who are affected by similar health issues and who care about making a difference like I do.

    Close to a year ago now, on Twitter, I noticed what felt like a gap. I observed that there was a great variety of people sharing their thoughts and passions about mental health, from those who suffer, those who have a family member who suffers, to those that treat and provide assistance to people who are challenged by mental health issues. I was enjoying the connection with all of these people and the wonderful organizations that work to bring awareness, but I wanted more. The gap I saw was a gap in communication.

    I knew that Twitter provided an incredible opportunity for people from all over the world to share resources, and the connections we were making were truly wonderful. I wanted to bring the community together, the mental health community at large, to discuss the issues at hand and how we can utilize social media to make a difference. I wanted to create a space where “mental health and social media converge” and to do this I utilized the Twitter chat.

    I had seen a handful of others using Twitter in this way, #hcsm (health care social media) and #tck (The Coffee Klatch) are the main ones that I noticed at that time. I knew that this could be an incredibly useful tool for the mental health community on Twitter as well. With a passion for mental health and a passion for social media, the Mental Health and Social Media Chat (#mhsm) was born. I set up a time and date for the first chat (February 9, 2010), I did a small amount of PR work on Twitter and moved forward with gusto. Each Tuesday evening (at 10pm Eastern) currently at 9pm Eastern, I moderated the chat from the @MHSMChat Twitter account and others would come… to share, discuss, and inspire!

    It has developed into a great tool and resource, one that would not be possible without the help of people like Cindy Nelson from @NAMIMass, who tirelessly gives of herself as my schedule has made it difficult for me to moderate the chats on a regular basis. With partners like Cindy and others, we are able to continue the discussions about topics such as PTSD, suicide prevention, mental health and chronic illness, mental health and the media, (to name a few) and how social media plays a role in working to raise awareness and make a difference in the lives of those who are dealing with these issues. It is my vision that the Mental Health and Social Media Chat (#mhsm) will continue and grow, that more people, professionals, activists, organizations and those who struggle with mental health issues, will come together to share and discuss important topics via this platform that we now have.

    You can find me, Amy Kiel, tweeting regularly at @Abeeliever and blogging at Una Vita Bella.

    You can find transcripts from previous Mental Health and Social Media chats at http://wthashtag.com/mhsm. Join the conversation on Tuesday night’s at 9pm Eastern http://www.tweetchat.com/room/mhsm. You will be warmly welcomed!

    Volunteers are priceless

    Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless. ~ Sherry Anderson

    The Staff and Board of NAMI Massachusetts would like to express its gratitude to the wonderful Volunteers of NAMI Massachusetts. Without your efforts and contributions of time, many people would not have the opportunity to learn of NAMI’s education and support programs that provide relevant information, valuable insight, and the opportunity to engage in support networks.

    Here’s how NAMI Massachusetts volunteers contributed their time in the community in 2010:

    NAMI Education

    & Support Programs

    Number

    of

    Volunteers

    Programs/Classes

    Workshops

    Presentations

    Groups offered

    In Our Own Voice

    40

    122

    Presentations

    Family-to-Family

    40

    22

    Programs

    Caregiver Support for Family/friends

    78

    39

    Groups

    NAMI Connection Recovery

    52

    14

    Groups

    NAMI Basics

    6

    3

    Programs

    Children’s Challenging Behavior

    12

    6

    Workshops

    Words fall short of the gratitude we want to express to the many volunteers that helped us with our largest fundraiser, NAMIWalks Massachusetts on May 31st, 2010 at Artesani Park. This event would not be possible if not for all their help.

    Our thanks to the volunteers who help us at the annual Advocacy Day and State Convention and with their help the events ran smoothly.

    Many thanks to the individuals who help us in the office with the helpline, mailings and countless other projects that get done due to their efforts. The office volunteers help us stay focused on our mission and duties.

    The most valuable contribution you can make is your time and we very much appreciate it.

    Thank You

    NAMI Mass Outreach to People with Mental Illness who are on MassHealth

    NAMI MASS  Outreach to People with Mental Illness who are on MassHealth

    NAMI Mass is working with public interest lawyers to explore ways that people with mental illness who are on MassHealth and are being denied treatment for their illness could take legal action against the state.

    To determine the scope of the problem, we want to talk with people who have recently lost their outpatient mental health services or who have been told their services will soon be terminated.  You must be a person living with a mental illness and be willing to make your story public:

    • You are on MassHealth;
    • You are or have been receiving outpatient mental health services;
    • The mental health clinic is closing or is reducing its services;
    • You have not found another outpatient mental health clinic in your area or you have been put on a waiting list;
    • Or you have found another clinic but this new situation is not working for you.

    If you or someone you know is in this situation, please call NAMI Mass and talk to our Executive Director, Laurie Martinelli at 781-938-4048 extension 205 (confidential voice mail) or email: LMartinelli@namimass.org

    The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts (NAMI Mass)

    400 West Cumming Park, Suite 6650

    Woburn, MA  01801

    Telephone:  781-938-4048

    www.namimass.org

    Broken Brain and Body Chemistry Part 2

    Omega-3 Fatty Acids:  The Essential Fat for Optimum Brain Function by Laura Blockel, NAMI Connection Consultant

    Omega-3 fatty acids are brain-boosting, cholesterol clearing good fats.  They play a crucial role in brain function.  The problem is your body can’t make them—you have to get them through food and supplements.  Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fish, seaweed, some plants, and nut oils.  Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and are highly concentrated in the brain.  They are essential for cognitive (brain memory and performance) and behavioral function.  Symptoms of omega-3 acid deficiency include fatigue, poor memory dry skin, heart problems, mood swings, depression, and poor concentration.  In my own regime, I take 2000 mg of omega-3 daily, split into two doses. I personally notice a marked difference in my concentration and cognitive sharpness when I miss a few days of this essential oil.

    There are 3 basic forms of omega-3:

    • Alpha-linelenic acid (ALA) found in walnuts, flaxseed, soybean, and olive oils which the body will convert in small quantities to DHA.
    • Docashexaenoic acid (DHA) found in fish oil, this is the ultimate form of fatty acid in humans.  According to experts, getting a daily dose of DHA (600 to 1000mg) from supplements is very important.  One psychiatrist recommends doses up to 2,000 mg for patients suffering from depression.  In fact, since omega-3’s are a necessary component of every cell in your body, patients report side effects of less dry skin and eyes and fewer aches and pains.  You have a choice of taking a fish oil supplement or one derived from algae or krill.
    • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) also found in fish oil and readily absorbed by the body.

    When shopping for fish oil supplements the following points are important to remember:

    • Different supplements vary in how much DHA they contain.  Read the labels and remember whatever supplement you buy, it must have at least 600 mg of DHA.
    • Many supplements also contain vitamin E to stabilize the oils and prevent them from becoming rancid.  If you choose to buy a fish oil supplement, check the label carefully to see if refrigeration is needed.
    • Make sure your supplement has been proven safe, free of detectable traces of mercury.  Do not take unrefined supplements unless it’s made from small, oily fish like anchovy, sardines, or menhaden.

    Sources:

    Roizen and Oz:  YOU:  The Owner’s Manual (2008) www.doctoroz.com/media/print1769

    University of Maryland Medical Center:  www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/omega-3-000316.htm