Posts by Rehinge

The Issue Is Not Going Away

February 13th, 2015 Posted by Advocacy, Media, News Commentary 0 thoughts on “The Issue Is Not Going Away”

February 13th, 2015

April Morris from the Greenville Journal has just written her second excellent article in a series on mental health and jails. She has put some very revealing statistics in this piece about Mental Health Courts.

You can read the online version of the Greenville Journal Here or just the Article Here.

In the mean time, there is a sub-committee hearing scheduled for S. 209 the Mental Health Court Program Act in Columbia next Thursday the 19th at 10AM! Advocacy does work! Thank you to everyone who has helped get this bill to this point!

From the Greenville Journal

A proven solution for keeping the mentally ill out of county jails is mental health courts – an avenue for counties to identify, assess and treat people who are charged with crimes that appear to be an outgrowth of mental illness.

Participants go through a yearlong program with intense case management, said 13th Circuit Solicitor Walt Wilkins, a strong advocate of this approach. The charges are dismissed on successful completion of the program, removing obstacles to future employment and success, Wilkins said. “They hold the person accountable in a courtroom setting,” he said at a December meeting on the subject.

Mental health courts are not funded by the state Legislature, and Greenville, Charleston and Columbia are the only South Carolina counties with a court in operation. While reportedly successful, Anderson County’s program was shuttered in 2008 when funding was cut.

Since the Greenville court launched in 2005, 82 defendants have entered the program and 55 graduated, for a 75 percent completion rate, Wilkins said. Less than 10 percent have been charged with new crimes, he said.

When a grant financing Greenville’s court program ran out, Wilkins’ office joined with probate judges and the Greenville Mental Health and Piedmont Mental Health agencies to keep the Greenville court running. All volunteer their time, he said.

Enrollment is capped at 15 participants per year – a number that “could easily quadruple” if funding could be found to meet the need, Wilkins said. Greenville’s program is “not as robust as I’d like it to be. It’s something every county in South Carolina needs,” he said.

Bipolar Teen’s Death in Police Station Highlights Rift Between Cops and Mentally Ill

February 6th, 2015 Posted by Advocacy, Articles, Media, News Commentary, Published Media 1 thought on “Bipolar Teen’s Death in Police Station Highlights Rift Between Cops and Mentally Ill”

February 06, 2015

Yahoo News has recently published an excellent article about the tragic death of Kristiana Coignard, a teenage girl with bipolar disorder who was shot down in a Texas police station. This story shows how CIT training is needed for police throughout the whole US. Paton is also interviewed and quoted in the story, discussing the need for CIT.

Read the full article on Yahoo News

Kristiana Coignard walked into the lobby of an East Texas police station last month with a knife in her waistband and “I have a gun” written on her hand. After asking for help, she instigated a scuffle with police officers that ended in her shooting death. A few days later, police released a security video of the encounter as proof that the officers who shot Coignard were justified in doing so. She was 17 years old.

She also, according to her aunt, Heather Robertson, had been struggling with depression and bipolar disorder for much of her life. Robertson told ThinkProgress that two separate suicide attempts had landed her niece in the hospital in recent years but that Coignard had been keeping up with regular therapy and medication since December, when she came to live with her aunt in Longview, Texas.

“I think it was a cry for help,” Robertson said of the police interaction that ended in Coignard’s death. “I think they could have done something. They are grown men. I think there is something they are not telling us.”

Coignard’s story is as tragic as it is tragically unexceptional. In fact, the recently piqued public interest in police brutality seems to have revealed Americans with mental illness as the population most vulnerable to excessive or unnecessary use of force by law enforcement.
The absence of abundant, affordable and easily accessible mental health services has seen a comparative rise in the number of mentally ill inmates, parolees, emergency room patients and, though fortunately less common, police casualties.

“What you see on the news is just the tip of the of the iceberg,” Usher said, referring to stories like Kristiana Coignard’s or Keith Vidal’s. “The absolute worst situations get the attention, but they reveal just a tiny percentage of this huge tragedy.”

Paton Blough found himself in the middle of this tragedy 10 years ago. After successfully managing his bipolar disorder with therapy and medication for about three years, an extreme manic episode launched him on a terrifying tour of the criminal justice system. He was arrested six times within three years, racking up a variety of felony and misdemeanor convictions. He cycled in and out of jail and mental hospitals, ruled by paranoid delusions and extreme depression, before a jail counselor finally helped him get his psychosis and severe depression under control. It was on the road to recovery that Blough learned about NAMI and, eventually, the CIT program.

In 2010, Blough was back on track, living in Greenville, South Carolina, with his new wife when Andrew Torres, a local man with mental illness, died after he was tased in a tussle with police. Torres’s death showed Blough just how lucky he was in comparison. After all the pepper spray, Tasers and batons he’d been hit with in his many police altercations, he’d never even been seriously injured. He decided to get involved with NAMI that year and has been sharing his story with police officers undergoing CIT training across the country since.

“Advocacy, being able to tell my story, is a big part of my recovery,” Blough told Yahoo News. “It makes me feel better to think that maybe this stuff happened for a reason. To help other people through my advocacy makes me feel like there was more purpose even in the horrible events of my life.”

Rise In Police Shootings Coincides With Deep Cuts In Mental Health Spending

February 3rd, 2015 Posted by Advocacy, Articles, Media, News Commentary, Published Media, Video 0 thoughts on “Rise In Police Shootings Coincides With Deep Cuts In Mental Health Spending”

February 03, 2015

WSPA has written an excellent article and accompanying video on how mental health spending cuts has increased police shootings in South Carolina.

WSPA.com

Read the full article on WSPA News 7 Website

John Pepper was killed by an Anderson County deputy in December 2014.  9-1-1 calls made by Pepper show he was armed, angry and suicidal.

His death was the twelfth officer involved shooting in the Upstate that year and mental health experts said it was one of several that could have been prevented.

Between 2009 and 2014, Upstate officer involved shootings shot up.  Statistics from the SC State Law Enforcement Division show three such shootings in 2009.  The same statistics show Upstate officers were involved in 16 shootings in 2011, 13 in 2012, 11 in 2013 and 12 in 2014.

What changed?

The I-Team reviewed the state statistics, police reports, 911 calls and witness statements looking for patterns in the shootings that could explain the increase including race, location and indeidentifyingracteristics of the suspects shot.

Like John Pepper, most of the people shot by law enforcement were white.  In fact, all 12 of the people shot in the Upstate in 2014 were white.

Based on the most recent population numbers, the place where officer involved shootings were most likely was Anderson County where the incidents happen at nearly twice the rate of Greenville, Spartanburg or Cherokee Counties.

One trait that stood out from the data, officers were called again and again into armed confrontations with someone suffering from mental illness.

Cherokee County Sheriff Steve Mueller said his officers encounter mental illness daily.

“I think you’d see some decrease in the numbers if we could properly treat the people with mental disease in our community,” Mueller said.

Mueller said his deputies might have two or more calls in a single day to take a mentally ill patient to the hospital.  He said funding cuts to mental health services leave his officers as the first line of communication with some patients.

“When you see the mental illness that exists and the lack of funding at the state level, it’s really scary, and it’s really scary that our officers are dealing with those people,” Mueller said.

Read the full article on WSPA News 7 Website

S. 209 Advocacy Letter Example

January 5th, 2015 Posted by Advocacy, Media 0 thoughts on “S. 209 Advocacy Letter Example”

January 05, 2015

Recently, SC Senator Vincent Sheheen pre-filed the SC legislative bill, S. 209, the Mental Health Court Program Act, which is designed to advance the three existing mental health courts in SC to all 46 counties. However, we need your help to get more legislative support for this bill! We need you to call and write your SC senator to ask them to be a co-sponsor of S. 209! Read more about the Mental Health Court Program Act.

In order to help you out in contacting your senator, we’ve put together a letter or phone call example that you can use. Simply put your senator’s name and your own name into the body below and email, write, or call your local SC senator. Help fight for mental health reform in SC!
To the honorable Senator YOUR SENATOR’S NAME,

My name is YOUR NAME from YOUR LOCATION, SC, and I am writing you in regards to the SC Bill S. 209, the Mental Health Court Program Act that was recently pre-filed by Senator Vincent Sheheen. I am urging you to co-sponsor and support this bill as it passes through the senate. S. 209 will work to expand the three already-existing mental health courts in SC to all 46 counties in the state. The passing of this bill will save the lives of many mentally ill individuals in SC, along with millions of dollars in the state’s budget. Mental health courts divert qualifying mentally ill offenders away from the criminal justice system and into appropriate programs for treatment.

A study by the Ohio State Bar estimates that mentally ill inmates will use $40,000 of prison services annually. Whereas, mentally ill individuals who go through mental health courts, which use existing services, can save the state tens of thousands of dollars annually per individual.

According to Richland County’s mental health court program, 83.3% of mentally ill individuals who complete mental health programs are never committed or arrested again. According to Greenville’s mental health court program, 51 out of 78 individuals have completed the program, saving the state of SC over 2 million dollars.

Please consider co-sponsoring and supporting this bill as it passes through legislation. It not only helps to benefit the lives of those with mental illness in our community, but will also save our beautiful state of SC millions of dollars annually that can be used to fund other needs.

Sincerely,
YOUR NAME

Support S. 209, the Mental Health Court Program Act in SC!

December 31st, 2014 Posted by Advocacy, Media 1 thought on “Support S. 209, the Mental Health Court Program Act in SC!”

December 31, 2014

S. 209 needs your support!

SC Senator Vincent Sheheen has just pre-filed the SC legislative bill, S. 209, which is designed to advance the three existing mental health courts in SC to all 46 counties. However, we need your help to get more legislative support for this bill! Now we need you to call and write your SC senator to ask them to be a co-sponsor of S. 209!

Mental health court is a diversionary program that rehabilitates the mentally ill and helps them become productive citizens as opposed to punishment in jail for behavior problems that stemmed from a medical basis. This program is also proven to save tax payers millions of dollars.

Exert from the S. 209 Bill, the Mental Health Court Program Act:

The purpose of this chapter is to divert qualifying mentally ill offenders away from the criminal justice system and into appropriate treatment programs, thereby reserving prison space for violent criminals and others for whom incarceration is the only reasonable alternative. Offenders with a diagnosed, or diagnosable, mental illness generally recognized in the psychiatric community qualify for participation in a mental health court program. –Read the whole pre-filed bill here.

We need your help to contact your local senator to co-sponsor this bill! You can find your senator by clicking here. The following is a list of all current SC senators and their contact information that you can use. Call them, email them, write them, your efforts are helping our beautiful state! While you’re at it, you can also pledge to Fight Stigma by becoming more active in fighting for mental health reform.

If you’re not sure what to say when you write or call your senator, we have prepared a sample letter/speech for you! Please click here to find it.

2015 Republican Senators

Thomas C. Alexander

SLCIComm@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6220
Room 313 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 1 – Oconee & Pickens

Lee Bright

LeeBright@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6008
Room 602 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. No. 12 – Greenville & Spartanburg

Kevin L. Bryant

KevinBryant@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6320
Room 402 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 3 – Anderson

George E. “Chip” Campsen, III

ChipCampsen@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6340
Room 305 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 43 – Berkeley, Charleston & Collecton

Raymond E. Cleary, III

RayCleary@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6040
Room 610 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 34 – Charleston, Georgetown & Horry

Creighton B. Coleman

CreightonColeman@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6132
Room 508 Gressette Bldg.
Dist.17-Chester, Fairfield & York

Ronnie A. Sabb

RonnieSabb@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6032
Room 504 Gressette Bldg.
Dist.32-Berkeley, Florence, Georgetown, Horry & Williamsburg

Thomas D. “Tom” Corbin

TomCorbin@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6100
Room 501 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 5 – Greenville & Spartanburg

John E. Courson

SEduComm@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6250
Room 412 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 20 – Lexington & Richland

Ronnie W. Cromer

RonnieCromer@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6330
Room 311 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 18 – Lexington, Newberry & Union

Tom Davis

TomDavis@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6008
Room 602 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 46 – Beaufort & Jasper

Michael L. Fair

MikeFair@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6420
Room 211 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 6 – Greenville

Chauncey K. Gregory

GregGregory@scsenate.gov
803-212-6024
Room 606 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 16 – Lancaster & York Cos.

Lawrence K. “Larry” Grooms

STransComm@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6400
Room 203 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 37 – Berkeley & Charleston

Robert W. Hayes, Jr.

SBIComm@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6240
Room 410 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 15 – York

Greg Hembree

GregHembree@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6016
Room 604 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 28 – Dillon & Horry

Hugh K. Leatherman, Sr.

SFinComm@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6640
Room 111 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 31 – Darlington & Florence

Larry A. Martin

SRulesComm@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6610
Room 101 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 2 – Pickens

Shane R. Martin

ShaneMartin@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6100
Room 501 Gressette Bldg.
Dist.13 – Greenville, Spartanburg & Union

A. Shane Massey

ShaneMassey@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6024
Room 606 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 25 – Aiken, Edgefield, Lexington, McCormick & Saluda Cos.

William H. O’Dell

SGenComm@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6350
Room 303 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 4 – Abbeville, Anderson, Greenwood

Harvey S. Peeler, Jr.

SMediComm@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6430
Room 213 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 14 – Cherokee, Spartanburg, Union & York

Luke A. Rankin

SethicsComm@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6410
Room 205 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 33 – Horry

Katrina Frye Shealy

KatrinaShealy@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6108
Room 502 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 23- Lexington

Paul Thurmond

PaulThurmond@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6172
Room 513 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 41 – Charleston & Dorchester

Ross Turner

RossTurner@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6148
Room 512 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 8 – Greenville

Daniel B. “Danny” Verdin, III

SAgriComm@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6230
Room 404 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 9 – Greenville & Laurens

Tom Young, Jr.

TomYoung@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6124
Room 506 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 24 – Aiken

Sean Bennett

SeanBennett@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6116
Room 601 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 7 – Berkeley, Charleston & Dorchester

Paul G. Campbell, Jr.

PaulCampbell@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6016
Room 604 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 44 – Berkeley, Charleston & Dorchester

2015 Democratic Senators

C. Bradley Hutto

BradHutto@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6140
Room 510 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 40 – Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell,Colleton, Hampton & Orangeburg

Darrell Jackson

DarrellJackson@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6048
Room 612 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 21 – Richland

Kevin L. Johnson

KevinJohnson@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6048
Room 612 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 36 – Clarendon, Darlington, Florence & Sumter

Marlon E. Kimpson

marlonkimpson@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6056
Room 613 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 42 – Charleston & Dorchester

Joel Lourie

JoelLourie@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6116
Room 601 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 22 – Kershaw & Richland

Gerald Malloy

GeraldMalloy@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6172
Room 513 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 29 – Chesterfield, Darlington, Lee & Marlboro

John W. Matthews, Jr.

JohnMatthews@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6056
Room 613 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 39 -Berkeley,Calhoun,Colleton, Dorchester & Orangeburg

J. Thomas McElveen, III

ThomasMcElveen@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6132
Room 508 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 35 – Kershaw, Lee, Richland & Sumter

Floyd Nicholson

FloydNicholson@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6000
Room 608 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. No. 10 – Abbeville, Greenwood, McCormick & Saluda

Clementa C. Pinckney

ClementaPinckney@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6148
Room 512 Gressette Blvd.
Dist. 45 – Allendale, Beaufort, Charleston, Colleton, Hampton & Jasper

Glenn G. Reese

GlennReese@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6108
Room 502 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 11 – Spartanburg

John L. Scott, Jr.

JohnScott@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6124
Room 506 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 19 – Richland

Nikki G. Setzler

NikkiSetzler@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6140
Room 510 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 26 – Aiken, Calhoun, Lexington & Saluda

Vincent A. Sheheen

VincentSheheen@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6032
Room 504 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 27 – Chesterfield, Kershaw, Lancaster

Kent M. Williams

KentWilliams@scsenate.gov
(803)212-6000
Room 608 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 30 – Dillon, Florence, Horry, Marion & Marlboro

Karl B. Allen

KarlAllen@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6040
Room 610 Gressette Bldg.
Dist. 7 – Greenville

Creighton B. Coleman

CreightonColeman@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6132
Room 508 Gressette Bldg.
Dist.17-Chester, Fairfield & York

Ronnie A. Sabb

RonnieSabb@scsenate.gov
(803) 212-6032
Room 504 Gressette Bldg.
Dist.32-Berkeley, Florence, Georgetown, Horry & Williamsburg

Sheriff Pamerleau Speaking at Congressional Briefing on Reducing Mentally Ill in Prisons

December 11th, 2014 Posted by Advocacy, Media, Published Media, Video 0 thoughts on “Sheriff Pamerleau Speaking at Congressional Briefing on Reducing Mentally Ill in Prisons”

December 11th, 2014

Sheriff Pamerleau spoke along with Paton Blough at a congressional briefing in Capitol Hill on December 9th, 2014 on the need of reducing the number of mentally ill individuals in US prisons and jails.

STEPPING UP: A National Initiative to Reduce the Number of People with Mental Illnesses in Jails

Recognizing the critical role local and state officials play in supporting change, the National Association of Counties (NACo) and the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center are leading an unprecedented national initiative to help advance counties’ efforts to reduce the number of adults with mental illnesses and co-occurring substance use disorders in jails. To build on the foundation of innovative and evidence-based practices already being implemented across the country, and to bring these efforts to scale, NACo and the CSG Justice Center plan to engage partner organizations with expertise in the complex issues at stake, including those representing sheriffs, jail administrators, judges, community corrections professionals and treatment providers, consumers, advocates, mental health and drug abuse service directors, and other stakeholders.

To see the whole hearing and learn more, please click here.

Paton Blough Speaking at Congressional Briefing on Reducing Mentally Ill in Prisons

December 10th, 2014 Posted by Advocacy, Media, Published Media, Speaking Events, Video 2 thoughts on “Paton Blough Speaking at Congressional Briefing on Reducing Mentally Ill in Prisons”

December 10th, 2014

Paton Blough had the honor of speaking at a congressional briefing in Capitol Hill on December 9th, 2014 on the need of reducing the number of mentally ill individuals in US prisons and jails.

STEPPING UP: A National Initiative to Reduce the Number of People with Mental Illnesses in Jails

Recognizing the critical role local and state officials play in supporting change, the National Association of Counties (NACo) and the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center are leading an unprecedented national initiative to help advance counties’ efforts to reduce the number of adults with mental illnesses and co-occurring substance use disorders in jails. To build on the foundation of innovative and evidence-based practices already being implemented across the country, and to bring these efforts to scale, NACo and the CSG Justice Center plan to engage partner organizations with expertise in the complex issues at stake, including those representing sheriffs, jail administrators, judges, community corrections professionals and treatment providers, consumers, advocates, mental health and drug abuse service directors, and other stakeholders.

To see the whole hearing and learn more, please click here.

Mentally Ill Man Threatened Officers

December 3rd, 2014 Posted by Media, News Commentary 0 thoughts on “Mentally Ill Man Threatened Officers”

December 03, 2014

Earlier this week there was a tradgic shooting of a mentally ill man. John Pepper was shot by an Anderson County deputy after being threatened by Pepper during a standoff at his home. This is clearly a case where better CIT training in dealing with potentially dangerous mentally ill individuals would greatly benefit Anderson County, South Carolina and our nation as a whole. Paton weighed in on the situation in the following article from the Greenville News, suggesting how the situation could have been handled better by the police officers.

Read the full article on the Greenville News

Before he was fatally shot, John Pepper told deputies that he was “ready to leave this world” and would “kill them all” if they didn’t leave his property, according to a Sheriff’s Office report released Tuesday.

Pepper would be dead within two hours after he was shot in the chest by an Anderson County deputy. The deputy is on paid administrative leave while SLED investigates the standoff that a local mental health advocate believes may have been escalated when deputies didn’t back off.

Paton Blough has trained officers across the Upstate on crisis intervention techniques, including those at the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office. He often tells officers to take their time in situations like the one that happened outside Pepper’s home on Brogan Avenue.

“Just going slow and backing off can calm the situation down,” Blough said Tuesday. “In this situation, what was the big hurry?”

Read the full article on the Greenville News

Mentally Ill People Often Face Violence From Police—But These Cities Are Trying to Fix That

November 28th, 2014 Posted by Articles, Media, Published Media 0 thoughts on “Mentally Ill People Often Face Violence From Police—But These Cities Are Trying to Fix That”

Yes! Magazine wrote an excellent article on mentally ill individuals and the police, which as features Paton.

Read the full article in Yes! Magazine

Two weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Paton Blough was hit by what he describes as the mother of all psychotic episodes.

“I ended up being arrested for the first time in my life, at age 29,” said Blough of the incident in Birmingham, Alabama, where he fled police in a high-speed chase along an interstate highway, his shotgun wedged between the console and the passenger’s seat.

“It was my full belief that the police were trying to kill me,” Blough said. “But it was my mental illness making me believe that I was invincible, that I was in charge of the situation, when I wasn’t.”

Because the police officers didn’t show up at his subsequent trial, Blough was charged with reckless driving only. He was fined $75 and released. But the incident marked the beginning of more than three years of continued run-ins with the law, a result of his rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, which brought about delusions and hallucinations. Blough returned to Greenville, South Carolina, where not six months later he was arrested again.

“I’m walking down the street thinking that the whole world was against me,” he said. “That night, the police were trying to get me into their car, trying to shut the door, and I was thinking the car was going to blow up, so I was fighting with all I had. I was cuffed with leg irons and handcuffs when I was [electrically stunned] in the back of the police car. It was very violent. It took seven officers to arrest me.”

Blough received eight different charges, including police assault, resisting arrest, destruction of county property, and not identifying himself. His troubles didn’t end there. He continued to suffer four more manic episodes—two involved violent arrests, but two others calm arrests.

“Each time there were calm arrests was because the police officer stayed calm also,” he said.

In 2008, the tides shifted. He went through Greenville’s Mental Health Court program, was ordered into therapy, and found a foothold in their mental health system. After he completed the court-ordered program (not a CIT), all charges related to previous psychotic episodes were expunged from his record. “My criminal record wasn’t a reflection of me but my mental illness,” Blough said.

His life was back on track, and he remarried in the spring of 2010. But in August of that year, he read in the newspaper how Andrew Torres, a mentally ill man in Greenville, was electrically stunned by police during an arrest and later died. Torres’ death prompted Blough to contact the Greenville Police Department to offer his help with their newly instituted CIT program.

Remembering how pivotal peaceful, verbal de-escalation tactics had been to his nonviolent arrests, Blough—who now belongs to the South Carolina National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) State Board—wanted to spread a message of empathy versus aggression to a police department where, up until 2010, only a dozen or so officers received mental illness training.

Read the full article in Yes! Magazine

Mental Health Cops Help Reweave Social Safety Net In San Antonio

November 13th, 2014 Posted by Advocacy, Media, News Commentary, Stories of Hope 0 thoughts on “Mental Health Cops Help Reweave Social Safety Net In San Antonio”

November 13, 2014

Here’s an amazing article from NPR.org that highlights the efforts made by the police of San Antonio, Texas. Police officers known as mental health cops have been part of an overall effort by San Antonio to reform their mental health and prison systems in the city, with great success. We need this kind of reform throughout the whole country.

Read the full article on NPR.org

It’s almost 4 p.m., and police officers Ernest Stevens and Ned Bandoske have been driving around town in their unmarked black SUV since early this morning. The officers are part of San Antonio’s mental health squad — a six-person unit that answers the frequent emergency calls where mental illness may be an issue.

The officers spot a call for help on their laptop from a group home across town.

“A male individual put a blanket on fire this morning,” Stevens reads from the blotter. “He’s arguing … and is a danger to himself and others. He’s off his medications.”

A few minutes later, the SUV pulls up in front of the group home. A thin 24-year-old sits on a wooden bench out back, wearing a black hoodie.

“You’re Mason?” asks Bandoske. “What happened to your blanket?” Eight years ago, the next stop for someone like Mason would have been a hospital emergency room or jail. (Because of his condition, NPR is not using Mason’s last name.) But the Bexar County jail, in San Antonio, was so overcrowded — largely with people with serious mental illnesses — that the state was getting ready to levy fines.

This sort of situation is not unusual: Across the country, jails hold 10 times as many people with serious mental illness as state hospitals do, according to a recent report from the Treatment Advocacy Center, a national nonprofit that lobbies for better treatment options for people with mental illness.

To deal with the problem, San Antonio and Bexar County have transformed their mental health system into a program considered a model for the rest of the nation. Today, the jails aren’t full, and the city and county have saved $50 million over the past five years.

The effort has focused on an idea called “smart justice” — basically, diverting people with serious mental illness out of jail and into treatment instead.

San Antonio’s new approach starts with the kind of interaction Bandoske and Stevens are having with Mason. The troubled young man is hunched over, and his eyes dart back and forth between the two officers. He mumbles answers to the officers’ questions, sometimes stopping to stare at a spot in the distance. For outsiders, it’s hard to know what’s going on, but the officers say they can tell Mason is hallucinating. Bandoske kneels in front of him, trying to maintain eye contact and get Mason’s attention.

Read the full article on NPR.org

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  • “It has been one of my greatest rewards as NAMI Greenville, SC Program Director to see your recovery from when we first met to your award as NAMI South Carolina’s Recovery Person of the Year to your appearance on the same stage with author Pete Early. I hope your book is every bit as successful as his has been.”

    Brian Lewis
    • Fletcher Mann
    • Program Director NAMI Greenville, SC
  • “It’s incredible. If you aren’t sure, always go for Cast. I don’t always clop, but when I do, it’s because of Cast. I made back the purchase price in just 48 hours!”

    Patrick Bates
    • Patrick Bates
    • CEO, SouthCentral
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