NEWS, COMMENTARY, AND ARTS BY PSYCHIATRIC SURVIVORS, MENTAL HEALTH PEERS, AND OUR FAMILIES
VOL. XXXIV NO. 2
FROM THE HILLS OF VERMONT
State Could Be Sued Over Discharge Delays MONTPELIER — The state and others could face a federal lawsuit on behalf of patients who remain in hospital psychiatric units for lack of appropriate discharge options, based on the constitutional right to care in the least restrictive setting. Disability Rights Vermont has announced an initiative to identify such patients, and that it will pursue “systemic remedies” — including the option of a lawsuit — if structural obstacles to a return to the community are not then addressed. Delays in discharges have often been cited as one reason for long delays in emergency departments for people who are waiting for admission. If the facts gathered demonstrate a broad-based problem with access to community resources for those in the hospital, there are two potential groups with liability, according to Supervising Attorney AJ Ruben. They include private community facilities that refuse to admit people with a psychiatric disability, and state government, which “has the duty to ensure the capacity” for people to leave institutional settings and be integrated in the community, he said. Ruben said that, in the course of its fact-finding, if individuals are found who are being held inappropriately in a hospital, they will be told about the rights of people with disabilities to be free from unnecessary institutionalization and that “you may have a federal cause of action,” even if there is not a more widespread problem. The agency referenced both the 1999 Supreme Court case in Olmstead v L.C. and the Americans with Disabilities Act in citing potential rights violations. It said that many Vermonters with disabilities are being harmed by being held “long after their doctors (Continued on page 5)
One Forgotten Group: Elders Rejected by Homes By TRACY BRANNSTROM Elderly patients who are unable to find a place to live to leave the hospital — a contributor to lack of access to inpatient care for others and long emergency department waits — represents one of the groups identified in the Disability Rights Vermont initiatives that has not always received as much public scrutiny. People in the hospital who need psychiatric care combined with a high level of nursing care sometimes remain in inpatient settings long after they are ready to be discharged, according to professionals and state officials. “It’s not rare,” said Robert Pierattini, MD, chief of psychiatry at the University of Vermont Medical Center. He said that he sees such patients waiting weeks or months for a place to live with the supports they need, adding, “At any one time, there is always somebody.” When those who do not need to be in the hospital stay there, it blocks access to that level of care for someone waiting in an emergency room, mental health officials have said; the frequently cited examples have been inpatient stays due to lack of space at the state-run locked residence or supported housing. A study conducted by UVMMC found that, over a 30-month period in 2015-2017, 22 people faced delays of 30 days or more in finding a place available in a nursing home or assisted living residence. These individuals remained in (Continued on page 4)
REARING UGLY HEADS — Two dinosaurs were prominent participants in this year’s Mad Pride march and rally held in Brattleboro in July. For more pictures and full coverage, see pages 1213. (Counterpoint Photo: Anne Donahue)
Deaths from Use of Force Skyrocket By ANNE DONAHUE
MONTPELIER — When police shot and killed a man in August on the Spring Street bridge, he became the fifth person in Vermont in less than two years to die from police use of force while appearing to be experiencing a mental health crisis. The five deaths equal the number of deaths over the previous 16 years, from 2001 to 2016. Mark Johnson, 62, was described by family in his obituary as “a gentle giant, kind and caring.” Police said that he raised a gun towards them after having been told repeatedly to drop it. It
was later determined to have been a pellet gun, the police report said. The sharp increase in deaths could increase the workload of a new statewide review committee to the point that it may not be able to accomplish its intended purpose, according to its chair, Wilda White. The Mental Health Crisis Review Commission, created by the legislature in 2017 after the 2016 shooting of Ralph “Phil” Grenon in Burlington, is required to “conduct reviews of law enforcement interactions with persons acting in a manner that created reason to believe a mental health
19 The Arts14
Building a Vision for the Future of Health Care
crisis was occurring and resulted in a fatality or serious bodily injury.” Its purpose is to “identify where increased or alternative supports or strategic investments within law enforcement … [or] community service systems could improve outcomes” and make policy recommendations, rather than to assess for blame, which is the role of the attorney general and local state’s attorney’s offices. White said that it currently has received a referral for only one death since 2017, and none for serious bodily injuries. It does not (Continued on page 5)
Why I Take Drugs
2 Peer Leadership and Advocacy
Meeting Dates and Membership Information for Boards, Committees and Conferences Peer Organizations VERMONT PSYCHIATRIC SURVIVORS BOARD
A membership organization providing peer support, outreach, advocacy and education. Must be able to attend meetings monthly. Experience with boards preferred, but not necessary. For information call 802-775-6834 or email email@example.com.
COUNTERPOINT EDITORIAL BOARD
The advisory board for the Vermont Psychiatric Survivors newspaper. Assists with policy and editing. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
ALYSSUM Peer crisis respite. To serve on board, contact Gloria at 802-767-6000 or email@example.com. DISABILITY RIGHTS VERMONT PAIMI COUNCIL
Protection and advocacy for individuals with mental illness. Call 1-800-834-7890 x 101.
State Committees ADULT PROGRAM STANDING COMMITTEE
Advises the Commissioner of Mental Health on the adult mental health system. The committee is the official body for review of and recommendations for redesignation of community mental health programs (designated agencies) and monitors other aspects of the system. Members are persons with lived mental health experience, family members, and professionals. Meets monthly on 2nd Monday at the Department of Mental Health, 280 State Drive NOB 2 North, Waterbury, noon-3 p.m. For further information, contact Marla Simpson (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Daniel Towle (email@example.com).
LOCAL PROGRAM STANDING COMMITTEES
Advisory groups required for every community mental health center. Contact your local agency for information about meetings and membership.
Advocacy Organizations DISABILITY RIGHTS VERMONT
Advocacy in dealing with abuse, neglect or other rights violations by a hospital, care home, or community mental health agency. 141 Main St, Suite 7, Montpelier VT 05602; 800-834-7890.
ADULT PROTECTIVE SERVICES
Reporting of abuse, neglect or exploitation of vulnerable adults, 800-564-1612; also to report violations at hospitals/nursing homes.
Hospital Advisory VERMONT PSYCHIATRIC CARE HOSPITAL
Advisory Steering Committee, Berlin, check DMH website for dates at mentalhealth.vermont.com.
Consumer Advisory Council, fourth Tuesdays, 12 - 1:30 p.m., contact Gwynn Yandow, Director of Patient Advocacy and Consumer Affairs at 802-258-6118 for meeting location.
RUTLAND REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER
Community Advisory Committee, fourth Mondays, noon, conference room A.
MENTAL HEALTH LAW PROJECT
Representation for rights when facing commitment to a psychiatric hospital. 802-241-3222.
VERMONT CENTER FOR INDEPENDENT LIVING
Peer services and advocacy for persons with disabilities. 800-639-1522.
VERMONT FAMILY NETWORK
Support for families with child or youth with mental health challenges. 800-800-4005; 802-876-5315.
VERMONT CLIENT ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
Rights when dealing with service organizations such as Vocational Rehabilitation. Box 1367, Burlington VT 05402; 800-747-5022.
HEALTH CARE ADVOCATE To report problems with any health insurance or Medicaid/Medicare issues in Vermont 800-917-7787 or 802-241-1102. VERMONT FEDERATION OF FAMILIES FOR CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH
Statewide support for families of children, youth or young adults in transition who are experiencing or at risk of experiencing emotional, behavioral or mental health challenges. 800-639-6071, 802-876-7021.
The Service Building, 128 Merchants Row Suite 606, Rutland, VT 05701 Phone: (802) 775-6834 email: counterpoint@ vermontpsychiatricsurvivors.org MISSION STATEMENT:
Counterpoint is a voice for news and the arts by psychiatric survivors, ex-patients, and consumers of mental health services, and our families and friends. Copyright 2019, All Rights Reserved FOUNDING EDITOR Robert Crosby Loomis (1943-1994) EDITORIAL BOARD Joanne Desany, Emma Harrigan, Calvin Moen, Sara Neller, Eleanor Newton, Sarah Simoneau The Editorial Board reviews editorial policy and all materials in each issue of Counterpoint. Review does not necessarily imply support or agreement with any positions or opinions. PUBLISHER Vermont Psychiatric Survivors, Inc. The publisher has supervisory authority over all aspects of Counterpoint editing and publishing. EDITOR Anne B. Donahue News articles without a byline written by the editor. Opinions expressed by columnists and writers reflect the opinion of their authors and should not be taken as the position of Counterpoint.
Counterpoint is funded by the freedom-loving people of Vermont through their Department of Mental Health. Financial support does not imply support, agreement or endorsement of any of the positions or opinions in this newspaper; DMH does not interfere with editorial content.
Counterpoint is published by Vermont Psychiatric Survivors three times a year, distributed free of charge throughout Vermont, and also available by mail subscription. Vermont Psychiatric Survivors is an independent, statewide mutual support and civil rights advocacy organization run by and for psychiatric survivors. The mission of Vermont Psychiatric Survivors is to provide advocacy and mutual support that seeks to end psychiatric coercion, oppression and discrimination. Counterpoint does not use pseudonyms in its reporting without stating that a pseudonym is being used and without an explanation for why the person’s identity is not being disclosed. Counterpoint does not use anonymous sources under any circumstances.
UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT MEDICAL CENTER
Program Quality Committee, third Tuesdays, 9-10 a.m., McClure bldg, Rm 601A.
Facebook and Web Sites WELLNESS WORKFORCE COALITION
www.vcil.org/services/wellness-workforce-coalition Trainings, events and meetings of the Wellness Workforce Coalition.
MAD IN VERMONT
www.facebook.com/groups/madinvermont Venue for peer support, news, and advocacy/activism organizing in Vermont. “Psychiatric survivors, ex-patients/inmates, consumers, human rights activists and non-pathologizing allies are welcome.”
Vermont Department of Mental Health Presents:
Better Together: Alliances in Mental Health and Wellness
A Statewide Symposium on Advancing Mental Health and Health Care This conference will bring together key stakeholders in mental health and health care to positively impact the well-being of Vermonters. Join in an opportunity to gain knowledge about innovative practices, influences changes and service delivery, and hear about successful and researched approaches to integrated care.
Watch for details at mentalhealth.vermont.gov/
Don’t Miss Out on a Counterpoint! Mail delivery straight to your home — be the first to get it, never miss an issue. c Enclosed is $10 for 3 issues (1 year). c I can’t afford it right now, but please sign me up (VT only). c Please use this extra donation to help in your work. (Our thanks!) Checks or money orders should be made payable to “Vermont Psychiatric Survivors.” Send to: Counterpoint, The Service Building, 128 Merchants Row, Suite 606, Rutland, VT 05701
Access Counterpoint online at www.vermontpsychiatricsurvivors.org
_______________________________________________ NAME: _______________________________________________ ADDRESS: _______________________________________________ CITY • STATE • ZIP
FALL 2019 Fall 2018
ROUND UP In the News Abandoned in Hospitals
Patients who stay in hospitals well beyond the time they are ready for discharge because of lack of supportive placements are being held unconstitutionally, according to Disability Rights Vermont. See page 1. Elderly patients who are rejected by nursing homes or residential care placements as a result of their psychiatric history are one subgroup of patients who stay in the hospital when they no longer need acute care. Page 1, sidebar.
free of violations after a number of rocky years, was found in violation of safe environment violations in 14 situations in July. Violations included a failure to have an adequate safety oversight system. Page 6-7.
Woodside ‘Horrific’ Practices
A federal court reviewing videos of residents at the only state-run treatment facility for children called the treatment of a teenage girl in a mental health crisis “shocking” and “horrific.” Page 6.
Montpelier police shot and killed a man they said pointed a gun at them. He was the fifth person to die from police use of force while appearing to be experiencing a mental health crisis in less than two years, equaling the number of deaths over the previous 16 years. See page 1.
New Psych Hospital Sited
The University of Vermont Health Network has announced that the new psychiatric units at Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin are being planned for a new building alongside the current hospital. It will include a new emergency department as its base level. Page 5.
Retreat Faces New Violations
The Brattleboro Retreat, which had only a year
The Burlington City Council omitted a psychiatric survivor slot on a committee it created to review police use-of-force policies, and later defended the decision and refused to expand the committee. A council member said not every group that interacts with police could be included. Page 10.
Yes, Exercise Truly Works
Despite the attention and citations a year ago, hospitals in the state are continuing to violate standards for patient care, in particular with psychiatric patients in emergency rooms. Page 7.
A formal study has verified that exercise can have a direct impact on mood, based on access to equipment and exercise sessions on the inpatient psychiatric units at the University of Vermont Medical Center. The authors hope it will encourage all hospitals to provide such access to patients. Page 11.
Not Guilty but Locked Up
Proud to Be Mad
More ED Patient Abuses
Police Shooting Death
Survivor Voices Excluded
Legislators heard from state’s attorneys who want people found not guilty of murder or attempted murder by reason of insanity to serve a minimum of three years in a psychiatric hospital, regardless of the status of their mental illness. Page 8.
Peer Respite Proposal
Four peer organizations have developed a white paper on creating a series of peer community centers and respite programs. Page 9.
Photos and a report on the annual Mad Pride rally and march are presented in a two-page spread. The event was in Brattleboro this year. Pages 12-13.
The Building of a Vision
The Department of Mental Health held listening sessions in five parts of the state over the summer to seek input on a 10-year vision for creating a more integrated and holistic health care system. Page 19.
In Commentary Guilty But Insane? This issue’s Counterpoint editorial questions whether it is just to hold people in the hospital after they have recovered, if they were not found guilty of a crime. Page 20.
The publisher’s commentary discusses the challenges of staying true to a vision while trying to raise the money to support it. Page 20.
14-hour waiting period for handgun purchases could reduce suicide deaths were mixed. Page 9.
Death Penalty Parallels
VPS Patient Representative Isaac Lezcano examines the similarities between forced psychiatric treatment and the death penalty. Page 21.
A Miracle of Activism
Second Class Citizens
A reader reacts to mass shootings being linked to mental illness. Page 20.
VPS Communications Coordinator Kaz DeWolfe describes how their own disability in advance of the Mad Pride event brought out a collective surge of collaboration. Page 22.
Hate Is Not a Mental Illness
If It Can Be Done
A guest editorial from the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law says mental illness is not the issue when mass shootings occur. Page 21.
VPS board member Zack Hughes shares the meaning of the national Alternatives conference for him. Page 22.
Summer Poll Results: Guns
Mad Pride and Dystopia
The results ofthe summer poll on whether a
Accepting that he lives in a dystopian world
allows former VPS Training Director Calvin Moen to focus more on caring for himself and others. Page 23.
A Farewell to Bill Newhall
The vision statement for the Another Way drop-in center in Montpelier written by its co-founder in the 1990s, the tributes at his memorial service and his obituary are shared. Pages 24-25.
Education of a Felon
Freedom from imprisonment is a necessary part of rising above and achieving freedom from oppression, this commentator says. Page 25.
Why I Take Drugs
There can be reasons to take drugs even while rejecting the pharmaceutical claims about how and why they work, this writer says, explaining what works for her. Art she is able to produce as a result is also shown. Page 26-27.
Annual Membership Meeting! When? Where? What?
October 19, 2019
10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Mid Vermont Christian School 399 W. Gilson Avenue, Quechee, VT 05059 Meet our new Executive Director Christophre Woods - hear from our featured speaker Chris Hansen - help create our first member-planned (that means you) fundraiser - discover alternatives to support groups that promote community learn how to join in the advocacy/activism of VPS more directly
You must be an active member to participate in voting. To renew or sign up to be a member, go on line to: eepurl.com/cbToAv For more information on VPS, visit us at VermontPsychiatricSurvivors.org.
FALL 2019 Fall 2018
ELDERS • Continued from page 1 the hospital’s psychiatric unit for a total of 610 additional days, with a cost of about $571,000, the report said, contributing to lack of access for others. A registered nurse who works in low-income senior housing apartments in central Vermont said that she sees many elderly individuals who cannot get a bed in an inpatient unit, or even in emergency care. At times, they may not be willing to wait in the ER for space in the hospital to open up and will return to their apartments, without getting the level of psychiatric support they were looking for, she said. She asked not to be identified because she was not authorized to speak publicly. The time waiting for discharge while on inpatient units can cause “unnecessary suffering” and patients can become frustrated, said Justin Knapp, MD, director of psychiatry at Central Vermont Medical Center. One of his patients remained at CVMC for one year before finding a place, despite being ready for discharge within the month that she was admitted, according to a report from the Vermont Human Rights Commission, which investigated the case. Although the reasons for repeated rejections from nursing homes were a lack of space and resources needed to care for her psychiatric disability, the investigation did not find that there was discrimination based upon disability status.
Specialty Skills Lacking
In order to qualify for a nursing home or residential care, elderly individuals with psychiatric disorders must have to struggle to care for themselves on a daily basis, according to Louis Josephson, Ph.D, president and CEO of the Brattleboro Retreat psychiatric hospital. They may also have cognitive disabilities such as dementia, according to Pierattini. “When these combine in a person,” he said, “they may present problems for care facilities.” Certain behaviors can challenge caregivers, Pierattini explained, such as an individual wandering into another resident’s room or removing food from another’s plate. Programs can be “immediately skeptical” of admitting them, he said, as caring for them may require additional staffing, more specialized caregiving skills, and “a certain attitude and tolerance.” In 2018, the House Committee on Health Care recommended that $500,000 be allocated in the budget to support three or more pilot programs in which nursing homes and residential care programs accept residents with serious mental health needs, allowing providers of long-term care services to develop the specialized skills in providing for these needs, as well as enabling the Agency of Human Services to identify best practices for replication by nursing homes and residential care programs. No specific funding ended up in that budget, and according to later reports to the legislature, no pilots were successfully created.
More Caregivers Needed
Nursing homes are required to have a certain ratio of staff members to residents, and while they do not usually employ health professionals who are equipped to handle psychiatric and behavioral issues, they can create contracts with more specialized clinicians for specified periods of time, according to Laura Pelosi, who oversees regulatory and policy issues for the Vermont Healthcare Association. The association is the
trade organization for nursing homes. Pelosi said that “the regulatory factors will always cast a shadow on certain admissions.”
In 2017, an investigation by the Vermont Human Rights Commission found that the patient who waited at CVMC for nursing home placement was rejected by every home in the state on the basis that they lacked the proper resources to care for her. Programs want to avoid situations in which a resident physically or verbally assaults another resident or staff member, and employing the right number of caregivers is key to avoiding such interactions, Pelosi said. The Vermont Division of Licensing and Protection, she explained, has a “no tolerance policy for these kinds of incidents.” A nursing home could be prohibited from receiving payment from Medicare, which would be detrimental to their operation, as about 85% of their residents are covered by Medicare, according to Pelosi. They could also lose their certification, Pelosi said. “A lot is at stake.” While nursing homes must follow regulations, they are private entities and can set their own criteria for entrance, she added. Commissioner of the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living Monica Hutt said that a program has to evaluate whether other patients will be impacted negatively. “A nursing home is someone’s home,” she explained, “and the facility has a responsibility to its residents and staff, to make sure it’s a good match for a new resident in terms of resources and safety.” When asked if there might be regulatory changes such that nursing homes face less pressure in admitting residents with psychiatric care needs, Pelosi said, “I don’t see federal regulatory changes as a particularly realistic option.” Vermont’s decreasing workforce has been directly linked to the state’s aging population. According to a report by the Agency of Human Services, the state’s aging demographic is expected to increase through 2030 with nearly 30% of its population exceeding 65 years and older by that time.
No Rights Violation Found
In 2017, an investigation by the Vermont Human Rights Commission found that the patient who waited at CVMC for nursing home placement was rejected by every home in the state on the basis that they lacked the proper resources to care for her. Disability Rights Vermont filed a complaint to the commission on her behalf, a 72-yearold individual with a severe psychiatric disability. She remained at the hospital for one year before finding a place
to live, despite being ready for discharge within the month that she was admitted, according to the investigation report by the commission. Disability Rights Vermont said that these nursing homes discriminated based on her disability and that state agencies like the Department of Mental Health and DAIL failed to ensure that the programs were held accountable for following anti-discrimination laws. According to the investigation, the patient’s care team at CMVC repeatedly reached out to every nursing home in the state, but these programs said that they did not have the staffing resources to meet her needs even when they were informed of additional state funding that would offset the cost of hiring additional staff. Pelosi said that DAIL offers a range of financial incentives to long term care residences, depending on the patients’ needs, as Medicaid payments may not fully cover those who require high levels of care. AJ Ruben of Disability Rights Vermont said that attempts to supplement staffing costs are not always successful. “The state,” he said, “doesn’t try to bargain hard.” The report also said that DAIL delayed reaching out to nursing homes. Knapp, who oversaw the patient’s care at CVMC, said that “at times, there’s not a sense of urgency outside of the hospital. Hospitals tend to work on these issues day to day. State agencies? Week to week.” The commission did not conclude that there was unlawful discrimination in the case, but said that the state failed to exercise its full authority to remedy the reservations that nursing homes expressed in admitting the patient. The report called the issue of finding residential options for patients “neither new nor novel.” The person was eventually discharged to an adult family care home provider — a communitybased program in which an individual or family is compensated by state agencies to provide a high level of care in their home, according to DAIL.
Focus on Community
Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health Sarah Squirrell emphasized the need for these community-based services, in which care is provided outside of an institution such as a hospital or nursing home. She said that they can provide alternative options to placement in an institutional program and can decrease the need for entering hospitals to begin with. The department, she added, is working to strengthen services like the eldercare clinician program, in which the state pays clinicians to work with elderly individuals in their homes. In 2018, this program served 345 residents. Knapp said that “there is a reluctance for specialized psychiatric homes because we encourage those with mental illness to live in the community. Not to live separately and face stigma from their fellow Vermonters.”
Photo credit Dreamstime Martin Allinger
NEWS . NEWS
Fall 2018 FALL 2019
Death • Continued from page 1 begin reviews until after a case is closed by other officials. It has been holding meetings
almost monthly for more than a year reviewing extensive information pertaining to Grenon’s death without being able to complete that report In Remembrance yet, she said. Lest there ever be a time, “It’s not possible” to do that level of work if somewhere down the road, there is a need to review multiple cases, she come the morrow, said. “We could do a sloppy job.” White fills our dear neighbor and caring friend, the commission seat appointed by Vermont taken from us very tragically, Psychiatric Survivors, and is its former executive one early morning, director. be too easily dismissed and forgotten; A memorial with flowers and messages of love we shall always remember, sprang up on the Spring Street bridge in the our hearts remain grieving, days after Johnson was shot and killed. “You are still filled with deep sorrow, sorely missed my friend” said one note in large over the sudden loss chalk lettering. of the 'good soul,' the 'gentle gaint,' The death hit hard among members of the psychiatric survivor community in Montpelier, we all knew and greatly miss, according to Dawn Lowery, a peer support staff who to us was Mark Johnson. member at the Another Way drop-in center. Rest In Peace Morgan W. Brown People who knew Johnson “were feeling really Friday, August 30, 2019 upset,” she said. “A couple of people have been Montpelier walking around with some strong emotions.” The death brings memories “back to those old systems of care, of being labelled, of being persecuted,” Lowery said. The police reports acknowledged that police knew Johnson had a history of reported mental illness. They reported responding to three prior incidents that summer related to his mental health symptoms that did not involve criminal complaints. Early on the morning of August 9, police said they responded to a report of a person trying to jimmy a lock on one of the doors at the Pioneer Apartments on Main Street, where Johnson also lived. They said they saw him running from the scene with a gun in one hand and then had a standoff with him at the nearby bridge. The police report said he started A young boy stops on his bike to read the memorials to Mark Johnson. to climb over the bridge guard (Counterpoint Photo: Anne Donahue)
rail, first on one side of the street and then the other, and repeatedly ignored their order to drop the gun. They said they attempted to offer to get him help. When he raised the gun, one of the officers fired, hitting him twice, the report said. He was pronounced dead at Central Vermont Medical Center. Since Grenon in 2016, the four other people Mark Johnson killed whose reports included evidence of a mental health crisis were Michael Battles, shot by Vermont state police in Poultney in September, 2017; Nathan Giffin, shot by state police in Montpelier in January, 2018; Benjamin Gregware, shot by state police while threatening suicide in February, 2018; and Douglas Kilburn, struck by a Burlington police officer in an altercation in March, 2019. White said that thus far, only Giffin’s case has been referred to the commission. By law, all cases that fit the statutory description must be referred. White said she believes police are still learning the new requirement and may need another reminder from the commission.
Police Use of Force Deaths in Vermont Among Persons with Mental Disability or in Mental Health Crisis Between 2001 and 2019
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LAWSUIT • Continued from page 1 say it is safe and appropriate for them to be discharged.” “Prolonged institutionalization in a hospital is not helpful — it is an enormous expense and requires hospital space that could be used by someone with more acute needs,” the statement said. It noted as one example that, in April of this year, Vermont Public Radio reported that wait times and barriers for seniors in Vermont to get into nursing homes are worse than the national average. As evidence of the barrier created for access to inpatient care, the statement cited
a 2019 WCAX story reporting that children in emergency departments wait an average of three days for a psychiatric inpatient bed, and a 2017 report from the University of Vermont Medical Center that said that, in its hospital alone, discharge delays resulted in about 57 patients per year that were not able to get a hospital bed when needed. Disability Rights Vermont said that while doing its fact-finding to identify patients who are ready to leave the hospital but cannot for lack of supportive placement, it will “inform patients, family and facility staff about the
rights of people with disabilities to be free from unnecessary institutionalization, and inform them how to pursue vindication of those rights.” Ruben said the preference is always to work out solutions, and if system-wide problems are identified, it will recommend remedies. To the extent that those responsible do not resolve those obstacles to discharge, the option of a lawsuit “is never taken off the table,” he said. The agency said anyone with information can make contact at AJ@DisabilityRightsVt.org, by phone at 229-1355 x103, or by mail at DRVT, 141 Main St. Ste. 7, Montpelier, VT 05602.
Proposed Psych Inpatient Units Sited BERLIN — The new psychiatric inpatient units planned for the Central Vermont Medical Center campus will be above a new emergency room and form the base for future new medical floors, the University of Vermont Health Network has announced. The new building will include 40 psychiatric beds in three units, combining CVMC’s existing 15-bed unit with 25 new beds. It will tuck up against the current hospital where the side public entrance is currently located, according to
a presentation before the stakeholder advisory group for the project. The preliminary design shows the emergency room and a psychiatric intake area on the main floor. The design shows a slightly smaller second story, which includes a 16-bed unit with two pods and an eight-bed unit with roof garden areas above sections of the ER. The 16-bed unit would be designated for a “Tier 2” level of care and the eight-bed as “Tier 1,” or
most acute; both would be locked, involuntary treatment units, the plan shows. The third floor is smaller and would be a 16-bed “Tier 3” unit primarily for voluntary patients, designed to be able to be an unlocked unit, according to the plan. Its roof garden would be above the Tier 1 unit. Future medical-surgical units could be constructed as a continuation of levels above the Tier 3 unit, hospital officials said.
NEWS 6 NEWS
FALL 2019 Fall 2018
Retreat Again Faces Questions By ANNE DONAHUE
BRATTLEBORO — The Brattleboro Retreat violated patient safety standards when staff injured one person with a “take down” on a cement floor, failed to follow up after a suicide attempt by another, and violated rights to appropriate care for four other patients this past spring and summer, according to an investigation authorized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. There were 14 issues identified as the basis for finding violations of federal regulations. These issues continued a long pattern of violations since 2012 with new findings of failure to provide safe care every year except 2017. The Retreat’s chief executive officer, Louis Josephson, Ph.D., said that the survey would help the Retreat “remain focused on improving our clinical practice and organizational systems” but refused to answer specific questions asked by Counterpoint. Counterpoint also received two letters in August from recent patients who described “degrading” practices, “filth” on windows and in showers, understaffing and lack of therapeutic services. The hospital was placed on “immediate jeopardy” status in July due to “failure to initiate immediate action after a significant patient event” — the suicide attempt — according to the CMS survey report. That can result in an immediate decertification and termination of a hospital’s federal provider status with the loss of all federal funding if not addressed within days. The Retreat did respond to resolve that status. During the first week of September, the Retreat informed Counterpoint that a survey had been conducted to investigate two new complaints, that there no new violations found and that the Retreat was found to be back in compliance regarding the violations from the July survey. The Retreat had submitted its plan of correction in August, and a new survey is then required by CMS in order to verify that violations have been remedied. Suzanne Leavitt from the state’s Division of Licensing and Protection confirmed on September 4 that “the Retreat is back in compliance” with
the conditions for participation in Medicare and Medicaid funding. CMS investigations are conducted through the division. Sarah Squirrell, commissioner of the Department of Mental Health, said she found the July review findings “deeply concerning” and that under the department’s role of designating hospitals for psychiatric care, DMH would be “looking at therapeutic treatment and practices” and whether the state’s “ideals and fundamentals of patient care” are being met. The person who attempted suicide was found “laying on a bathroom floor with a portion of a plastic bag hanging from their mouth, attempting to swallow the plastic.” The patient was medically cleared at the emergency room, the investigation report said. The hospital removed the overhanging strips of garbage bags from the locked trash cans on the Tyler 2 unit, where the incident occurred, but not on any other unit, the report said, thereby leaving 48 other patients who were at risk for suicide in greater danger on the day of the review. The patient injury in June was the result of the person striking an elbow when being placed face down on the floor for locked-door seclusion by two mental health workers in what the Retreat called a “quiet room.” It had a concrete floor and walls and was bare of even a mattress, the report said. The patient had a known shoulder injury from three months earlier, and the report said a staff person acknowledged not being apprised of the injury or of “precautions to take” as a result. It was the second violation found for injury to a patient while performing restraint within just over a year. In March 2018, a CMS investigation found 75-year-old woman had a cardiac emergency after involuntary medication and suffered multiple bruises from repeated episodes of restraint and seclusion. In 2014, the Retreat was placed under special federal oversight after pervasive violations over several years, including two deaths, and was reported to be at serious risk of losing its certification to receive federal funding. It regained full certification in 2015 but had new violations cited in 2016 and 2018. It
underwent an investigation for improprieties in Medicaid billing during that time but was cleared of criminal wrongdoing, and an agreement with the state was put into place to improve financial practices. Jodi Girouard of South Burlington told Counterpoint in August that, during her stay earlier in the month, patients had to ask staff for drinking water or to use the bathroom, as both the kitchen and bathrooms were kept locked. “Finding a staff member available was difficult sometimes,” she said. Her assigned mental health worker was never introduced to her, and those staff “were mostly door openers for the bathroom and the locked kitchen.” Shower drains were left with hair stuck in them and not cleaned for days, she said, and bloody Band-Aids were left on the floor when they fell off the bare legs or feet of a man who had open sores from Hepatitis C. From 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., the unit’s only two common rooms were also locked, and Girouard said that when she had nightmares and couldn’t sleep, but did not want to disturb her roommate, she had to stand or lean against the walls in the hallway. She also found little treatment available, she said, with minimal time with staff and most group therapy sessions cancelled “due to understaffing, I was told.” Girouard said she saw patients who stayed in bed, undressed all day, “come to life” when she spent time reaching out to them. “I was concerned that Brattleboro Retreat was more of a holding cell than a treatment hospital,” she said. Girouard said she believed the Retreat has good staff that does care, and she wanted to help promote change there, not create negative publicity. “Being treated with dignity is the first step. Cleanliness and treating all with dignity is a basic right for all no matter the illness,” she said. Michelle Neville, another recent patient, told Counterpoint that she had been at the Retreat several times between 2012 and 2017 and that it was “caring and compassionate” and she found “support and peace” there. When she returned
Judge Finds Woodside Care ‘Horrific’ RUTLAND — A federal court has ordered Vermont’s only state-run children’s psychiatric treatment facility to develop a detailed policy within six weeks for treating youths experiencing severe mental health symptoms — including recognition of when it lacks the ability to prove the needed level of care. Judge Geoffrey Crawford said that the treatment of a teenage girl that was captured on video was “shocking” and showed “a horrific incident” that “demonstrates in the space of a few minutes Woodside’s limited ability to care for a child who is experiencing symptoms of serious mental illness.” “The use of four hooded male officers, clothed in hazmat suits, to subdue a naked young woman and force her to the floor beneath a plexiglass shield cannot represent an appropriate, professional response to her attempts to strangle herself,” the judge wrote. Crawford wrote that the staff then confined her in a tiled shower room. “A female staff
member can then be heard talking to the girl, who is occupied in pushing a wire into her right forearm. The girl is asked why she is doing that. No one interrupts this action on the video.” Woodside, located in Colchester, was built as a juvenile detention facility and “resembles a small prison,” the judge wrote, but was converted in 2011 to a residential treatment center for youth who also were charged with delinquent acts. Much of the judge’s ruling focused on the facility’s use of restraint and seclusion, which it said were also likely to be found to violate constitutional standards if the case went to trial. In addition to the mental health crisis policy, his order requires rapid adoption of new restraint practices and the development of a seclusion policy that meets national standards and “will change the current practice of holding some youth in seclusion for weeks or longer.” Crawford said that the mental health policy developed under his order “shall clearly identify the point at which Woodside lacks the ability to
provide psychiatric care to a youth and discharge to a higher level of care is necessary.” He said he recognized it would require coordination with other agencies and that he “will review progress in developing a policy that meets constitutional standards” at a follow-up hearing. Part of the crisis that was not recorded in the video was a dispute with the University of Vermont Medical Center “over whether the young woman belonged at the emergency department (Woodside’s perspective) or at Woodside,” Crawford noted. “The stand-off concluded with an incident in which the young woman tore apart the inside of a van while waiting outside Woodside for a decision to be made about her fate. Ultimately, neither institution accepted her and she was released to the home of her grandmother, apparently without further incident,” he wrote. The case was brought by Disability Rights Vermont.
NEWS . NEWS
FALL 2019 Fall 2018
Over Patient Safety Citations
this year, Neville said, “the place felt so cold … the bathroom doors were locked, there never seemed to be enough staff, and many things were taken away.” She asked that her home town not be identified to preserve privacy. She said she also found writing and filth on the windows and “little to no art therapy, no supplies, no cafeteria and no physical staff psychiatrist on the unit” — only access on a television screen. “I was appalled by the fact that a patient struggling with a mental illness has no physical presence from a psychiatrist when they are inpatient,” Neville said. “I was not feeling comfortable at all as there was always someone locked up in the confined unit and as a result there was less staff to interact with,” she said. It “seems to be more like a prison than a place of healing,” Neville said. The August report included findings of these violations: • Allowing access to a strip of plastic bag hanging from a trash can, which a patient used to attempt suicide. The patient had been making repeated suicidal statements. • Failing to use a review of that incident to take safety measures to remove similar exposed plastic on all other units. • Failing to implement safety interventions during the use of restraint or seclusion through the lack of protection on the cement floor of the seclusion room and the failure to address the patient’s prior broken shoulder. • Failing to conduct a comprehensive assessment of risks after two patients were able to barricade themselves in a room by moving an unsecured refrigerator. • Failing to implement a nursing plan that required a patient to be on a diuretic and com-
pression stockings for asthma and swelling for more than two weeks. • Failing to update a care plan for two of three presenting symptoms identified for one patient for more than two months. • Failing to increase a level of supervision for swallowing medication for a patient who had admitted to not taking them. • Two instances of failing to discontinue restraints or seclusion at the earliest possible time. (One documentation entry repeatedly stated only, “Patient continues to exhibit unsafe behaviors” without any description. The other stated only that seclusion was used “to allow medications to become effective,” which is not a permitted reason.) • Failing to obtain physician orders for restraint in one instance and for seclusion in another. • Failing to conduct a face-to-face reassessment of a patient in restraints. • Failing to have an adequate quality assessment protocol. • Failing to provide orientation or training to contract nurses. In the plan of correction approved by CMS, the Retreat addressed most violations through commitments to enhanced training or administration overview, similar to its responses to violations in prior years. The Retreat also said that “all quiet rooms will have a mattress” and, in response to medication oversight, that “mouth checks will be completed on all patients.” When Counterpoint initially reached Josephson after the CMS investigation report was made public, he said he did not wish to make a verbal comment but that he would send a written comment and respond to written questions.
Counterpoint followed up with specific questions, and Josephson did not reply to any of them. The questions included whether it had been an ongoing practice to do “mouth checks” on every patient, even those who had referred themselves to the hospital and had not been refusing medication; why a room used for seclusion was called a “quiet room”; whether the Retreat was experiencing staffing challenges; whether it was accurate that patients were being left with no place to sit down during night hours; and whether bathrooms were still being locked. The written comment he sent said that, based on the findings by Licensing and Protection, “Brattleboro Retreat leaders and staff have taken a number of steps to address certain deficiencies identified by the regulators.” He identified improvements to “the environment of care, information technology upgrades, additional staff education and changes to some policies and procedures.” Squirrell said that DMH was following up on some of the issues raised by Counterpoint, as well as the serious concerns “illuminated in this report.” She noted in particular the safety issues with patients at risk for suicide and said that it is “so important to use appropriate protocols” when restraint or seclusion is being used. She expressed concerns about using space that was supposed to be for therapeutic use for the purpose of restraint and seclusion. DMH “has an enormous responsibility” for people who are under the care and custody of the commissioner (involuntary patients) and “all Vermonters” who need inpatient care, she said, in protecting “patient rights, dignity and safety.” Squirrell said the Retreat was last redesignated in 2017 and found to be in compliance with all DMH requirements and is due for redesignation this year.
Rights Violations Continue in ERs WATERBURY — Despite the public attention on numerous ongoing violations of psychiatric patient rights in hospitals a year ago, citations have continued to identify failures in meeting “patient’s rights to receive care in a safe setting” — a core federal standard — in emergency departments. Last winter’s Counterpoint reported on six incidents of hospitals violating the rights or safety of psychiatric patients in emergency rooms between February and September 2018. Between then and this June, hospitals were cited five more times, often for the same violations of using law enforcement and handcuffs in healthcare settings. The prohibition on using law enforcement rather than having adequate staff for health care emergencies is not new: It was clarified at length by the Vermont Department of Aging and Independent Living in 2013 in a survey report on violations at the Brattleboro Retreat, and in 2016 in the emergency department at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital. Both were reported in Counterpoint at the time. Most of the new violations occurred after the Department of Mental Health told Counterpoint last November that it had presented educational sessions with hospitals on how to de-escalate situations and meet the standard for using only hospital staff instead of calling police. New violations include:
Brattleboro Memorial Hospital A February survey found failures to assure care in a safe setting and the use of law enforcement in patient care in three different patient episodes in October and December 2018 and January 2019. In one case, a patient brought to the ER was kept face-down with hands cuffed behind the back, which is considered high risk for injury, the DAIL report said. The patient remained in at least one shackle for more than an hour, it said. In a second instance, a disruptive patient was pushed to the ground, held down and handcuffed behind the back by a sheriff and two other officers, the report said. Hospital staff administered forced medication while she was kneeling on the floor in handcuffs, it said. Neither practice is permitted, DAIL noted. A third patient who was Deaf and agitated, refusing attempts to communicate, was kept handcuffed by police after being brought in despite a request by staff to remove the handcuffs. She was then medicated while in the cuffs. The hospital also left unsafe items in patient areas, the report said, and failed to re-evaluate a patient in seclusion in the ER in the time frame required. Springfield Hospital An April survey found that the hospital called on local police in March to assist as stand-by
in the search of a patient who had refused to change clothing into hospital garb. The patient had consented to the search, the report noted. The hospital also violated safety of patients as a result of having confusing policies on constant observation for high-risk patients, resulting in at least two cases where 15-minute checks were being conducted instead of the constant oversight that had been ordered, the report said. Springfield Hospital had been found in violation just a few months earlier, in January, for calling the police to assist with a patient the prior October and again with another patient in December. The hospital was additionally cited for failures in patient observation and medication record-keeping. Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital In May, the hospital in St. Johnsbury was cited for failing to remove restraints from a patient when the patient was sleeping and no longer at imminent risk. Rutland Regional Medical Center The most recent investigation occurred in June at Rutland Regional Medical Center, where staff from DAIL said that a lack of compliance with safety observation policies allowed an emergency room patient to attempt to strangle themselves with oxygen tubing. There were “red marks embedded in the patient’s neck” but no sustained injury after staff cut the tubing off, the report said.
NEWS 8 NEWS
FALL 2019 Fall 2018
Longer Hospital Terms Sought for the ‘Not Guilty’ By ANNE DONAHUE
MONTPELIER — Several high-profile cases of people who were not prosecuted for murder or attempted murder based on a finding of insanity have led several legislators to say that they will introduce bills to change the laws on hospitalization for such individuals. It was “unbelievable what happened in Chittenden County with these three cases,” said Sen. Dick Sears, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Two proposals for change were brought to a legislative oversight committee by two state’s attorneys at a special hearing in July. One would mandate a minimum three-year hospital stay in such cases, and the other would require victim notification before the person was released to the community. Department of Mental Health Commissioner Sarah Squirrell told legislators that once a person is in her custody, the department’s role is to provide health care, and both federal and state law require that a person remain in the hospital only for as long as is needed to stabilize an acute mental health condition. They must then be discharged or moved to a less restrictive setting, she said. The thought that “we can house individuals indefinitely” is just not true, she said later in an interview with Counterpoint. She also testified that as a health provider, DMH is bound by federal law to maintain confidentiality of patient records. Jack McCullough, director of the Mental Health Law Project, defends patients in involuntary commitment cases. He told Counterpoint that advocates opposed to “further encroachment of civil liberties” of people with mental health diagnoses “should be concerned” by the discussion of changes to the law. He said that legislators upset about the three cases where charges were dismissed are not reacting with the right approach. The question should be, “What can we do as a society to ensure public safety?” and the state is doing that now under court commitment orders. “We do not see an epidemic … [of patients] released very quickly” and then committing new crimes, he said.
Legislators expressed a number of concerns. If found insane at the time of a crime and thereby “absolved of the charges … where are they now?” asked Rep. Alice Emmons, chair of the House Corrections and Institutions Committee. McCullough pointed out to the committee that in insanity and incompetency cases, the defendant is an innocent person who is entitled by the constitution to that presumption of innocence because they have not been convicted of a crime. Sears appeared to be establishing clarity about that when he asked legislative attorney Erik Fitzpatrick, “Is there ever a time where a judge determines … whether this person even committed the crime?” Fitzpatrick said it was an “interesting question” because the only issue at a commitment hearing is: What’s the appropriate placement for this person for treatment? The hearing is held after charges are dismissed, he explained in his presentation to legislators. That can occur based on a finding that a person was “insane” at the time of the crime — the legal term for having a mental illness that prevents a person from knowing that what they are doing is wrong. It more frequently occurs because the person has been found to be not competent to stand trial, he said, meaning that after arrest, a mental illness prevents the person from understanding the trial or their lawyer’s advice. In those cases, charges can be brought again if the person becomes competent. In many cases, the hospital commitment is, in effect, a plea bargain, McCullough agreed later, since the defense agrees to the commitment in exchange for having the charges dropped. He said many defendants actually want to be found to have regained competence so that they can stand trial in order to show they were innocent. That type of plea bargaining was the case with Isaac Graham, who was interviewed in 2017 by Counterpoint regarding his successful appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court in his involuntary medication case. He said he was “coerced into going into the mental hospital” after criminal charges were filed on a domestic abuse claim by a girlfriend.
The attorney his parents hired convinced him that it was better than risking a possible 20-year prison sentence and said he would only represent him if he agreed to the hospital. Graham said he was innocent of the charges, and the alleged victim later recanted. If anything happened in the future, “I would not accept any lawyers” who insisted on a hospitalization option, he said. The case for changes in law was made by Chittenden State’s Attorney Sarah George and Windsor State’s Attorney David Cahill. It was George who dropped the charges in the murder and attempted murder cases based, she said, on agreement by both the prosecution and defense witnesses that the individuals were insane at the time of the crimes. Cahill said that “insane homicide defendants” are “more than just a patient,” yet it is “the needs of the patient that drive the system” rather than public safety. There is no protection against the fact that a patient can appear stable until an “episodic homicidal tendency … rears its head again,” he asserted. Cahill proposed a dual status of both patient and defendant, with a public hearing, victim notification, and an initial term of three years in the hospital with “no ability for the person to leave without a court decision,” in order to protect “both the needs of the patient and the needs of public safety.” Sen. Alison Clarkson said that under the current mental health system, such defendants “go into this long black hole” of confidentiality, and “we have an opportunity to restore public confidence” by making the process more open. Squirrell told Counterpoint later that she hought it was a “disservice to construct a straight line” from mental health to crime, because crimes are committed for other reasons than mental illness, and people with a mental illness “are not more likely” to commit a crime than anyone else. Squirrell said she plans to work with stakeholders to think about other ways to address “concerns raised regarding public safety of Vermonters” and that she hoped those from the criminal justice and corrections systems would join in those discussions.
Counterpoint Telephone Poll QUESTION: Should a Minimum Sentence in a Hospital Be Required if Not Guilty by Insanity? VOTE by calling:
>> To vote “YES” Dial Extension 12 >> To Vote “NO” Dial Extension 13
(See news article above.)
Results of the poll will be published in the next issue of Counterpoint.
FALLFall 2019 2018
Summer Poll Result:
Mixed Feelings About Gun Waiting Periods
The summer Counterpoint poll question was: Would a 24-hour waiting period to buy a handgun reduce suicide deaths?
RUTLAND — Counterpoint’s summer poll on The question was based on a bill that passed the gun access and suicide generated the first sharply legislature last spring that would have imposed the divided response since the polls began, with 57% waiting period. replying that they believed a 24-hour waiting period The bill was later vetoed by the governor. The to buy a handgun would reduce suicide deaths. legislature could choose to vote again in 2020 to “I know of a person that was able to easily buy attempt to override the governor’s veto with a twoa gun and committed suicide the same day, so I thirds margin. 43% “No.” really think it could help to have that delay,” said The new question for the current issue of A 24-hour one person in a comment left on the phone message Counterpoint is whether a minimum sentence in waiting period 57% “Yes.” system. the hospital should be required if a person is found would not A 24-hour There were 90 who registered a vote on the not guilty of a crime based on insanity. reduce suicide waiting period Vermont Psychiatric Survivors Facebook page, and That question is based on a debate that has begun deaths. would reduce 60% of them supported a waiting period, but none among legislators after charges in two murders and suicide deaths. listed comments. one attempted murder were dropped in Chittenden A majority of those leaving direct phone messages County. The hospital commitments for those — 7-3 — responded with a “no.” Some responses suspects, based on current law, extend only as long reflected some indecision. One who replied “yes” as the person is in need of treatment. See article, said that their opinion was “unimportant” because page 8. “somebody needs to study this analytically and objectively,” and one who voted “no” gave a similar rationale for opposing it. “To me this is not a matter of opinion. It’s Four Vermont non-profits have joined in developing a white paper to propose a really about: Is there any evidence that waiting network of peer-operated community centers and peer respites. This statement is a periods have any effect on suicide numbers? one page summary of the full paper. And according to the Rand Corporation, there is no evidence. They did not find any qualifying studies estimating the effect on suicides of implementing waiting periods. “They looked at a couple of reviews of studies and found basically inconclusive evidence. So I think at this point there is not the evidence that it would have an impact,” the caller said. That caller went on to say that “the larger question” goes back “to what groups of people are being targeted as risks, and do we consider that to be discrimination on the basis of disability, and I would say yes.” Another caller said that “at least we ought to give it a chance that it can help this terrible situation.” Three called who voted “no” said that having to wait 24 hours would not make any difference. “They’ve been so bad, so long, for some … they want to get it… if they got 24 hours [to wait], once they get it, they’re going to do it anyhow,” said one. “There are many, many [other] ways to commit suicide,” another said.
A Peer Proposal
VPS Names New Staff
RUTLAND — Vermont Psychiatric Survivors has announced the start of a new peer advocate, Nate Lulek. He will focus on peer support and patient representative roles in the Rutland area. Lulek has a BA in behavioral science with a minor in developmental psychology from the College of St. Joseph. He lives in Fair Haven. He worked for VPS several years ago as the forensic peer support specialist for the Community Links program. Lulek says that he tries to use his “wicked sense of humor” to bring laughter to situations and loves to tell a good story. He also describes himself as an avid gourmand who enjoys trying new dishes and ingredients, as well as a lover of the outdoors.
NEWS 10 NEWS
FALL 2019 Fall 2018
Survivors Left Off Police Review By WENDY M. LEVY
BURLINGTON — City council member Adam Roof (I-Ward 8) has defended the omission of a psychiatric survivor on a special committee to review the city police department use of force policy. He said the council does not want to add more members. All three people who died after a police intervention in the past six years in Burlington had been labelled as having mental health issues, and national estimates identify people with disabilities — primarily psychiatric disabilities — as being disproportionately injured or killed by police. Roof, a sponsor of the resolution to form the committee, said the council’s goal was “to get a group of people to represent people who are affected by the police.” This group, Roof told Counterpoint, should be a “healthy cross-section of stakeholders.” However, he said, “The list goes on and on Burlington Police Chief of people in need” who Brandon DelPozo have been affected by issues with the police, including “the Congolese, and members of the Islamic faith community.” The special committee “could be 100 [people]” if it included everyone, said Roof. Only three slots on the committee included specific members of affected groups: “two members representing local communities of color” and “one member representing the local LGBT community.” Another appointed position was for “a local mental health/substance abuse service provider.” Roof told Counterpoint on August 6 that people with lived experience could apply for the position designated as a mental health provider, which was still open. One day later, at least one person did apply but was then told that the application had missed the deadline. Roof later apologized for his error in believing that it was open, when actually a provider had been selected to fill that slot the previous month. Several advocacy and peer-to-peer organizations wrote to the council to ask why a psychiatric survivor was not included. Roof said he would ask his fellow councilors if they would expand the committee’s membership to include a person with lived experience of mental health services and later informed Counterpoint that he discussed it informally “and there does not seem to be interest in adding more seats to an already large committee.” Because of the misunderstanding about the slot being open, he said he would ask other council members again about adding another seat to the committee. In late August, he said that the suggestion was rejected again.
The council formed the committee in June after the department was involved in several highly publicized incidents of alleged police brutality in the last year. One involved injuries sustained by a man who was hit in the head by police during an altercation. The injuries were ruled by the medical examiner to have contributed to the man’s death several days later, leading it to be classified as a homicide.
He was identified in Seven Days by a family member as having behavioral symptoms related to a stroke. He also had a seizure disorder and was on disability, his sister said. Two other cases are the subject of federal lawsuits filed on May 2 charging the department with “unlawful, unreasonable and excessive use of force” that resulted in three individuals receiving mental and physical injuries, the lawsuit said. They were people of color. In May, a $270,000 settlement was announced on behalf of a man shot and killed by police in 2013. The lawsuit alleged that the police actions “failed to reasonably accommodate Mr. [Wayne] Brunette’s mental disability,” according to a police department press release. Another man with a reported history of mental illness was shot and killed by Burlington police in 2016. The resolution said the city was committed to a process of “genuine dialogue,” in particular “with historically marginalized communities.” Eight of the 15 members are public officials.
Disability Advocates Ask to Add a Survivor
Sarah Launderville, executive director of the cross-disability organization Vermont Center for Independent Living, was one of those who wrote to councilors to suggest having a member with lived experience with a mental health diagnosis rather than a provider. Survivors “have a lot of valuable information to provide on a committee like this but are often overlooked and oppressed further by having someone else offer up opinions on our behalf,” she wrote. One councilor, Brian Pine, replied, saying he appreciated the feedback and that “we can take this into account in our outreach for applications and in the selection process.” Launderville told Counterpoint that she thought the response — which did not indicate willingness to add Douglas Kilburn, who died a membership slot after being struck by a Burl— came across as ington police officer in an alsaying that “the tercation in April. Photo was taken by his sister in the hosopinion of mental pital to show his injuries. health providers is more valuable when it comes to solving this issue.” “I would rather the council take a step back and change the structure, announcing boldly that someone from the psychiatric survivor community must be included Wayne Brunette, whose esin this work. tate settled with he city in That would be an May after a lawsuit that alincredible step leged violation of disability accomodation when the poforward,” she said. Ed Paquin, lice shot him in 2013.
executive director of Disability Rights Vermont, wrote to the council in June that “people with disabilities, the Deaf, and especially people with mental health issues, are among the most marginalized in our communities.” “This is particularly evident in the difficulties they experience in police encounters,” he wrote to the council chair, Kurt Wright. Just as the council has chosen to invite other individuals with direct experience of the issues — people of color and those in the LGBT community — Paquin said the council “should look to the local disability and mental health peer community for wisdom on how police policy and practice affects their lives.” Paquin told city officials they “missed an opportunity [...] to include and empower people with disabilities” when forming the special committee. He dismissed the notion that mental health and substance abuse providers should represent people who are capable of using their own voices and experiences. These providers, Paquin said, “should not be seen as the voice of people who directly live the experience of marginalization that often faces them in society.”
Committee to Be ‘Inclusive and Representative’
Roof said there was no decision made to leave anyone out of the process but that the committee was “starting to feel really big.” If a committee is too large, “it’s hard to get anything done,” he said. “We have an urgent timeline. It’s difficult. We did not make a committee with membership for every community experiencing policing,” Roof said. He said the special committee and its meetings are subject to the open meeting law, so meetings will be properly warned, and there’s space for public comments. When asked by Counterpoint, Roof replied that he was not aware of organizations such as Vermont Psychiatric Survivors and other “Mad pride” groups in Burlington and elsewhere in the state, which has members who might want the opportunity to formally participate. Roof said he was very interested in having those individuals attend the special committee’s meetings and the regular city council meetings where the committee’s work and findings are discussed. He said he wants to hear their perspectives, and he said he hoped the article in Counterpoint would be published with enough time for affected community members to read it and get inspired to testify before the council and special committee. “I’m a white, straight guy,” said Roof. “That’s my perspective, and I recognize that’s overly represented [in the council and committee]. My job is to get other people to the table to get their perspectives.” “We’ll never be able to check every box” to ensure all members of the community are represented on the special committee, said Roof, “but we can get everybody in the room.” He also said later the discussions with Counterpoint had made him more aware of the types of concerns the survivor community faces and that he will be more informed in decisions (Continued on page 11)
2018 FALLFall 2019
Study Supports Exercise in Hospitals By WENDY M. LEVY
BURLINGTON — Can moving your body improve your mood, even when you are hospitalized with a psychiatric diagnosis? A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Vermont Medical Center concludes it’s highly likely, and they are hoping the results will lead to more access to exercise rooms on inpatient psychiatric units. The study, conducted by UVMMC therapists Sheri Gates, MA, Emily Reyns, MA, and David Tomasi, Ph.D., provided patients in the hospital’s two psychiatric units with nutrition classes and structured exercise sessions four times weekly. The study lasted 12 months and involved a total of 100 patients. Participants completed surveys before and after each session, and according to the study, the results indicated a near-unanimous positive response. Most participants said they felt happier after exercising than they did before, nearly all said “yes” to the question, “Did the exercise group improve your mood?” and more than half said the exercise made their bodies feel good, the study said. The study attracted national and international media attention after it was published on May 21, Tomasi said, with “positive attention from all over the world.” “It’s out there, people are talking, and that’s a positive outcome,” said Gates, especially if it leads other hospitals to install exercise rooms on their units. Gates said the study was inspired by a group of patients in one of the inpatient units at UVMMC who wanted a place to exercise. “They needed that for the mind-body connection emphasis,” she said. Both Shepardson 3 and 6 are locked units, so patients are not free to come and go as they please, not even to stroll outside within the hospital’s grounds, she noted. “A lot of patients were walking around the unit,” in the hallways, said Gates, “because exercise is important to their lives” and they had no other options for free movement. Gates and several others were successful in getting a grant for both units to have an exercise room with equipment such as stationary bicycles, elliptical trainers, rowers, exercise balls, balance pods and aerobic steps to engage the participants in cardiovascular, flexibility, and strengthening exercises. In addition to the gym equipment, “there’s also space for yoga and dance,” said Reyns, who is a registered dance movement therapist. Although the grant has ended, the exercise rooms will remain on the units available for patients, Gates said. One question the three researchers said they were trying to answer — and to get the participants to focus on — is, “what makes us
feel good?” said Reyns. This can lead to more effective therapy, and ongoing support, she said. “When people are moving, they express themselves more fully,” Reyns said, and noted that sometimes the clinicians joined participants in the exercises during the research period. “When you move with them, you are with them. It’s a higher level of interacting,” she said.
“Our ultimate goal is for all hospitals to have exercise rooms.” When asked what excited the researchers about the study and its results, Tomasi said, “It’s a combination of positive results” including better patient-clinician interaction, the benefits of exercise — “[patients] learned they could regulate their mood” — and that the participants reported they are motivated to continue exercising even though the study is complete. Tomasi also expressed his excitement in finding that participants with a different sense of reality, which sometimes limits clinicians’ ability to communicate with them, were able to answer questions about their experiences while they were exercising. This research, said Tomasi, “bridges the gap between empirical evidence, and self-reflection and selfknowledge.” Tomasi explained the physiology that is believed to be behind why exercise helps patients with psychiatric diagnoses feel better. “Exercise increases neurofeedback and proprioception — your body becomes more aware of itself,” he said. With neurofeedback, “exercise makes you feel good, which makes you feel feeling good, because the basic neurotransmitters,” such as seratonin and GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid), are stimulated, said Tomasi. “Sometimes we can’t speak about our traumas, but in movement, we can engage in a non-verbal way with the trauma,” Gates said. This is particularly relevant, “for those in psychotic states, which limits [traditional talk] therapy,” she said, but movement and exercise “connects the body and mind.” Some of the attention the researchers received about the study may have resulted from an inaccurate press release about the study issued on May 20 by UVM.
It claimed, erroneously, that the study “suggests that physical exercise is so effective at alleviating patient symptoms that it could reduce patients’ time admitted to acute facilities and reliance on psychotropic medications.” “The press release had multiple authors,” said Tomasi, who added, “exercise cannot replace pharmacological intervention, and that wasn’t a goal or outcome” of the study. “Our interventions are holistic in the truest sense of the word,” and incorporate physicians and pharmacists, he said, “but our training extends beyond that to art and movement, which is beneficial to our patients.” Even though the press release was partially incorrect, Tomasi said he wasn’t disappointed by what it led to. “Any publicity is good, even if it’s not accurate. It gets people to pay attention,” said Tomasi. “People wanted more information,” said Gates, and noted other clinicians might be inspired to change their practices to include more movement opportunities for their clients. “Our ultimate goal is for all hospitals to have exercise rooms! It makes people feel good,” said Tomasi. It was patient voices that resulted in the exercise rooms and led to the study, which may
Photo credit Dreamstime Aleksandar Todorovic lead to change in practices around the world. Gates believes the results, and what others can do to replicate the program and its results, “instills hope.” The message here, she said, is for people with mental health challenges to “not give up. Have your voice be heard, whether it’s soft or loud. Advocate for your treatment. Patients think they have no voice, but we want them to advocate for their treatment. Keep trying.” “Positive Patient Response to a Structured Exercise Program Delivered in Inpatient Psychiatry,” by David Tomasi, PhD, EdDPhD, MA, MCS, AAT, GT, Sheri Gates, MA, GT, Emily Reyns, MA, R-DMT, MHC, GT can be found at journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/ 2164956119848657.
SURVIVORS LEFT OFF • Continued from page 10 in the future. He said he would communicate his own recognition of the opportunity that was lost to the full council. The council’s resolution states that the special committee will include 15 members, selected by council members, with the goal of being “inclusive and representative.” In addition to public officials — city council members, administration, the police department, police commission, and police officers’ association — the committee was to include representatives from the following sectors: people of color, domestic abuse service providers, the LGBT community, local activists, and “one member of the Burlington community with a personal and professional background that would enrich the work of the committee.”
According to a 2016 white paper published by the Ruderman Family Foundation, “Up to half of all people killed by the police in the United States are disabled, and [...] almost all well-known cases of police brutality involve a person with a disability.” The Ruderman study also indicates that “an estimated 80 percent of all cases that involve disability are categorized as ‘mental illness.’” “This White Paper reveals that people with disabilities are senselessly being subjected to a disproportionate use of force by our police and many of these encounters are leading to unnecessary deaths,” said Jay Ruderman, president of the nonprofit philanthropic foundation, which advocates for the civil rights of all people, especially those with disabilities.
Dozens Share in Mad Pride Events
BRATTLEBORO — “Pride is all of us working together because we have value,” attorney and liberation activist Shain Neumeier said to an estimated 50 to 60 people who turned out in July for the annual Vermont Mad Pride march and rally. It sounded a theme that was present throughout the day. Neumeier, from Western Massachusetts, was the keynote speaker after marchers chanted slogans and cheered for honking cars on the walk from Pliny Park to the Common. “1, 2, 3, 4, open up the psych ward doors! 5, 6, 7, 8, free mad people from the state!” echoed up and down Main Street, along with “There are no excuses for human rights abuses!” Mad Pride is celebrated annually around the world to challenge discrimination and advocate for rights. The Brattleboro celebration was sponsored by Vermont Psychiatric Survivors. Kaz DeWolfe, this year’s organizer, opened the rally by noting t h a t marchers s t o o d on land that was once taken by force from the Abenaki tribe and that overlooked the Retreat, a psychiatric hospital where DeWolfe said abuse happens routinely behind closed doors and Christophre Woods most often is not accounted for. What is wrong, they said, is not us, but the oppression and trauma we experience. DeWolfe was followed by Emily Sheera Cutler from Tampa, who discussed the question, “Why reclaim the word ‘mad’?” She said that social messages identify an “arbitrary set of standards” of what should be valued in life, such as status or productivity — while she wondered, “What would I choose to value if I wasn’t told what to value?” The answer is compassionate curiosity and kindness, she said, which she has found in a “community that holds space for one another” and should be proud of its own values, instead of accepting society’s negative label for madness. Neumeier, who spoke next, is a solo practitioner working on disability, youth and queer justice issues, and identifies as a survivor of coercive medical treatment. They opened their comments by reacting to an earlier question from a child in the audience, who heard a comment about locked doors and asked why they were locked. “It’s just fear,” they said, “based on people’s fear of us and what they could be, too.” “People, including doctors, don’t examine their own prejudices,” Neumeier said. As a result, their interventions are harmful because
“they dehumanize us so much and see us as other.” The next speaker was one of the two large Tyrannosaurus Rex dinosaurs that roamed among the marchers. He wasn’t really a dinosaur, Calvin Moen admitted; he was, instead, a metaphor. The extinction of dinosaurs stands as “proof that everything can change in an instant if there is enough of an impact.” Psychiatry is a “creature feeding on us” that requires “a total extinction event, swift and extreme.” Moen suggested approaches such as making institutions obsolete by taking care of each other, and calling involuntary treatment what it really is: torture. Psychiatry wears a costume, he said, when it presents itself as medicine and science, when actually underneath the costume it is, at its worst, oppression, and at its best, a guessing game. An open mic followed, with participants sharing personal poetry and stories, along with their own messages calling for support against violence and oppression. The rally included guests from Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. One new resident of Vermont said she had been “moved to tears” by the event after attending on behalf of her child and the discrimination she experiences. Sarah Knutson lamented that “we don’t have enough money or voice to tell them we have solutions.” Sometimes, “I would like to just talk to someone and calm myself down. … You don’t need the emergency room for that.” “We have a constitutional right to live in the community” with the support of family and friends, Knutson said, and the tools exist to provide that support — such as Wellness Recovery Actions Plans (WRAP), which allow a person to “write the manual for themselves” about what works for them. Another participant spoke in agreement, saying that “we have solutions that really work.” She said she was drawn to Mad Pride by
the acceptance she felt among others identifying as mad. The movement needs to “share awareness that we have something better … as a sharing and welcoming community.” One man, pointing behind the podium, said, “I was locked here 2 1/2 years ago.” He said his dignity was taken away, and “I felt like I had to be on guard the entire time I was there,” a trauma that stayed with him. They were “feelings that took months to shed.” Another speaker noted that “every other part of medicine, people can decide what they want — every branch of medicine except psychiatry.” He was held at the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital for a year during a court fight over forced drugs, which he eventually won. “Just because somebody doesn’t want to take medication” shouldn’t be a reason to lock them up, he said. Near the end of individual comments, Christophre Woods, the executive director of VPS, told the group that “we have to have a place like this to be righteously angry” but have to balance that with how to be effective in fighting for change. He said it is important to consider how the message will be heard when talking to others about the change that is needed. “Tomorrow, everything isn’t going to go away,” he said, and we “shoot ourselves in the foot” by speaking to others in a way that sounds unreasonable. “We can’t just take away everything that’s there now” — which includes things that are helpful to some people — without a replacement, he said. And insisting on a change from “all of one thing to all of another” would mean “we’re doing the exact same thing” as the current system, by dictating what is right for other people.
Participants march down Main Street in Brattleboro.
Proud to Be Mad
Attorney and liberation activist Shain Neumeier addresses participants.
An estimated 50 to 60 people participated in the march in Brattleboro. Marchers were often greeted by cars honking horns along Main Street. A sunny day made for a relaxed gathering to hear speakers at the rally. (Counterpoint Photos: Anne Donahue)
The 99 Faces Project was on display this summer at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon.
The artist does not identify as a psychiatric survivor, but as a someone with "deeply-loved
people in my life have lived with a wide range of symptoms." All of the text on pages 12 and 13 was taken directly from posters explaining the exhibit.
The project challenges our views of someone living with symptoms of a mental illness, and informs with a true and corrected view. A key to living well with any disability is not to be burdened with fear of stigma, but rather to have loving acceptance and inspiring role models. This project hopes to encourage those who are on their path to recovery, as well as their families. No Labels: All 99 faces are unidentified. There are 33 individuals on the schizophrenia spectrum, 33 on the bipolar spectrum, 33 who love them. But … you can’t determine who has each experience. No one is labeled, to reinforce that symptoms are not the person. These portraits honor all faces, regardless of the presence of a mental illness. Diversity of the US population is mirrored in 99 Faces using the 2010 Census Data, ages range from three years old to individuals in their 90th year, and includes individuals from every walk of life: 22 veterans, six PhDs, four artists, eight lawyers, six authors, as well as MBAs, CEOs, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, friends, etc. Common Humanity: Beauty, individuality and happiness is within all individuals ... regardless of their experiences with BP/SZ/normal symptoms. The photography captures personality and spirit. Images reach from the individual to the viewer to create a connection. “We know to a large extent that recovery from mental illness is often limited by people's perception. The connections with family and community is perhaps the most healing force in recovery. We, in the psychiatric community, strongly believe that family involvement and connections in recovery is essential. Recently we did a study of individuals that experienced significant recovery, not one person referenced their psychiatrist, but all acknowledged their love, acceptance and support of their close relationships.” Dr. Stephen R. Marder, MD, Semel Institute for Neuroscience at UCLA
by Lynda Cutrell, Boston This sculpture uses color, suspended in layers of clear resin, to represent four groupings of symptoms often associated with mental illness … the fluidity is a metaphor for the way symptoms typically move and change over a lifetime. (Green represents schizophrenia; blue, depression; yellow, anxiety; red, mania.) (From the artist’s description.)
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The Arts . 15
In this Spectrum Series, I look to the human experience of mental health. My interest in mental health has been fueled over decades, as several deeply-loved people in my life have lived with a wide range of symptoms. A natural curiosity to go deeper brought me to an exploration of scientific findings on mental illness. I began the translation of research science into art to make new knowledge more easily accessible to viewers … My hopes for the viewers of this work are that we recognize the value of all individuals in the community, whether or not they have symptoms of mental illness; that we gain greater knowledge of ourselves and our mental health strengths and weaknesses; and that we achieve sympathy, appreciation, acceptance, and a desire to help those of us whose lives are disrupted and who would benefit from more support and understanding.
by Lynda Cutrell, Boston
This exhibition includes paintings, photographs, sculptures and videos that were inspired by current scientific knowledge about mental health. The artwork in this gallery reflects biology, data, and personal stories in the hope that we may gain new insights into mental health. What is ‘mental health’? We all have varying states of mental health, including pleasant and unpleasant moods, anxiety, unclear thinking, or unusual behavior. The spectrum of our mental health includes disruptions. When the disruptions are great enough to impact our lives, it is commonly termed mental illness. Why does our mental health matter? Mental health is a part of our overall health. We are thinking and feeling beings, and our mental health is essential to our work, our play, and our relationships. Symptoms of mental illness are common and have no simple cause. Rather, mental illnesses are determined by interactions among each person’s biology, life experiences, and environment. (From an exhibit poster.)
althe skin colors of 850 participants who The squares in this painting represent r skin tones … As you look closer, many lowed the artist to match the paint to thei around the skin tone that reflects a men squares have [an inner] color peeking out d raye under the skin. The diagnoses port tal illness diagnosis. As in life, they are lity depression, bipolar, borderline persona in these colors include schizophrenia, .) tion crip des rder. (From the artist’s disorder, PTSD and schizo-affective diso
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by Sean Collins
by Tim Tabor
by Christie Pemberton
by Anne Averyt
by Sarah Smith
s t r A e h t f o g n i n e v E
by Heather Foster
by Michelle Moran by Eryn Sheehan Every spring, Westview House, a program of the Howard Center in Burlington, hosts its Evening of the Arts at Burlington City Hall to showcase performances and art by its members.
by Nicholas McKennitt
Sarah Smith before the Burlington City Hall audience
by Kara Greenblott
by Jason Gerrard (Counterpoint Photos: Melanie Jannery and Anne Donahue)
The Arts . 17
If There Was Nothing Wrong With Me If there was nothing wrong with me I would have more friends and seeing friends together would not hurt. If there was nothing wrong with me I would have a family of my own instead of envying the families of others. If there was nothing wrong with me I would look forward to the day ahead of me each morning when I awake instead of standing before the bathroom mirror and watching my own tears fall. If there was nothing wrong with me I would rejoice in the good things that happen to others instead of wishing they’d happen to me. If there was nothing wrong with me I would have someone in my life to share it with instead of living in isolation alone. If there was nothing wrong with me I’d have someone to go to office picnics and Christmas parties with instead of always going alone. If there was nothing wrong with me I wouldn’t feel so lonely.
by Annie Caswell
by Maureen Gour Shoreham
Work from the Howard Center Arts Collective, on display this summer at the Fletcher Free Library in Burlington
Humble pie is quite pleasant to eat if you’ve baked it yourself, from your very own recipe. I’ve figured that much out.
by Sharon Boivin
Strangely, I’ve given some to a few friends on occasion. Former friends now, to be accurate. And they all said the same thing: “This tastes like shit!” But I know what they mean because I’ve tasted theirs. Pie, I mean, not their shit. Tasted theirs, and felt just as they did.
by Dennis Rivard
White River Junction
Share Your Art! Email to counterpoint @vermontpsychiatricsurvivors.org or mail to Counterpoint, The Service Building, 128 Merchants Row, Suite 606, Rutland, VT 05701 Please include name and town by Nick McKennett
FALL 2019 Fall 2018
ahl Poetr 2019 Louise W
Why the wading Just jump in …
Ice clinging to the wall. Layer upon layer. So subtle until all is, Frozen Heavy, holding until Crack!! All crashes. Depression is like that to the spirit
by Jan Abbott
Racing heart, deliberate mind, so many details what shall the soul find?
Dive, just dive under The breaking waves Rolling like thunder
Can’t sleep, searching for solace, the only thing to do is scratching at the eyes
Ride the wave Just get up off one knee And enjoy the ride
She sees no real solution thinking of many deaths/goodbyes Can’t sleep, can’t eat, no water for the desert a cactus in body an ocean in mind peace, in my dreams, I shall find.
by Jessica DeCico Rutland
by M.S. Simpson, M.A. Randolph 12/10/16
Once Lost Once lost In solitude I found myself. In dreams I made myself. Caught in the spiral. Internally spiritually vibing. Soothing sounds fill empty spaces. Moonbeams illuminate my bedroom. Sleep, sleep, counting blessings not sheep. Dancing awkwardly on abandoned stages, Levitating on haunted shores, I rise to the occasion. The occasion is happening. An Awakening of sorts. I can see my future. I see things as I want them to me. Manifesting my happiness. Seizing each moment. My grateful heart stays humble. Karma is my shroud. Hiding in plain sight. Filled with good intentions. Goodbye cruel world Hello love and light. I see myself in the eyes of strangers. At last I see my soul.
Addiction As a dark entity hovers, I see my reflection staring back at me. Desperation starts to sink in as I feel lost, yet consumed from the overwhelming sense of darkness seeping from my pores. This exhilarating sensation captivates my every thought, as I slip deeper and deeper into a transparent wraith of incomprehension and depression. My mind, body and soul instantly possessed by an unattainable and unexplainable power that wields an unknown strength that’s impossible to resist. The eyes sag low. The light turns dark. The heart slows to a pace that leaves you questioning if you’re still alive. Driven by rage and compelled by fear, rejection becomes the most assertive, logical action to take. But denying the unfeasible thought that you’re no longer in control suddenly becomes apparent. You’re left in the wake of fear, desperation and despair. Despite all of your sincere attempts to overcome and persevere, a dark entity still hovers and your reflections still stare back at you. Welcome to addiction.
by David Berard Essex Junction
The 2019 prose winner tied for first place was omitted from publication in the summer issue in error.
Louise Wahl Memorial Writing Contest Enter the 2020 Contest: Deadline March 15, 2020 Named for a former Vermont activist to encourage creative writing by psychiatric survivors, mental health consumers and peers. One entry per category (prose or poetry); 3,000 word preferred maximum. Repeat entrants limited to two First Place awards. Entries are judged by an independent panel. Winners will be published in the summer 2020 Counterpoint.
$250 in Total Prizes Awarded! Send submissions to:
Counterpoint, The Service Building, 128 Merchants Row, Suite 606, Rutland, VT 05701 or by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Include name and address.
Fall 2018 FALL 2019
The Building of a Vision Department Gathers Input from Across the State
The Department of Rutland, St. Johnsbury, Mental Health heard Burlington, Randolph from an estimated 180 and Brattleboro — or more Vermonters were duplicated in the during listening afternoon and evening sessions around the at each site, where small state this summer in groups were broken five locations, soliciting out to discuss what input on a 10-year an ideal system would vision for Vermont’s look like. Counterpoint system. “If we don’t attended three sessions, Participants brainstorm at the Burlington forum. know the end state, we one in Randolph and don’t know what the first steps are,” Commissioner two in Burlington, to gather quotes from the group Sarah Squirrell told the groups. conversations that reflected some of the themes that This fall, DMH will assemble a 25-member think developed. tank to draw upon that input and develop a response The quotations were recorded anonymously and are to the legislature, which directed the department to paraphrased here in order to provide context. work with stakeholders towards “articulation of a They reflect comments from different voices in common, long term vision of full integration of mental attendance: consumer/survivor/peers, health care health services within a comprehensive and holistic professionals, family members and members of the health care system.” The listening sessions — in general public.
What makes an encounter outstanding, and how do we create these experiences of service? It is a very personal experience. It makes me feel more secure. If the person has listened, I already feel better. You have immediate feedback — this is what you can expect. Acknowledging it when noticing someone is having a problem.
Just noticing you’re there. Just listen: What do you need? What can I do? We’re in this together, not “I’m going to fix you.” Having flexibility. Not being rushed. How people feel about how they are treated can be more important than what they get.
What is needed to accomplish the perfect vision — small and big steps?
There’s got to be more whole health approaches through collaboration. The integrated care would come as the collaboration came. Identifying who is part of a person’s team: It is different for everyone, and those choices need to be honored and respected. We need to look at how we build networks of support, activating natural supports. The revolving door in and out of the hospital could be prevented if we recognize that a driver is homelessness and the lack of a support network. You want people not replicating what has been done. There is no ability to communicate what has already been done in a useful way. One person to deal with: “Jane’s going to work with you, and you’re going to tell her what you need.” It seems the system feels it has to disempower people to help them. We need to think differently, to allow people to feel empowered to live their lives. Transportation is huge. Services don’t help if people can’t get there. More opportunities for work. Real parity with medical care will never happen until the budget is addressed in the same way: funding each year based on what the trends in costs to meet needs are, rather than based on the state’s budget limits. We’re identifying people; we’re not letting them identify themselves. There needs to be time before a diagnosis is made and a prescription is written, to avoid creating labels that become self-perpetuating. Our whole society is feeding us all these stressors instead of making more families able to succeed. We need Vermont conversations on what the ethical risk balance is, so that one individual’s actions do not have the power to destroy the benefits for 99 others.
Sensationalized headlines make risks seem bigger than they are. The ability to try to figure out what is needed for the range of needs; “How do I help?” rather than “This is what I can do to help.” Access to housing. How can we build communities that support people’s mental health? Abolishing stigma and discrimination. Networks of respite care, peer-run and peerstaffed, distributed locally. The ability to perform trauma-informed care. Staff and services not siloed into mental health; the workforce is cross-trained. Getting interdisciplinary staff into the same room for the same conversations. If we could prescribe food and housing … holistically providing what people need. Medical and social service integration. Minimum wage increase, so that people are able to meet their needs. Build a network of alternatives across the continuum. Changes to reimbursement to be more flexible for meeting needs — holistic, peers, mindfulness, etc. Preventing trauma so that we need less of the interventions later. If we could mitigate the fear and anxiety of some health providers (the example was in emergency departments), kindness, respect, caring and compassion would come out from the staff and we could wrap that around the patient. Translate things into more approachable language. Staff need to be empowered to do what they need to do to help. There should be some way to serve people who aren’t eligible for a service.
What would a headline look like in 2030 if it were reporting a perfect outcome? Vermonters have full access to professional mental health care and alternatives — no waiting lists. Everyone has the right to health insurance. Parity exists. Big Pharma is gone. Mental health and whole health are one as part of our overall wellness. People feel safe with care. Vermont changes the country’s mind on socialized medicine. Medication no more; fear no more. Vermont accepts everyone and acknowledges the extent of abuse, discrimination and oppression. Being in touch with our humanness; nobody’s above or below. Mental health services are extinct; everyone feels loved and has self-worth. Vermont has closed the doors of its last inpatient mental health hospital because everyone’s needs are met in the community, including through peer support. The last psychotropic medication was prescribed. Vermont increases reimbursement rates; no more workforce shortages. A mental health system that dismantles itself. Abuse and neglect are extinct.
“It took more than a decade to get into this mess. It will take more than a decade to get us out.” — A listening forum participant
EDITORIAL PAGE 20 COMMENTARY
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Guilty, But Insane? Should people who are accused of a crime, but are never convicted because they are found to be seriously mentally ill, be sentenced to a psychiatric hospital instead of prison? That is the poll question for Counterpoint this issue, and it doesn’t just come out of the blue. There is a push right now from some state’s attorneys to have mandatory time periods for a hospital commitment if the case came before a court because of a serious crime. Right now you can only be kept there for as long as you are still a “danger to self or others” — although it might not feel that way to someone who is being held against their will in the hospital. Under the new proposal, it would not matter if a doctor said you didn’t need the hospital anymore. You would have to stay until your time was up. After that, you still might not go free: The decision about “danger to self or others” would take over. What provoked the new proposal? As often happens, one big, scary headline brings on a public reaction that gets the attention of politicians. In a really unusual twist, it was three cases this time: three people who had each been charged with a murder or attempted murder. In each case, the witnesses all agreed with a diagnosis that the person was legally insane when the crime happened. So the charges were dropped, which is what the law says should happen if a person did not know what they were doing as a result of their illness. All of them were then committed to the hospital. And all sorts of people, from the governor on down, thought it was a terrible thing that these people would get away with murder, as they saw it. The problem is, you can’t have it two ways. If you believe that people should be treated the same way, regardless of whether society has deemed they have a mental illness, then everyone should be accountable for committing a crime in the same way. They have a right to a trial. They have a right to go free if they are found not guilty, and if sentenced to prison, they have a right to go free at the end of their sentence. If you believe that a person can be too ill to be responsible for their actions, then the illness may need to be treated. But that person should have the same rights as anyone else locked up in the hospital for forced treatment: the right to be released when the hospital determines they are no longer a danger. In most cases, folks in this position have never even been found guilty of the crime itself, and they don’t get the chance to prove themselves innocent. The last thing we need is to add insult to injury by following the proposal by the state’s attorneys, and keeping them locked in a hospital when they don’t require hospital care anymore.
By JODI GIROUARD
Hooking for a Cause The Hunt for Money for Peer Programs By CHRISTOPHRE WOODS The new grant year is upon us, and peer organizations across the country are lining up in search of funding like the men and women of the walk. Our plights aren’t so different: We work hard for our money, plying our wares to funders who might be our patrons. Sometimes we are striving for a sense of dignity and worth, recognition of our humanity and our right to selfdetermination. Other times we sacrifice for the hope of reaching our dreams, where the oppressive systems and treatments that hold us back are behind us: coercion, invisibility, marginalization, disrespect, fear, shame and deep trauma. We jump through hoops, trying to put on bright smiles to mask deep pain. Sometimes we survive more than we thrive, but we don’t give up. As an executive director, I troll through conferences, tedious meetings, websites, chat rooms and endless emails, forever trying not to compromise myself or my organization, but in the end, I know I am hooking for a cause. The cause is a just one: the guarantee that no other person will ever have to call him/herself a survivor of the psychiatric system but instead can identify as a director of his/her fate. Don’t let the outfit or the smile fool you ... sometimes we have to beg, fight, borrow and steal to get the money to see programs succeed, to be sure that the idea of peers helping peers doesn’t go away. Every little penny comes with strings ... that special thing the grantor wants, so you do well while they look good. You give it and you smile. You ignore the shade being thrown by peers who see you as a collaborator or a traitor and never mention that the very forum in which they speak is supplied by your efforts. Criticism, gossip and isolation may become close friends before the fruits of your labor are revealed, but remember this: You are hooking for a cause. I do, and I am ok with that. Christophre Woods is the executive director of Vermont Psychiatric Survivors.
Second Class Citizen
The governor of New York has indicated that there should be lists to watch those with a mental illness. Background checks and such so to “protect society.” It upsets me so much, I can’t even tell you how it breaks my heart. For over 20 years I have been raising my voice against the stigma that is found from having a mental illness. This just brings me back to the beginning, the frustration, the ill-educated society that should know better. For I am no more likely to hurt someone than the stranger that is not put on a list and watched. It hurts my heart. It just hurts. So instead of raging and shouting, I turn to my words to raise more awareness of this possibility being talked about. And my hope is like the hope from Emily Dickinson “with feathers that perches on the soul,” a hope that more will listen to my voice and less to the stigma and shame put on someone just because of an illness. It is more to look at each person as an individual. For I am more than my illness. I am Jodi. Nobody but Jodi. Jodi Girouard is from South Burlington.
Second Class Citizen The room grew quiet as the Governor pointed To appoint his NY appropriated crew. To be judicial citizens, to mar, disarm, anointed, To stigmatize the hurt, the sad, the blue. For background checks became the law For the ones given out their unique star. Attached to names, bold in print, seen as just a flaw. The ill were named and stained, on earth a yellow, blighted scar. And I am one whose name is named, I am one they finger, stare, share their plan. Me, the sick but filled with love, peace, and heart is blamed, singled out, no thought, no doubt to pain from this idea of man. We must make safe the streets for all, Protect the world from the mentally ill. But I say to you MY ill is born from the normal fall Of men who hurt me, hit me, entered me, and still, I wouldn’t kill. Instead, I breathe beyond my pain, exhale to find relief. I hold my head, I live instead of fearing this new way. For in my words, the voices heard, I have such a strong belief. That ALL have value, even the blues have rights too, and so I turn to pray.
COMMENTARY COMMENTARY. .
FALL Fall 20192018
Hate Is Not a Mental Illness
A statement from the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law in Washington, D.C., on August’s shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
Once again, as on far too many past occasions, our hearts break for the victims of mass violence, their families and friends, and their communities. This time, those communities were El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. In one of these incidents, the shooter appears to have acted out of hatred and fear of immigrants. At the same time, we condemn the efforts of
some to conflate hatred, bigotry and racism with mental illness. Reflexively blaming gun violence on people with mental illness is unhelpful and unsupported by evidence. Less than five percent of gun violence is attributable to mental illness. Having a mental health diagnosis is not a predictor of violence, and people with serious mental illnesses are far more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators of it. Casting all mass gun violence as “a mental health issue” is not only unfounded, but distracts from efforts to address the true causes
of gun violence. It serves only to promote fear and prejudice against individuals with mental health needs. As the American Psychological Association’s president observed, it is important to focus on evidence-based solutions rather than “routinely blaming mass shootings on mental illness.” We stand with those who want effective policy solutions to address gun violence. Falsely blaming mental illness is not such a solution. Hate is not a mental illness. It is time for those of all political persuasions to do better.
Sanism Meets the Death Penalty By ISAAC JOSE LEZCANO
ur movement’s effort to abolish forced psychiatric treatment and confinement reminds me in many ways of the movement to abolish the death penalty. Both make a humanist argument as to why a state-sponsored practice is barbaric and morally abhorrent. Both also make a practical argument as to why said practice does not actually correct or prevent the behavior at which it is targeted. Much like the death penalty, forced psychiatric treatment claims to be corrective but is seen by its opponents as an arm of oppression that unfairly targets certain demographics. The largest difference between the two movements in my mind is that death penalty abolitionists generally do not disagree with the stated aim of the death penalty (discouraging crime), while we in the psych survivor movement are consistent in our philosophical opposition to the aim of forced psychiatric treatment (the involuntary alteration of a person’s internal self). An ongoing experience that has changed how I think about opposition to the death penalty has been meeting individuals who vocally oppose it but also unflinchingly call for the summary execution of some type of person. Examples are terrorists, child molesters, animal abusers, *insert perceived inhuman boogeyman here.* The conclusion I come to is that these people are not against execution per se, just the notion of an external power they don’t trust wielding it and potentially killing the “wrong” sort of person. Especially because once a person has been executed in error, you can’t appeal it. Death is permanent. Trauma is permanent. Our culture is coming to grips with that fact recently. Trauma is one of the most likely outcomes of forced treatment, and our movement has realized that a salient argument against forced treatment is to describe the resulting trauma. Since creating trauma was not the goal of the forced “treatment” and because trauma often worsens the observable aspects of “mental illness,” describing it should evidence that the “treatment” itself is invalid as a practice. This ought to be apparent even if the listener believes “mental illness” should be forcibly treated. However, all too often the response
is mocking, disbelief, patient blaming, and “greater good” arguments. Apart from those who don’t believe that the events and traumatic results we describe are factual, I think there are two partially overlapping positions that inform these negative responses. Much like with the death penalty, there are those who support forced psychiatric treatment because they believe it is an unfortunate social good, and there are those who support it specifically because it targets and oppresses demographics they consider to be subhuman defectives and undesirables.
Much like the death penalty, forced psychiatric treatment claims to be corrective but is seen by its opponents as an arm of oppression that unfairly targets certain demographics. On one end we have the people who believe that the trauma is small potatoes compared to the potential of “treating” a mental illness. Much like people whose hesitance to oppose the death penalty is because they believe it makes society safer overall, some of these people can be convinced with further evidence of its uselessness and dysfunction in practice. They may require a higher threshold of proof than we do for declaring involuntary treatment to be a social ill. This effort is already underway as new studies continue to be produced, but it’s a harder sell than it is for the death penalty because no part of forced psychiatric treatment is as obviously final as death. The second group are those who interest me here: those who cannot be convinced that forced treatment is unjust specifically because it targets the poor, the loud, those who don’t fit in, those whose very presence is an inconvenience. In the case of the death penalty, the fact that it functions as an institutionalized racist lynch mob that is seldom used against wealthy whites is precisely what makes abolishing it a hard sell for social conservatives and white nationalists. I submit that the same issue applies to forced psychiatric treatment. The closer you are to sane
presenting, the less likely you are to mistreated. As a result, I believe it’s impossible to sell sanist bigots on the abolition of forced treatment via narratives of the suffering of mad-identifying and -presenting people. I also don’t think I’d be making an unpopular statement if I said that sanism is horrifically common, even more common than white nationalism. I have a proposal. One odd advantage we have over death penalty abolitionists is that forced psychiatric treatment is much more common than executions are. This means that the likelihood of finding a story of confinement and trauma that sanist bigots can identify with because of the demographic and presentation of the victim is higher. The likelihood of finding many is very likely. They aren’t the majority, but they are there. I propose we politically make room for and utilize for our abolitionist ends stories of “sane” people unjustly being trapped in a psych ward. When death penalty abolitionists forefront stories of people executed for crimes they did not commit, those abolitionists are not saying that they think those people should have been executed had they committed the crime. I believe it is similarly possible to tell “sane person trapped in the system” narratives without a subtext of implying that forced treatment is right for some people. And I believe that those stories are a critical tool we are currently missing. If the system is seen to be unable to discern sane from insane even by the standards of sanists, then no legitimate argument from any perspective can possibly justify its continued abduction and abuse of people. I believe strongly that widespread extreme doubt as to the legitimacy of involuntary treatment as a practice is the critical first step. If that was achieved, I believe we would see a similar situation with involuntary treatment as we did with the death penalty. It would cease to exist in most blue states and shortly thereafter be throttled down in the red states as professional and civic support for it slowly trends downwards. I am not suggesting a compromise on any actual goals. All I’m suggesting is learning from the successes of one of the most successful abolition movements in history.
Isaac Jose Lezcano is the Brattleboro-area patient representative for Vermont Psychiatric Survivors.
A Miracle of Disabled Mad Activism By KAZ DEWOLFE
his year I took on more of the work coordinating Vermont Mad Pride than I have in prior years. I formed a committee of local mad activists and peer support workers to help with the task, but I was expecting to do a lot of the logistical things to make the event happen. But this past year has been one of the worst for my emotional and physical wellbeing that I’ve had in a long time. I have chronic migraines, meaning I’m affected by migraines for more than 15 days per month. For me it’s nearly every day that I’m in pain. This year the pain completely spiraled out of control, along with all of my mental and emotional capacity. I spent months thinking about death daily. I just really wanted the pain to stop. I was hospitalized in February at Rutland Regional Medical Center, up on the fourthfloor psychiatric unit. I don’t actually believe any stay on a locked unit is entirely voluntary, but I entered the unit voluntarily. I was only there for a few days and got on some new meds that seemed to help with the pain and feelings of despair. Part of my stay was traumatic, but getting pain meds and connecting with more of my peers on the unit gave me hope that I could keep existing on this planet. I hoped I would be able to jump right into work again, I had so much to do. Instead of jumping right into work, for months I battled more suicidal thoughts, excruciating pain, and a few weeks where I heard constant voices that were extremely distracting. I needed a lot of help from friends and family to meet all of my duties as a parent. I fell behind on all of my work, including planning Mad Pride. I had to drop down to just 10 hours a week at VPS; I couldn’t focus or stay on task for
more than that. I applied for disability, knowing that process takes months and months to pay out, and resigned to being very poor until it does, or until I can work again. I worried that Vermont Mad Pride would be a complete disaster this year. But where I was failing and letting things fall through the cracks, other people jumped in to help. My coworkers in the Brattleboro office did so much work to make sure the event would have a tent, and chairs, and a PA system, and food. The Rutland staff made sure all the checks got written so everything would be paid for.
I was honored and humbled to be surrounded by so many amazing people all working towards our collective liberation.
And as I heard everyone speak, I marveled at the audacity and tenacity of all of us. Here are people who are all marginalized for one reason or another. We’re marginalized by ableism, sanism, healthism. Some were marginalized by racism, sizeism, classism, or transphobia. Some were stigmatized for the drugs they take, and others stigmatized for not taking drugs the doctor had ordered. We’ve been locked up in hospitals and jails. We’ve been attacked. We’ve been denied medical treatment. We’ve been homeless. We’ve lost friends and family members. We’re in pain. Some days just getting out of bed is a miracle. And yet we all did what we had to do to show up downtown in Brattleboro. We wore blue graphic T-shirts depicting a fist in leather restraints, and we marched with signs and banners declaring, “Confinement is violence” and declaring “It's OK to not be OK” and that “Mad is not bad” and, in fact, “Depressed is best!” We showed up to show our pride in ourselves, our struggles, our experiences, our communities and our fight for liberation. I wasn’t the only one at this event who had been locked up in the past year, or who had been struggling just to make it through each day. And it amazed me in that moment that, despite all the forces against us, we could be with each other and share our stories. We stood right near the edge of the Brattleboro Retreat campus, gathered in camaraderie and solidarity against medical paternalism and psychiatric coercion and discrimination. I feel honored to have been present and to have helped plan and organize, even (or perhaps, especially) in the limited capacity that I’ve had.
I made sure we had posters and T-shirts and shouted out on social media as much as I could. Volunteers made banners and signs and wrote chants and made a giant T. rex puppet. Activist friends made the trip to Brattleboro from faraway places and gave people rides. To me it seemed like a miracle that it all came together. But many hands make light work. The event brought together activists and advocates from across multiple issues. We had speakers talk about disability justice, mad pride and neurodiversity, surviving involuntary institutionalization, surviving distress and suicidality, the value of peer support, harm reduction for people who use Kaz DeWolfe is the communications drugs, and the struggle for choice and selfcoordinator for Vermont Psychiatric Survivors determination. I was honored and humbled to be and the co-editor of Radical Abolitionist, a surrounded by so many amazing people all Cognitive Liberty Blogspace. working towards our collective liberation.
If It Can Be Done, It Can Be Done in D.C. By ZACK HUGHES
our years ago, I lost a close connection with a very close friend and confidante. I was very affected by this. She was in my circle, and we shared life together and talked for hours. One of her qualities that I value is she could be brutally honest, no filter. After losing contact in 2015, I would often think of our friendship and try to figure out how to reconnect. A few months ago, I found out we were both going to be at Alternatives 2019. I was excited but wondered: could we reconnect?
Meeting my friend for first time in four years was incredible. We spent an afternoon talking and talking — it was so wonderful. Alternatives 2019 challenged me in more ways than any conference could. I learned how to promote tolerance and calm while traveling with a group. I shared a powerful bond with seven other people for a week! I came away with a renewed approach to making sure to ask why and listen when someone tells me they are suicidal. Sometimes I am so worried about the person that my first thought in crises is, “Who do I call?” But what if I were to concentrate on what that person is saying, really listen, without that first thought being, “Who do I call?” To emphasize my point, I was reported to Facebook crisis after I asked the question, “When someone is thinking of suicide, have you asked them why?” I then challenged my Facebook
friends to look at the options. Alternatives is about challenging oneself and others to look at the big picture and be willing to try something different! *** Some notable quotes of mine during the week: “I don’t contract for safety. I don’t ask for someone to contract for safety, as contracts can be broken.” “When someone is thinking of suicide, have you asked ever asked why?” “In my darkest spot, I hate my life. Then there’s a little thing called hope.” “This has got to be the best week I have had in a while!”
Zach Hughes is a member of the Vermont Psychiatric Survivors board of directors and attended the Alternatives conference with a delegation of six others from Vermont.
Mad Pride and the Actual Dystopia By CALVIN MOEN
wrote in a p r e v i o u s Counterpoint column that doing advocacy as a psych survivor is an impossible task, one that I have stuck with not because I often see the results of my activism, but because I value humanity and crave justice. But day after day, year after year, coming up against so many instances of institutional violence and those who would defend it, lately I find myself in a familiar place: worn to the bone and dreaming of escape. As though there were anywhere to escape to. Ironically, one of my favorite escapes is in reading dystopian fiction: stories set in a future world in which a totalitarian government does away with the basic human rights of privacy and liberty, or an alternate reality in which the basic necessities of life are scarce and controlled by a powerful few. I appreciate these stories because they shine a light on some aspect of our society and take it to its extreme, showing us one possible result of our current trajectory. Importantly, they also humanize the experience of resisting these unstoppable forces through protagonists who are complex, flawed people. Recently, I was feeling particularly hopeless and beaten down about the current meteorological and political climate — record high temperatures and natural disasters around the globe, concentration camps at the U.S. borders as evidence of governmentsanctioned rampant white supremacy, local deaths from drug use because officials think of harm reduction as “enabling” addiction, the list goes on — and I thought of those classic works of dystopian fiction, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, Parable of the Sower, The Handmaid’s Tale, and of their protagonists. I won’t give away their plots in case you haven’t read them, but I’ll give you a hint: There are no happy endings. These protagonists see a lot of things, but they don’t see justice. They don’t see the problems solved. They resist in large and small ways, they go underground, there are schemes and betrayals, loves and friendships, but ultimately the totalitarian regimes do not fall in the final pages. They mostly don’t live to see the outcome of their acts of resistance, their underground alliances, their intimate connections. I thought of these stories and tried out an intellectual exercise. What if I thought of the world I live in as another version of the world these characters inhabit? What if I were actually
living in an actual dystopia? What would I do, and how would I feel? What would matter most to me? Far from being discouraging, identifying with the characters in these tales helps me keep going. Like many of my fellow activists, I’ve always put a lot of pressure on myself and taken on an unbearable amount of responsibility. Then when I don’t live up to my own expectations, I am ashamed and disappointed. It’s a good way to burn out fast. Often the suggestions for “burnout” involve some form of “self-care” — rest, exercise, herbal tinctures, walks in nature. And I try to do all that stuff as much as I can, and it’s very helpful. But in the face of so much injustice, a bubble bath barely makes a dent in my grief. I need an entire philosophical adjustment to make my activism sustainable. 1984 was published in 1949, so you’ve had plenty of time to read it. I don’t feel too bad spoiling it just a little for you.
What if I thought of the world I live in as another version of the world these characters inhabit? Its protagonist, Winston Smith, secretly rebels against an oppressive government personified by Big Brother, who is constantly policing each of Oceania’s citizens through inescapable surveillance. Smith believes he has found a safe place outside of Big Brother’s watchful eye and uses this place to cultivate a love affair and to enjoy simple, forbidden pleasures like coffee and books. Smith and his lover are betrayed and then tortured in an effort to break and remake them as loyal citizens. The climax of the novel has to do with whether Smith will denounce his lover in order to escape torture, and this for me is the core question of any dystopian narrative: Can the characters hold onto their humanity and their connection to one another in the face of oppression, brainwashing, and the criminalization of their basic human functions? They’re not trying to take down the government, they’re just trying to find a space where they can be themselves, where they can think their own thoughts without threat of punishment for “thoughtcrime.” Spoiler alert: They’re doomed from the start. In their poem “Confessional,” Alok VaidMenon writes, “I do not believe we will win. I do not believe hope should be a prerequisite for trying anyways.” This may sound bleak, but for me to accept that we have no shot in hell at destroying the
systems that oppress us — today, tomorrow, this year, or maybe even during our lifetimes — is an incredible relief and makes me a better activist and comrade. During Mad Pride this year, I found myself slipping into a not-so-helpful worldview. I found myself wishing that we had more numbers, louder voices, more legible signs, more unified messaging, greater press coverage, and greater recognition in general. How are we supposed to get free unless we convince our oppressors to stop oppressing us? That line of thinking hurts me in (at least) three ways: First, it leads to despair because those in power don’t listen to us. They just don’t. Second, it leads to judgment of myself and my colleagues for not doing enough to change people’s minds, not studying and organizing hard enough. Third, it makes me miss seeing the magic that is created any time Mad people come together to express ourselves. Mad Pride is for us, not for anybody else. It is a space for collective joy and collective mourning. A space for outrage and anger, a space to be uncomfortable together and learn from each other. A public space that we carve out for ourselves. In the spirit of cognitive liberty, it ought to be a judgment-free zone. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who coined the phrase “creative maladjustment,” said, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” The revisionist version of MLK’s work we are fed in school leads us to believe that he and other civil rights activists won the hearts and minds of the public by being docile and non-confrontational, being well spoken and reasonable. In fact, the quote above is from a letter he wrote from jail. Dr. King was living in a dystopia in which a black man who insisted on sitting at the same lunch counter as white people was locked up by police, surveilled by the FBI (who tried to get him to kill himself), stabbed, and eventually shot dead. He died without seeing his dream for racial justice come true. But his legacy is incalculable. Accepting that I am living in a dystopia allows me to spend less energy being hurt that the moderate majority does not side with me. It allows me to spend less time trying to convince government officials that people with psych labels have the right to our own bodies and minds. It allows me to focus more on caring for myself and my fellow activists, to cultivate love and enjoy simple pleasures as revolutionary acts. Calvin Moen is the former training director for Vermont Psychiatric Survivors and does grassroots organizing for mutual support in Brattleboro.
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COMMENTARY 24 COMMENTARY
FALL 2019 Fall 2018
The Vision of Bill Newhall
Philosophy, Goals and Priorities of Another Way, a peer support system for current and ex-mental patients and inmates of psychiatric institutions This statement of vision was written by Bill Newhall in the 1990s in response to a request from the Department of Mental Health — a major funder — for an explanation of its program. It was retrieved from its scanned format and retyped by Laura Ziegler.
By BILL NEWHALL Green Mountain Support Group Inc. and its drop-in center/support group/advocacy center Another Way are unique in Vermont as organized and run by current and ex-mental patients. Our focus is on an informal, personal, handson, face-to-face support which is between equals and therefore empowering. We see ourselves as an extended family rather than as service providers. Any service system which does things for people rather than with people and is responsible to external goals rather than existentially defined, interpersonal goals has a tendency to disempower people by creating a sense of weakness and of being used. The philosophy of Another Way is also unusual in that many of us believe that “mental illness” is really blown up but solvable personal problems and not a permanent or medical condition. We thus can offer a healing and a spiritual approach rather than just maintenance and a chemical approach. People can be healed, however, only when they want to be healed and only according to their own goals, priorities and life views. One disadvantage of the current system is that it often sacrifices this human sovereignty to society’s goals and values, in short it acts like a policeman rather than a friend. Another Way will not do this. Our strength is that people trust us because we are also current and ex-patients, and have no desire and no power to control them. We understand because we have “been there” ourselves. We are outside the system of forced treatment. Our vision is of every one as spiritual equals, and that we can be teachers to each other — sharing how we deal with our own fear, anger ad depression, etc. We feel that the quality of what we do is very high because of this philosophy and approach. After all, the time spent with people is only as
valuable as people feel enriched by it. Many people tell us they feel enriched by our existence. This is the accountability and feedback that really counts. Many people we talk to or who use the drop-in center are taking medications and believe in the medical or chemical approach. Yet we support them in their right to be their own judge of what is best for them. The goal of Another Way is to provide support to all current and ex-patients who come into contact with us — whether through the drop-in center or elsewhere. Thus, we spend time talking on the phone and visiting each other. We visit nearby institutions such as Vermont State Hospital and Central Vermont Hospital where we meet old friends and new people. We exchange home phone numbers and are available seven days a week, 24 hours a day — subject to our own private needs just as any other friends. Through these contacts and through the dropin center, we hope to minimize loneliness, help people understand themselves and life better, prevent and deal with crises, and link people up with each other and with the community in general. Some people do not use the drop-in center at all, or use it infrequently. Yet it remains a focus. Even people who have left the state keep calling us. We are constantly meeting new people and extending our “family.” We hope to erase stigma and help people see themselves — and all others — as learners. People are capable of self-healing and need not believe themselves forever condemned to a sense of inferiority, self-hatred and pain. We are all pilgrims! Though Another Way does not see itself as at all like the regular service providers, we do, in fact, provide many services. We provide a drop-in center open currently seven days a week — 50 hours of staff time and other times when those with keys are there. Here people find coffee, food, books, games, a phone to use, a couch to rest or sleep on, and above all people to talk to. There are weekly Friday dinners, and on and off rap groups, arts and crafts groups, and special events. All are free to current and ex-patients, their friends and supporters. The center is also used as a day center by homeless people.
We provide an extensive library of books, newspapers and newsletters relating to the concerns of current and ex-patients, with a focus on drug information and consumer/ex-patient empowerment. We occasionally put homeless people up overnight at the center or our own homes. This can amount to days or weeks or even months. We have outings on occasion (such as summer camping trips to Lake Groton) and encourage people to participate in community events (such as legislative dinners, public hearings, dances and social affairs). We provide emergency loans and also transportation within our current capacity. We are strongly committed to having people live in and be able to move around the community and also be able to visit friends and do things out of town. We provide supported employment to our staff people, on SSI or SSDI, who man our phone, keep the center open and deal with whatever happens. We provide peer counseling, including home visits and 24 hour phone availability. This often leads to crisis help. We provide social support and a milieu in which to form friendships and even relationships. We provide individual advocacy with social agencies such as welfare and social security and help people get apartments and jobs, if they ask. We also connect them with other advocacy organizations such as Vermont Legal Aid and Vermont Advocacy Network. We accompany individuals to interviews and meetings when so requested. We are a focus for systems advocacy to advance the views and needs of current and ex-patients. We attend numerous meetings and workshops, serve on many committees, and network with others (including mental health professionals). We perform outreach by being visible in the community and by visiting the hospitals and those parts of the local mental health system that are relatively open (clubhouse, workforce, group homes, community care homes). Above all we are creating a network where people can be themselves and we are serving as a catalyst for those who want to move ahead. While there is great room for improvement, we believe we are stepping in the right direction.
OBITUARY — IN MEMORIUM — BILL NEWHALL
Reprinted from the published obituary for Bill Newhall. MONTPELIER — The kind and gentle soul, Bill Newhall, 80, died on June 13, 2019. An advocate for people with low income, a mental health advocate, and a spiritual astrologer, Bill was known by many in Montpelier and Plainfield as a friendly person ready to help anybody in need. He was a longtime executive director of Another Way drop-in center which he helped found and supported for close to three decades. His friend Roy Parker put it best: “Bill lived and died like a buddha.” Bill was born in Salem, Massachusetts on December 4, 1938 as Stephen Cutler Newhall. He changed his name to Bill in his 20s. He grew up in Marblehead, Massachusetts and was
educated (he would say “crippled”) at Phillips Exeter Academy (where he was a top student) and Harvard College. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, Bill traveled extensively from Germany to Japan, mainly afoot and then across America in a VW bus. He characterized his wanderlust by writing he was “heavily influenced by psychedelic trips and world travels in the 1960s…opening the door to other realities on and beyond this planet.” Bill was a passionate autodidact and intellect who generously shared his understanding with others as a teacher without a classroom. He described consciousness as a layer cake, and awakening as a psychic journey of connection. He understood people and relationships intuitively, and gave love, compassion, and kindness to all, most especially to those in crisis.
In addition to many friends in Vermont, Bill leaves his older brother John B. Newhall and John’s wife Katharine; his nephew Charles L. Newhall; his nieces Mary N. Higgins, Ann Walters, Jenny Rademacher, Hannah Sanger, and Becca Newhall; and his sister-in-law Virginia D. Newhall. His parents, Charles Boardman Newhall and Mary (Nason) Newhall, and his brother David N. Newhall, predeceased him. Because so many of the things Bill cared about are under threat (LGBTQ rights, the rights of the mentally ill, social justice, racial justice, voting rights), a memorial has been established in honor of Bill Newhall with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Donations in Bill’s memory may be given by following this link: https://action.aclu.org/teamaclu/campaign/inhonor-of-bill-newhall.
Fall 2018 FALL 2019
UNITED IN SONG — Those who attended Bill Newhall’s memorial joined in song during several parts of the ceremony. (Counterpoint Photos: Anne Donahue)
By ANNE DONAHUE
Remembering a Leader
MONTPELIER — Bill Newhall, who led the Another Way drop-in center for more than two decades, was remembered by friends and family at an ecumenical service as a leader in the psychiatric survivor movement in Vermont. “He had his finger on the pulse of the freedom movement from psychiatric oppression,” said David Callahan. His nephew, Charlie Newhall, led the memorial at the Unitarian Universalist Church. His brother, John Newhall, said Another Way was the place to which his brother “gave his heart and soul.” Newhall was involved with Another Way from its start in 1984 and took over leadership from founder Kate Quinn in 1986, remaining its director until retiring in 2008. Grandniece Skye Newhall helped open the ceremony with a candle lighting, and grandnephew John Newhall III gave the closing comments. Almost 50 people attended, sharing the impact that Newhall had on their lives and reminiscing about Another Way in its early years. Many knew him since the 1970s and 80s. “You were my lighthouse in the storm,” said Roy Parker. He said Newhall had “a backbone, a funnybone, and a wishbone.” Holly Whitchurch said she drove 11,000 miles to be there: “Bill was that important to me. I’m here [alive] because of him.” She said he was a “caring, loving, gentle person.” Gloria Alexander said Newhall was always available for “a cup of coffee … a sanctuary from the thought police … a shoulder to lean on.”
Roxy Smith, a former associate director, said that she didn’t see a way out from life’s pressures when she first came to Vermont, but “Bill changed my life.” He “saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. He trusted me. He put a lot of faith in me.”
Bill Newhall, undated. Many of those who spoke shared about Newhall’s compassion and commitment, saying he had been available on the phone 24 hours a day, ready to listen for hours. “He always had time for everyone,” said Malcolm Sawyer. Laura Ziegler recalled a story that Newhall had shared about himself: He was listening to a neighbor who was berating and threatening him on the phone.
Newhall put the phone down as the caller continued to rant and walked down the street and into his house. “Hi, I thought we should talk about this in person,” Zeigler described him as saying. He was someone who, in facing life’s challenges, “found solace in being there for others,” she said, and “remained ferociously independent in the teeth of bureaucracy” as he negotiated state funding sources. Morgan Brown recalled how present he was in advocating in the state on issues like housing and psychiatric discrimination. “Another Way was more than just a building, and Bill was more than just the director of a small nonprofit,” he said. Several friends reflected on the sadness they felt not only in Newhall’s passing but also in the loss of fundamental elements of his vision for Another Way. Callahan said Newhall empowered others and “saw the value in people doing things for themselves” and treating them as equals, as opposed to the hierarchy in the structure of the agency today. “I think he was a really great man,” Callahan said. “We’re lacking people like him now.” Callahan’s sister, Laura, who first met him when she was 14, turned that into a challenge for others. Newhall was someone who “related from one heart to another” and was ready to answer the call from others at any time of day or night. “We’re the ones who have to be there for others now,” she said. “If not us, who is it?”
The Education of a Felon By Matti Salminen
o live in the United States as a felon has been a political education unto itself. In the years since my felony conviction, I have been displaced from work and life itself, losing the ability to reason, becoming suicidal at times. The felony conviction, at the age of 20, is so removed from my memory that I don’t remember my plea.
My time in jail was not long, but it was damaging. The very small jail was in Mono County, California, only miles from where I could have made a home and life for myself. The concrete recreation yard, smaller than a tennis court, had nothing but fence and walls. Even the basketball hoop had been removed! Many times over my one-month stay, the inmates chose not to even go outside for recreation. After my incarceration, I moved back to Vermont from California and attempted to reassemble a promising life. At that time, because of seasonal employment, I spent months off the mountain with a marginalized income. This led me to develop class consciousness and to rebel even further against — and demonstrate
greater discord with — the prevailing elitist social climate. It is impossible to accept that having a good life means standing for the structures and inequality that have adversely affected me and so many others. And it is impossible for me to have adequate comfort or standing, which I believe is owed to everyone, without compromising my resistance to these conditions. To create a society that has no place for hardworking people — like many felons — is to displace them from freedom. With the jail — and the resultant poverty — imposed against criminals from making greater contributions to (Continued on page 27)
Fall 2018 FALL 2019
Why I Take Drugs ... By PHOEBE SPARROW WAGNER
ome would say the drugs I take are “medications,” by definition, and something quite different from “street drugs.” In some ways this is true, mostly because I don’t have to commit an act defined as a crime to obtain them. But obtaining marijuana, for instance, which is still a federal “crime,” or even “shrooms,” involves no more than finding a source and paying money in exchange for the desired substance. That is exactly what I do when I obtain my drugs. The only difference is that my source is first the pusher known as a prescriber, and then the pusher known as the pharmacy (whose intimate link to Big Pharma companies needs no reiteration here). The first drug I took after my teenaged foray into cannabis was Elavil, which was essentially forced on me (by my fear of the consequences if I refused) at Yale New Haven hospital in 1971 when I had just turned 18. This did nothing for me except make me intolerably sleepy and cotton-mouthed. For three months, in the hospital, I remained as I was when I came in, almost mute, unsociable, hearing voices, paranoid and in extreme distress. After a consultant was called in, I was then switched to an antipsychotic drug, so-called — a phenothiazine. What I remember of this switch is that I quite suddenly began to talk, even talk too much, which scared me. They also instituted a behavioral modification program, which they told me I had to follow if I wanted to avoid being sent to a long-term hospital. After five long months on a unit where the average stay was three to four weeks, I was finally discharged, never having been told my “diagnosis.” If you were there, they presumed you “needed” to be there, no questions asked. Some years later, attending medical school, I found that a problem that had assailed me first in high school and then throughout college continued to plague me: sleepiness whenever I sat down to either listen to a lecture or read or study. At Brown I had dealt with this by taking many long walks each day followed by an attempt to study, which induced my falling asleep minutes later. When I came to, invariably folded uncomfortably over my books in the carrel and unrefreshed, I would go out for another walk in order to “wake myself up,” and the cycle would start again. This sufficed in college, but medical school was a different story because we were required to sit through lectures for four hours each morning with attendance at labs in the afternoon. My somnolence “started” the very first morning of classes, when I conked out within the first halfhour and slept through the entire morning’s worth of lectures. I acquired a reputation for being “bored,” and eventually photographs of me sleeping were published in our student newsletter captioned with such words as “Rip Van Winkle, it’s time to wake up!”
Desperate to stay awake, I saw the student health doctor, who took a history and suggested I had narcolepsy. Even though she wanted me to see a neurologist, it turned out he refused to do so, claiming I was faking sleepiness in order to get stimulants. It did not occur to me at the time that I could have simply seen another doctor and made a case for myself. I was not happy in medical school and did not end up staying past the second year for complicated reasons including the fact that I heard voices almost constantly, voices that instructed me to harm myself and which I obeyed. These voices had started many years before, but I had managed with them, if poorly. In fact, I was hospitalized during med school, something that seemed to initiate a proverbial revolving door of admission after admission.
every drug in that class available, including Clozaril, to which I twice had a potentially fatal reaction. While I acceded to the therapist’s request and started taking the new pill, I did not expect positive effects. Instead, I dreaded the dulling and deadening I had learned to expect from all the so-called antipsychotics. A week later, I woke up one morning and opened a magazine someone had left in my apartment, The Nation as it turned out. I read and read until I finished the entire issue. Then I picked up The Atlantic Monthly and did the same. This astonished me as reading and staying awake had been a problem for decades. Despite my narcolepsy diagnosis, I always suspected that a terminal boredom caused my sleepiness. But suddenly and mysteriously, I felt alive and enlivened. I felt, in fact, as if I had only just then discovered life was worth living. I felt awake. On Zyprexa I continued to read without If the drugs I am difficulty for the first time since childhood. I prescribed did not benefit devoured everything I could get my hands on, becoming particularly enamored of memoirs me overall, and in ways by Chinese women describing life during the Cultural Revolution. that others as well as I Much to my distress, however, I also ate too much because of an increased appetite that was myself notice, care about clearly drug induced. I gained a lot of weight and celebrate, believe me, in a very short amount of time. At my highest I nearly 180 pounds. This was far more I would no more take them weighed than I had ever weighed and much more than I was happy with. willingly than I would For years, however, I accepted what the docs swallow rat poison. called a “trade-off” and took Zyprexa as well as my dose of Ritalin religiously, overjoyed to be able to read and even for the first time pay Because of voices-induced episodes of self- attention to movies and public television. destructive behavior, I found myself at Hartford The increased weight inevitably became a Hospital in the late 70s. I was not given drugs at problem for me, however. When one doctor the time, as I recall, though I had variously been described me, who had always been on the thin prescribed as an outpatient such “treatments” as side, as “obese,” I had had enough. Thorazine, Trilafon and Ritalin. I stopped taking the Zyprexa not just once I complained to the resident of new visual but innumerable times, and invariably ended hallucinations such as scenes of battleships on up in the hospital, refusing the drug for fear of my chest. Concerned, she had me tested. gaining more weight. It was a nearly impossible During a lengthy examination, some of which dilemma, because in fact except for my hugely took place when I was asleep, I experienced what increased and uncontrollable appetite, I really the diagnosing neurologist said were all four of wanted to take it. the major symptoms of narcolepsy. Then one day, the psychiatrist suggested I try He told me he recommended Ritalin and that yet another newly developed “antipsychotic,” if any doctor subsequently refused to prescribe Abilify. I felt I had little to lose, so I went home it, I could call upon him. And wasn’t that with a new prescription. wonderful because I could now continue my I felt better almost immediately, and I felt medical school career, knowing Ritalin was all worse. While the new drug was activating, that I’d ever needed in order to function? it also had very distressing “side” effects, While I was elated to learn that narcolepsy making me irritable and causing nearly had caused my sleepiness and that there was an unbearable akathisia. effective treatment, the notion that he expected Reluctant to have me stop it so quickly, the me to return to medical school made my heart doctor added Geodon, which was supposed to be sink. more sedating. To the surprise, I think, of both I knew that med school had been a big mistake. of us, this seemed to resolve the worst problems. I did not want to return and, in fact, I never did. I had called Zyprexa the “intake drug” because, Fast forward many years and many while I ate a lot on it, I could also take in books hospitalizations and drugs later. It was the and movies, gobbling down such fare just as I early 90s and I had been on Prolixin injections did food. for “chronic paranoid schizophrenia” for an But on Abilify and Geodon, something different extended period, plus low-dose Ritalin for my happened. I found myself writing prolifically chronic sleepiness. and then doing art almost as uncontrollably as The nurse-practitioner/therapist I saw at the I had eaten on Zyprexa. I nicknamed the new local public clinic, which was the only choice I two-drug combo my “output” cocktail. had on Medicaid, decided I should try the new Though still hearing voices, life slowly began drug that had just come out, olanzapine, or to improve. This was not a direct or linear brand name, Zyprexa. progression, as I was still often hospitalized. But By this time, I had been prescribed almost doing art became my be-all and end-all in life,
COMMENTARY COMMENTARY ..
Fall 2018 FALL 2019
and Don’t Plan To Stop
and no matter how many other drugs I tried, I always went back to the Abilify/Geodon/Ritalin combo. Whenever I attempted to wean myself off all drugs, especially the “antipsychotics,” I found myself unable even to start a piece of art, let alone finish it. When I resumed taking the drugs, lo-and-behold my ability to do art would return as well. Now, I suspect some readers might claim that it was the stimulant which helped me produce art and read. I would be the last person to claim that Ritalin does not have the effect of increasing one’s sense of well-being. But whenever I was on just the Ritalin alone, I stopped being able either to read (off Zyprexa) or to do art (off Abilify/ Geodon). I went through many attempts to wean myself, but invariably the loss of my ability to do art brought me to the place where I went back on them. And that is where I am today. Despite their category, I do not claim that this two-drug combo functions as an “antipsychotic.” Not at all. My voices may have hugely diminished now, but this is largely, I believe, because of a therapist, a guide, who has listened to me, heard my stories of lifelong trauma and helped me deal
with this. She also “treated” me with what I can only call unconditional acceptance, even love, and that was the most healing of all. I doubt the voices or a lifelong susceptibility to “paranoid” fears would return even if I stopped taking these “antipsychotics.” Yet I remain on them and I want to remain on them. I have tried to stop taking them and always, always, no matter how slowly I wean myself, I stop doing art and as a result of this become deeply suicidal. Art is my life, and my life is art. That’s the tag line I gave my second Wordpress blog, Arteveryday365.com, when I started it two years ago. And without an ability to do art and to love doing it, my life feels empty and worthless. Reading Robert Whitaker’s books around the time I switched to the “output” drugs was both eye-opening and life-changing. I trust the results of his and others’ research. I suspect that “antipsychotic drugs” have few antipsychotic effects, beyond the general dulling they induce, and I also suspect that for most people they do more harm than good. I do not believe the dopamine hypothesis was ever more than a lie, constructed to excuse the forcible drugging of many, including me. For
decades, hospitals tortured me physically and psychologically. To this day my memories of having been restrained for days at a time, secluded for weeks, or given ECT by force can torment me if I let them have free rein. But I have not been hospitalized in three years, going on four, and best of all I can do art and be productive in a way that is life-serving. I no longer make any distinction between street drugs and the ones I take. I know what helps me, and I remain aware of both the risks long term and the presence of certain “side” effects. But overall, the effects are more beneficial to me than harmful. I also think most people know what helps them and what does not, even when it is a matter of street drugs. A system that stigmatizes the “drug user” by criminalizing her or him helps no one. Indeed, as is the case with “shrooms” at present and with heroin in the past, it is likely true that many street drugs could be prescribed and used in ways that prove beneficial, if only it were legal to do so. However, since researchers cannot freely study these substances it is difficult to know. All I know is that I am neither better nor worse than those who take marijuana or psilocybin or illegal substances of other sorts. If the drugs I am prescribed did not benefit me overall, and in ways that others as well as I myself notice, care about and celebrate, believe me, I would no more take them willingly than I would swallow rat poison. This commentary was first published in the July 13, 2019, Mad in America.
Art by Phoebe Sparrow Wagner
Phoebe Sparrow Wagner, a resident of Brattleboro, is an artist, poet, co-author of Divided Minds: Twin Sisters and their Journey through Schizophrenia (St Martins Press, 2005) and author of We Mad Climb Shaky Ladders (CavanKerry Press, 2009). Her third book, poems and original art, Learning to See in Three Dimensions (Green Writers Press, 2017), is now also available from Amazon and other booksellers. Links to Wagner’s art and poetry can be found at http://phoebesparrowwagner.com and https://arteveryday365.com.
THE EDUCATION OF A FELON • Continued from page 25 a freer society, our rebels are cast aside. Many of us are led to homelessness after a misspent youth of mostly mischievous acts which deny presupposed authority. Some of us become career criminals without any knowledge of how it is to be free. Freedom is necessary for the growth of the spirit. It is necessary for dissolution of oppression. We must all be criminals to live in such a society if we do not transgress against oppression. The crimes that lead to repetitive incarceration are almost without exception made out of ignorance; this ignorance is predicated by poverty. Everyone is being harmed by the existence and imposition of law, incarceration and the poverty that these create. No society can have a place for these forms of authority if we are all taught from the very beginning how we must rise above oppression. But this type of early education is kept away
from poor people. It is our rebels, radicals and criminals who challenge the law and order that uphold inequality. With this, criminals and their allies have acted to show how our freedom can be made to undo the order of oppression created by law and incarceration.
Freedom is necessary for the growth of the spirit. It is necessary for dissolution of oppression. We must — as anarchists — see these refutations to presupposed authority as the ideals of our political doctrine. We carry the torch. With this torch still lit, we must all uphold the value that no one may be
kept from the knowledge that everyone must have if oppression will ever cease. We have crime. And with crime in society we have homelessness, drug addiction, poverty and insanity. In recent years, I have managed an attempt to rise above my own oppression. And I’ve found that it will come with a cost. This cost is the debt that will be thrust upon the shoulders of the next generation of rebels. We cannot come out of this dark period in history without questioning whether punishment and incarceration are necessary. In questioning this, we must also question ourselves. Without our compliance with the imposed social order, no criminal can ever be subjected to harmful forms of authority. The law protects a social order where only the ignorant need live in fear, whereas the privileged create the fear we live in. Matti Salminen is from Brattleboro.
28 Resources Directory SURVIVOR PEER SERVICES Vermont Psychiatric Survivors Peer Support Groups BRATTLEBORO: Changing Tides, Brattleboro Mem.
Hosp, 17 Belmont Ave., Brattleboro; every Wednesday, 7-8:30 p.m. Call John at 802-258-0782 BENNINGTON/UCS: United Counseling Service, 316 Dewey St., Bennington; Mondays and Wednesdays, noon-1 p.m. Call Barbara at 802-442-5491 RUTLAND: Wellness Group, VPS Office, 128 Merchants Row, Suite 606; every Wednesday, 5-7 p.m. Call Beth at 802-353-4365 SPRINGFIELD: First Congregational Church, 77 Main St., every Thursday from 2-3:30 p.m. Call Diana at 802-2891982
VPS is a membership organization providing peer support, outreach, advocacy and education 128 Merchants Row, Suite 606, Rutland, VT 05701 802-775-6834
www.vermontpsychiatricsurvivors.org Peer Support WARM LINES VERMONT SUPPORT LINE (STATEWIDE):
833-888-2557; every day, 3 p.m.- 6 a.m. [833-VT-TALKS]
PEER PLUS (STATEWIDE):
802-595-0588; 7 days/wk, 6-9 p.m.
MUTUAL SUPPORT NETWORK THE HIVE: firstname.lastname@example.org www.hivemutualsupport.org 802-43-BUZZ-3 (802-432-8993)
Alyssum, 802-767-6000; www.alyssum.org; email@example.com
VERMONT PSYCHIATRIC SURVIVORS OUTREACH AND PATIENT REPRESENTATIVES 802-775-6834 F: 802-775-6823 firstname.lastname@example.org
Soteria House, information and online application at www.pathwaysvermont.org/what-we-do/ our-programs/soteria/ or call Pathways Vermont Intake Line, 888-492-8212, ext. 140
NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE 800-273-TALK (8255) 24/7 confidential support Samaritans Hotline
Vermont Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health Statewide support for families of children, youth or young adults in transition who are experiencing or at risk to experience emotional, behavioral or mental health challenges. 800-639-6071, 802-876-7021
Pride Center of Vermont
LGBTQ Individuals with Disabilities Social and Support Groups: Connections and support around coming out, socializing, employment challenges, safe sex, self-advocacy, and anything else! Burlington, Wednesdays, 4:30 p.m. at Pride Center, 255 S. Champlain St.
Brain Injury Association
Support Group locations on web: www.biavt.org; or email: email@example.com; Toll Free Line: 877-856-1772
DBT Peer Group
Peer-run skills group. Sundays, 4 p.m.; 1 Mineral St, Springfield (The Whitcomb Building). tinyurl.com/PeerDBTVT
Trans Crisis Hotline
The Trans Lifeline (dedicated to the trans population) can be reached at 877-565-8860.
Crisis Text Line
Around-the-clock help via text: 741741 for a reply explaining the ground rules; message routed to a trained counselor.
LGBTQ Youth Crisis Hotline:
The Trevor Lifeline now at 866-488-7386. TrevorText Available on Fridays (4-8 p.m.). Text the word “Trevor” to 1-202-304-1200. Standard text messaging rates.
NAMI Connections Support Groups
BENNINGTON: Every Tuesday 12-1:30 pm; United Counsel-
ing Service, 316 Dewey Street, CRT Center
BURLINGTON: Every Thursday 3-4:30 pm; St. Paul’s Epis-
Peer Centers & Employment Support ANOTHER WAY, 125 Barre St, Montpelier, 802-2290920; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.anotherwayvt. org; see website for events calendar.
PATHWAYS VERMONT COMMUNITY CENTER, 279 North
Winooski Avenue, Burlington, 888-492-8218 ext 300; www.facebook.com/PathwaysVTCommunityCenter; www.pathwaysvermont.org/what-we-do/ our-programs/pvcc
Vermont Recovery Centers WWW.VTRECOVERYNETWORK.ORG BARRE, Turning Point Center of Central Vermont, 489
N. Main St.; 479-7373; email@example.com BENNINGTON, Turning Point Center, 465 Main St; 802442-9700; firstname.lastname@example.org
BRATTLEBORO, Turning Point Center of Windham Coun-
copal Cathedral, 2 Cherry Street (enter from parking lot into lower level)
BERLIN: Second Thursdays each month, 4-5:30 pm; Central Vermont Medical Center Board Room, 130 Fisher Road.
RUTLAND: First and third Sundays 4:30-6:30 pm; Well-
ness Center (Rutland Mental Health) 78 South Main Street (parking/entrance off Engrem Avenue)
CONCORD: Every Thursday 6-7:30 pm; Loch Lomond House, 700 Willson Road in North Concord.
NATIONAL ALLIANCE ON MENTAL ILLNESS-VT (NAMI-VT)
802-876-7949 x101, or 800-639-6480; 600 Blair Park Road, Suite 301, Williston, 05495; www.namivt.org; info@ namivt.org
Counterpoint publishes this resource directory to allow readers to seek out choices for support. Counterpoint has not reviewed or evaluated the quality or biases of these resources, and makes no representation about their value for any individual. Public Community Mental Health COUNSELING SERVICE OF ADDISON COUNTY, 89 Main St.,
Middlebury, 05753; 802-388-6751
UNITED COUNSELING SERVICE OF BENNINGTON COUNTY,
PO Box 588, Ledge Hill Dr., Bennington, 05201; 802-4425491
CHITTENDEN COUNTY: HOWARD CENTER, 300 Flynn Ave., Burlington, 05401; 802-488-6200
FRANKLIN & GRAND ISLE: NORTHWESTERN COUNSELING AND SUPPORT SERVICES, 107 Fisher Pond Road, St. Albans, 05478; 802-524-6554
LAMOILLE COUNTY MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES, 72 Harrel
Street, Morrisville, 05661; 802-888-5026
NORTHEAST KINGDOM HUMAN SERVICES, 181 Crawford
Road, Derby; 802-334-6744; 800-696-4979, 2225 Portland St., St. Johnsbury; 802-748-3181; 800-649-0118
ORANGE COUNTY: CLARA MARTIN CENTER, 11 Main St.,
Randolph, 05060-0167; 802-728-4466
RUTLAND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES, 78 So. Main St., Rutland, 05701; 802-775-2381
WASHINGTON COUNTY MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES, 9 Heaton
St., Montpelier, 05601; 802-229-6328
WINDHAM AND WINDSOR COUNTIES: HEALTH CARE AND REHABILITATION SERVICES OF SOUTHEASTERN VERMONT,
390 River Street, Springfield, 05156; 886-4500; 51 Fairview St., Brattleboro, 05301, 802-254-6028; 49 School St., Hartford, 05047, 802-295-3031
24-Hour Crisis Lines: Involuntary Custody Screening
ADDISON COUNTY: Counseling Services of Addison County 802-388-7641
BENNINGTON COUNTY: United Counseling Service, 802-
442-5491; (Manchester) 802-362-3950
CHITTENDEN COUNTY: Howard Center 802-488-7777 FRANKLIN AND GRAND ISLE COUNTIES: Northwestern Coun-
seling and Support Services, 802-524-6554; 800-834-7793
LAMOILLE COUNTY: Lamoille County Mental Health, Week-
days 8 a.m.-4 p.m. 802-888-4914; Nights and weekends 802-888-4231
ESSEX, CALEDONIA AND ORLEANS: Northeast Kingdom
Human Services 800-696-4979
ORANGE COUNTY: Clara Martin, 800-639-6360 RUTLAND: Mental Health Services, 802-775-1000 WASHINGTON COUNTY: Mental Health Services, 802-229-0591 WINDHAM,WINDSOR COUNTIES: Health Care and Rehabili-
tation Services, 800-622-4235
Please contact us if your organization’s information changes: email@example.com
BURLINGTON, Turning Point Center of Chittenden Coun-
Vermont Veterans Outreach
MIDDLEBURY, Turning Point Center of Addison Coun-
HOMELESS PROGRAM COORDINATOR: 802-742-3291 BRATTLEBORO: Morningside 802-257-0066 RUTLAND: Open Door Mission 802-775-5661; Transi-
MORRISVILLE, North Central Vermont Recovery Center,
BURLINGTON: Waystation/Wilson 802-864-7402 FREE TRANSPORTATION: Disabled American Veterans:
BENNINGTON AREA: 802-442-2980; cell: 802-310-5391 BERLIN AREA: 802-224-7108; cell: 802-399-6135 BRADFORD AREA: 802-222-4824; cell: 802-734-2282 COLCHESTER AREA: 802-338-3078; cell: 802-310-5743 ENOSBURG AREA: 802-933-2166; cell: 802-399-6068 JERICHO AREA: 802-899-5291; cell: 802-310-0631 NEWPORT AREA: 802-338-4162; cell: 802-399-6250 RUTLAND AREA: 802-775-0195; cell: 802-310-5334 VERGENNES AREA: 802-877-2356; cell: 802-881-6680 WHITE RIVER AREA: 802-295-7921; cell: 802-881-6232 WILLISTON AREA: 802-879-1385; cell: 802-734-2123 OUTREACH TEAM LEADER: 802-338-3022; cell: 802-881-5057 TOLL-FREE HOTLINE (24/7) 1-888-607-8773
ty, 39 Elm St.; 802-257-5600; firstname.lastname@example.org
ty, 191 Bank St, 2nd floor; 802-861-3150; www.turning pointcentervt.org or GaryD@turningpointcentervt.org
ty, 228 Maple St, Space 31B; 802-388-4249; tcacvt@ yahoo.com 275 Brooklyn St., 802-851-8120; email@example.com
RUTLAND, Turning Point Center, 141 State St; 802-7736010; firstname.lastname@example.org
SPRINGFIELD, Turning Point Recovery Center of Springfield, 7 Morgan St., 802-885-4668; spfldturningpoint@ gmail.com
ST. ALBANS, Turning Point of Franklin County, 182 Lake St; 802-782-8454; email@example.com ST. JOHNSBURY, Kingdom Recovery Center, 297 Fall St;
802-751-8520; firstname.lastname@example.org; j.keough@stjkrc. org; www.kingdomrecoverycenter.com
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, Upper Valley Turning Point, 200 Olcott Dr; 802-295-5206; secondwindfound.org; email@example.com
tional Residence: Dodge House, 802-775-6772
Toll Free: 1-866-687-8387 X5394
Vermont Veterans Services (VVS) program for homeless veterans with very low income, call 802-656-3232.
www.MakeTheConnection.net Web site sponsored by The Department of Veterans Affairs with testimonials by veterans to help connect with the experiences of other veterans, and with information and resources to help transition from service, face health issues, or navigate daily life as a civilian.
VA Mental Health Services
VA HOSPITAL: Toll Free 1-866-687-8387 MENTAL HEALTH CLINIC: Toll Free 1-866-687-8387 Ext 6132 OUTPATIENT CLINICS: Bennington: 802-447-6913; Brattleboro: 802-251-2200; Burlington Lakeside Clinic: 802-6577000; Newport: 802-334-9777; Rutland: 802-772-2300 VET CENTERS: (Burlington) 802-862-1806; (White River Jnct) 802-295-2908