Victory, Congress & My Next Step
I would like to start this post by saying thank you, thank you, thank you to all my family, fellow advocates, friends, elected officials, policy experts, journalists and peer supporters who helped get epic life saving legislation, known as the Crisis Intervention Team Training law, passed here in SC. The bill took some twists and turns but we finally produced a law which passed both houses unanimously and was signed into law by Governor Henry McMaster on May 17th!
Crisis intervention training now will grow from just a handful of departments to all 359 class 1, 2 & 3 law enforcement agencies that will implement this type of training in their ongoing re-accreditation process. An 11th hour amendment also will help law enforcement officers who experience trauma on the job get the help they need to keep themselves healthy.
“After speaking with Paton on the phone prior to the conference, I knew his heart and soul were in the place we needed him to be. We discussed him being a consumer and a contributor to the betterment of life for many people – individuals with mental illness and the law enforcement officers who may encounter them. His dedication to the CIT concepts and the ability to make change in one’s life are evident in everything he speaks about, including the spirit and energy of his presentations and the commitment he carries with him.”
Manager of Research & Development and Senior Editor/Law Enforcement Executive Forum
This bill is huge folks and we still have yet to fully compute the amount of people who will be helped and the lives that will be saved through this legislation. I am definitely going to miss someone here but I would like to name all the people and/or organizations that deserve an extra thanks:
Senator Rankin, Senator Hutto, Senator Timmons, Senator Shealy, Senator Turner, Rep. Hamilton, Rep. Elliot, Rep. Henderson, Rep. Bedingfield, Rep. Burns, Rep. Judge Clary, Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, Rep. Weeks, Rep. Delleney, SC Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling, Marianne Halbert (instrumental in passing similar legislation in Indiana and helped us throughout the process) Mike Woody (CIT International) Laura Usher (NAMI National) Kevin Morison (Police Executive Research Forum) Bill Lindsey (NAMI SC) Dr. James Hayes (NAMI SC and NAMI National Board) Bonnie Pate (SC SHARE) Michelle Miller (SC SHARE) Chief Miller (Greenville PD) Captain Owens (Greenville PD) Terri Long (Greenville County Sheriff Dept.) Joe Dill (Greenville County Council) Mika Hearn (Redhype) friends and advocates as follows John DeWorken, Elaine Hester, Hudson Blough, Nancy Blough, Ashley Blough, Joanna Daniels, Ron Blough, Marlene Blough, Molly Dunn, Bruce Countryman, Marc Yessam, Cathy Large and the many many media reporters and outlets that covered this process namely the Greenville News, The State News, Redhype, The Post and Courier, WYFF 4, WSPA 7 among others.
The last 4 names I will mention were particularly crucial and they are my wife Marie Blough, Senator Sheheen (author of the bill) Chief of SLED Mark Keel and Governor McMaster. I have missed more than I have mentioned but the bottom line is that passing quality legislation takes more than a village, it takes an entire state working together for the greater good!
This is the second bill that Rehinge has been instrumental in passing, the first was the Mental Health Court Program Act which was also started and authored with Senator Sheheen. I was honored to introduce Senator Sheheen for the legislator of the year award given by NAMI at our annual state convention 2 weeks ago for his effort to improve the lives of people who live with a mental illness.
The initial reason I sat down to write this update had less to do with the legislation, but more to do with updating you on my campaign for congress that I launched last Spring with a petition signature drive to be on the ballot as an Independent to represent the 4th district.
I am suspending all campaign activities effective immediately and will not be seeking any publicly elected office at this time. The reasons for this decision are multiple and I will go through them as follows:
1. First and foremost, running for office can hurt my current efforts being accomplished in mental health and criminal justice reform.
Over the past year, I learned that it did not matter that I was running as an Independent when it came to current elected officials cooling off towards my mental health reform efforts. I guess it goes without saying that once someone considers you a political threat that they will no longer support your efforts for fear of making you stronger. I have no regrets for throwing my hat in the ring but for now I believe more good can be accomplished for SC citizens…without seeking political office.
2. The chances of winning as an Independent are low and the costs of running a congressional campaign are high.
I never asked for or received a dime in donations. I wanted to prove that I could get on the ballot and be competitive with very little money. I still believe true political reform will come from outside the two major parties. Not only is it costly, but the time away from my family is a bit unrealistic and I truly enjoy and love spending time with them. I have children that range in age from 5 to 17 – they count on their dad on a daily basis and being away from them for extended periods of time would not be healthy for them or my marriage.
3. My pillars of recovery are not something I simply preach, but something I live by.
I consider myself to be successful in dealing with my bipolar type 1 disorder for over 9 years now, but high stress is a trigger. At this point, I have so many positive initiatives in my life. I want to appreciate them fully and running a congressional campaign at this juncture would distract me. I continue to maintain my stability with various coping skills and fully implementing my 6 pillars of recovery which are:
2. Counseling/CBT Therapy
5. Peer/Friend/Family Support
6. Advocacy/Giving Back.
Political Race Conclusion
I want my political supporters and the media to know how much I appreciate their help and coverage of my petition campaign. I am thankful for every signature I received and if nothing else I feel like I proved that there is hope and life outside the current divisive two party system that is controlled by the almighty dollar! I hope you do not feel deceived or let down and I promise one day to be back for another try.
In the mean time I am going to keep charging forward with plans to get more legislation introduced that will help transform SC when it comes to mental health and criminal justice reform. I am currently working on designing a bill that will help build and enhance peer support around the state both in the recovery community and in the criminal justice setting. I also plan on fighting for more funding to support the mental health courts and CIT legislation that we already passed. I still serve on the NAMI SC State Board, The Certified Peer Support Specialist Board and on multiple national advisory groups for organizations like the Council of State Goverments, The Stepping Up Initiative and on a NAMI National panel to train other people like myself to be CIT presenters. I have also recently agreed to start doing NAMI In Your Own Voice presentations in the Greenville County Detention Center. This is ironic and uplifting to be able to help people in the very place I was incarcerated a half dozen times myself!
Stay tuned for some exciting announcments this fall! I also am working on my public speaking career, my book and building more materials to be utilized for CIT trainings. I truly love what I do and am thankful for an incredibly supportive wife who helps me with things like this blog and believes that God is using Rehinge for His glory and to ultimately give people HOPE!
If you would like to get involved with Rehinge, there is a very simple way to do so. Please sign our FightStigma.com
pledge and help us with our reform efforts!!