Sunday, 22 July 2018



What's Going on at SAMHSA (And Why You Should Care)

On Friday, April 21st, Trump’s nominee for the 'Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use in the Department of Health and Human Services' was announced: Elinore McCance-Katz. The position McCance-Katz would be filling is a new one, created by the version of Tim Murphy’s ‘Helping Families in Crisis’ act (also known as the ‘Murphy Bill’) that got slipped in and approved with the ‘21st Century Cures’ act a few months back. This position would essentially put her in charge of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration known more commonly as ‘SAMHSA’. 
Some of her stated priorities include:
  • Increase the number of inpatient psychiatric beds
  • Reconfigure health privacy laws to give families access to information about individuals deemed 'severely mentally ill'
  • Reevaluate federal funding for suicide hotlines and peer support
McCance-Katz, who previously served as the Chief Medical Officer at SAMHSA, has spoken out openly in favor of measures like <b>Involuntary Outpatient Commitment</b> (also known as ‘Assisted Outpatient Treatment’ or AOT, basically boiling down to force, including forced drugging that can even occur in people’s own homes). 
She has also opposed many criticisms of psychiatric drugs, even in the face of a growing scientific body of evidence that their efficacy (and potentially damaging effects) are well worth being questioned.  She even comes with the strong recommendation of DJ Jaffee, founder of  mentalillnesspolicy.org and enemy to all things peer-support-related. 
Interestingly, Murphy has spoken out against</I> McCance-Katz’s nomination. And, as much as we’d like to agree with Murphy that she’s not ‘the one’, Murphy only has even more damaging recommendations waiting in the wings. Fortunately, the Western Mass RLC is not funded through SAMHSA or federal funds, but it does appear that dark times loom ahead for SAMHSA, and it’s likely to trickle down to us one way or another. 
Involuntary Outpatient Commitment in Massachusetts? Reduction of access to peer supports  (or threats to the integrity of these important roles)? Budget cuts for some of the country's most innovative efforts?All of it could be headed our way.
Stay tuned for more updates as this all develops, and check out this blog by David Oaks for more details while you wait: Trump Appoints Leader Who Campaigned for Involuntary Outpatient Drugging

Western Mass Peer Network Awards Banquet


On Friday, May 12, 2017 the Western Mass Peer Network hosted its second awards banquet recognizing the power of peer rolesmonique (and those behind them) in the region. This year’s banquet welcomed over 100 people, including Representative John Velis (Westfield), and Representative Susannah Whipps (Franklin County), as well as Jon Gould on behalf of Senator Adam Hind’s office.

The event’s host was Monique Flynn, who works in a peer role at Mental Health Association in Springfield. Monique also received the ‘Change Agent’ award!

To kick off the banquet, Darby Penney joined us from New York State to offer a keynote entitled ‘Nothing About Us Without Us: Leading From Experience, Resisting Co-Optation.’ Some of her closing recommendations to providers aiming to support peer roles included:

▪ Learn about movement history and valuesdarby
▪ Make good-faith efforts to change attitudes
▪ Ensure people with psychiatric histories are at the table right from the beginning and in meaningful roles
▪ Value their contributions financially
▪ And take them seriously!

Directly following Darby’s talk, Monique kicked off the awards portion of the event. Award winners included:

Innovation Award: Jeannie Bass (Tewksbury State Hospital) and Caroline White (Western Mass RLC) 
Exceptional Volunteerism Award: Maria Santiago (Western Mass RLC)
Social Justice Award: Michaelann Bewsee (Arise for Social Justice)
Ally Award: Nancy Murphy (Disability Law Center)
Change Agent Award: Monique Flynn (Mental Health Association)
Living the Values Award: Erin Levesque (Western Mass RLC)
Hero Award: Martha Barbone (Transformation Center)
Turntable Award: Susan Sprung (Department of Mental Health)

Thank you to all of the event sponsors: The Western Mass RLC, the Carson Center, the Behavioral Health Network, Clinical & Support Options, and the Brien Center!

wmpn pics 2



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  • The Murphy Bills and Beyond

    In June of 2015, Representative Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania re-introduced the "Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act" (HR 2646), better known as the Murphy Bill.  A month later, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut introduced a very similar bill in the Senate called the "Mental Health Reform Act of 2015" (S2680).  Both pieces of legislation threatened to dramatically increase the use of force and dismantle many of the more progressive and healing alternatives that have been developed in recent years. As of November 2016 the fate of both bills remained uncertain.

    Meanwhile, another piece of legislation called 21st Century Cures was in development and garnering increasing bipartisan support. A sweeping and expansive healthcare bill, 21st Century Cures was, initially, minimally focused on mental health provisions. Having been stalled in part due to resistance from Senate Democrats' concerns that the bill was dangerously empowering for the pharmaceutical industry, 21st Century Cures also faced an uncertain fate in November. However, the election of President Trump and consequent fears for the bill’s fate prompted a reworking of the bill that also included the absorption of many aspects of HR 2646, “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis.”

    21st Century Cures was passed by the House and Senate on November 30th and December 7th of last year, respectively. On December 13, 21st Century Cures (now including substantial portions drawn directly from HR 2646, "Helping Familties in Mental Health Crisis") was signed into law by President Obama. 



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