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Speak Out to Break the Silence: President Trump Appoints Mental Health Leader Who Campaigned for Involuntary Outpatient Drugging

Posted by on April 24, 2017 in Activism, Alternatives, Commentary, Environment, Legislature, Mental Health, Peer Support | 6 comments

By David W. Oaks

Dr. Ellie McCance-Katz, appointed by President Trump to a important mental health position.

I am a survivor of human rights violations in the mental health system. And even though this was a long time ago, back when I was a college student in the 1970’s, the issues are more relevant than ever. My friend, Patch Adams, MD, has connected the dots for me: Our society needs to be very agile right now, but has to overcome centuries of mental health oppression. But with compassion, we can have a global nonviolent revolution! 

Recent events show that mental health human rights violations are important for everyone. MindFreedom International was my employer for 25 years before my accident in 2012. They are an independent, activist group, and we need that energy as never before. 

The White House announced this past Friday, 21 April 2017, in the evening, that President Donald Trump has, for a pivotal mental health position, appointed a psychiatrist who openly speaks out for involuntary psychiatric drugging of people living outside of institutions, even in their own homes. This appointee criticizes our social change movement, especially our dedication to empowering peer support and our concerns about psychiatric drugs and labeling. It is important for everyone who supports human rights, especially in the social change movements for disability rights and those critical of mass incarceration, to speak up and oppose this approach.

Please phone your U.S. Senators to block this confirmation. This is a chance to raise these issues, now!

This “Assisted Outpatient Treatment” (as supporters call it) or “Involuntary Outpatient Commitment” (as it is known by many) has been quietly growing on the State level for decades, but is now being funded on the federal level, such as through the enormous 21st Century Cures Act that was passed by Congress at the end of last year. Whatever it is called — AOT or IOC — under these laws judges may order folks to have mental health care, which could be a range of approaches. In my experience, staffing a human rights phone and getting hundreds of contacts for decades, “mental healthcare” for the “seriously mentally ill” almost always includes psychiatric drugging, often with neuroleptics, or “antipsychotic medications” as prescribers often call this family of pharmaceuticals.

Neuroleptic drugs began in the 1950’s with such brands as Thorazine, Stelazine, Haldol, Mellaril, etc., all of which I have had. I personally experienced involuntary neuroleptic injections more than 40 years ago as a college student at Harvard. About five times I was placed in a psychiatric institution for emotional difficulties, and twice I experienced the sharp end of a needle, when in solitary confinement I was held down on the bare mattress and got forced drugging in my butt. I graduated anyway, in 1977, and our class is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

Now neuroleptics have dozens of more brands, but many of the hazards and risks are the same. For instance, in the long run there is the danger that many people can experience involuntary twitching that can apparently often be permanent. There is also the long term risk of brain damage and even death. Some folks choose these medications, but others do not. I choose to not take them, and I have not for these past four decades.

Takes One to Know One

President Trump has appointed Dr. Ellie McCance-Katz for a high-level position created by the 21st Century Cures Act. Dr. McCance-Katz would become the first Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse (SAMHSA) inside the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

In an essay published last year by the Psychiatric Times, Dr. McCance-Katz was highly critical of SAMHSA, especially its sub-agency Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), headed by Paolo Delvecchio, who has long-identified himself as an individual who has used psychiatric treatment. Many mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors know Paolo because of his work in this field for decades.

In her essay in Psychiatric Times, Dr. McCance-Katz:

  • Endorses federal funding of AOT (or IOC).
  • Criticizes SAMHSA for allegedly being critical of psychiatric drugs.
  • Challenges the support for “recovery” in mental health, a term used by many consumer/survivors as a rallying point for hope and empowerment.
  •  Calls for mental health care, which appears to be led by psychiatric drugs, for more than three million Americans.

Are You One of the Many Targeted? 

Dr. McCance-Katz wrote in the essay: “It is estimated that 10 million Americans (4.2%) are living with serious mental illness. However, only 68.5% of the most severely mentally ill will receive any type of mental health services.”

I wonder how many of these three million Americans would refuse psychiatric drugs? Of those who would refuse, I wonder how many this psychiatrist would like to see drugged against their will?

This professor challenges the great interest in using peer support as a humane, empowering alternative priority. She writes, “Workforce issues focus in large part on the development of a ‘peer workforce.’ This ideology purports that one can become a mental health professional by virtue of having a mental illness. Peer support can be an important resource for some, but it is not the answer to the treatment needs of the seriously mentally ill.”

There are only a few, small groups that focus on involuntary psychiatric drugging, such as the Treatment Advocacy Center. The topic actually divides a lot of folks, since the average American in my experience does not like the idea of the government forcing citizens to have involuntary psychiatric drugs, once the value of empowering alternatives are explained. IOC can even for a small group include involuntary outpatient court-ordered electroshock, or electro-convulsive therapy (ECT). For example, search the web for the names Ray Sandford and Elizabeth Ellis, with the word electroshock. These two Minnesotans who received such horrible involuntary procedures, but MindFreedom put out human rights alerts that stopped the series of electroshocks.

In my decades of work in the field of human rights and mental health, I have been impressed with the way concern about this issue crosses political lines. Yes, support for this field has often been among those who would be seen as on the left. However, some of the most effective organizing about psychiatric over-drugging of children has been done by activists that would be seen as on the right.

I have seen both the Libertarian Party and the Green Party both pass planks in their platform, years ago, expressing support for some of our goals. Today we are often seeing critics question the sanity of the President of the United States because of his support of untrue beliefs, such as his denial of climate crisis and his many years of championing the odd belief that President Obama was born in Africa.

Well, it takes one to know one, and I am also a White Aging Crazy Citizen (WACC). Actually, what I have found in my work is that 100% of all people struggle about their mental wellness, it is a universal challenge. The distinction is between negative, bigoted craziness and positive, constructive, creative craziness. In fact, I would argue that the new PC is Positively Crazy.

Perhaps at this time, we need a Positively Crazy dedication to the First Amendment, which not only includes free speech, but according to the US Supreme Court, the right to think unusual thoughts, even irrationally. There are more compassionate, effective, sustainable ways to help troubled people. Let us all break the silence about human rights violations in mental healthcare, including IOC. Centuries of abuse in this industry have helped silence the population on many outrages, including the threat of climate chaos.

We need a nonviolent revolution throughout our society, in mental healthcare, in energy, in so many ways. There is no guarantee of results, but at least we can speak up about freedom!

End

Below, for the very interested, you will find an essay I have just submitted to be published in the Harvard Alumni Association publication that comes out every five years. In my essay, I appreciate that a Harvard volunteer group first placed me as an intern working for human rights in mental health. Unfortunately, the nonviolent revolution we have long called for in mental health has not quite happened yet. However, perhaps now this topic may get more attention. 

My Essay to Harvard Alumni Association for My 40th Reunion

Mental health. Activism. Community organizing. Human rights. Disability. Nonviolent revolution! Thank you, Phillips Brooks House Association, for placing me as an intern in my senior year as a community organizer of people in the mental health system, because the above passions became my career. The incredible riches I have gained from working with some of the most powerless in our society are invaluable. After 25 years as Executive Director of the human rights nonprofit MindFreedom International, I had an extreme accident and broke my neck, and I now use a power chair. While it would be impossible to be totally prepared for this, my work in the disability movement managed to teach me a few principles. For example, I apply lessons from Martin Luther King, Jr.: What is my creative maladjustment?

Reflecting back on Harvard, the most memorable and influential class for me was about comparative religion. It would be fun to be in touch with any of you reading this. You can find me easily by directing your search engine to this phrase: david w oaks blog. When I summarized my passions above, I included “nonviolent revolution.” Yes, for decades I have raised this as a real choice. Now, with the climate chaos looming, I feel nonviolent revolution is an option we might want to choose. Scientists have estimated that the lag for carbon-induced impact is about 40 years. In other words, the pollution during our years at Harvard is only now changing the climate. I am very concerned that during the next lag, many more feedback effects can be triggered. For the current moment and for seven generations in the future, we truly need a nonviolent revolution. I estimate seven generations would extend to about the year 2192. May there be a healthy graduating class that year! The Butterfly Effect gives us a good chance, uncertain, but a good chance. Perhaps it is up to you?

It is important to create a dialogue to address the values we need today for excellent care. Therefore, I am copying the commentary that I very much disagree with. You may read the essay by the Trump appointee from Psychiatric Times below:

The Federal Government Ignores the Treatment Needs of Americans With Serious Mental Illness

By Dr. Ellie McCance-Katz

There she was again—a middle-aged woman, disheveled, crouching in the doorway of a closed store, grasping a notebook and pencil and scribbling. Intermittently, her eyes darted around and she would mumble, then go back to her notebook. Her eyes never met mine, but I wondered why she was not getting help with what was clearly a severe mental illness. I would see her in that same doorway several times a week for a couple of years before I left Berkeley, California, to become the first Chief Medical Officer of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In doing so, I hoped to help people living in the grips of cruel disorders that affect one’s thinking, one’s reasoning, one’s ability to relate, and one’s ability to even understand that one suffers from a disorder that can be treated.

It is estimated that 10 million Americans (4.2%) are living with serious mental illness. However, only 68.5% of the most severely mentally ill will receive any type of mental health services. Whether those services are necessary and appropriate is not known. People with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and other severe mental illnesses often complicated by substance misuse need effective, safe, evidence-based treatments as well as community resources where their clinical service needs can be met. The federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is composed of numerous agencies that address the health care needs of Americans, but only one agency within HHS is charged with addressing the needs of those with serious mental illness and that is SAMHSA.

SAMHSA is a small federal agency with a budget of roughly $3.7 billion per year; much of that is in the form of block grants to states that are the arbiters of how the funds will be spent in support of the treatment of substance use and mental disorders. SAMHSA does, however, have the ability to focus on areas and issues that would improve the lot of individuals affected by severe mental illness. Unfortunately, SAMHSA does not address the treatment needs of the most vulnerable in our society. Rather, the unit within SAMHSA charged with addressing these disorders, the Center for Mental Health Services, chooses to focus on its own definition of “recovery,” which generally ignores the treatment of mental disorders, and, as a major initiative under “recovery” services, focuses on the development of a “peer workforce.”

There is a perceptible hostility toward psychiatric medicine: a resistance to addressing the treatment needs of those with serious mental illness and a questioning by some at SAMHSA as to whether mental disorders even exist—for example, is psychosis just a “different way of thinking for some experiencing stress?”

SAMHSA’s approach includes a focus on activities that don’t directly assist those who have serious mental illness. These include programs such as Mental Health First Aid, which seeks to teach people about the warning signs of mental illness in an attempt to provide support to those who are experiencing symptoms. Significant dollars are spent on hot lines for callers who may be experiencing suicidal thinking or who know someone who may be—yet suicide rates continue to climb in the US. SAMHSA supports integrated care programs that would bring some aspects of primary care to mental health services programs—worthy programs, but which do not address the treatment of serious mental illness. Programs that undertake the “re-education” of mental health practitioners who are assumed to be abusers of “consumer” rights and who dictate treatment to patients have been funded in the Recovery to Practice initiative.

Workforce issues focus in large part on the development of a “peer workforce.” This ideology purports that one can become a mental health professional by virtue of having a mental illness. Peer support can be an important resource for some, but it is not the answer to the treatment needs of the seriously mentally ill.

Lost in all of this are the real and pressing treatment needs of some of the most vulnerable in our society—those living with serious mental illness. Nowhere in SAMHSA’s stra­tegic initiatives is psychiatric treatment of mental illness a priority. The occasional vague reference to treatment is no substitute for the urgent need for programs that address these issues.

What’s needed?

What is needed is an agency soul-searching and a re-prioritization that places the treatment of serious mental disorders at the very top of the list of agency goals. SAMHSA needs leadership that acknowledges the importance of addressing serious mental illness. Initiatives that provide funding for new approaches to engaging the seriously mentally ill; for assisted outpatient treatment with enriched psychosocial services; and for additional psychiatric hospital beds, particularly for longer-term care given the severe shortage of such resources in the US, should be at the top of SAMHSA’s agenda.

Clinical education programs that address current, evidence-based treatment for serious mental illness, and new funding for the training of mental health professionals, including psychiatrists, advanced practice psychiatric nurses, and psychologists, should be a major focus. SAMHSA should develop closer ties with the National Institute of Mental Health, which is helping us to better understand the neurobiological underpinnings of mental illness every day. The real hope, change and ability to recover from these disorders, lies in their effective treatment. To ignore this is to leave a large segment of some of the most seriously ill in our society abandoned—indeed, discriminated against by the very agency charged with serving them.

What can be done to change the current course? Stakeholder groups that seek to ensure psychiatric treatment for all who need it should band together and exert pressure on SAMHSA, on political administrations, and on congressional representatives to address the needs of the seriously mentally ill. Skilled behavioral health providers with patient care experience—psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counselors—should consider committing a period of service to SAMHSA and to other federal agencies to inform policy decisions related to substance use and mental disorders. This is especially important because too many in the government have education in behavioral health fields but have never worked with patients, or if they have, it was many years in the past. Being inside the Beltway also imbues an artificial perspective that may be informed by lobbyists if at all. This does not serve the American people.

Time for change

I left SAMHSA after 2 years. It became increasingly uncomfortable to be associated with an agency that, for the most part, refused to support evidence-based psychiatric treatment of mental disorders. It was also quite clear that the psychiatric perspective I brought—inclusive of assessment, diagnosis of mental disorders, utilization of evidence-based treatments, including psychotropic medication and psychosocial interventions as integral components of recovery—was a poor fit for the agency. SAMHSA needs a complete review and overhaul of its current mission, leadership, and funded programs. Congress should quickly address this through legislative mandate.

For too long the treatment needs of the seriously mentally ill have been ignored by SAMHSA, and this needs to change. In doing so, perhaps people like the woman in the doorway will be able to move out of the shadows to live full and productive lives in our communities.

Patch Adams: Love, Earth & Revolution Now!

Posted by on April 19, 2017 in Activism, Environment, Mental Health, Peer Support | 4 comments

My Chat with Patch Adams on Nonviolent Revolution

David Oaks and Patch Adams discuss global revolution and nose picking at 2015 Oregon Country Fair.David Oaks and Patch Adams discuss global revolution and nose picking at 2015 Oregon Country Fair.David Oaks and Patch Adams discuss global revolution and nose picking at 2015 Oregon Country Fair.David Oaks and Patch Adams discuss global revolution and nose picking at 2015 Oregon Country Fair.David Oaks and Patch Adams discuss global revolution and nose picking at 2015 Oregon Country Fair.David Oaks and Patch Adams discuss global revolution and nose picking at 2015 Oregon Country Fair.David Oaks and Patch Adams discuss global revolution and nose picking at 2015 Oregon Country Fair.David Oaks and Patch Adams discuss global revolution and nose picking at 2015 Oregon Country Fair.David Oaks and Patch Adams discuss global revolution and nose picking at 2015 Oregon Country Fair.David Oaks and Patch Adams discuss global revolution and nose picking at 2015 Oregon Country Fair.David Oaks and Patch Adams discuss global revolution and nose picking at 2015 Oregon Country Fair.

David Oaks and Patch Adams discuss global revolution and nose picking at a recent Oregon Country Fair.

Last week I talked with my friend Patch Adams, MD, the hero in the movie by that name. Patch is a peaceful revolutionary in many ways, especially on the topic of medicine. Our chat turned into an interview.

Your comments here on this blog are invited. Do you support revolution? What kind?

Every time I talk with Patch I learn a bit more about nonviolent revolution, from the very first time I worked with him in 1992 when he spoke at a MindFreedom International (MFI) event.

Over the years, especially at the huge unique gathering each July, Oregon Country Fair, I have heard many stories from Patch.

For example: When Patch was a teen he would hear some people around him use the n-word in a racist way.

Patch developed this creative response: “I would scream because I was bothered by it. I was 16, 17, 18. The bullies would beat me up after school. If I screamed every time they said the word, they would eventually stop. They didn’t always stop on the first go.”

Patch reports that his creative disorder worked fairly well, and the use of the n-word around him abated a great deal. I wondered a few years ago if this same approach would work for another n-word: Normal? I tried this with my employees: We howl whenever we hear the word “normal,” and this funny method has worked.

As a tribute, we are launching this call and response as a game that I call “Howl4.” This game is very simple. When anyone says the word “normal,” you respond by howling! To paraphrase and build on a poem by Allen Ginsberg, “I have seen some of the best minds of my generation destroyed by normality.”

Last week I asked Patch about applying his innovation to the word “normal.” Our game, Howl4, might catch on. The other day I made a video about this call and response. What did Patch think of this game? Patch replied, “I would of course know nothing about ‘normal.’

Patch said that he first came up with the idea about fighting racism by making a noise because he needed a peaceful,  creative way to respond to bigotry. He told me, “It’s just an encouragement to not be silent. I chose never to take violence as one of my options, so all I have is performance. ”

Patch on What he Would do to Help Save the Planet: Revolution!

“I want women in charge of everything.” I certainly would agree with Patch. I learn from my brilliant wife and about half-a-dozen wonderful female employees, as well as many female friends and relatives almost every day! (I also learn from my three male employees, who are also superb.)

Does Patch want a revolution? Of course. He said:

“How do I feel about it? I live it! Nonviolent revolution!” Patch said that nonviolence is very important to him.

“Most revolutions in history were nonviolent. I made a commitment as a teenager to never do physical violence, not even to defend my family. I just know my father died from war as a soldier and I just am not going to do it.” Yes, this is a complex topic, and I, like most people, am not a pacifist, but I find this philosophy fascinating. Plus I certainly want to try nonviolent revolution!

Patch told me, “Everyone has to make their own decision. I’m not going to hurt somebody.”

I asked Patch about some hypothetical situations that are challenging for folks who choose nonviolence, for example, instances that would lead many of us to call 911, or the military.

Patch answered, “I would use creativity and find nonviolent solutions. There is very little creativity in that world, so I think there are a huge number of things: For one, you’re asking what to do in a large nationwide solution.”

Patch on President Donald Trump:

“If the president was a ‘Love President,’ there are lots of thing a Love President could do. We’d have to have access to a lot of people and a lot of media so we could have creativity to deal with horrible situations.” Patch very much opposes the bigotry we are seeing from President Trump.

“He’s an embarrassment in just about every way, and dangerous, and thoughtless, and lying. Everyone should be worried and get more proactive.”

I have many relatives that voted against President Donald Trump. I voted for another candidate. But I have a few dear relatives who told us that they did indeed vote for President Trump. This has created a few awkward moments, and I am sure many other Americans have also had such moments. Patch told us that these are extremely challenging time:

“With whatever discomfort or anger one might have for the current election process, it is not the time to face it with anger and discontent. There never has been a time when a life in radiance and love has been more important. So let your wildest and craziest love and fun infect every environment.”

Are You On the Revolution Bus?

My friend, the late and beloved Ken Kesey, liked to say:

“Are you on the bus? Or off the bus?”

Let us be on the bus, now! I am talking about the bus of revolution, global revolution.

Most people, when I ask them, support revolution.

A few others first ask, “What kind of revolution?” Good question.

I tend to say, “A quality revolution!” I do not know exactly what to name what is required, you may call it whatever you wish. Some may want a nonviolent revolution. That is OK with me. In fact, if you look up the phrase “nonviolent revolution” in Wikipedia, you will see that MindFreedom International has long been one of the groups to officially have revolution in its mission.

I blogged a few months ago about why folks should support MFI now, and you can read this here.

Let Us Have Free Minds 

And yes, I helped start MindFreedom International. Please be truthful about this, many, many folks helped start MindFreedom International. We all co-started MindFreedom. This will be a brief entry to say “Thank you, thank you, thank you! MindFreedom International community!”

For example, there is a Board of Directors of MFI. I have never been on the Board of MFI. After my neck broke about four years ago, I retired after about 25 years of having the incredible pleasure and honor of being the Executive Director. But because of severe challenges I could not continue after my accident in December 2012.

On her way to the airport for one of her many trips to her beloved Ghana, Africa a few days ago, the spectacular Celia Brown, President of the MFI Board, called me with the wonderful news that the board has decided that our Aciu Institute will be official consultants for MindFreedom International.

For those who do not know, Aciu Institute is a fairly new for-profit. “Aciu” means thank you in Lithuanian, which is my heritage. Yes, I am working with a for-profit, my first in 40 years of nonprofit work. Keep an eye on this blog and the website www.LoveEarthRevolution.com for developments.

There are millions, perhaps billions, who support nonviolent revolution, today. Let us make this “R” word more visible. There is no guarantee of success, but I know that I would feel better!

Many people, such as Patch, are thinking outside of the box, people mainstream psychiatry as tended to squash. Patch evaded a lifetime of mainstream psychiatry after his psychiatric institutionalization as a young person. Patch is a psychiatric survivor who believes that we can have good humor even when facing the difficult parts of life. The name of our for-profit was partly inspired by the name of the group Patch works with: “Gesundheit Institute.”

One can end up in an infinite loop by saying “Aciu” to someone with Patch’s group. They might respond “Gesundheit” and you might respond “Aciu.” Let me end with some humor that a super employee has given a good grade to, Grade B actually:

From Pun of the Day:

“Sir Cumference built King Arthur’s round table, and Sir Ramic Tile did the flooring.”

As I said, your feedback about this blog are welcome in the comments section below. Do you howl for revolution? How do we make this more visible?

You Are Invited to a Free Street Theatre in Eugene! Ghost Buskers 40

Posted by on March 31, 2017 in Peer Support | 1 comment

Do you live in or near Eugene, Oregon? Then you will want to enjoy our free street theater skit tomorrow, Saturday, April 1, 2017. Really!

Below is info about this, including a flyer you can download and a Facebook event page. Since the event is based on street theater in a busy location, we expect mainly an audience from passers-by. But the more the merrier, hope you can be there!

Saturday, April Fool’s Day, April 1, 2017, at 6 pm, at Kesey Square, in downtown Eugene, a little troupe of us will be doing a free street theatre skit, Ghost Buskers 40. For me, I dedicate this to my mom’s memory.

April Fool’s is my favorite fun holiday, the truly universal holiday here on our planet Earth! More info on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1747190835570892/

Or you can download this flyer: ghost-buskers-free-20170401-flyer

Here is more info, spread the word, thanks, see you there:

Free Street Theatre!

“Ghost Buskers”

April Fools Day, this Saturday, April 1, 2017

6 to 7 pm

Kesey Square, Willamette & Broadway, Eugene, Oregon

This is a peaceful creative street theatre called “Ghost Buskers.” You can just watch, or play along. Will we start a revolution and reach the year 2192, which is seven generations down the line?

The troupe includes activist David Oaks, folk singer David Rogers, performer Dale Kegley, humorist Howard Falk, activists Sue Barnhart, Clay Hurand, and Ian McTeague. And you? Play Ask-It Ball designed by Ken Kesey.

Logo by artist Isaac Paris, 2016, for International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment (IAACM)

Logo by artist Isaac Paris, 2016, for International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment (IAACM)

Sponsored by the International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment. The IAACM is dedicated to peaceful action for social and environmental justice. In this day and age that is revolutionary! Performance in memory of Violet Oaks.

www.LoveEarthRevolution.com   

Violet Oaks, Mom, Would Be 100 Years Old March 29, 2017!

Posted by on March 29, 2017 in Activism, Peer Support | 2 comments

Dear friends, relatives, and readers! 

My mother, our #1 volunteer at MindFreedom International office for a decade.

If you ever met my mother, Violet Oaks, you know that she almost always smiled. Wednesday, March 29, 2017, she would have turned 100 years old. She died just short of her 98th birthday, apparently in her sleep over at the Eugene Hotel, an active retirement center that she lived in her last decade here in Eugene, Oregon.

If you did not know my Mom, her smile may reach you somehow. At bottom is a little letter that I shared with some friends and relatives.

You will find links with bio info, still photos, and lots of videos.

I will remember Mom in many ways. For example, this Saturday, April Fool’s Day, April 1, 2017, at 6 pm, at Kesey Square, in downtown Eugene, a little troupe of us will be doing a free street theatre skit, Ghost Buskers. For me, I dedicate this to Mom’s memory. Yes, I am the fool, but Mom loved the world even though foolishness appears to be our universal holiday. For those of you in Eugene, more info on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1747190835570892/

Or you can download this flyer: ghost-buskers-free-20170401-flyer

“Mom, I hope you do not mind if I tell the world that your spirit lives through the kindness we show one another!” I will hopefully sow peace and love, now and throughout my life, or at least try. Sowing kindness was kind of a mantra for Mom.  Mom and I, like many of our relatives, have Lithuanian heritage and Chicago connections.

In her 80’s Mom left her beloved Illinois and I had the immense pleasure and honor of being close with her for about a decade. Incredibly, for the first few years she volunteered about two or three days per week, almost every week, at our MindFreedom office, where I worked as Executive Director. Mom probably touched and filed every single paper in the entire office, and she was “old school” which means she worked in a focused way from beginning to end. Even into her 90’s, Mom volunteered there about one day a week. Only in her final years did she stay at home, and even then she supported my activism for human rights and mental health.

One quick story: About the fifth time I was locked up in a psychiatric institution way back in the 1970’s, I learned from an activist from Mental Patients Liberation Front how to submit a “three day letter” which would force them to release me or go to court. The head psychiatrist phoned up Mom.

He said, “We would like to go to court to commit David.”

Mom famously replied, “If our David wants to try freedom, we support him.”

Yes, I was very troubled, but Mom knew that the inner me was far more complex than the mental health system recognized, apparently. Mom would say later, “They did not know who you were.”

Mom and the rest of our home family, Dad, brother Tony and Uncle Al, were all there to attend my graduation in a few months in 1977, 40 years ago.

Thanks Mom, for supporting freedom!

Hi everyone,
Just a note that our mom, Violet Oaks, would have turned 100 today, and I wanted to reach out and mark the occasion.
Mom of course was so very nice that any fashion of marking this occasion would be fine with her. Here are some still photos and videos to share.
Feel free to forward this, and I will post this on the GageParkOaks group on Facebook. Thanks!
There are a bunch of photos of mom in the gallery for her online memorial here: http://violet-elizabeth-oaks.forevermissed.com/
And we put a few hours of video on YouTube here:
VIOLET OAKS’ VIDEOS ON YOUTUBE (updated list):
David’s Birthday 1995 http://youtu.be/oZzvp1LiREg
David’s Birthday 1997 & 1998 http://youtu.be/a1pNUse0YYg
Mom’s Birthday 1997 http://youtu.be/NnIMeCdUXq0
Violet Oaks 2001 Oral History Part 1 http://youtu.be/7uFloB5mOqE
Violet Oaks 2001 Oral History Part 2 http://youtu.be/gfMK0guHDh4
Coast Videos Part 1 http://youtu.be/BkKbj2HA6qA
And here is a YouTube video of the grave side ceremony in Chicago, thanks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCXejV9ImYw
Love,
David​

Ruby Rogers Center in Danger of Being Defunded by Massachusetts

Posted by on February 28, 2017 in Activism, Disability, Fundraising, Mental Health, Peer Support | 7 comments

Ruby Rogers Center in Danger of Being Defunded by Massachusetts

One of the very first community centers run by and for psychiatric survivors is at risk of losing its funding from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I know about the roots of this user-run space, because as a senior at Harvard College back in the 1970’s, I was placed at Mental Patients Liberation Front as an intern by Phillips Brooks House, Harvard’s social service group.
MPLF, with the leadership of the late Judi Chamberlin, author of a book on empowered mental health centers, created the community gathering locations that eventually became the Ruby Rogers Center in Somerville, Massachusetts. Here are some of the highlights as we created the center:

  • In the mid-1970’s a handful of us in MPLF came together for weekly mutual support. We were gratified to see that Judi’s book, On Our Own, was published. We often met at the storefront of an early activist space, Vocations for Social Change, near Central Square, Cambridge.
  • For a while we created a center at Stone Soup Art and Poetry storefront in Boston, thanks to the generosity of Jack Powers, proprietor. I recall briefly meeting poet Allen Ginsberg when he visited Jack. Activist Ted Chabasinski, survivor of forced electroshock, also visited.
  • Thanks to a grant from Haymarket Fund, we established an office and community center across the street from Boston Common.
  • As a group we met with state-employees at Department of Mental Health headquarters to explain our deep concerns about human rights violations and the need for humane alternatives.
  • About at that time, 1981, I left Boston, but the MPLF members won an agreement from Massachusetts to create a community center that was eventually named after Ruby Rogers, one of the early psychiatric survivor plaintiffs in a key lawsuit against forced psychiatric drugging. I saw Ruby, a charismatic African American psychiatric survivor, who I heard spoke up while locked up in a psychiatric ward, supported by MPLF organizing and a petition by other folks who were locked up.
  • During the three decades since then I have been very delighted to hear that the Ruby Rogers Center, keeping alive the name of MPLF, has continued to do great work. You can read about the details here.

Now the center is in danger of being eliminated by DMH, even though there is a need more than ever for independent living centers run by and for people diagnosed with mental health issues. Not only are such alternatives cost effective for taxpayers, anyone may someday need to have such a welcoming place for their own well being. If not you, then perhaps a loved one may benefit.

I remember a few years ago when I was chatting with a employee of the small, activist-friendly foundation, Resist. They were unfamiliar with our movement, but I knew they were located in Somerville. I asked them if they were familiar with the Ruby Rogers Center, and it turns out that was right across the street. Perfect to illustrate how our movement was widespread but little known! We got the small grant for MindFreedom International, and I recommend other grassroots groups in our movement apply for a Resist grant.

You can read about the Ruby Rogers Center on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/rubyrogercenter/

Thanks to a Facebook post from Harry Agritha, shared by Karen Langley, that alerted me about this. Charlie Carr commented and this brought my attention to the danger, here.

I encourage all those who support the disability and prison justice movements to speak up about the importance of the Ruby Rogers Center, now! I especially call out for support from disability activists in the hundreds of independent living centers, which form the backbone of the funded disability movement in the USA today.

You are invited to join me in emailing a civil but strong message to DMH of Massachusetts via this address: dmhinfo@massmail.state.ma.us

 

My Return to Sam Bond’s: Stand-up Comedy (Or Should I Say Lean-back) This Saturday

Posted by on February 24, 2017 in Disability, Mental Health | 1 comment

You can download free one-page flier here: oaks-flier-20170225

David W. Oaks drawing by artist Isaac Paris c 2016

David W. Oaks portrait by Isaac Paris c 2016

Free!

This Saturday:

David Oaks, stand up comic

…or should we say lean back comic

One of many at Bleepin’ Funny,

Sam Bond’s, 407 Blair, Eugene, OR

Saturday, February 25, 2017, 5 pm – 7pm.

Get there early and eat, drink, and tip well!

More info at http://www.sambonds.com/

Or https://www.facebook.com/events/210853359381221/

 

Disability Movement Tips About Supporting Each Other During Crisis (Like a Trump Presidency)  

Posted by on February 17, 2017 in Disability, Environment, Mental Health | 1 comment

 

A Gold Lining: People Are Finally Using the Word, “Revolution”!

 

More Than Ever, Let Us Support MindFreedom International

 

By David W. Oaks

dw-oaks-standingchair-2016

I tried out a “standing chair” during my rehab.

Stand up now & fight back!

“Now” in Lithuanian, my heritage, is “Dabar”!

Dabar!

Last month we watched my nation’s presidential inauguration. The reality of the USA’s catastrophic election started to sink in.

Even if you voted for Donald Trump, my intuition is that your disappointment has already started, dabar.

But I notice a number of gold linings, recently:

A lot more people are starting to use the word “revolution.”

For another, as I have often hoped, the word “normality” is no longer being used much.

We must look, and keep looking, for gold linings. I draw here upon the wisdom of the disability movement, which I have been an activist in for more than four decades. I have especially been a community organizer for deep change in the mental health system.

I am a psychiatric survivor. That is, about 40 years ago, as a working class kid going to Harvard, I ended up in psychiatric institutions five times, where I experienced forced drug injections and solitary confinement. I graduated anyway, in 1977.

I helped start one of the key independent groups in the psychiatric survivor movement, MindFreedom International, and I was the Executive Director for about 25 years. The MindFreedom community, and their hard-working board, have won many campaigns for human rights in mental health care over the years. Four years ago, I fell and broke my neck, and because of complications, I had to retire from working for this superb group.

The past four years I have been doing about two dozen rehab activities, so I have been a bit isolated. But now is a good time to say “I am still alive,” and share what I have learned. My main goal in this note is to encourage everyone to give urgent support to MindFreedom International, which as we will see is going through a crisis of its own.

A Whole Lot of Falling Sure is Happening Now

Yes, Uncle Sam certainly fell down at the voting booth in November. The very same week as the election, the global climate crisis talks in Morocco fell apart. It feels as if the world is paralysed over the climate crisis.

As the author Hunter S. Thompson once said, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” With the world slowly coming to the realisation that we are all, 100%, collectively “disabled,” both physically and mentally, let’s turn to the social change movement led by people with disabilities for some tips about how to get through these trying times, and even to thrive.

Here is something you can tangibly do: Support the crucial nonprofit MindFreedom International, which has worked independently for decades to radically change the mental health system.

We wonder why the world seems to be stuck right now, well one of the reasons is that centuries of psychiatric oppression of new thinking has taken a toll. The population gets these messages: Avoid any reality that is uncomfortable, and thinking outside of the box is often punished.

Because people in the mental health system tend to be so poor, the vast majority of activities in the mental health consumer field have been government-funded: The conferences, the offices, the research.

MindFreedom has maintained its independence, and it is one of the few groups in the mental health advocacy field that receives its funding from everyday people and a few foundations who care about human rights.

While I am proud that MindFreedom International has avoided mental health system funding, I have always tried to maintain a supportive relationship with my many colleagues who work for groups that are funded by the government. But now, especially now, we need groups that are free from mental health system strings. We need groups to be activist.  

MindFreedom is a positive way to challenge this oppression. And now we must all come through for MindFreedom.

We Can All Learn From The Disability Movement

The disability movement is one of the biggest in the world, though we usually think of “disability” as being only about part of the population. Perhaps now we can realize that the disability movement encompasses every single person and their whole life, all the time. Let me explain.

It has been about four years since I fell off a ladder and broke my neck, becoming a quad in a powerchair with some additional challenges: An impaired voice. My fingers that used to type more than a hundred words a minute, and played improvisational piano music for 50 years, now cannot move independently.

For the past few years, I have been doing physical therapy, vocal exercises, and even had a surgical implant in my vocal fold. And now I am coming out of my rehab closet to encourage you to free your minds, and support MindFreedom International with your time and money.

A few days ago, I talked with my friend, the brilliant retired psychologist, Al Galves, of New Mexico. Al is MindFreedom Treasurer, and he reports: “From 2004 when I joined the Board to 2012 when David got hurt, MindFreedom received at least $65,000 a year in membership dues, donations and grants. Since David’s accident we have been limping along on less than $10,000 a year.” I guess that is a kind of compliment for me, but the bottom line is that my accident took quite a toll on MindFreedom.

“This is understandable,” said Al. He went on to say this about the difference between when I worked for MindFreedom and when I retired: “David was spending a lot of his time on membership relations and fundraising. Without a full-time, paid Executive Director we were unable to sustain that kind of income.”

I asked the MindFreedom board how we can all be supportive. Al said: “We are hoping that this appeal to our long-time members, friends and supporters will gain us enough money to rebuild our membership relations and fundraising capacity and return to our previous level of activity.”

Each one of us is called to support MindFreedom with both donations and also your time. Please help MindFreedom immediately. If you need more motivation, here are my top seven reasons why it is time to volunteer and/or donate to MFI now:

  1. Resist Forced Outpatient Psych Drugs! At about the same time as the election, less noticed was this tragedy: The US Congress fell down, too, when it voted overwhelmingly in favor of the multi-billion dollar 21st Century Cures Act. This was a huge bill, but deep down inside it included millions of federal dollars in support of outpatient coercive psychiatric drugging, from what was once called “the Murphy bill.” That’s right, the federal government will now support, with taxpayer dollars, getting a court order and forcing many Americans to take powerful psychiatric drugs against their will, while living at home out in the community. Note that this awful idea came from a “small government” politician, Tim Murphy (R-PA). We need independent, activist groups such as MindFreedom to challenge what amounts to chemical warfare. Studies show that this outpatient forced psychiatric drugging is disproportionately done to people of color. #BlackLivesMatter!
  2. Yes, USA Psychiatrists Still Do Involuntary Electroshock! By far my favorite campaigns at MindFreedom were stopping occasional instances of forced electroshock, which is electricity to the brain. Here in the USA, electroshock is usually signed for by the patient, but there is still the use of involuntary electroshock, now and again. Incredibly, sometimes forced shock is done even with a court order on an outpatient basis. For example, direct your search engine to: Ray Sandford. Every Wednesday morning, a van picked him in his group home in Minnesota for another court-ordered involuntary electroshock at a nearby hospital. Ray phoned us for help and we activated thousands and of course won. Want to unite good Republicans, Democrats, Greens and Libertarians? Fight forced shock, and all good Americans of all political persuasions are outraged. All you have to do is prove that forced shock is a reality, such as producing court papers. MindFreedom is the main group to expose and fight this atrocity, which is actually pretty common in poorer countries.
  3. Let’s Support People Who Are Resisting and Escaping Their Forced Outpatient Psych Drugs. Here is a “creative maladjustment” to the absurdity of the USA Congress approving millions for involuntary outpatient psychiatric care: Almost all USA States have these outpatient commitment laws. MindFreedom has over the years supported about a half-dozen American citizens who have pursued their own underground railroad to evade forced outpatient drugging. A weak spot in forced outpatient treatment, is that people can simply leave their region or State to escape. You may read about one of these successful escapes by directing your search engine to this phrase: gabriel hadd mindfreedom. One proponent of forced outpatient drugging knows about this vulnerability, and has even discussed his need for a federal extradition law. But at this time, there is no such law. Yet. Today, there is no known underground railroad for psychiatric survivors. The MindFreedom family supports human rights and can applaud people who create such an underground railroad for themselves, so if anyone could support such a sanctuary movement, it would be MindFreedom. There is even a great name for such a campaign: C/S/X Railroad. Let’s make this support real, by proposing this idea! (Note that I am not on the MFI board, and this is a proposal.)
  4. During a Crisis, Let’s Use Alternative Supports. MindFreedom has pointed the way to common sense, humane options other than corporate mental health. Create your small group for mutual support. At any moment we all can use creative thinking right now, the mind is free! Al Galves said this: “In 2014, 2015 and 2016 MindFreedom held ‘Creative Revolution in Mental Health’ conferences in which we advocated, promoted and supported alternatives to the medical model in mental health. These were well-attended, full of energy and inspiring to those great people who have created these alternatives.”
  5. MindFreedom is for Revolution! For many years, the MindFreedom mission statement has included a call for a “nonviolent revolution.” In fact, the Wikipedia page about “nonviolent revolution” has long included MindFreedom International as a model of a group with that goal. For example, Martin Luther King would say that the salvation of the world may lay in the hands of the “creatively maladjusted.” He repeatedly brought up this theme for more than a decade. MLK said the world was in dire need of an International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment. This IAACM was a dream of MLK that never became realized. But MindFreedom has made the IAACM real, and the physician psychiatric survivor Patch Adams is the honorary chair. The IAACM will soon launch a new project, for a preview see: http://www.LoveEarthRevolution.org Celia Brown, an African American psychiatric survivor activist, leads the hard-working board of MindFreedom. She said: “We need independent, activist and civil rights groups to challenge mass incarceration, oppressive psychiatric laws and racism that threaten the wellbeing of our people. MindFreedom encourages your voice to liberate mind, body and spirit, create non-violent alternatives and human rights for all. I’m proud to be creatively maladjusted.”
  6. This Grassroots Group Uses Every Donation Effectively! MindFreedom has a very specific and effective goal that can be reached with your donation: A new website. However, MindFreedom has many great ways to use every dollar that is donated to them. Janet Foner, long-time board member and co-founder of MFI, said “Donate to MFI to help us run our campaigns, to help us do another MFI Creative Revolution Conference, and to help us spread the word to new affiliates, etc.” Please help them today. You can support MFI by donating and/or volunteering, especially with the Shield and support calls.
  7. MindFreedom is a Powerful Way to Unite! Even after retiring from MFI’s staff, and now as “just” a member, I find being in touch with MFI is a way to be a part of a great community. One of the biggest challenges for me as an organizer during my time at MindFreedom, is that many of us psychiatric survivors prefer to pursue our own individual paths, like lone wolves. But even lone wolves might benefit now and again by travelling in a pack! I have met so many people who are grateful for MindFreedom putting them in touch with our social change movement. Sue Barnhart, a social worker with more than 30 years experience said, “MindFreedom may be the first organization that people find that offers alternatives to medication, such as education and support.”

To get involved with MindFreedom, see MFI’s website at: http://www.mindfreedom.org

To go directly to the DONATE button on the right side of the home page, click here: http://www.mindfreedom.org/join-donate

To see MFI’s Facebook page, search for MindFreedom International, or go directly here: https://www.facebook.com/MindFreedom-International-33579368821/?fref=ts

Those interested may stay in touch with me: davidwoaks@gmail.com. My blog is at www.davidwoaks.com

Please forward this appeal to support MindFreedom to others who understand the value of free, united minds!

An earlier post was on the same day, February 17, as a General Strike, which turned out to be more of a practice day for May Day. For more info about the General Strike, go here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1190364557743669/

National link:

http://www.strike4democracy.com/

That day was also a very important day for me, February 17, which is the commemoration for Giordano Bruno, the last person to be burnt at the stake in the Inquisition, back in 1600. As readers of my blog know, Bruno is very important to my family, starting with my grandfather.

Here on this blog:

February 17th is a great day for free minds and to remember Giordano Bruno!

On the web:

http://freethoughtalmanac.com/?p=1390

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giordano_Bruno

Winona, Water Protectors, Kogi & Gold Thread: My Newest Letter in Eugene Weekly

Posted by on January 3, 2017 in Activism, Environment, Peer Support | Comments Off on Winona, Water Protectors, Kogi & Gold Thread: My Newest Letter in Eugene Weekly

Here is my brief letter to the editor this week in Eugene’s main alternative newspaper. So far, I am in dialogue with the editor of the University of Oregon Emerald, and he does not see any reason to publish it.

We Younger Brothers must hear the warning from Elder Brother about Earth, now, now!

We Younger Brothers must hear the warning from Elder Brother about Earth, now, now!

LISTEN TO ELDER BROTHER

Winona LaDuke, Native American environmental leader and executive director of Honor the Earth, spoke to many hundreds of us in Eugene in November.

Before the program, attendees might have noticed a spool of golden thread was unraveled person-to-person, starting near the front and reaching individuals in the back. We are all connected, hanging by a thread.

This independent activity was inspired by the Kogi people, an indigenous civilization in Colombia. They call themselves “Elder Brothers” and have been warning “Younger Brothers” about the risk environmental catastrophe poses to life.

Scientists know that the lag between extra carbon in our atmosphere and negative effects is about 40 years. Harm from this year’s pollution will not be experienced for a long time. If enough positive feedback loops are triggered, we face chaos and unknown hazards.

In the Kogi people’s documentary film Aluna, which is free on the internet, we can learn from the way golden thread is used by the Kogi. Each of us has the powerful influence of the butterfly effect and can lead a peaceful, global revolution.

Let us not wait a moment longer. We Younger Brothers must hear the Kogi and leaders such as Winona LaDuke. Now.

David W. Oaks, Eugene

Following this blog entry is my letter to the Eugene Weekly editor that was published last month about the both the local and US Chamber of Commerce remaining silent about the climate crisis. Meanwhile, the big news is that we are moving forward on the pre-launch for LoveEarthRevolution, you may see the splash page on the preliminary website.

Letter to Editor of Eugene Weekly: Dakota Access Pipeline & Chamber of Commerce

Posted by on December 15, 2016 in Activism, Environment, Normalgeddon, Peer Support | 1 comment

Oregon Community Credit Union leader will become chair of Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce in January 2017.

Oregon Community Credit Union leader will become chair of Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce in January 2017.

The local alternative paper, Eugene Weekly, published my letter to the editor today, 12/15/16. At the end, please see a way you can email a peaceful, strong note to Mandy Jones.

Climate Crisis

The Native American Water Protectors’ victory over the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) may seem remote, but there is a way this climate crisis issue is directly in front of me, and all Americans.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, based in Washington, D.C., is one of the main groups championing DAPL and the petrochemical-industry rape of Earth. The climate defender group 350 asked for five years that local chambers assert their independence and say “the U.S. Chamber doesn’t speak for me.” Unfortunately, only 56 out of 3,000 of these local chambers have spoken up.

Rather than viewing this as a failure, I look at it as a challenge.

Several activists and I have petitioned the local Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce, but despite many years of emails, peaceful protests and outreach, the leadership has maintained silence about the climate crisis and the U.S. Chamber.

In 2017, the chair of the local chamber will be Mandy Jones, the chief executive officer for Oregon Consumer Credit Union. I’ve been a proud member of OCCU since 1988. I am encouraging OCCU, as a member-owned entity, to ask the local chamber to speak up about the climate crisis.

David Oaks, Eugene

Action: Please send a message to Ms. Mandy Jones about how you encourage OCCU to speak out about the climate crisis and the US Chamber. Use the website here, and put your comment on the left side form: https://www.myoccu.org/contact-us

For more info about 350 campaign started in 2001 about the US Chamber, see:  http://chamber.350.org/

For news about Eugene-area activity about the chamber, see:  http://www.davidwoaks.com/normalgeddon

 

Our “Tour” to the Office of Our Congressperson, Rep. Peter DeFazio, Opposing Forced Psych Drugs

Posted by on November 6, 2016 in Activism, Legislature, Mental Health | 1 comment

 Thanks, this was from our gathering on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016, at Kesey Square. We visited the office Rep. Peter DeFazio to object to his sponsorship of a bill that would increase coerced psychiatry on an outpatient basis. Left to right on top: Ian, Dale, Sarah, Howard. And that is me sitting down!

This was from our gathering on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016, at Kesey Square. We visited the office Rep. Peter DeFazio to object to his sponsorship of a bill that would increase coerced psychiatry on an outpatient basis. Left to right on top: Ian, Dale, Sarah, Howard, and that is me sitting down! (Photo by Dale Kegley.)

We are hearing a lot about how the Democratic and Republican parties are so separate. But when it comes to psychiatric survivors, both parties have been willing to throw our folks under a bus. The US Congress simply does not represent us.

Our local alternative newspaper, Eugene Weekly, described our event this way:

International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment says it hosts a “little peaceful Speak Out Against Psychiatric Dosing” event in Kesey Square 1:30 pm Friday, Nov. 4, 2016. Organizer David Oaks says, “After speakers and an open mic, we will march together to the office of Rep. Pete DeFazio, to object to his co-sponsorship of a bill that would increase outpatient coercion in mental health.” Free.

About a dozen of us held this “Tour” here in Eugene, Oregon to educate the public and our congressperson about human rights and mental health. Unfortunately, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), who has for decades been a progressive champion of the underdog, has been terribly misinformed, and is a co-sponsor of the worst mental health legislation I have ever seen.

Known as the Murphy Law, thankfully H.R. 2646 has been held up by the US Senate, so far. The worst part of this proposal is that it would give millions of federal taxpayer dollars to support forced outpatient commitment. That is, courts could order Americans living peacefully at home to take psychiatric drugs against their will.

Sarah Smith, MindFreedom, holds the mic for me, David Oaks, at our "tour."

Sarah Smith, MindFreedom, holds the mic for me, David Oaks, at our “tour.” (Photo by David Zupan.)

Incredibly, during a public debate in the “Letters to the Editor” of our Eugene Weekly, Rep. DeFazio not only defended his support, but for the first time in my decades of fighting Involuntary Outpatient Commitment (IOC), he tried to deny that this was mainly about forcing drugs. You may read the three-part published debate between me and Rep. DeFazio here.

What is this bill about, forced hugs? Forced hot chocolate? No, this is about forced drugs of people in their own homes. Frankly, forced hugs and forced hot chocolate are wrong, too. However, I guarantee, along with all the incredible mental health advocacy groups in the USA, that IOC is about the drugs. We have fought these bills on the state level for decades. However, now this is on the federal level, and somehow Rep. DeFazio has been tricked by proponents to believe this has little to do with forced drugs.

Our Tour from Kesey Square to the Federal Building

We started with an ice-breaking introduction at Kesey Square, next to a statue of Ken Kesey, my late friend who authored “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Among the participants were my friends Dale Kegley and David Zupan. Sarah Smith from MindFreedom was there. One of the main activist labeled autistic, Howard, was there. Psychiatric survivor Gail Roberts was present. Ian McTeague, a young local community organizer, pulled our wagon.

Or "tour" met with a staff person from Rep. Peter DeFazio's office, who came outside to meet with us. All the security in the Federal Building meant that our group could not get inside.

Our “tour” met with a staff person from Rep. Peter DeFazio’s office, who came outside to meet with us. All the security in the Federal Building meant that our group could not get inside. (Photo by David Zupan.)

Several other great activists were there, thanks! Like the cuckoo, we then flew East, on Broadway for a few blocks, to the huge, newish Federal Building. Since security refused to allow us all in, a staff person from Rep. DeFazio’s office came out to meet with us.

For more information about fighting the Murphy bill, and how you need to keep up pressure going into 2017, see my earlier blog entry here.
During our tour on Friday, we chose to deliver our message with humor and positivity. We gave them three awards, assuming “the real” Rep. DeFazio will appear some day and oppose the Murphy Bill. Here is the wording of the three awards:

Award # 1: For Your Future Accomplishment

Award # 1: For Your Future Accomplishment

Award # 1: For Your Future Accomplishment
Presented to THE REAL Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR).
We know the real you: A champion for the powerless. Soon you will see through the Murphy Law, and realize that forced pharma is a key part. Ken Kesey said “Dosing is always wrong!” No forced drugs!

November 4, 2016, International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment

 

Award # 2: For Saying “No” to Murphy

Award # 2: For Saying “No” to Murphy

Award # 2: For Saying “No” to Murphy
Presented to THE REAL Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR).
Please say to Murphy Law supporters: “If you support forced psychiatry, then you first!” Challenge them to get a mental health check-up first! Tell them that forced psych drugging is the Bill Cosby School of Mental Health.

November 4, 2016, International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment

Award # 3: The Golden Pill Bottle Award

Award # 3: The Golden Pill Bottle Award

Award # 3: The Golden Pill Bottle Award. (We affixed a bunch of golden-color pill bottles to the plaque for this one!)

Presented to THE REAL Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR). Because you are a skeptic of big corporate power, you can spot the lies of Big Pharma. More than one half of the budget of NAMI comes from drug companies. The Murphy Law is by Big Pharma and would force their drugs! 

November 4, 2016, International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment

If You Live in the Eugene Area? 

Please contact the office of Rep. Peter DeFazio by email, now! This just takes a moment. Simply click on this link, and oppose H.R.2646: https://defazio.house.gov/contact/email-me

eugene-federal-building-defazio-office

The Big Pharma Connection

We are glad we discussed NAMI, which is one of the largest mental health advocacy groups. The individual from DeFazio’s office talked about NAMI, but did not know that a Senate investigation revealed that NAMI privately received a majority of its funds from pharmaceutical corporations. For more info about NAMI’s secret source of money, click here for a New York Times article from 2009 that sums up this issue.

The fact that the staff person brought up NAMI is so important, that I have copied the text from this New York Times article:

WASHINGTON — A majority of the donations made to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one of the nation’s most influential disease advocacy groups, have come from drug makers in recent years, according to Congressional investigators.

The alliance, known as NAMI, has long been criticized for coordinating some of its lobbying efforts with drug makers and for pushing legislation that also benefits industry.

Last spring, Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, sent letters to the alliance and about a dozen other influential disease and patient advocacy organizations asking about their ties to drug and device makers. The request was part of his investigation into the drug industry’s influence on the practice of medicine.

The mental health alliance, which is hugely influential in many state capitols, has refused for years to disclose specifics of its fund-raising, saying the details were private.

But according to investigators in Mr. Grassley’s office and documents obtained by The New York Times, drug makers from 2006 to 2008 contributed nearly $23 million to the alliance, about three-quarters of its donations.

Even the group’s executive director, Michael Fitzpatrick, said in an interview that the drug companies’ donations were excessive and that things would change.

“For at least the years of ’07, ’08 and ’09, the percentage of money from pharma has been higher than we have wanted it to be,” Mr. Fitzpatrick said.

He promised that the industry’s share of the organization’s fund-raising would drop “significantly” next year.

“I understand that NAMI gets painted as being in the pockets of pharmaceutical companies, and somehow that all we care about is pharmaceuticals,” Mr. Fitzpatrick said. “It’s simply not true.”

Mr. Fitzpatrick said Mr. Grassley’s scrutiny, which he described as understandable given the attention paid to potential conflicts of interest in medicine, had led his organization to begin posting on its Web site the names of companies that donate $5,000 or more. And he predicted that other patient and disease advocacy groups would be prodded by Mr. Grassley’s investigation to do the same.

“Everyone I talk to wants to have more balanced fund-raising,” Mr. Fitzpatrick said.

In a statement, Mr. Grassley praised the alliance for its disclosures. “It’d be good for the system for other patient groups to do what NAMI has done,” he said.

Mr. Grassley’s scrutiny has been unnerving for patient and disease advocacy groups, which are often filled with sincere people who are either afflicted with serious illnesses themselves or have family members who have been affected. Many join the groups in the hope of making sense of their misfortune by helping to find a cure or raising awareness of a disease’s risks and frequency.

Drug makers are natural allies in these pursuits since cures may come out of corporate laboratories and the industry’s money can help finance public service campaigns and fund-raising dinners. But industry critics have long derided some patient organizations as little more than front groups devoted to lobbying on issues that affect industry profits, and few have come under more scrutiny for industry ties than the mental health alliance.

For years, the alliance has fought states’ legislative efforts to limit doctors’ freedom to prescribe drugs, no matter how expensive, to treat mental illness in patients who rely on government health care programs like Medicaid. Some of these medicines routinely top the list of the most expensive drugs that states buy for their poorest patients.

Mr. Fitzpatrick defended these lobbying efforts, saying they were just one of many the organization routinely undertook.

The close ties between the alliance and drug makers were on stark display last week, when the organization held its annual gala at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium on Constitution Avenue in Washington. Tickets were $300 each. Before a dinner of roasted red bell pepper soup, beef tenderloin and tilapia, Dr. Stephen H. Feinstein, president of the alliance’s board, thanked Bristol-Myers Squibb, the pharmaceutical company.

“For the past five years, Bristol-Myers has sponsored this dinner at the highest level,” Dr. Feinstein said.

He then introduced Dr. Fred Grossman, chief of neuroscience research at Bristol-Myers, who told the audience that “now, more than ever, our enduring relationship with NAMI must remain strong.”

Documents obtained by The New York Times show that drug makers have over the years given the mental health alliance — along with millions of dollars in donations — direct advice about how to advocate forcefully for issues that affect industry profits. The documents show, for example, that the alliance’s leaders, including Mr. Fitzpatrick, met with AstraZeneca sales executives on Dec. 16, 2003.

Slides from a presentation delivered by the salesmen show that the company urged the alliance to resist state efforts to limit access to mental health drugs.

“Solutions: Play Hard Ball,” one slide was titled. “Hold policy makers accountable for their decisions in media and in election,” it continued.

The alliance’s own slides concluded by saying, “We appreciate AstraZeneca’s strong support of NAMI.”

Mr. Fitzpatrick said that the alliance frequently had such meetings and that the organization would fight for better access to mental health drugs “even if we had no relationship with pharmaceutical companies.”

Tony Jewell, an AstraZeneca spokesman, said that the company was “committed to improving health through partnerships with nonprofit organizations” and that “includes striving to ensure people can access our medicines through formularies managed by state Medicaid agencies.”