Prepared by:
National Stigma Clearinghouse

NEWS ARCHIVE 2005 (January -July)

Please scroll down for earliest items

July 31, 2005 - News of the Week


The Importance of Personal Medicine
by Dr. Patricia Deegan (

We are hearing a lot about recovery these days and many mental health systems are seeking to transform themselves to a recovery orientation.

However the whole area of psychopharmacology and psychiatric medications remains stuck in an outdated medical model where the emphasis is too often on compliance rather than choice, and obedience to medical authority rather than self-determination.

I have become very interested in exploring what a recovery based approach to using psychiatric medications would be. Through a research contract with the University of Kansas, I have had the opportunity to conduct qualitative research on how people who are diagnosed with major mental disorders use psychiatric medications.

One of my major findings has been that people who are recovering do not simply swallow pills in a passive way. Instead they get active and they understand that recovery is about changing our lives, not just our biochemistry. I have learned that psychiatric medicine is not the only type of medicine that is important to recovery.

Personal medicine, or those things that raise our self esteem and make life worth living are vital to recovery. Fishing, meditating, exercising, having dinner with a friend, being a good mom, - all of these things and more can be vital to our recovery. All are forms of what I have come to call personal medicine.


When I interviewed people about their use of psychiatric medications, I expected that they would tell me about using pills. To my surprise, they spent most of the interview hour telling me about a myriad of things they did to feel better. They challenged conventional understanding of medication.

When asked to describe their use of psychiatric medications, they described using pharmaceuticals but also spontaneously reported a variety of non-pharmaceutical strategies that served to improve mood, outlook, thought and behaviors.

That is, when describing their use of psychiatric pharmaceuticals or 'pill medicine', research participants also described a variety of personal wellness strategies and activities that I have called 'personal medicine'.

Personal medicines were non-pharmaceutical activities and strategies that served to decrease symptoms and increase personal wellness. Personal medicine was discovered by study participants in the everyday context of their lives. Most often clinicians did not suggest it.

For instance, one research participant diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, found that solving mathematics problems was a powerful mood stabilizer. He said:
I think there are a lot of other things that are medication, that are not really considered medication. There's things that you can do that changes what your body does. And it may not be medicine. I still think that one of the best mood stabilizers there is in life - maybe not for everyone but for me - is math. That stimulates your intellectual process. (Joe)

All of the research participants identified unique types of personal medicine that they used in addition to, or in place of, psychiatric medications.

Personal medicine fell into two broad categories: those activities that gave life meaning and purpose, and self-care strategies. Both increased feelings of wellness and decreased/eliminated psychiatric symptoms and/or undesirable outcomes such as hospitalization. Examples of personal medicine included the importance of being a good parent, singing in a gospel group, helping peers, fishing, laughing, going to school, working, taking care of a pet, and cooking for an appreciative spouse.

I think that in a recovery oriented mental health system, the importance of personal medicine would be recognized, honored and supported.

  • Pat Deegan PhD & Associates offer a wide range of services to help transform mental health systems into recovery oriented service systems that promote self determination for people with psychiatric disabilities. To learn more contact

  • Source: 'Mental Health E-News' posting, a service of the New York Ass'n of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services. (

    July 24, 2005 - News of the Week


    Below is a statement of Jim Ward, Founder and President of ADA Watch/NCDR
    (Washington, DC)

  • ADA: Americans With Disabilities Act; NCDR: National Coalition for Disability Rights

    At a time when our Nation could have greatly benefited from the selection of a mainstream consensus nominee, people with disabilities --indeed all Americans -- should be saddened and disturbed by President Bush's choice of Judge John Roberts to fill Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

    While Justice O'Connor did not take the side of people with disabilities in all cases, she was the swing vote on important 5-4 rulings involving the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), including historic cases such as Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999) and Tennessee v. Lane, 541 U.S. 509 (2004).

    With the selection of John Roberts, President Bush is making good on his stated intention to fill a Court vacancy with a nominee in the mold of Scalia or Thomas -- Justices who have consistently ruled against people with disabilities in these and other landmark cases. If confirmed, such 5-4 votes would surely go in the other direction and reverse the historic gains of people with disabilities.

    ADA Watch/NCDR is a coalition of hundreds of disability, civil rights and social justice organizations united to defend and promote the human rights of children and adults with physical, mental, cognitive and developmental disabilities. 

    Why we are opposed to Judge John Roberts:

    Narrow Interpretation of the ADA:

    After the Sixth Circuit ruled that a woman with serious manual impairments was substantially limited in one or more of her life activities, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case (Williams v. Toyota Motor Mfg., Ky., Inc., 224 F.3d 840 [2000]), and Judge Roberts argued and briefed the case on behalf of Toyota. His briefs and oral argument distorted the facts of the case and minimized the extent of Ella Williams' disability.

    Unfortunately, the Supreme Court believed Judge Robert's misrepresentations and decided in favor of Toyota. It also came down with a new and very strict test for disability. This test has made it much more difficult for ADA plaintiffs to prove that they are disabled with devastating impact on people with epilepsy, diabetes, mental illness and workplace injuries.
    The impact of Robert's distortions is evident in subsequent decisions including Three Rivers Center for Independent Living v. Pittsburgh Public Housing Authority, which barred a Center for Independent Living (CIL) from filing suit to hold a Public Housing Authority accountable for violating Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
    Thus the consequences of Judge Roberts' distortions of the record have been wide-ranging: they helped to create yet another unfortunate Supreme Court precedent that has further impeded the goals of the ADA.

    Judicial Activism:

    Roberts record demonstrates his inclination to strike down federal anti-discrimination statues and to further limit congressional power, narrowly construe the ADA, and restrict the ability of plaintiffs to get into federal court.

    Extremist Ideology:

    Roberts declared that the current Supreme Court is not conservative enough specifically in response to the October 1999 term during which the conservative majority judicial activism included the striking down of the Violence Against Women Act and throwing out an age discrimination suit on federalism grounds. 

    Mr. Roberts is a member of two right-wing legal groups that promote a pro-corporate, anti-regulatory agenda: the Federalist Society and the National Legal Center For The Public Interest, serving on the latter group's Legal Advisory Council. 

    The Federalist Society's overarching goal is to roll back domestic policy to before FDR's New Deal and its members (including Jeffrey Sutton, William Pryor, and others) have specifically targeted the ADA. The National Legal Center For The Public Interest has attacked ADA civil rights protections in numerous forums including its publication of a document entitled "Civil Rights and the Disabled: The Legislative Twilight Zone."  
    Narrowing of Civil Rights Protections:

    After a Supreme Court decision effectively nullified certain sections of the Voting Rights Act (City of Mobile v. Bolden 446 U.S. 55 [1980]), Roberts was involved in the Reagan administration's effort to prevent Congress from overturning the Supreme Court's action. The Supreme Court had recently decided that certain sections of the Voting Rights Act could only be violated by intentional discrimination and not by laws that had a discriminatory effect, despite a lack of textual basis for this interpretation in the statute. Roberts was part of the effort to legitimize that decision and to stop Congress from overturning it.

    In private practice, wrote a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that Congress had failed to justify a Department of Transportation affirmative action program. (Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Mineta, 2001).

    As expressed in one case where he would have invalidated a provision of the Endangered Species Act, his exceedingly restrictive view of federal law-making authority, more restrictive than the current Supreme Court's, could threaten a wide swath of workplace, civil rights, public safety and environmental protections. 

    In his years of service as a political appointee in the administrations of Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, Judge Roberts also helped craft legal policies that sought to weaken school desegregation efforts, the reproductive rights of women, environmental protections, church-state separation and the voting rights of African Americans.  

    Source: NYAPRS. This 'Mental Health E-News' posting is a service of the New York Ass'n of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services.

    June 29, 2005 - News of the Week


    The New York State Legislature voted overwhelmingly on Thursday, June 23, to extend the state's controversial psychiatric outpatient commitment law (Kendra's Law) for an additional five years.

    The Legislature's time-limited approach to continuing Kendra's Law was a blow to forced-medication advocates who wanted it to be made permanent. Likewise it angered human rights activists who view the law as an egregious attack on human and civil rights.

    Kendra's Law promises individuals who are court-ordered to take medication an array of support services and housing; these "assisted" individuals lose most of their autonomy to choose programs, medications, housing arrangements, doctors and therapists. Medication is the only sure component of every court order, since gaps in community resources vary widely across the state.

    From the beginning of March when Governor Pataki announced his legislation to make Kendra's Law permanent, anti-coercion advocates saw a strong political commitment to continue Kendra's Law. Hoping to wage a winnable battle, NYAPRS and its allies fought to increase oversight and accountability, add non-coercive options for patients, improve methods of evaluating the law's effectiveness, and limit the law's continuation.

    Joining the Governor in his call for permanence were those NAMI families who viewed the law as their only source of help for desperate situations. Also calling for permanence was the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC), a well-funded group in Arlington, Virginia that has spent more than a decade promoting coercive psychiatric medication laws nationwide, and the state's Attorney General Eliot Spitzer who introduced the law in 1999.

    Kendra's Law is expensive to implement. Where is the money coming from?

    Funds for essential community support services have never been adequate. Drastic cuts to psychiatric services during the early days of the Pataki administration have not been restored. New York now spends less on community psychiatric care than it did during the Cuomo years. This explains why tens of thousands of voluntary users of psychiatric services are threatened by program cuts and homelessness.

    Past and present penny-pinching also explains the dread felt by tens of thousands of senior citizens. By default, they have been the sole source of care for their adult children since the 1980's, when hospital downsizing was at its peak and the state promised to create a network of supportive services in every community. Albany's failure to keep that promise goes hand-in-hand with its reliance on elderly parents to supply a home, food, and, in most cases, to oversee the adult child's treatment, monitor medication, and search for programs that promote independence (where they exist). However, this low-cost deal for the state is destined to end. And adding to the families' worries, there is no official recognition of their plight and no planning to avert the coming crisis.


    Text of Extended Kendra's Law Click Bill Search and enter bill #A8954. Or, do a Senate search for S5876. (Or click here)

    Kendra's Law Controversy: Background, Comments, and Article Updates

    Article: "State Lawmakers Extend Kendra's Law For 5 Years, Despite Concerns That It Targets Men of Color," New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU)

    May 22, 2005 - News of the Week


    (1) Kendra's Law Teaches How To Play "The Violence Card," May 2005

    (2) The Railroading of Andrew Goldstein, Septmber 2000

    (3) Remember Andrew, the Other Victim, July 1999

    (4) References

    by Jean Arnold

    "Laws change for a single reason, in reaction to highly publicized incidents of violence." This wisdom is from D. J. Jaffe, a co-founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC) in Arlington, Virginia, speaking at a national NAMI conference in the summer of 1999.

    Jaffe told the NAMI audience that a law permitting court-ordered outpatient medication, or any other law, will be enacted if framed as crucial to public safety. In preparation, Jaffe had taken TAC's forced medication proposal to an array of law enforcement agencies where he found instant receptivity. He advised the advocates, "Forget the mental health community, take this out to the public at large. You will find there is very little opposition to changing the law once you get it outside a mental health arena."

    Jaffe's "highly publicized incident of violence" occurred on January 3, 1999 when a man diagnosed with schizophrenia, Andrew Goldstein, gave aspiring writer Kendra Webdale a fatal shove as a train approached a Manhattan subway station. TAC contacted Kendra's shocked and grieving mother, Patricia, explained to her their "public safety" agenda, and won her support. Under TAC's guidance, an overwhelming family tragedy came to symbolize a menace to every New Yorker.

    In Jaffe's words, "The media goes and interviews these people, and because we've been to them first, they are telling our story." The final boost for Kendra's Law came when incoming Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and Governor George E. Patai joined the campaign with full support.

    Just six months after Kendra's death, the New York legislature voted overwhelmingly for a five-year trial of court-ordered outpatient medication. Never mind that legislators later commented that the true culprit in the Webdale tragedy was New York's relentless cost-cutting and dismantling of its mental health system. And never mind that when Andrew Goldstein's history was detailed by a New York Times reporter, Michael Winerip, Goldstein was found to have needed supportive services and a decent place to live, not court-ordered medication.

    With the Kendra's Law experiment due to expire on June 30th, old issues are flaring once again. To impress legislators with the need for forced medication, last week the law's supporters cited 18 studies assembled by TAC to prove that lack of psychiatric medication causes violent behavior. However, 14 of the studies make no mention of medication in their descriptions.

    Oddly, violence prevention seems a low priority in the implementation of Kendra's Law. Only 15% of the program's clients have been noted as violent with no explanation of the term.

    This low rate of violence is not surprising, however. In 2002, a Duke University research team found that people with severe mental illnesses are highly unlikely to become violent toward others unless they have additional risk factors combined with their psychiatric disorder. Without any of the risk factors -- having been a victim of violence during childhood, living in a neighborhood where violence is common, and having a substance abuse problem -- those with severe mental illnesses were no more likely to engage in violent behavior than people in the general population without a psychiatric disorder. "Acts of violence by people with mental illness are rare" said Jeffrey Swanson, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, a sociologist at Duke and lead author of the study. Swanson noted, "violent crimes committed by psychiatric patients become big headlines and reinforce the social stigma and rejections felt by many individuals who suffer from a mental illness. But our findings suggest that serious violence is the rare exception among all people with psychiatric disorders" (Jeffrey Swanson et. al., American Journal of Public Health, Sept. 2002).

    What's next for Kendra's Law?

    Many families of individuals with psychiatric disabilities, closely allied with TAC leaders, are calling for Kendra's Law to be made permanent. They acknowledge flaws in the law but cite promising results in some areas of the state.

    A seond group, a broad statewide coalition of mental health advocates, opposes permanent status for the law. They are asking the New York State legislature to extend its oversight role for an additional period (2 years) and to seek more convincing research to support its continuation. Most of these advocates reject coercion and call for access to high quality programs.

    A third group opposes any continuation of the law. These are advocates with first-hand experience of mis-medication, mis-diagnosis, incompetence, inappropriate programs, and the loss of human and civil rights.

    After the law's hasty passage in 1999, Assemblyman Edward Sullivan (Manhattan) summed up his objections. "What bothers me is the political nature of this bill. There has been a great deal of pressure to contain antisocial behaviors of some people with mental illness. And there's also been a great deal of political pressure to keep costs down. These have often proved to be contradictory pressures. People in charge of the state's budget-making have absented themselves from this problem. ... Let's go back to the budgeters and find the money!"



    by Patricia Warburg Cliff

    The Journal of California AMI
    V.11,1.3 (September 2000)

    The failure of the legal profession, the court system and the public to grasp the vital concepts involved in the two trials of Andrew Goldstein further reinforce the fact that we at NAMI have much work to do.

    In January 1999, Andrew Goldstein, an unmedicated, delusional person with paranoid schizophrenia who had been unsuccessfully seeking help at various hospital emergency rooms, pushed Kendra Webdale to her death on the tracks of the New York City subway. Unfortunately the terrible tragedy of this young woman's death clouded public perception of the situation which allowed this to occur: the failure of the public system to offer the required state-financed housing with day services, clinic visits and an intensive case manager, to this seriously ill young man.

    It was, however, not the system which was on trial, but the other "victim" of this tragedy, Andrew Goldstein himself. The first trial ended in a hung jury, because two jury members had had some limited experience with the mental health system and consequently understood the nature of Goldstein's illness and his inability to form the necessary intent to commit murder in his psychotic state. The public's outcry for revengeful punishment did not, however, cease.

    In late February, 2000, a second trial was commenced. After hearing the evidence, the judge instructed the jury that they had the option of convicting the defendant of manslaughter in lieu of the second degree murder charges, if they found that he had acted with "depraved indifference," but without the requisite intent necessary for a conviction of second degree murder. It took the jury only two hours to reach the verdict of second degree murder.

    The irony of the situation should not be overlooked: Andrew Goldstein was being held at Bellevue Hospital following his arrest where he was willingly receiving treatment for his illness and consequently would not be able to appear sufficiently psychotic at his trial to demonstrate to the jury the disabling effect of this illness on his judgment. The defense pinned its hopes on taking Mr. Goldstein off his antipsychotic medication and putting him on the stand, to better show the jurors his mental state at the time of the attack. This novel concept was thwarted when Mr. Goldstein struck a social worker, further indicating his violent state of mind when unmedicated. Judge Berkman insisted that Mr. Goldstein be offered the choice of taking his antipsychotic medication, which he chose to do. The result was that the jury was able to see a passive, sedated individual and not the person whose delusions caused his violent behavior.

    NAMI's suggestions to the defense counsel to utilize the virtual reality videos produced by pharmaceutical companies which demonstrate the psychotic state of mind, as well as comparisons to the diminished capacity suffered by individuals who are experiencing the onset of a diabetic coma or an epileptic seizure, fell on deaf ears. The subsequent result demonstrates the ignorance of the judge, jury and defense counsel with respect to paranoid schizophrenia. Andrew Goldstein never got a fair chance.

    At the conclusion of the trial, the jurors were convinced that punishment, not treatment, was warranted. Mrs. Webdale, the victim's mother spoke at the sentencing hearing: "It is my contention that if Andrew Goldstein had been held responsible many incidents ago, there would not have been 13 assaults and one homicide committed by him. His ongoing aggression was tolerated and acceptable." The presiding judge concurred saying that the attack stemmed from the state mental health system's failure to punish Mr. Goldstein for past assaults.

    On May 5, 2000, Judge Berkman gave Andrew Goldstein the maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison for the murder of Kendra Webdale. What is wrong with this picture? Has the "justice system" reverted to a witch hunt to punish the violent mentally ill whom the public system has dismally failed? Are we, as a society, going to be content with the gross misunderstandings of mental illness which were demonstrated in this trial? How are we going to educate the judiciary about these issues?

    The ultimate irony is that the New York State legislature, ever reluctant to provide sufficient funding for treatment for the mentally ill, hastily passed a bill, commonly referred to as "Kendra's Law," allowing for court ordered treatment or commitment of the mentally ill under certain circumstances. Andrew Goldstein who is now rotting in the state prison system, had tried repeatedly to get help before the attack. He even sought his own commitment when he realized that he was out of control. The misnomered "Kendra's Law" would not have prevented this tragedy.

    PATRICIA WARBURG CLIFF, an attorney and mental health advocate in New York City, serves on the national board of NAMI as well as on the board of NAMI-NYC Metro. Her only child, Kenneth Johnson, succumbed to depression in 1995, as a result of the private health care system's failure to adequately diagnose and appropriately care for his illness.

    End of article


    by Janet Susin

    PATHways (NAMI-Queens/Nassau newsletter)
    July 1999

    By now, you must have seen Michael Winerip's disturbing New York Times Magazine cover story of May 24 about how the mental health system failed Andrew Goldstein and led to the fatal subway pushing which took Kendra Webdale's life. This gripping, meticulously documented account of how Goldstein tried thirteen different times to get help, but was discharged each time without adequate support or housing, should make us all feel ashamed -- politicians who are indifferent to the plight of this vulnerable population, New York State residents who go about their business and accept the inevitability of this shameful neglect, but most of all Governor Pataki, who has turned a deaf ear to pleas for supervised housing and additional supports.

    The article has finally roused Albany politicians from their torpor. Assemblyman Brennan has said he will introduce a bill to authorize a $200 million appropriation for 2,500 additional beds, although no mention was made of the supervised beds Goldstein would have needed. And Senator Libous, Chair of the State Senate Committee on Mental Health, introduced a bill to use $5 million to provide and coordinate services for what the New York Times describes as "a small goup of particularly troubled former patients who are mentally ill."

    In the wake of Winerip's article, which provided detailed documentation of repeated discharges without appropriate follow-up, the Webdales are filing a lawsuit against several hospitals. Could this be our Willowbrook? Let's hope that this story stays on our politicians' radar screens long enough for them to pass some meaningful legislation--not just the kind that promises to get things under control but fails to provide the financial support to back it up.

    JANET SUSIN is co-president of NAMI-Queens/Nassau in Long Island New York. Her editorial comments in the organization's newsletter may not reflect the views of her organization.

    End of editorial



  • New York Times, Magazine Desk, May 23, 1999
    "BEDLAM ON THE STREETS. Increasingly, the Mentally Ill Have Nowhere to Go," by MICHAEL WINERIP

    NY TIMES ABSTRACT - Michael Winerip article discusses case of Andrew Goldstein, a mentally ill man with history of assault that culminated in January with murder of Kendra Webdale, who Goldstein pushed under subway train in New York City; notes Goldstein voluntarily sought professional help at various state hospitals, cooperated with psychiatrists and made number of attempts to obtain long-term hospitalization at Creedmoor, state hospital; maintains there is long list of institutions and individuals who should be held accountable for what happened to Goldstein and Webdale, but at the top of the list belong Gov. Pataki and the State of New York, for it is states that have primarily responsibility for citizens who are mentally ill, and it is the states that have persisently shirked that responsibility; photos (L)

  • D. J. JAFFE'S SPEECH AT 1999 NAMI CONVENTION. A candid outline of strategy used by the Treatment Advocacy Center to achieve their political goals. We have not found the full document online. Transcripts are available on request from

  • TAC'S SELF-SERVING DISTORTION OF RESEARCH RESULTS. Time and again, the Treatment Advocacy Center has tagged their own assumptions onto the research of others, then cited the studies to support their view. The resulting errors are hard to spot and near-impossible to correct. For more about this practice, go to STIGMATIZING FEAR TACTICS

  • April 30, 2005 - News of the Week


    NEWS RELEASE, May 1, 2005



    "The Psychiatric Drug Industry Is Targeting Your Kids!"
    Hear the latest on a free international radio   call-in show also available via the Internet (see below for details).

    Advocates, attorneys, mental health professionals and activists from throughout the USA are meeting this weekend at the American University Washington College of Law to launch a campaign to "just say no" to psychiatric drug industry screening programs.

    "Drug corporations have America's youth in their crosshairs," said David Oaks, Director of MindFreedom International, a co-sponsor of the Action Conference, which included human rights activists from British Columbia to Hungary.

    President Bush announced he wants universal screening of *all* youth in the USA by programs developed by the psychiatric drug industry, and these advocates are sounding the alarm.

    A new investigation by Mother Jones magazine (May/June 2005) revealed that the drug industry is misusing programs that sound good on the surface to harvest more clients for drugging.

    Conference participants said they will announce a new national campaign to oppose Bush's national screening program at a news conference directly in front of the headquarters of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) in Washington, DC at noon on Monday, 2 May 2005. This will be followed by a peaceful protest.

    Activists also vowed to bring their allegations about President Bush's abuse of the mental health system to the international community via the United Nations and World Health Organization.


    * For more info about the news conference & protest with downloadable poster, news release and letter to PhRMA see:

    * For a summary of the new Mother Jones article & photo in the May/June 2005 issue exposing how Bush's screening programs is already dosing children even over the parents' wishes:

    * For complete text of article in Mother Jones May/June 2005 issue:

    * For background on the Bush plan to screen every American child -- and adult -- using psychiatric drug corporation programs:


    You may hear the latest news after the news conference and protest by tuning into a radio show broadcast throughout North America or everywhere via the Internet. You may phone in live with questions or comments, or listen to the program later on an archive.
    Here's the announcement from the radio network -- please forward:


    Broadcast Schedule of The 'X' Zone Radio Show with Rob McConnell
    Starting at Monday night, 2 May 2005 at 12:00 AM (midnight) for one hour to Tuesday, 3 May 2005 at 1:00 AM east coast time.

    GUEST: David Oaks - Director, MindFreedom International
    with results from their news conference & protest earlier that same day in front of PhRMA is Washington, D.C.

    The 'X' Zone would like to welcome the following new affiliates : In
    United States: KCHR 1350 AM Charleston, MO; WZNG 1400 AM Nashville, Shelbyville, TN; WPGS 840 AM Orlando, Titusville, FL; WMEX 106.7 FM Rochester, NH; KNTS 89.7 John Day, OR; WELW AM 1330 Cleveland, OH; KSEK 1340
    AM Pittsburg, KS; WDRF 1510 AM Wooddruff, SC and in Canada : CFOV AM 630 Kelowna, BC.

    For information on other affiliates and listening in via the Internet:
    Visit The 'X' Zone Radio Show website at

    To ask to speak with Rob McConnell or any of his guests, call in TOLL FREE from
    the United States and Canada by dialing – 1-877-528-TALK (1-877-528-8255).

    From outside the US and Canada, send an e-mail to,
    or MSN Messenger to or AOL IM to xzonestudio.
    'X' Zone Radio Show Archives are available at
    Rob McConnell,
    Host & Executive Producer,
    The 'X' Zone Radio Show
    ICQ - 6272860
    The 'X' Zone Radio Show is available on satellites Galaxy 4R and AMC-4.


    PLEASE forward and post to all appropriate places on and off the Internet immediately!

    Thank you!

    Posted by MindFreedom International. For information and to join see


    Source: Consumer Affairs News from the Center for Mental Health Services

    Teleconference Training on Thursday, May 5, 2005.

    Register now!!!

    You are invited to participate in a free teleconference training, "Decreasing Stigma Associated with Mental Illness in the African American Community."

    This teleconference training is sponsored by the SAMHSA Resource Center to Address Discrimination and Stigma (ADS Center), a project of the Center for Mental Health Services of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

    The session is free to participants.
    Date: Thursday, May 5, 2005
    Time: 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Eastern Time).

    To register for this teleconference, please fill out the form at Also, feel free to pass on this invitation to others who might be interested.

    For more information
    , please contact America Doria-Medina by email ( or by telephone at 1-800-540-0320.

    Registration for this teleconference will close at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 4, 2005.

    The research literature suggests that African American communities lack knowledge about mental illness and about how to access early mental health intervention services. Common myths, stigma, misinformation, and fear unduly influence many African American families.

    Consequently, while African American families experience mental illness in proportions that are the same as the rest of the population, they are more likely to delay seeking treatment or to succumb to court-ordered treatment, resulting in more severe diagnoses, longer inpatient treatment, and poorer prognoses.

    The speakers for this teleconference training will discuss ways in which African Americans obtain information about mental illnesses; identify barriers, including beliefs and fears, to seeking help; and describe the work of an assembly of churches in Texas that provides education and information to decrease stigma and discrimination among African Americans in faith communities. The training will be provided by King Davis, Ph.D., Wilma Townsend, and Marietta Bell Noel. Brief profiles of the trainers follow:

    Mr. King Davis, Ph.D.
    Dr. Davis is a professor, the Robert Lee Sutherland Chair in Mental Health and Social Policy, and Director for the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health. His research and teachings at the University of Texas at Austin have focused on mental health public policy, culturally competent mental health services, health care for those with mental illnesses, and disparities in rates of illness and service delivery for consumers of color.

    Ms. Wilma Townsend
    Ms. Townsend is a nationally recognized expert on consumer-focused recovery and cultural competence. She has extensive experience as a consultant to States, local government entities, managed care organizations, and consumer and family organizations in the areas of consumer recovery and recovery-oriented services, peer-operated services, consumer involvement and outcomes, and cultural competence. Ms. Townsend is involved in a research project titled, "Actualization of Best Practice Model System-Wide: Examination of Recovery-Oriented Services and Outcomes." She contributed issue papers on the topics of consumer recovery and cultural competence to the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health.

    Ms. Marietta Bell Noel
    Ms. Noel is coordinator of the Central Texas African American Family Support Conference and Senior Planner at Austin Travis County Mental Health Mental Retardation Center in Austin, Texas. She provides process direction and coordination for Center-wide strategic and annual plans and serves as a planning liaison for various community entities involving Center services. Ms. Noel has worked in health and human services in both the private and public sectors and has more than 30 years of successful experience in program management, case management, and consumer and family relations. She is a current member of the Center's Cultural Diversity Committee.

    Speaker presentations will take approximately 60 minutes and will be followed by a 30-minute question-and-answer period. Anyone who responds to this invitation will receive confirmation by e-mail. Prior to the teleconference, participants will receive an online link to presentation materials and log-in instructions for the call.


    April 11, 2005 - News of the Week


    Kendra's Law (KL), New York's experiment with court-ordered psychiatric medication for outpatients, is due to expire on June 30th. Should the experiment continue?

    Judging from testimony at a public hearing in Manhattan on April 8, 2005, no one is satisfied with the current law.

    With KL about to expire, the Assembly's Mental Health Committee Chairman, Peter M. Rivera, and Codes Committee Chairman, Joseph R. Lentol asked members of the mental health community for their views. The Assemblymen heard eight hours of passionate testimony and recommendations from advocacy organizations, public officials, psychiatric survivors, families, clinicians, services providers, and legal experts.

    Five years ago, the battle for KL pitted NAMI-NYS and the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC) of Arlington Virginia, a group whose primary interest is psychiatric medication, against the community of psychiatric survivors and their allies who view forced medication as counter-productive.

    At the hearing, KL supporters called for greater family access to obtaining court orders; KL opponents cited negative effects of coercion and the success of high-quality alternatives. For more information about NAMI-NYS and NYAPRS positions, go to, and to and

    By our count, ten TAC and NAMI-NYS speakers and supporters recommended that KL become permanent. Twenty other speakers consider permanent enactment premature, but would continue the experiment for 3 to 5 years. Ten people objected to KL's continuation. Nearly everyone who spoke in favor of letting the experiment continue called for improved accountability and more relevant outcome data from New York's Office of Mental Health.

    Psychiatric survivors who support KL's limited continuation made clear that they do not support its coercion clause.

    All speakers agreed on one basic issue. High quality community services are in desperately short supply. KL is rarely able to deliver the full package of treatment components it promises. Meanwhile, successful voluntary programs are forced to compete with KL for already barebones resources. The most critical shortages are a lack of case managers, appropriate housing, and dual-diagnosis treatment programs (50% of KL patients have a mental illness combined with a substance abuse problem).

    County administrators spoke of increased liability risk when essential programs are understaffed or missing altogether, and of new costs to counties with the addition of unfunded mandates. Dr. Antonio Abad of the Association of Hispanic Mental Health Professionals said additional treatment models could improve outcomes of people who are not good candidates for KL; he also called for more bilingual services.

    From an antistigma point of view, the lasting negative effects of KL's publicity has been our main concern. The law's passage was won in 1999 on a "public safety" platform; negative fallout from this heavy emphasis on violence still haunts the mental health community. Nassau County Director Harold Sovronsky referred to the public's misguided perception, fanned by KL advocates, that KL protects public safety. Sovronsky said that in fact, "there is little if any consequence to those who violate court-ordered treatment."

    Nothing was said at the hearing about the framing of Andrew Goldstein to get KL passed. Goldstein had to be shoehorned into the "non-compliant patient" role. Michael Winerip, a New York Times reporter who investigated the Andrew Goldstein case, wrote in December 1999 that "by the summer of 1999, the newly disclosed facts of the Goldstein case justified what mental health advocates had been arguing for years: a lack of state spending was crippling the system. To cut costs, the state had set quotas for reducing the patient population at every public hospital in New York, making it extremely difficult to get long-term care. Mr. Goldstein was a perfect example."

    Winerip recounts that Goldstein (who voluntarily committed himself for treatment 13 times) acted violently even in hospital settings numerous times. Still, the system stalled his admissions and repeatedly recycled him to the street, despite his requests for treatment of his uncontrollable violent urges.


    1) Several key administrators, including Joyce B. Wale of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC), recommended a limited extension (3 years) of the KL experiment. She stressed the need for scientific longitudinal research and improved accountability. Ms. Wale also suggested the inclusion of peer counselors throughout the state based on their excellent performance in NYC.

    2) John Gresham of Lawyers for the Public Interest testified that KL has produced a pattern of racial imbalance. Court orders target Black patients 3X more than whites, and Hispanic patients 2X more than whites. Gresham has found no reasonable explanation for this disproportion to date.

    3) Shelly Nortz, Coalition for the Homeless, suggested that KL is being used to effect the hospital discharge process. She noted that the New York/New York program met this need without using court orders. The program served well over 10,000 homeless mentally ill adults with dramatic results.

    For the record, Clarence Sundram, former head of the Commission on Quality of Care, noted in 1999 that "Coercion is needed, but to enforce laws already on the books that are routinely disregarded with impunity, either because of the scarcity of resources or because of conflicting pressures."

    4) It should be noted that Julio Perez, who attacked speaker Edgar Rivera in 1999 causing the amputation of his legs, had tried to get help just before his violent act. Five hours before the attack, Perez went to the emergency room of the Veteran's Administration Hospital, the police headquarters, and the criminal courts building, saying that his enemies were following him. Times reporter Nina Bernstein wrote (6/28/99): "Each sent him to another part of the same disjointed system that had been shuttling him between hospitals, jails, shelters and the streets of New York since 1995." The Times said Perez had tried to get medicine, but his Medicaid card had expired.

    Our records show that when a rare violent act by a person with mental illness occurs, often the person has been recently denied a voluntary request for help.

    5) Hannah Craven, a NAMI-Metro member (not representing NAMI), limited her testimony to statistical errors and confusion in OMH's report of March 2005 on KL performance. Craven submitted an analysis of OMH's questionable figures and requested that these be corrected before the law reaches a vote.

    6) Medication is the cornerstone of every court order under KL. The testimony of Eileen McGinn, MPH, a family member, names three assumptions that, if true, would support compulsory medication. The assumptions are: that psychotropic drugs are effective, that they are safe, and that people stop taking them for inappropriate reasons.

    In an extensive review of clinical trials, McGinn found these assumptions to be blatantly untrue.

    KL gives a false sense of security about medication that endangers the health of court-ordered patients who have little autonomy. Medication choices are a trial-and-error process where mistakes can be fatal, and medication monitoring requires doctor and patient to work as a team.

    Just before KL passed in 1999, Gregory Lee Richardson, in Albany's jail for a traffic-related incident, died from from negligent mis-medication and restraint. A law to prevent such atrocities, "Gregory's Law," did not move forward however.


    CLICK HERE for relevant position papers, reports, press releases and articles.

    March 13, 2005 - News of the Week



    New York's five-year experiment with court-ordered psychiatric medication for outpatients (Kendra's Law) is due to expire on June 30th. Last week, Governor George E. Pataki announced legislation to make the law permanent. Quick opposition came from mental health advocates who urge modification and continued legislative oversight of the experiment.

    Assemblymen Peter M. Rivera (Mental Health Committee) and Joseph R. Lentol (Codes Committee) have scheduled a statewide hearing in Manhattan on Thursday, March 24, 2005, in the Assembly Hearing Room, 250 Broadway, Room 1923, 19th Floor. Details are below.

    More information - Click for item:
    1) News release (Assemblyman Rivera)
    2) Notice of public hearing, suggested topics
    3) Article by Michael Winerip, NY Times, 12/26/1999
    4) Gov. Pataki's Press Release, March 7, 2005.

    (Item 1) March 9, 2005 News Release: Assemblyman Peter M. Rivera calls Governor's proposal a rush to approve a law that needs more public input and definite restructuring

    Assemblyman Peter M. Rivera, chair of the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, is releasing the following statement with regards to Governor Pataki's proposed legislation to make Kendra's Law permanent.
    "Once again, Governor Pataki has not done his homework when it comes to issues of mental health. He has now rushed to introduce legislation that will make Kendra's Law permanent without bothering to gather public input on this issue. If he had, the Governor would have realized that there are serious problems that need to be addressed if Kendra's law is to be extended," stated Rivera.

    He added, "We have individuals languishing in hospitals, at a tremendous expense to taxpayers, because a court order to find them appropriate housing can not be met by local mental health agencies. The system does not have adequate capacity to address the problems of the mentally ill in New York."

    "Our mental hygiene system is fragmented, does not adequately address the needs of its target population and is tremendously inefficient. These problems are evident by examining the data we collected on this issue," Rivera declared. "We have counties that have not sought a Kendra's Law proceeding but have managed to provide the needed treatment. On the other hand, the vast majority of court orders are being sought in a geographic location that entails Westchester County out to Suffolk County. What does this say about the selective use of a law that many mental health advocates have called coercive?"

    Rivera continued, "Representatives of the court-supervised Mental Health Legal Services have called the present system a huge waste of money that drains time from the court system due to the lack of services that are absent from many communities."

    Contact: Guillermo A. Martinex 518-455-5102

    (Item 2) NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING to be held on March 24, 2005

    Announcement: NYS Assembly NYC Kendra's Law Hearing

    Issued by: Assembly Standing Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities,
    Assembly Standing Committee on Codes

    Subject:  New York State's Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) program 

    Purpose:  To evaluate the implementation, status and efficacy of the State's AOT program, which is set to expire on June 30, 200

    New York City, 250 Broadway
    Thursday March 24, 2005  10:30 AM
    Assembly Hearing Room 1923, 19th Floor

    In 1999, New York State enacted legislation that created a statutory framework for providing court-ordered Assisted Outpatient Treatment to persons with mental illness who, in view of their treatment history and circumstances, may be unlikely to survive safely in the community without appropriate services and support. In enacting this law, the Legislature found that in order for AOT to achieve its goals, court-ordered treatment must be linked to a system of comprehensive care in which the State and local authorities work together to ensure access to treatment services. The statute, commonly referred to as Kendra's Law, is set to expire on June 30, 2005.

    Since the implementation of Kendra's Law, over 10,000 individuals have been referred to local AOT coordinators for the purpose of determining their potential eligibility for court-ordered treatment. Court orders have been issued across the State for more than 3,700 of such referred individuals. It is the Committees' intention to solicit testimony from interested parties regarding the utilization and efficacy of the state AOT program, and the resultant impact of the program on counties across the State. The Committees are interested in hearing from all stakeholders, including persons under court-ordered treatment, persons with mental illness, family members of persons with mental illness, mental health providers, local and state government officials, court system staff, and others involved in AOT program administration.

    Please see below for a list of subjects to which witnesses may direct their testimony.

    Persons wishing to present pertinent testimony to the Committees at the above hearing should complete and return the enclosed reply form as soon as possible. It is important that the reply form be fully completed and returned so that persons may be notified in the event of emergency postponement or cancellation.

    Oral testimony will be limited to 10 minutes' duration. In preparing the order of witnesses, the Committees will attempt to accommodate individual requests to speak at particular times in view of special circumstances. These requests should be made on the attached reply form or communicated to Committee staff as early as possible. In the absence of a request, witnesses will be scheduled in the order in which reply forms are postmarked.

    Ten copies of any prepared testimony should be submitted at the hearing registration desk. The Committees would appreciate advance receipt of prepared statements.

    In order to further publicize these hearings, please inform interested parties and organizations of the Committees' interest in hearing testimony from all sources.

    In order to meet the needs of those who may have a disability, the Assembly, in accordance with its policy of non-discrimination on the basis of disability, as well as the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), has made its facilities and services available to all individuals with disabilities. For individuals with disabilities, accommodations will be provided, upon reasonable request, to afford such individuals access and admission to Assembly facilities and activities.

    Peter M. Rivera, Member of Assembly
    Chairman, Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities

    Joseph R. Lentol, Member of Assembly
    Chairman, Committee on Codes



  • Has the AOT program been successful in providing appropriate supervision and treatment that assists certain persons with mental illness?

  • Have treatment plans been appropriately matched to the needs of individuals? Have needed services been available for those under AOT court orders, and what occurs when services are not available?

  • Why is Kendra's Law used more frequently in some areas of the State than in others?

  • What has been the experience of those who have sought petitions for court orders for AOT? Have local AOT coordinators followed through with investigations in a timely way once an individual is referred to them?

  • What impact has the AOT program had on community-based services?

  • Although a substantial portion of investigations have led to court orders, twenty-eight percent of investigations have led to service enhancements rather than court orders. In general, are the service enhancements provided to these individuals appropriate and effective in meeting treatment needs?

  • What has been the experience of individuals under an AOT court order who have moved from one New York county to another? Have these relocated individuals been connected to services in their new county of residence?

  • What has been the rate of utilization and impact of the Medication Grant Program established pursuant to Kendra's Law? Is the program effective in meeting the medication needs of certain individuals with serious and persistent mental illness pending a Medicaid eligibility determination?

  • How could the Medication Grant Program be improved?

  • What changes to Kendra's Law, if any, should the Legislature consider that would improve the lives of individuals with mental illness and their families?


    Persons wishing to present testimony at the public hearing on New York State's AOT program are requested to complete this reply form as soon as possible and mail it to:

    Jennifer Best
    Committee Assistant
    Assembly Committee on Mental Health,
    Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities
    Room 522 Capitol
    Albany, New York 12248
    Phone: (518) 455-4371
    Fax: (518) 455-4693
    ___I plan to attend the following public hearing on New York States AOT program to be conducted by the Assembly Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities and the Assembly Committee on Codes on March 24, 2005. 
    ___I plan to make a public statement at the hearing. My statement will be limited to 10 minutes, and I will answer any questions which may arise. I will provide 10 copies of my prepared statement. 
    ___ I will address my remarks to the following subjects:
    ___I do not plan to attend the above hearing. 
    ___I would like to be added to the Committee mailing list for notices and reports. 
    ___I would like to be removed from the Committee mailing list. 
    ___I will require assistance and/or handicapped accessibility information. Please specify the type of assistance required:

    NAME:  --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    TITLE:  --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    ORGANIZATION:  --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    ADDRESS:  --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    E-MAIL:  --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    TELEPHONE:  --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    FAX TELEPHONE:  --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Source:  NYS Assembly


    (Item 3) ARTICLE (1999), "Behind One Man's Mind"

    Source: New York Times, Week In Review Desk (

    Published: Sunday, December 26, 1999

    Treating mental illness is not one of society's big priorities, and public policy in the field often gets made in strange, circuitous ways. Last June the president held the first White House conference on mental illness; this month, Dr. David Satcher released the first surgeon general's report on the subject.

    But it is the states that are responsible for funding and treatment. And in New York, which has the nation's largest mental health budget, recent policy changes come courtesy not of the president nor the surgeon general, but thanks to one violent schizophrenic man, Andrew Goldstein.

    When the president and surgeon general discuss mental health policy, they sound cautious. They are not looking to commit new federal money to a problem that has been the states' burden for 150 years. The surgeon general's key conclusions -- that one in five Americans suffer some mental illness and that stigma is a main obstacle to seeking care -- have been common knowledge for years.

    But when Mr. Goldstein pushed Kendra Webdale to her death on the subway tracks last January, it set loose fear and outrage among the public and forced state politicians to take action.

    Public policy ginned up in the heat of battle is often a mixed blessing. Something gets done, though it may not have anything to do with the crisis at hand. In the Goldstein case, some changes -- $215 million budgeted for more supervised housing, more case managers and more beds for long-term state hospital care -- fit the facts of the case. Other changes -- like the passage of tougher legislation to force resistant mentally ill people to comply with treatment -- may or may not be a good idea, but had little to do with Mr. Goldstein.

    From the early news accounts of the murder it appeared that Mr. Goldstein had repeatedly been offered mental health services, but had refused treatment and medication. So the solution to preventing future Andrew Goldsteins seemed to be an aggressive new commitment law -- ''Kendra's Law'' -- and both the Republican governor and Democratic attorney general quickly drafted legislation.

    Then an article in The New York Times in May examining Mr. Goldstein's psychiatric record revealed a whole new set of facts. Mr. Goldstein had frequently and voluntarily sought long-term and short-term hospitalization, as well as supervised housing programs, but was repeatedly rejected because there were no vacancies in a system short of beds, programs and money. (Bold type added by National Stigma Clearinghouse.)

    Whether tougher commitment laws even make a difference in getting dangerous people off the streets is a hard public policy question that has divided experts for years. In a mental health system with scarce resources, to make room for an Andrew Goldstein do you wind up pushing out into the street someone else who is equally troubled? In 1995, in an effort to assess whether New York needed to change its laws, the state financed a three-year pilot program at Bellevue Hospital with tougher commitment rules aimed at the resistant mentally ill.

    The results of that study, completed a month before the murder of Ms. Webdale, were inconclusive. Recently-released documents make it clear that the same Bellevue pilot program had two chances to get Mr. Goldstein off the streets but let him go. By sheer coincidence, he had visited the emergency room at Bellevue twice during the pilot program. And even though this was the period when he was regularly attacking strangers -- 13 in two years' -- the psychiatrists did not enroll him in the program. Each time, after a few days at Bellevue, he was released to live on his own, unsupervised. A tougher commitment standard had made no difference for the real Andrew Goldstein.

    In the end, the facts did not matter. Certain personal tragedies so unnerve the public -- the death of a Megan Kanka in New Jersey, the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado -- that it becomes almost impossible for politicians not to act, and in a legislative instant new laws get made to register sex offenders, to expand gun control, to commit more mental patients. On Aug. 27, Gov. George E. Pataki signed Kendra's Law.

    That was just the beginning. By last summer the newly disclosed facts of the Goldstein case justified what mental health advocates had been arguing for years: a lack of state spending was crippling the system. To cut costs, the state had set quotas for reducing the patient population at every public hospital in New York, making it extremely difficult to get long-term care. Mr. Goldstein was a perfect example.

    In 1992, after assaulting three staff members at a mental health crisis program, he was hospitalized for eight months at Creedmoor state hospital in Queens. But when he attacked 13 people in 1997 and 1998, his psychiatrists could not get him into a state hospital for long-term care. Instead, he was admitted to short-term hospitals, and usually discharged within three weeks.

    The low point came in June 1998 -- six months before he killed Ms. Webdale. Mr. Goldstein was admitted to Brookdale, a short-term hospital, after he struck a woman on a subway car. On his third day at Brookdale, he attacked four hospital workers. Two weeks later he struck a nurse's assistant. The Brookdale psychiatrists applied to have Mr. Goldstein transferred for long-term care at Creedmoor. But the hospital put him on a waiting list, a common stalling tactic used at the time. Within days he was back on the streets.

    During the fall, Mr. Goldstein's trial kept public interest high and encouraged the news media to seek changes in state policy. In a rarity, The Times, The Daily News and The Post agreed in editorials on the need to put a moratorium on the reduction of state hospital beds, to finance more community housing programs and to support Kendra's law. And Governor Pataki listened.
    For a while the shark attack effect prevailed: if a mentally ill person committed a violent act it was perceived as part of a pattern -- another Goldstein -- and received prime news coverage.

    But there are dangers when journalists instantly try to cast news events in a public policy context. Last month, for example, New Yorkers were riveted by accounts of the search for a mentally ill homeless man who attacked a woman with a brick in midtown Manhattan. It seemed like another tragic failure of the mental health system -- another Goldstein! -- until the police arrested a career crook with a drug habit who was neither homeless nor mentally ill.

    Copyright 2005  The New York Times Company

    Reprinted using FAIR USE standard


    (Item 4) Governor George E. Pataki's Press Release

    March 7, 2005


    Report Documents the Success of Individuals Receiving Assisted Outpatient Treatment

    Governor George E. Pataki today introduced legislation to make New York's Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) law permanent. The measure, known as Kendra's Law, was first enacted in 1999 and is currently scheduled to sunset on June 30, 2005. It is named in memory of Kendra Webdale, who tragically died after being pushed in front of a subway train by a man with a history of mental illness and hospitalizations. Since being enacted Kendra's Law has successfully provided specialized services to more than 6,600 New Yorkers with mental illness.

    "For the past five years, Kendra's Law has provided New Yorkers with mental illness access to the treatment they need in an effective manner that ensures their safety, as well as that of the public," Governor Pataki said.

    "The vast majority of these individuals are already leading productive and fulfilling lives in their communities, but the results are clear -- Kendra's Law works. That's why I am proposing that this extremely successful program be made permanent."

    Kendra's Law established a process for identifying individuals with mental illness who, in view of their treatment history and circumstances, are likely to have difficulty living safely in the community without supervision.

    A five-year evaluation of the program was released last week by the Office of Mental Health (OMH) and has shown the program to be a resounding success. The use of mental health services by the population now being served by AOT has gone up by 89 percent over what was utilized prior to the implementation of the program.

    Patricia Webdale, Kendra's mother, said, "The Assisted Outpatient Treatment program is having positive results, and I would like to commend OMH for a job well done. On a personal note, it brought tears to my eyes to see Kendra's name on the AOT report's cover. When we began this journey five years ago, my husband Ralph and I were hopeful that we could do something that would help just one person. We are very pleased to see that this program has helped so many."

    Sharon E. Carpinello, R.N., Ph.D., OMH Commissioner, said, "Thanks to Governor Pataki's leadership, we have seen improved access to mental health services, improved coordination of service planning, enhanced accountability, and improved collaboration between the mental health and court systems. But when summarizing the results of AOT, it is most important to note the positive impact the program is having on the people who have successfully used it. Individuals with mental illness who participate in AOT are able to make and maintain real gains in their recovery -- the data tells us that, and so do the recipients."

    Kendra's Law has created a procedure for obtaining court orders for certain individuals to receive outpatient treatment for mental illness. It also ensures that local mental health systems give these individuals priority access to case management and other services necessary to ensure safe and successful community living.

    In addition to assisted outpatient treatment, Kendra's Law also addresses the need to ensure that mentally ill people who are moving from hospitals or correctional facilities to the community receive necessary psychiatric medications without interruption. Fully funded in the Governor's Executive Budget, the law's statewide medication grant program enables counties to provide people who are discharged from psychiatric hospitals, state prisons or county jails with psychiatric medication they may need while they are applying for Medicaid.

    In addition, the law clarifies and authorizes the sharing of necessary clinical information of patients with mental illness between psychiatric hospitals as well as between psychiatric hospitals and general hospital emergency rooms. This sharing of information helps to provide clinicians with accurate clinical histories, resulting in better diagnoses and treatment.

    The five year report that was recently released reviews the impact and outcomes of various elements of the AOT program from its initial implementation in November 1999 through December 2004. During that time, 10,078 individuals were referred for AOT assessment. Of those, 3,766 individuals received services under an AOT court order, and an additional 2,863 received service enhancements without a court order.

    AOT participants show a significantly increased participation in case management, substance abuse, and other treatment services; increased adherence to prescribed medication; improvements in social and family functioning; and improvements in community living. They also demonstrate a reduction of harmful behaviors, including reduced incidence of hospitalization, homelessness, arrest and

    The Report on the Status of Assisted Outpatient Treatment is available on the OMH website,


  • February 20, 2005 - News of the Week


    Those of us who secretly wish the name "Looney Tunes" would wind up in the discard bin alongside "Stepin' Fetchit" are suddenly facing a much bigger problem.

    This fall, Warner Bros. plans to launch a new Saturday morning cartoon series called "LOONATICS." WB will "update" six favorite Looney Tunes characters, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck,Tasmanian Devil, Lola Bunny, Road Runner, and Wile E. Coyote by turning them into superhero action figures with new names, mean features, and a new toughness.

    It is uncertain how the public will react to the changes, some of which are described in the articles linked below.

    One thing is sure: A united mental health community will insist the name "LOONATICS" be dropped.

    (Thanks to Marcy Ashby in Florida who saw this story on CBS News and the Wall Street Journal.)

    Contact Infomation:
    David Janollari, President
    Kids' WB
    4000 Warner Blvd.
    Burbank, CA 91522
    Tel: 818-954-6000

    Sander Schwatz, President
    WB Animation
    15301 Ventura Blvd.
    Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
    Tel: 818-977-8700


    Article: "Bugs Bunny gets an extreme makeover," Associated Press, Feb. 17, 2005

    Article: "WB seeks revitalized cartoon franchise with new look for Bugs Bunny and friends," by Brook Barnes, The Wall Street Journal /, Feb. 20, 2005

    February 13, 2005 - News of the Week


    Source: Medscape, January 20, 2005,

    Expert Interview: Daniel B. Fisher, MD, PhD, Discusses Empowerment Model of Recovery From Severe Mental Illness
    Registration (free) needed

    Medscape Editor's Note:
    What is an empowerment model of recovery? How is it useful, perhaps invaluable, in the daily practice of psychiatry? What data support it? To get to the core of these issues, Randall White, MD, interviewed Daniel B. Fisher,MD, PhD, Executive Director of the National Empowerment Center in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

    Medscape: In your publication "Personal Assistance in Community Existence: A Recovery Guide," you write that the recovery model emphasizes that emotional distress is a temporary disruption in life. Can you elaborate?

    Dr. Fisher: Our description of mental illness is a combination of severe emotional distress and an interruption of a person's place in the community and social role -- being a worker, parent, student, a participant in overall community life -- which is not dissimilar from what is considered a mental disorder in DSM-IV. The most important finding in our research is that people who have shown significant or complete recovery from severe mental illness -- by that I mean schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or schizoaffective disorder -- have cited hope as an extraordinarily important component in their recovery. Part of the recovery was being around people who saw their condition as not permanent, a condition from which they could take increasing control of their life and reestablish a place in society.

    Medscape: You also write, "It is much more difficult to recover once a person is labeled mentally ill." How have you found that to be true?

    Dr. Fisher: If people don't have the internal capacity, and the severity of their distress is too overwhelming, and they don't have the finances, the education, the social surroundings, and family to help them, they end up with the label of mental illness. The severity becomes greater because, in addition to having to recover from the severe distress that interrupted their capacity, they also have to recover from the role of being mentally ill.

    The biggest example of that is Social Security; another is the loss of rights and the trauma that often occur in being hospitalized. For many people, it's very traumatic being hospitalized.

    Medscape: Can you talk some more about Social Security?

    Dr. Fisher: If you don't have the resources, or if the duration of distress lasts too great a time, a person needs to be on Social Security. I've been on the psychiatrist's side of that and I know that, unless someone is able to get a job that pays up to $16 per hour and has full benefits, it's very hard to duplicate the benefits. I've worked with legislators on the Ticket to Work legislation to try to correct some of the shortcomings of Social Security, one of the biggest being you're either on it or off it. Once you have been on it, there's great fear of going off it because you might not get back on.

    Medscape: Your publications make reference to the difference in outcome of schizophrenia in less-developed societies compared with industrialized societies. What does the research indicate?

    Dr. Fisher: The evidence is from two studies by the World Health Organization (WHO), one in 1979 and the second in 1992, comparing the recovery rate, mostly from schizophrenia, in developing countries with the recovery rate in industrialized countries. In 1979, WHO had about 1800 cases validated by Western diagnostic criteria in developing counties matched with controls from industrialized countries, and they found that the recovery rate was roughly twice as high in the developing countries compared with the industrialized. They were so surprised by this that they said, "Well, this must be a big mistake." So they repeated the study in 1992, and they got the same results.

    Medscape: How do you interpret this and what are the implications for us as psychiatrists in industrialized societies?

    Dr. Fisher: The implications are profound. It shows that schizophrenia is more pronounced and prolonged in industrialized countries. I've started to gather information from developing countries about how they approach treatment and healing. They have a completely opposite approach from Western countries. They're very socially oriented, and they instinctively recognize the importance of keeping people connected to the community. We have ceremonies of segregation and isolation, which is really what our labeling and our hospitalization process is. They have ceremonies of reintegration and connection.

    Medscape: Can you contrast the medical model with your empowerment model in the approach to psychosis?

    Dr. Fisher: The first contrast is that we say to the people going through the experience that this is not a permanent condition and that other people have recovered. We try to expose them to people who have recovered and who can be role models. When I'm working with people who are undergoing psychosis or long-term severe mental illness, I share some of my own experience with them and how I too at times heard voices and had the television talk to me.

    The second part is that we help them understand that these symptoms are expressions of distress over their lack of a connection on a deep emotional level to the people around them, that they involve loss and trauma and interruption in social development. We go through with them a set of 10 principles of recovery that we have established through our research, which is the qualitative study of people who have shown complete recovery from severe mental illness, mostly schizophrenia.

    Through this model we emphasize the reestablishment of personal connections.

    It's often peers who are the most significant guides for recovery. This is because, if you've been through the experience yourself, you're often able to connect with another person in a verbal and especially a nonverbal fashion that is hard for people to do who have not been through the same experience. That connection is vital to people's recovery.

    Medscape: This reminds me of the recovery model of addiction.

    Dr. Fisher: We certainly see some similarities to the addiction field. In the addiction field, a person's first-hand experience with addiction is valued; whereas in the mental health field, it's only now starting to be valued. Until fairly recently it was something you didn't talk about.

    Part of the recovery is society's recovery from placing so much discrimination and stigma on the person who's been labeled with mental illness. It's hard to recruit peers as long as the stigma is so great; people don't want to step back into the system.

    I went through this. It was hard for me to disclose. I waited until after my residency, but this is the major resource for the empowerment model -- finding and training people who have shown significant recovery, who can come back and help other people and train other providers, too.

    Groups are an important modality in this model because they enable people to share their experiences and see that they're not alone. I do a weekly recovery group at a day program, and what I try to do is put into lay terms what's been learned over the last 50 years about what helps people psychologically in their recovery. In psychoanalysis they've developed a lot of understanding; Carl Rogers did some very good work, as did Harry Stack Sullivan. So in some ways, the empowerment model of recovery is drawing on earlier knowledge of working with people interpersonally rather than exclusively medically.

    Medscape: What is the role of medication in your model?

    Dr. Fisher: Ideally we would like to see settings provided -- Soteria House you may have heard of -- where people can go when they need more intensive social supports. We expect that if there were more of these settings, there would not be as much need for medication. The need for medication I tend to see as a failure of the person's world and their own internal resources to sustain emotional equilibrium sufficiently to remain in consensual reality, and I don't know whether it's one or another neurotransmitter, but clearly when people are feeling very frightened or confused, it's hard for them to be reached by another person.

    During those times I do prescribe medication and say, "This is to help you to gain control of yourself and your life. Hopefully, you won't have to take it for a lifetime."

    I think it's very important that people hear that it's to be used as a tool.

    I always point everything toward how can you learn to be with other people, to make friends, to get a job, to go back to school, and to perform adequate self-care. Because if you don't, and I'm afraid I see this a lot of times the way medication is used today, people start to believe that the medication will solve their problems, and that's a kind of magical thinking.

    And it takes away responsibility, motivation, initiative.

    I think that ultimately psychiatrists need to hear
    that a recovery approach is going to assist them in their practice. We're often asked, "Doesn't an empowerment approach increase risk? If people make their own decisions, doesn't that increase the risk involved in practicing psychiatry?"

    Medscape: You mean medicolegal risk?

    Dr. Fisher: Yes, medicolegal risk, and the position that I take in my own practice is that the recovery approach is really a risk-reduction approach, because the biggest risk is a rupture of communication between the person receiving services and the person providing. Most lawsuits are the result of bad feelings and poor communication much more than bad outcomes; furthermore, if people lose communication with their caregiver, they're not going to say when they are not taking medication, that they're feeling suicidal, or that they're thinking about hurting somebody.

    Medscape: You write that psychotic symptoms may persist after recovery but "those are no longer symptoms of mental illness." How so?

    Dr. Fisher: I'll give you an example from my own life. I've developed, for instance, ways of talking myself through frightening periods in ways that normalize them to me. I might, at times, if I'm driving along and see a police car, think, "I wonder if they're following me." Then I'll just think it through -- "Why would they be following me?"

    Medscape: What you're describing is cognitive therapy.

    Dr. Fisher: Yes, it is in a way, but it's actually what I think people who are not labeled mentally ill instinctively know how to do. We all are confronted at various times in our life with potentially psychotic thoughts. It's just unavoidable.

    If you're in a new situation and you're uncertain about things, and you can't quite identify the people around you, you can have a misperception. But the difference between misperception and delusion is how you think about it.

    Medscape: Would you say that this kind of cognitive-therapy approach is a part of your model?

    Dr. Fisher: It is, actually. In fact, part 2 of our PACE [Personal Assistance through Community Existence] program is a cognitive model. We've taken 10 of the major principles of recovery and framed them within a cognitive-behavioral approach.

    For instance, a misapprehension might initially be, "I have a permanent condition and I'll never recover from it." Having another person around you who can help you understand through their life that other people have been through it and you're not alone plays a huge role in shifting that misperception to a new understanding.

    Medscape: Can you briefly describe your personal journey to doing the work that you're doing?

    Dr. Fisher: It's a very significant part of my reason for becoming a psychiatrist -- wanting to bring to the field what I wish had been there when I was going through my psychosis. I very clearly remember thinking, during my second hospitalization, "If the people who are talking to me had only been where I am right now, they'd know the way to communicate with me so that I would feel once again part of the world around me." I also hoped there'd be a way to be helped short of having to be involuntarily hospitalized, which I went through 3 times.

    In my second hospitalization, I decided that I would become a psychiatrist and try to change the way mental health is provided. I was lucky -- I was able to find a psychiatrist who was able to provide me with many of the principles we find have worked in recovery. He believed in me. When I told him, several months after coming out of the hospital the second time with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, that I wanted to go to medical school and become a psychiatrist, he said he would be at my medical school graduation. And about 7 years later, he was there.

    My life's work is here at the National Empowerment Center, which I helped start 13 years ago, and that resulted in my being a member of the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. I think I played a significant role in getting "recovery" into the national lexicon by my role there. I see my role as a bridge between the consumer movement and the rest of the mental health system. Through my credibility in both worlds, I've been able to help each world understand the other.

    Daniel B. Fisher, MD, PhD, Executive Director, National Empowerment Center, Lawrence, Massachusetts,; psychiatrist, Riverside Community Mental Health, Wakefield, Massachusetts

    Source: Posting of Mental Health E-News, a service of the New York Ass'n of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS).

    February 6, 2005 - News of the Week


    (Item 1) Thoughts on Torture as Entertainment

    Is it too far-fetched to suggest a similarity between a straitjacketed teddy bear and a rise in television torture scenes?

    Torture on television entertainment shows has been escalating since 9/11, says critic Clive Thompson, who cites horrifying examples to illustrate his point. Thompson writes, "The shows are unusually good at capturing the dark sensuality of torture: the Cartesian horror of being trapped in a vulnerable body, the sub-dom relationship of the torturer and his victim. Thompson says that small-screen torture mirrors the rise of torture as a government policy in the real world "Cruel Intentions," New York magazine, 2/7/05).

    The Vermont Teddy Bear Company insists that its straitjacketed Valentine bear is a gift for men to give their sweethearts, an expression of love "that will make her nuts" about them. But restraints cause pain, are sometimes lethal, and are especially deadly to children.

    Thompson says a new trend in torture entertainment is putting more good guys in tormenter roles. "Most often in these shows it's the villains being villainous, but regularly -- and more interestingly -- it's the good guys in the tormenter's seat," he wrote. By good guys Thompson means operatives trying to force information out of suspects. Here again we are reminded of the straitjacketed teddy bear, where the good guy "tormenter" is a thoughtful lover.

    Thompson concludes on an optimistic note, suggesting that shocking depictions of good-guy brutality could stimulate a serious moral debate about real world policies.

    Similarly, the straitjacketed bear controversy could inspire a closer look at what straitjackets represent.


    Article: "Cruel Intentions: TV torture scenes are ugly, powerful, exploitative -- and a mirror of our national debate," by Clive Thompson, New York magazine, February 7, 2005


    (Item 2) ACLU Exposes Brutal Prison Conditions

    ACLU: Indiana Prison Conditions Lead to Suicide, Self-Mutilation
    (Reprinted below under Fair Use guidelines)

    By Ken Kusmer Associated Press Writer, Indiana Star February 3, 2005

    INDIANAPOLIS -- The isolation and other conditions found in one of the state's most restrictive prison units have led four mentally ill inmates to kill themselves and others to self-mutilation, the American Civil Liberties Union claimed in a federal lawsuit Thursday.

    Conditions within the Secured Housing Unit of western Indiana's Wabash Valley Correctional Facility have caused prisoners to hallucinate, rip chunks of flesh from their bodies, rub human excrement on themselves and attempt suicide, sometimes with success, the ACLU charged.

    The unit in Carlisle houses up to 288 prisoners in solitary, windowless cells, and one-half to two-thirds of them are mentally ill, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Terre Haute.

    The complaint seeks a ban on the state placing mentally ill prisoners in the unit and class action status to represent all mentally ill prisoners assigned to the unit at the prison about 30 miles south of Terre Haute. It does not seek monetary damages.

    "Locking up prisoners with mental illness in small, windowless cells is psychological torture," said Ken Falk, legal director of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU's state affiliate. "Confinement for lengthy periods of time in 24-hour isolation would compromise even a healthy person's sanity."

    The Indiana Department of Correction does not comment on pending litigation, spokesman Randy Koester said.

    Conditions at the unit have attracted negative attention before. Human Rights Watch, a U.S.-based human rights monitoring organization, issued a 1997 report condemning conditions there, saying, "In some cases the suffering that results is so great that the treatment must be condemned as torture."

    Inmates are incarcerated in cells about 7 feet by 12 feet, each with a concrete bed and plastic mattress, a metal shelf, a fixed table and stool, and a combination sink and toilet. Many choose to remain locked in their cells 24 hours per day because they have no group recreation. Books, letters, photographs and other personal items are restricted.

    The Department of Correction created the Secured Housing Unit to shock its most troublesome inmates into conforming, Falk said.

    "The problem with that is, if you're mentally ill and not able to conform your behavior, you will never leave the SHU," Falk said.
    Four mentally ill inmates in the unit have committed suicide since 2000, the lawsuit alleges. One hanged himself, another set himself on fire, a third cut his wrists and throat, and the fourth swallowed a cloth and choked to death.

    David C. Fathi, an attorney with the ACLU's National Prison Project, said it has successfully challenged the incarceration of mentally ill inmates in so-called "supermax," or super maximum security, units in Wisconsin and Connecticut. The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to consider a case from Ohio in which the ACLU and another civil rights group challenged the denial to inmates of opportunities to prove they did not belong in that state's supermax.

    "This is one area where the courts have really spoken with one voice: To put people with mental illness in these facilities is unconstitutional," Fathi said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C.

    The case is the second in two weeks in which the ICLU has gone to federal court to force the Indiana prison system to alleviate what it considers oppressive inmate conditions.

    A lawsuit filed Jan. 24 alleges the department subjected more than 400 inmates at the Pendleton Correctional Facility northeast of Indianapolis to conditions unfit for dogs. It said inmates were held two per cell for nearly five months during a lockdown last year in which they could leave the 12-by-8-foot spaces for only three shower periods a week. (Copyright, AP 2005)

    Source:  Indianapolis Star

    Forwarded by NYAPRS

    January 28, 2005 - News of the Week


    Mary Jo Codey, wife of New Jersey's Acting Gov. Richard J. Codey, recently disclosed her experience with post-partum depression, a condition that affects 10-15 percent of new mothers and their families. The most severe form of the illness presents symptoms of psychosis.

    On Monday, Jan. 24, New Jersey talk show host Craig Carton ridiculed women "who claim they suffer from this post-partum depression" and suggested that they "have a joint and relax...." (Quote is from AP report.)

    Station policy at NJ101.5 presumably permits and even encourages Carton to show his contempt for women, people with mental health needs, and the acting governor. But Carton has given potentially lethal advice to depressed new mothers. Is this allowed at NJ 101.5?

    Since the 1980's, marijuana has been shown to cause psychosis in susceptible individuals. A report issued last week again cites evidence connecting marijuana use with rising rates of depression, psychosis, and schizophrenia.

    Caton's remark endangers lives and warrants, at the very least, censure, an apology, and a retraction by the NJ101.5 station manager, Eric Johnson.

    Contact New Jersey radio station NJ101.5 :

    Please note: links may be time-limited

    "Doctors link marijuana to mental illness," by Big News, Tues. Jan. 18, 2005.

    "Acting N.J. gov threatens to 'take out' talk-show host," by Associated Press, Wed. Jan 26, 2005. (NSC is trying to fix)

    "Mary Jo Codey, the First Lady of NJ, brings attention to postpartum depression," Virtual Health, Feb. 17, 2004.

    "Codey's confrontation with radio host benefiting both," by Jeff Linkous, Newsday, Jan. 27, 2005.

    January 21, 2005 - News of the Week


    CLICK HERE for an excellent recap, commentary, correspondence, and links to press coverage of the VERMONT TEDDY BEAR story, by Morgan W. Brown, a mental health advocate in Vermont.

    We've been unable to find current information about the use of straitjackets. For the first time, Google failed us: most of their links sent us to S&M sites.

    Nevertheless, the National Stigma Clearinghouse files show decades of abuse and public indifference, an indifference now demonstrated by the Vermont Teddy Bear Company (scroll down for contact information).

    In 1991, Newsday (Long Island, NY) exposed a shocking record of death by restraint in New York. Their investigation, described in a series of articles by Kathleen Kerr, was followed by a 2-year investigation by the state's office of mental health. In 1994, new guidelines for use of restraints were issued "amid growing pressure from advocacy groups made up of former patients." (Quote from NY Times)

    In 1998, Eric M. Weiss of the Hartford Courant reported that between 50 and 150 deaths by restraint occur every year across the country. Weiss was referring to an unprecedented study of restraint statistics commissioned by the Hartford Courant and conducted by a research specialist at the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis.

    The study's findings brought calls for nationwide reform in 1998 led by the congressional delegation from Connecticut. At that time, the article reported, "The federal government does not collect data on how many patients are killed by a procedure that is used every day in psychiatric and mental retardation facillities across the country. Neither do state regulators, academics, or accreditation agencies."

    The researchers found that in the 114 cases where ages could be confirmed, children accounted for more than 26 percent of the deaths.

    Did the federal government ever act? If you know, please let us know. Email


    Article: "Mental Patients' Deaths Probed," by Eric M. Weiss Hartford Courant, October 11, 1998.

    Article: "Proposal Urges an End to Straitjacket Use," by Lisa W. Foderaro, New York Times, July 27, 1994.

    Series of articles: "Death By Restraint," by Kathleen Kerr, New York Newsday, December 15, 16, 17, 1991.



    Elizabeth Robert, CEO
    Vermont Teddy Bear Company
    6655 Shelburne Road
    Shelburne, VT 05482

    Toll-free comment line:
    Tel: 1-888-502-1715 (for bear comments)

    Other contact info:
    Fax: 1-802-985-1304 (administrative)
    Fax: 1-802-985-1382 (customer service)
    Email: (Nicole L'Huillier, Public Relations Manager)

    January 16 - News of the Week


    Mental Health Advocates Not Amused by Straitjacketed Teddy Bear
    CLICK HERE for an excellent recap, commentary, and links to press coverage of the VERMONT TEDDY BEAR story, by Morgan Brown, a mental health advocate in Vermont.

    Why do straitjackets, a symbol of force and humiliation, appeal to advertisers and product marketers? We can't answer that question, but the National Stigma Clearinghouse archive shows straitjackets have been used as a marketing tool for many years.

    This week, a coalition of mental health advocates in Vermont confronted the Vermont Teddy Bear Company of Shelburne with strong objections to the company's new "Crazy for You Bear."

    Designed as a Valentine's Day gift, the nationally-sold bear has the following description: "Dressed in a white straight jacket embroidered with a red heart, this Bear is a great gift for someone you're crazy about. He even comes with a "Commitment Report" stating, "Can't Eat, Can't Sleep, My Heart's Racing. Diagnosis: "Crazy for you! Trust us! She'll go nuts over this Bear!"

    Although straitjackets are now in limited use after causing suffering and death for decades, the lingering image is intensely painful. While some people laugh at a straitjacket, a mere picture of one will reduce others to tears.

    What seems apparent from this episode?

    1) The people who sell the bear are either unaware of, or indifferent to the harm that can result from the commercial exploitation of an illness or disability.

    2) The marketers are unaware of, or indifferent to the possible consequences of ridiculing a group protected by Human Rights Law.

    3) Straitjackets reinforce the public's existing misconceptions about the dangerousness of people with mental illnesses. From an antistigma point of view, the bear promotes inaccurate information.

    4) Unlike other powerful symbols of oppression (a lynching noose for example), the general public accepts the use of straitjackets to market merchandise.

    The "Crazy for You" bear is sold nationally on the company's website,

    For details and links concerning the "Crazy For You Bear" controversy, CLICK HERE . Morgan Brown, a key Vermont advocate, has posted an excellent recap with links to relevant materials on his website. Please note that press coverage links may be limited to one week after the article's publication date.

    Further information is available on the Internet. Enter a search for Vermont Teddy Bear Company.

    We urge advocates nationwide to send their comments to the Vermont Teddy Bear Company.

    Contact Information:

    Elizabeth Robert, President
    Vermont Teddy Bear Company
    6655 Shelburne Road
    Shelburne, VT 05482
    Phone: 1-800-988-8277
    Fax: 1-802-985-1382

    Toll-free Bear comments:

    E-mail: (Nicole L'Huillier, Public Relations Manager)

    January 9, 2005 - News of the Week


    It is too soon to praise or pan "Committed," NBC's new comedy series that favors characters with vulnerabilities and disabilities.

    Advance publicity raised our concerns about whether the show's "screwball" "nutty" soulmates might be just another excuse to ridicule psychiatric illnesses.

    So it is reassuring that one TV critic (Philadelphia Inquirer) has decribed the show as "a warmhearted surprise about an adorably mismatched couple bound by that rarest of TV commodities, love." Other reviewers were less enthusiastic.

    The mismatched couple are Marnie, an effervescent, pretty, free-spirited eccentric; and Nate, a brilliant, good-hearted mathematician who struggles with obsessive fears and phobias. An array of supporting characters in the first two episodes have disabilities and eccentricities of various kinds. You're not mistaken if this lineup sounds a bit like "Seinfeld," "The Drew Carey Show" and the like.

    A good sign: "Committed's" writers may have an aversion to mental illness stereotypes. The first two episodes broke every existing mold for TV portrayals of mental illnesses by giving the characters warmth, intelligence, friends, affectionate relationships, good looks, and senses of humor. The few slurs I heard were friendly jibes between soulmates, not putdowns from outsiders.

    What's in store for this series? From an antistigma point of view, the groundwork is laid for a much more human view of mental illnesses than we usually see. Once the audience likes the characters, the show's options for plot development present exciting possibilities.

    If you're a TV watcher: Please try "Committed" and let us know what you think. E-mail

    (Caution: if you're over 40, the frenetic pace and overdone laugh track may become wearing.)

    Check local listings


    **Also See NYTimes article (scroll down) or Click Here, subscription (free) needed

    First article:
    MSNBC News and News Services
    Court overturns Andrea Yates'
    conviction for drowning children

    Defense said prosecution witness presented false testimony during March 2002 trial

    BY NBC's Pete Williams and news wires

    HOUSTON - An appeals court on Thursday overturned the capital murder convictions of Andrea Yates, ruling that a prosecution witness gave false testimony that may have influenced the jury that convicted her in the drowning deaths of three of her five children.

    In appealing her conviction before a three-judge panel of the 1st Court of Appeals, Yates' attorneys argued that a prosecution witness, psychiatrist Park Deitz, presented false testimony during her March 2002 trial when he said he had consulted on an episode of the NBC television show "Law and Order" in which a woman drowned her children and later was acquitted by reason of insanity. (MSNBC is a joint venture of NBC and Microsoft)

    Prosecutors used the testimony to suggest that Yates, who sometimes watched the program, had seen the show and used the plot to plan the murders of her kids by drowning them in the tub of the family's home.

    Jurors learned after Yates was convicted that the episode never existed.

    "We conclude that there is a reasonable likelihood that Dr. Dietz's false testimony could have affected the judgment of the jury," the court ruled on Thursday. "We further conclude that Dr. Dietz's false testimony affected the substantial rights of appellant."

    Yates attorney Troy McKinney argued on Tuesday that Dietz's testimony was "dynamite," according to the Houston Chronicle.

    "It's what turned this case around. It was such a bombshell. Clearly, the jury needed to know that what Dr. Dietz said was false," the newspaper quoted McKinney as saying.

    The defense argued during Yates's trial that the 40-year-old woman, who was under psychiatric care for post-partum depression at the time of the killings, was insane at the time she committed the crimes.

    Jurors in 2002 sentenced Yates to life in prison in the 2001 deaths of three of her children. She was not tried in the deaths of the other two.

    Click here for Appeals Court ruling

    End of MSNBC report

    A note from Jean Arnold, Anti-Stigma Home Page:
    Andrea Yates was facing a likely death penalty when sheer happenstance brought Dr. Deitz's false testimony to the court's attention. To learn who blew the whistle and triggered Yates' last-minute reprieve in 2002, Click here.

    Click here for 5 source articles concerning Andrea Yates case.


    NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE January 7, 2005
    New Trial for a Mother Who Drowned 5 Children

    Andrea Yates, the Texas woman convicted of drowning her children in a bathtub, was granted a new trial by an appeals court in Houston yesterday. The court ruled that a prosecution expert's false testimony about the television program "Law & Order" required a retrial.

    Ms. Yates, who had received diagnoses of postpartum depression and psychosis, confessed to the police in 2001 that she had drowned her five children, ages 6 months to 7 years. A Houston jury convicted her of murder the next year for three of the drownings, rejecting her insanity defense. The case ignited a national debate about mental illness, postpartum depression and the legal definition of insanity.

    Yesterday's ruling was narrow and novel. It turned on testimony by Dr. Park Dietz, a psychiatrist who was the prosecution's sole mental health expert. Dr. Dietz testified that Ms. Yates was psychotic at the time of the murders but knew right from wrong. The latter conclusion meant that she was not insane under Texas' unusually narrow definition of legal insanity.

    On cross-examination, Dr. Dietz was asked about his work as a consultant on "Law & Order," a program Ms. Yates, the appeals court said, "was known to watch." He was asked whether any of the episodes he had worked on concerned "postpartum depression or women's mental health."

    "As a matter of fact," he answered, "there was a show of a woman with postpartum depression who drowned her children in the bathtub and was found insane, and it was aired shortly before the crime occurred."

    That statement was false: There was no such episode. The falsehood was discovered after the jury convicted Ms. Yates.

    Dr. Dietz, who did not respond to several messages seeking comment yesterday, said at the time that his testimony had been based on a mistaken recollection.

    The trial court denied a defense request for a mistrial, but the jury was told about the false testimony during the sentencing hearing. The jury rejected the death penalty and sentenced Ms. Yates to life in prison.

    Yesterday, the Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas ruled that the motion for a mistrial should have been granted.

    "The state used Dr. Dietz's false testimony to suggest to the jury that appellant patterned her actions after that 'Law & Order' episode," the decision said. "We conclude that there is a reasonable likelihood that Dr. Dietz's false testimony could have affected the judgment of the jury."

    Dr. Dietz did not explain the supposed significance of the "Law & Order" episode at the trial. But prosecutors returned to the subject in a separate cross-examination and in closing arguments, suggesting that she had copied the program in a way that implied lucid planning and premeditation.

    Dr. Lucy Puryear, a psychiatric expert for the defense, was questioned about the nonexistent episode. In an interview yesterday, Dr. Puryear said the questions to her conveyed a powerful impression to jurors.

    "Had she seen that show and gotten ideas from it," she said, "it would say that she had the ability to think in an abstract way and come up with a plan. That would mean she could tell the difference between right and wrong."

    The appeals court said that there was no evidence that prosecutors had knowingly offered or discussed false testimony.

    Joseph Owmby, one of the prosecutors, said his office would ask the three-judge panel to reconsider. If that fails, he said, prosecutors will ask the entire appeals court and then the state's highest court for criminal matters, its Court of Criminal Appeals, to reverse the panel's decision.

    "It wasn't material," Mr. Owmby said, meaning that Dr. Dietz's testimony about "Law & Order" was not a significant factor in the jury's decisions. "It didn't affect her fair and just trial rights at the trial level."

    He said no decision had been made about whether to retry Ms. Yates should the appeals fail.

    At a televised news conference yesterday, George Parnham, one of Ms. Yates's lawyers, said she was not seeking an immediate release from prison. Ms. Yates "was surprised and not unpleased" by the decision, Mr. Parnham said. "She understands what's happening."

    Deborah W. Denno, a law professor at Fordham University who has studied and written extensively about the Yates case, was critical of other aspects of Dr. Dietz's testimony, too. He testified, for instance, that Ms. Yates's delusions that her thoughts were coming from Satan indicated that she must have known they were wrong.

    "He interpreted everything she did as evidence of premeditation and intention," Professor Denno said. "He is a hired gun in the worst sense."

    In an interview with The New York Times a month after Ms. Yates was convicted, Dr. Dietz said he had found the case troubling.

    "It would have been the easier course of action," he said of his own testimony, "to distort the law a little, ignore the evidence a little and pretend that she didn't know what she did was wrong."

    Edward Wyatt contributed reporting for this article.
    End of New York Times article

    A note from Jean Arnold, Anti-Stigma Home Page:
    Andrea Yates was facing a likely death penalty when sheer happenstance brought Dr. Deitz's false testimony to the court's attention. To learn who blew the whistle and triggered Yates' last-minute reprieve in 2002, Click here.

    Click here for 5 source articles concerning the Andrea Yates case.

    Click here for Lichtenstein Creative Media's award-winning program "Beyond the Baby Blues."

    Click here for information about LC Media and its acclaimed radio series, "The Infinite Mind."


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