Mental Health Summit in Washington, D.C.


MH Summit in DC
Bill Emmet, Linda Stalters, and Pete Earley

SARDAA Executive Director Linda Stalters, MSN, attended the Connect4Health Mental Health Summit in Washington D.C. on November 19, 2013. National leaders discussed initiatives and laws to benefit individuals with serious mental illness, caregivers, friends, loved ones and public at large. Patrick Kennedy and Gordon Smith are working hard to support the laws, and it has bipartisan support.

Pete Earley, amazing author and journalist, was the MH Summit moderator

William Emmett, Program Director, The Kennedy Forum

Other points:

It’s important to educate local leaders by telling them that early collaboration and comprehensive treatment results in measurable cost savings and improved safety.

We must learn what is effective and cut programs that don’t help. For instance, day treatment might not be as effective as employment.

Judges are actually more effective in getting changes implemented than mental health organizations.

The USA is the leader in mental health advocacy, but how do we influence other countries to increase their advocacy?

Pete Earley talked about how his family was embarrassed when he wrote a book and disclosed that they had mental illness in their family. His book didn’t break out beyond the mental health community.

Question: How can we partner outside of the mental health community to influence the community at large?



Discovery of First Genetic Protective Factor for Schizophrenia

While scientists sift through human DNA to find genes that increase risk for psychiatric illnesses, they occasionally run across something that seems to protect a person from these illnesses. Just this kind of protective effect for schizophrenia has been reported in a study published November 12th in Molecular Psychiatry.

….Future research will have to zero in on which gene or genes in particular, but the new finding holds promise for the development of new ways to treat schizophrenia as well as offers clues about enhancing resilience among those who are generally thought to be at elevated risk of developing the illness.

–Brain and Behavior Research Foundation

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Earliest Marker for Autism Found in Young Infants

Eye contact during early infancy may be a key to early identification of autism, according to a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health. Published this week in the journal Nature, the study reveals the earliest sign of developing autism ever observed—a steady decline in attention to others’ eyes within the first two to six months of life.

“Autism isn’t usually diagnosed until after age 2, when delays in a child’s social behavior and language skills become apparent. This study shows that children exhibit clear signs of autism at a much younger age,” said Thomas R. Insel, M.D., director of NIMH. “The sooner we are able to identify early markers for autism, the more effective our treatment interventions can be.”

Typically developing children begin to focus on human faces within the first few hours of life, and they learn to pick up social cues by paying special attention to other people’s eyes. Children with autism, however, do not exhibit this sort of interest in eye-looking. In fact, a lack of eye contact is one of the diagnostic features of the disorder.

–National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

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FDA Declined Approval of New Antipsychotic Drug

U.S. health regulators have declined to approve a new antipsychotic drug, cariprazine (for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder), from Forest Laboratories and Richter. They cited the need for more information, including likely additional clinical trial data.

….In its letter the FDA acknowledged that cariprazine demonstrated effectiveness but the two companies said on Thursday it appeared regulators wanted more tests on the optimal dose of the treatment to avoid potential side effects.

“This is likely to cause a delay … (but) we cannot tell how much; we will be able to tell after consultations with the FDA,” said Richter spokeswoman Zsuzsa Beke.


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We Aren’t Done When We Are Born–Early Identification of Psychosis Should Be Priority

The effort to identify psychosis in its early developmental stages is not different from prevention strategies in other areas of medicine, noting that much clinical cardiology now involves strategies aimed at reducing stress, increasing exercise, and promoting better diet and other behavioral changes designed to reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease in individuals at risk.

“It’s no different for psychosis,” she said. “When someone presents with a risk, we cannot send them away until they meet DSM criteria for schizophrenia. So we share a common goal with medicine regarding any other disorder—namely, that we would like to prevent the consequences of a serious and complex disorder through early identification and intervention.”

But she acknowledged obstacles and challenges that are unique to psychosis. Principal among these is the stigma associated with psychiatric illness. Also, the complexity of the brain and of psychosis is uniquely daunting.

by Mark Moran, Psychiatric News

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P4C : Time = Lives

by Thomas Insel, Director of National Institute of Mental Health

Last week I attended the Partners for Cure (P4C) meeting in New York. This is an annual meetup for an odd mix of academic scientists, advocacy groups, venture capitalists, social entrepreneurs, and biotech-pharma folks. In contrast to typical scientific meetings, which explore the “what” and the “how” of research, P4C is mostly about the “who” and the “when.” Specifically, who will deliver new cures and how do we speed up this process? The meeting was sponsored by a group called Faster Cures and driven by advocates, many fighting a fatal disease. Throughout the two-day meeting, they reminded scientists that “time = lives.”

But the theme that intrigued me was not the burning question of “when” but the disruptive question of “who.” For many of the P4C attendees, the traditional model of NIH funding to academic scientists followed by industry funding of translation to new treatments is not working. One participant described science that has not helped patients as “science fair projects.” Others disparaged a culture that focuses on papers rather than products. Noting that academic scientists are responsible for teaching, clinical care, and writing grants, many asked whether the academic engine for research is powered to go as fast and far as patients need. And for many the incentives of science in academia seemed disconnected from the growing unmet needs of patients. Success in academia is measured in number of papers, grant funding, and promotion to tenure. Success for patients means treatments and cures that offer a healthy, long life. As just one example, scientists have few incentives and some disincentives to share data or resources. For patients, progress may depend on the rapid sharing of information and crowd sourcing of tough problems.

What made the P4C meeting so inspiring was the chance to witness some of the new models that are changing our assumptions about “who” will deliver new cures. There were sessions on experiments in collaboration or crowd sourcing or new tools for a range of needs including cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and serious mental illness. In fact, after four previous meetings, this was the first that included a session on serious mental illness. But aside from the disease focus, the message was that when nonprofits and companies and academia and government agencies work together, good things can happen.

Some of the most innovative experiments are being developed by disease advocacy groups:

In the Michael J. Fox Foundation’s Parkinson’s Data Challenge, researchers competed to develop the best way to benefit patients and clinicians by collecting objective, passive data on a large scale. (Passive data is generated as an incidental product of everyday activities, such as using a cell phone.) The winner, chosen from 630 entries by teams in 21 countries, was a mobile phone app that analyzed changes in voice quality to detect onset and progression of Parkinson’s disease.

The Pooled Resource Open-Access ALS Clinical Trials (PRO-ACT), a joint project of academia, pharma, and nonprofits, amassed more than 8,600 de-identified subject records from 18 clinical trials on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis treatment into a single, harmonized dataset that is now being mined by scientists from more than 30 countries.

The Project Data Sphere Initiative is a big data initiative led by the Life Sciences Consortium, a task force of the CEO Roundtable on Cancer. The Initiative provides access to the data from the control arms of Phase III clinical trials. This dataset, based on records from thousands of patients, accelerates research by providing detailed information about the progression of various tumors.

A new company, Curious, is driving a patient-centric research movement by helping disease foundations develop platforms for data sharing and open access.

There were remarkable stories from a new generation of entrepreneurs. Halle Tecco, co-founder of Rock Health, talked about why she left Apple to begin a company investing in mobile apps for health. Jessica Richman, co-founder of uBiome, showed how the world’s largest crowd-funded citizen-science startup established a unique microbiome map for science. Josh Sommer, diagnosed with chordoma while an undergraduate at Duke, has built the Chordoma Foundation to unify and accelerate global research on this rare disease.

What became clear at P4C was that the “who” question is being answered in very creative ways. Using registries and sensors and crowd sourcing, patients are becoming drivers not just passengers on the research bus. The traditional model of government-funded research in academia followed by industry research to develop marketed treatments is being replaced by collaborations between nonprofits, academic scientists, and biotech with a goal of delivering treatments more quickly for more people. Science has become global, slowed only by the rate of data sharing and access. Because time = lives, we need to go faster. Thankfully, there is a new generation with some fresh ideas.

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Number Of Homeless Declines Again, But Gains Aren’t Universal

The number of homeless people in the U.S. shrank from 2012 to 2013, according to a large government study that found the number of veterans and others who are homeless declined for the third straight year. But homeless numbers rose in New York and other states, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The study also found that nearly 20 percent of homeless people were in either New York City (11 percent of the U.S. total) or Los Angeles (9 percent).

….The HUD report saw continued progress from recent efforts to help two groups: military veterans and people who are chronically homeless.

….The advocacy group National Alliance to End Homelessness says that many small groups deserve some credit, as well.

“Communities across the country are to be commended,” the organization said in its reaction to today’s HUD release. “Federal funding sources dedicated to homelessness have not increased appreciably, with the exception of dollars targeted specifically toward veterans. Instead, it is local providers and local communities implementing effective strategies and targeting resources more efficiently.”

According to HUD, the pairing of housing with support programs that provide aid in dealing with mental illness, substance abuse and other issues “not only ends homelessness for these vulnerable individuals, but also saves the taxpayer money by interrupting a costly cycle of emergency room visits, detoxes, and even jail terms.”

by Bill Chappell, NPR

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A Son’s Death Reveals Chasms In Emergency Mental Health Care

Parents who have a child struggling with serious mental illness live in fear that the worst will happen.

The apparent suicide of a young man in Virginia after he allegedly attacked his father, a state senator, shows how difficult it can be for families to get help in the midst of a mental health crisis.

The recession brought deep cuts in states’ spending on mental health. The reductions made it harder for people to get help before they’re in crisis, mental health advocates say, and even harder to find a hospital bed in an emergency.

In the best of situations, crisis care is “like a labyrinth,” says Ron Honberg, policy director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Arlington, Va.

On Tuesday, police were called to a home in rural Bath County, Va., after 24-year-old Austin “Gus” Deeds allegedly stabbed his father, state Sen. Creigh Deeds.

They found Gus Deeds dying of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His father was admitted to a hospital with stab wounds and is in good condition.

By Rae Ellen Bichell, NPR

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An Influx of Inmates with Mental Illness in Oregon

Of the fourteen thousand inmates in Oregon’s prisons, 4,672 needed mental health treatment in a one-month period – a number that has risen 17% in the last five years, according to data from the state Corrections Department (“Third of Ore. inmates have mental health issues,” the San Francisco Gate, Nov. 11).

jail_barbedwireIt should come as no surprise to anyone that a third of inmates in the state have some sort of mental health issue. Oregon has roughly 18 psychiatric beds per 100,000 people, which is only 39% of the recommended number of beds. One of the consequences of not providing adequate long term care is that people suffering from mental illness are much more likely to end up in the criminal justice system.

In addition to not having enough psychiatric beds, only 38% the state’s population is served by crisis intervention team (CIT) policing and 54% of the population is served by mental health courts, according to our study “Prevalence of Mental Health Diversion Practices: A Survey of the States.”

Everyone talks about the inhumanity of criminalizing people with serious mental illness, but we will continue to see an influx of incarcerated mentally ill people until states make better use of their civil commitment laws and adopt policies to provide treatment to people who need it before they end up being warehoused in our jails and prisons.

–Treatment Advocacy Center

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How To Find A Good Mental Health Counselor

Many people have a difficult time finding an effective mental health counselor. Just like everything in life, you have your good counselors and you have your not so great counselors. The key is to find one that will help you solve your current mental health problems. If you do not know what you are looking for or where to start, then here are a few ideas on how to find a good mental health counselor:

1. Talk To Your Doctor Or Primary Care Physician

–Your medical or family doctor is a great resource for finding a good counselor. Explain your problems to your doctor and he or she can point you in the right direction in seeking the proper help.

2. Go To Your Local Hospital

–Your local hospital is another source you can use to find a good counselor. A hospital is also a good place to find many different mental health programs in your area. Hospitals know a lot of good counselors and programs in your area and they can lead you in the right direction.

3. Ask Your Friends And Relatives

–Use your network of friends and relatives to see if any of them know of any good counselors in your area. This can be effective if it does not bother you that other people know that you are seeking a counselor. Many churches and nonprofit mental health agencies have a variety of mental health programs and asking the people who run these programs could also lead you in the right direction.
When looking for a counselor or mental health program, always ask for someone who has a good reputation. Remember that finding a counselor to help you depends on how you interact with the counselor and how they interact with you. It may take a couple of times to find the right person, but do not give up. Finding a good counselor will pay off for you in the long run, so be persistent in finding the right person for you.
Remember that the key components of having an effective mental health counselor are affordability, the ability to effectively talk to your counselor, and most importantly, having a counselor who can help find the answers to your current problems. If you do not see any improvement in your mental health condition after a couple of months of working with your counselor, you may want to find someone else. The main point of talking to a counselor is to help manage your mental health issues and to get better.

Stan Popovich is the author of “A Layman’s Guide to Managing Fear Using Psychology, Christianity and Non Resistant Methods.” For additional information go to: