Highland Street Foundation –Free FUN Fridays! (Statewide)
60 Awesome Free Fun Fridays. Here’s your field trip schedule for the summer in Massachusetts.
Enjoy free movies courtesy of the DCR at multiple locations this summer from July 6 through August 29. Boston, Salisbury, and North Andover too. Jul 6, 2013 – Aug 29, 2013
Shakespeare on the Common 2013 – Boston
Enjoy free performances of Two Gentlemen of Verona at the Parkman Bandstand on the Boston Common. See the tale of two friends who leave their hometown to find their happy fortunes in Milan. Instead, they find temptation, trickery, and trouble. Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun from Jul 6, 2013 – Jul 28, 2013
Free Summer Concerts and Performance Series for Kids and Families in and Around Boston (Boston.mommypopins.com)
Free Things to Do North of Boston, Massachusetts (USA TODAY)
Free (and almost free) Things to Do (City of Boston)
21 Free Things to Do in Boston (Hub Pages)
Summer in the City Family Shows – Cambridge
Join the Cambridge Arts Council for the annual Summer in the City. Each summer Cambridge parks come alive with music, dance, storytellers, theatrical performances, puppetry, arts & crafts, movies and more.
I cannot thank NAMI Plymouth enough for offering the NAMI Family-to-Family education program. My husband and I took the class and it has had a positive impact on our family.
During the first phone call with my facilitator, Brenda Ryder, I expressed concern that this may not be the class for me. She reassured me with a complete explanation of the program and closed with the words “you don’t know what you don’t know”. I was about to find out how right she was. Each week I learned new things that gave me strength to complete the program. My world that seemed so upside down began to take a turn. I realize now that I had a lot to learn.
YOU DON’T KNOW, WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW
I did not know I would turn to complete strangers for knowledge and answers
and find support and compassion.
I did not know that these strangers have walked in my shoes
and are here for the same reason.
I did not know that a bond and trust could be formed so quickly
around a topic so personal and stigmatized.
I did not know I would find a group of people who would not judge me
for my ignorance or actions
but offer me a warm embrace and a box of tissues.
I know now… I was right where I belonged.
I have learned to empathize instead of criticize.
I have learned patience in place of pressure.
I have learned to accept.
Most importantly I have been given HOPE
and that will carry me through,
what, I do not know…
May 6, 2013
NAMI Mass calls on state and national leaders to recognize that effectively addressing the tragedies in Newtown, Aurora,Virginia Tech, Columbine and many others- including the nearly 20,000 suicides committed each year with guns – requires a renewed commitment to meaningful gun control and a sustainable, robust and accessible array of mental health services.
NAMI Mass supports universal background checks and a database of information solely for safety purposes and gun licensing. This database should not be accessed for any other purpose than gun control and should mirror the strict privacy protections required by HIPAA privacy regulations.
The tragedies from gun violence that have intensified this issue occurred at the hands of individuals who were not receiving treatment. They would not have been prevented by a background check but could have been prevented by early access to needed treatment, and a continuum of care. We know universal background checks will not prevent all tragedies; we call for the area of greatest need: early intervention for mental illness and an array of responsive mental health services.
NAMI Mass also strongly supports gun regulation as an effective method of suicide prevention. Half of all suicides are attributable to access to hand guns. Gun owners and their families are much more likely to kill themselves than are those who don’t own guns. (See, Hemenway, David, Private Guns, Public Health, Spring 2013). Moreover, 90% of suicides are attributed to people with a mental illness. Many are young individuals experiencing a first episode of mental illness, and most are spontaneous.
Increased access to substance abuse treatment is also critical to assuring public safety and decreasing the incidence of suicide. The overlap between mental illness and substance abuse is significant – 66% of those suffering with a mental illness also struggle with substance abuse. And we know that substance use itself can be a catalyst for violent behavior, including self-harm. Waiting times are so long and treatment so inaccessible that many people give up their pursuit of sobriety and recovery because they cannot access substance abuse treatment.
GUNS, VIOLENCE AND MENTAL ILLNESS
Recent tragedies have led the public to rush to judgment and link mental illness and violence. In fact, the percentage of violent acts committed which are attributable to those with a mental health diagnosis is reported at merely 3-5 percent.
Sadly, people with mental illness are 11 times more likely than those without mental illness to be the victims of violent crime. Facts reveal the vast majority of men and women with mental health diagnoses never manifest violent behaviors.
In 2010, the number of gun deaths by suicide in the United States outnumbered homicides, 19,392 to 11,078. If you add up all American gun deaths that year, including accidents, 3 out of 5 people who died from gunshot wounds took their own lives. Those figures are not an anomaly; with just a few exceptions, the majority of gun deaths in the United States have been self-inflicted every year since at least 1920. (See, Leon Neyfakh , “Gun toll we’re ignoring,” Boston Globe, January 20, 2013). Mental illness is highly prevalent; the National Institute Mental Health reports that 1 in 4 adults have experience with a mental health disorder in a given year. And, 1 in 17 adults lives with a serious mental illness. Yet, less than 1/3 of those adults with a mental disorder receive mental health services in a given year.
Any discussion that involves mental health issues and public safety in an effort to prevent future tragedies must include a commitment to additional resources for vital community mental health services. Calling attention to the mental health crisis our country is facing is the first step towards learning more about mental illness and ensuring that people have access to the care and treatment they need.
REPORTING REQUIREMENTS AND MENTAL ILLNESS
The current and proposed reporting requirements for gun licensure are significantly outdated and will be unwieldy in enforcement. Requirements such as these can result in a chilling effect for people with mental illness who will become even more reluctant to seek support and treatment with the risk of their treatment records being turned over to law enforcement authorities. One of the greatest obstacles to treatment is the stigma associated with mental illness.
Current Federal Law
Federal law prohibits the sale of firearms or ammunition to “any person knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that such person has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution.”
The term “mental defective” is archaic and highly offensive, and NAMI Mass strongly urges elimination of the term as having no place in Massachusetts state law or practice. Mental illnesses are highly treatable. However, the best and most effective treatments are not available to all who are affected. Treatment is difficult to access; there is a dire lack of clinicians and the stigma of mental illness creates obstacles to individuals even taking the first step to seek help.
Current Massachusetts State Law
Current Massachusetts law defines a “mental defective” as an individual who has been confined to any hospital or institution for mental illness. During the application process for a firearm license, the local licensing authority contacts the Department of Mental Health and runs applicants through an electronic search of its records to determine if the applicant is in their system and thus, a “mental defective.” If an individual has a history of commitment he may petition to be disqualified by applying for a license with an affidavit from his physician who assures his capacity to handle a firearm.
HOUSE BILL 1 Governor Patrick’s Legislation: An Act to Strengthen and Enhance Firearms Laws in
Measures proposed by Governor Deval Patrick in House Bill 1 would require DMH to transfer records of anyone who has been confined to any mental health hospital or institution in the past 20 years to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICBCS), effectively bringing the state up to date with the Improvement Amendments Act of 2007, a federal law passed in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shooting tragedy. Future records would be updated quarterly by DMH.
HOUSE BILL 2678 Representative David Linsky’s Legislation:
All applicants for gun licensure would sign a waiver allowing the licensing authority access to any of the applicant’s health records from any provider, from the past 20 years. The applicant would be required to identify any providers s/he used for mental health treatment or services, and those providers would then be required to turn over any records to the licensing authority. After review, the licensing authority would determine if the applicant is a “mental defective” and if so, then disqualify him/her from licensure unless a physician’s affidavit could confirm the applicant is “not disabled.” Representative Linsky’s measures also require DMH to turn over its records from the past 20 years to NICBS, which the licensing official can use by discretion.
NAMI Mass believes that the mental illness reporting language in the Representative Linsky’s proposed legislation is so broad as to potentially discourage people from seeking treatment when they most need it for fear that their names will be placed in a database. Instead, NAMI Mass believes that the most effective way to keep guns out the wrong hands is to link reporting to dangerousness, that is, to focus on people who have a demonstrated history of behaviors or actions that are violent or potentially violent, rather than using broad, stigmatizing labels. In Massachusetts, this would mean shifting the focus from all individuals who are diagnosed with a mental illness to persons who a Court has found to present a likelihood of serious harm to themselves or others.
Additionally, the distinction between involuntary and voluntary treatment is very important in that NAMI Mass wants people to freely seek care when they need it. If the automatic consequence of seeking inpatient treatment on a voluntary basis is placement in a gun reporting database, it will serve as a powerful deterrent to people seeking treatment when they most need it. At the very least, proposals that extend reporting to people who are voluntarily hospitalized should require a determination of dangerousness before people are reported. This would be consistent with the federal Improvement Amendments of 2007 which apply only to individuals who are “adjudicated” in some way, so they do not apply to people who voluntarily enter hospitals.
Specifically, Courts must find a likelihood of serious harm in the following categories:
1) Individuals who have been involuntarily committed to psychiatric hospitals pursuant to G.L. c. 123, sections 7&8 and section 18A;
2) Individuals who have been involuntarily committed for alcohol or substance abuse treatment under the provisions of G.L. c. 123, section 35;
3) Individuals committed as “sexually dangerous persons” pursuant to G.L.c.123A; and,
4) Individuals who have been adjudicated incompetent to stand trial or not guilty by reason of mental illness under the provisions of G.L. c. 123, sections 15&16.
NAMI Mass also believes that Massachusetts should have a legal mechanism by which a law enforcement officer can seize a gun in the possession of someone determined to be a “dangerous individual.” For example, 4 under Indiana, Connecticut and California law, a warrant may be issued to search for and seize a firearm in the possession of a “dangerous individual.” Indiana law further allows for the seizure of firearms from any individual whom the law enforcement officer believes to be dangerous without obtaining a warrant.
The term “dangerous individual” is defined to include a person who:
• Presents an imminent risk of personal injury to himself, herself or another person; or,
• Presents a risk of personal injury to himself, herself or another person in the future and he or she:
1) Has a mental illness that may be controlled by medication, and has not demonstrated a pattern of voluntarily and consistently taking the individual’s medication while not under supervision; or,
2) Is the subject of documented evidence that would give rise to a reasonable belief that he or she has a propensity for violent or emotionally unstable conduct.
Adopting these or similar changes will move the gun control debate forward by shifting the focus away from the broad category of anyone with mental illness to factors and behaviors that directly correlate to violence.
NAMI Mass looks to the Commonwealth’s legislative and government officials to put Massachusetts at the forefront of the nation’s efforts to bring a sound and rational policy to keeping guns out of the hands of those who are at risk for harming themselves or others.
*Authored by June S. Binney, JD, Crisis Intervention and Diversion Project Director, NAMI Mass
Reprinted with permission of Ladies Home Journal. This article first appeared in the April, 2013 issue, pages 101-102 and 104 in the Here’s To Your Health section.