Fall, 2020 Counterpoint

Page 1

NEWS, COMMENTARY, AND ARTS BY PSYCHIATRIC SURVIVORS, MENTAL HEALTH PEERS, AND OUR FAMILIES

VOL. XXXV NO. 2

FROM THE HILLS OF VERMONT

SINCE 1985

FALL 2020

State Police To Add Mental Health Clinicians

MONTPELIER — The state police have been authorized by the legislature to expand use of embedded mental health clinicians from two to nine of its 10 barracks in the next year, despite strong objections to that model of crisis response in testimony by psychiatric survivors. The positions will be filled

through contracts with local mental health centers, according to language included in the state budget. The program was the subject of intense, last-minute negotiations between House and Senate leaders before the close of the legislative session in September. The House had directed that mental health support to assist police with emergencies be considered a health issue, with the funding removed from the budget of the Department of Public Safety. It placed responsibility under the Department of Mental Health. It also said that, where possible, priority for the staff positions should be given to mental health peer workers, and it directed that marginalized

communities, including psychiatric survivors, be included in planning. Senate negotiators rejected those requirements and said that the funding and oversight

should remain solely within the purview of the state police, because culture change in law enforcement needs to come from within. In a compromise late in the evening before the final budget was adopted, senators agreed to say that the state police, although in charge of the program, must collaborate with DMH to support incorporation of trauma-informed services and the ongoing engagement of stakeholders, “including individuals with lived experience of a mental health condition or psychiatric disability.” The peer staffing language was struck. Sen. Tim Ashe criticized it, saying that the legislature often talks about initiatives being evidence based, and “then we go and create provisions that aren’t necessarily based on evidence.” During five hours of testimony over three days, the House Health Care Committee heard

from 20 witnesses, including a number of psychiatric survivors and advocates who said that embedding mental health within police would not create the change that is needed. “In Vermont, the people who are most likely to be killed by police are those who are experiencing emotional crisis,” said Calvin Moen. He pointed to the national momentum towards divesting from policing and investing in community services. In contrast, “this proposal expands the reach of the police,” he said. Whereas there is a need for “greater efforts to extricate mental health from law enforcement, this proposal would further enmesh them,” Moen said. The “message that is sent here is that mental health is a criminal issue, is a public safety issue … reinforcing that myth that we are dangerous and violent people.” Moen and other witnesses said that placing the money under DMH was preferable to DPS, but that raised problems as well, because the mental health system also presents threats of bodily harm and incarceration in hospitals. There is a “cultural understanding that police can be dangerous,” said Malaika Puffer, but not a (Continued on page 7)

Deadly Force Limited to Last Resort

MONTPELIER — A bill that says police should use deadly force “only as a last resort” to prevent death or serious injury passed the legislature in September. News media commentators have predicted that the governor will veto the bill based on objections by the commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, who testified that the legislature was acting too quickly in making a major change in law. Rep. Kimberly Jessup of Middlesex said she co-sponsored the original bill on use of deadly force in January after “three years of feeling incredibly frustrated” about the lack of legislative follow-up after “tragic deaths” of people in a mental health crisis. It first became a focus for her after Nathan Giffin was killed in 2018, and her concerns grew after the death of Mark Johnson in 2019, she said. Both shootings occurred in Montpelier. That bill, however, received little attention until after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in March. National calls for racial justice as a result of the number of Black men

being killed by police led to the legislature’s actions to change Vermont laws. The change in law includes looking at the “totality of the circumstances” to determine whether the force used is objectively reasonable and necessary, which means that the conduct and decisions by the police leading up to the decision to use deadly force will be considered, said Rep. Martin LaLonde of South Burlington, who presented the bill on the House floor. He said the bill makes it clear that deadly force should be used “only as a last resort” and changes the question from “Can you use deadly force?” to “Did you absolutely have to?” The bill passed in the House by a vote of 106-37 and in the Senate on a voice vote. The legislature is no longer in session, so if vetoed, a new bill would have to be brought in January. Several witnesses who testified in support of the bill cited the killing of Ralph (Phil) Grenon by the police in Burlington four years ago as an example of the failure of current law to create accountability in circumstances when police provoke a person into violence.

8-9 The Arts10

The Suicide Prevention Symposium

According to investigations of his death, Grenon was hiding in the shower of his house and was shot after police charged into the bathroom and he came out waving two knives. Police had been responding to reports that he was shouting and bothering neighbors while experiencing a mental health crisis. The bill says that deadly force requires that “an objectively reasonable law enforcement officer in the same situation would conclude that there was no reasonable alternative … that would prevent death or serious bodily injury to the officer or to another person.” It says deadly force cannot be used against a person if the only danger is a “danger that person poses to himself or herself.” It also requires that “when a law enforcement officer knows that a subject’s conduct is the result of a medical condition, mental impairment, developmental disability … or other factor beyond the subject’s control, the officer shall take that information into account” in determining the appropriate degree of force.

18

Force Versus Autonomy


2 Peer Leadership and Advocacy

Fall 2018

Meeting Dates and Membership Information for Boards, Committees and Conferences During COVID-19 crisis restrictions, call first to check whether groups are meeting

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 info@vermontpsychiatricsurvivors.org.

COUNTERPOINT EDITORIAL BOARD

The advisory board for the Vermont Psychiatric Survivors newspaper. Assists with policy and editing. Contact counterpoint@vermontpsychiatricsurvivors.org.

ALYSSUM Peer crisis respite. To serve on board, contact Gloria at 802-767-6000 or info@alyssum.org. 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 member Daniel Towle (dantowle@comcast.net) or the DMH quality team at Eva.Dayon@vermont.gov.

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.

MENTAL HEALTH LAW PROJECT

Representation for rights when facing commitment to a psychiatric hospital. 802-241-3222.

Hospital Advisory VERMONT PSYCHIATRIC CARE HOSPITAL

Advisory Steering Committee, Berlin, check DMH website for dates at mentalhealth.vermont.com.

BRATTLEBORO RETREAT

ADULT PROTECTIVE SERVICES

Reporting of abuse, neglect or exploitation of vulnerable adults, 800-564-1612; also to report violations at hospitals/nursing homes.

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.

Consumer Advisory Council, fourth Tuesdays, 12 - 1:30 p.m., contact Director of Patient Advocacy and Consumer Affairs at 802-258-6118 for meeting location.

HEALTH CARE ADVOCATE To report problems with any health insurance or Medicaid/Medicare issues in Vermont 800-917-7787 or 802-241-1102.

RUTLAND REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER

VERMONT FEDERATION OF FAMILIES FOR CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH

Community Advisory Committee, fourth Mondays, noon, conference room A.

UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT MEDICAL CENTER

Program Quality Committee, third Tuesdays, 9-10 a.m., McClure bldg, Rm 601A.

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.

NEW!

Peer Workforce Development Initiative Webpage Launches: The official PWDI webpage is now available for updates on the Vermont Peer Workforce Development Initiative, and upcoming Statewide Training and registration information.

www.pathwaysvermont.org/what-we-do/statewidepeer-workforce-resources/

Department of Mental Health

802-241-0090

mentalhealth.vermont.gov

For DMH meetings go to web site and choose “more” at the bottom of the “Upcoming Events” column. ADDRESS: 280 State Drive NOB 2 North Waterbury, VT 05671-2010

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 2020, 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.

Have News To Share? Send it to Counterpoint! The Service Building, 128 Merchants Row Suite 606, Rutland, VT 05701 Email: counterpoint@vermontpsychiatricsurvivors.org

COUNTERPOINT DEADLINES

FALL (September delivery; submission deadline July 29) WINTER (December delivery; submission deadline October 30) SUMMER (June delivery; submission deadline April 7)

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 2020 2018

NEWS .

3


4 NEWS

Fall 2020 Fall 2018

A Passion To Support Others Led New VPS Director to His Position By ANNE DONAHUE

RUTLAND — Karim Chapman knows what it is like to be given “all kinds of diagnoses” and “put on all kinds of medication” that hurt him more than they helped. He also knows what it is like to be institutionalized. He spent six years in federal prison, “being treated like a number.” Chapman described this background to Counterpoint in an interview in September, explaining how it has led him over the past 15

Karim Chapman years to “getting involved with people who are oppressed or don’t see a way out” and now to his position as the new executive director of Vermont Psychiatric Survivors. Because peers led him out of his struggles, he has a passion to support others facing the same kinds of challenges and trauma that he went through, he said. Chapman was 14 when his father was killed by the police, the victim of mistaken identity as a result of being a large Black man in New York City, he said. His father was headed to a

McDonald’s where the two were meeting for lunch, Chapman said. The experience “made me a very angry kid. I was mad at everything [and] I did everything wrong,” he said. He joined a gang, the only place where “I felt a sense of worth.” Chapman said that his mother, working three jobs and raising four children alone, tried to get him counseling, and “the only solution that we got” was being told he needed to be on medication — a lot of medication — which led to paranoia and delusions. It was then that he came across a man who became a lifelong mentor, who shared his own experience as an African American male growing up in Harlem, and “who began to guide me,” he said. It wasn’t enough for a young man who “was really lost,” and Chapman ended up in federal prison on drug charges, he said. Within two weeks after his release, his mentor was there for him again, determined he was “not going to let the streets grab me” the way they do so many men when they leave prison, unable to find work and without resources, Chapman said. He got Chapman re-involved with a fraternity run by Black men for younger men of Native American and African American heritage, and Chapman said he started reaching out to the streets to “pull kids away from gangs,” he said. That led to an offer to become program director for “Operation Snug” — “guns,” spelled backwards — to combat gun violence and help young people turn their “negative attributes into positive attributes,” he said. Chapman said he learned that “when you give a person who’s struggling” space and support, where nobody’s forcing them into decisions, they can begin to find their way. That’s the kind of peer work in the psychiatric survivor community — also fighting oppression — that appeals to him in the work of Vermont Psychiatric Survivors, he said. He said his vision is “to get back to the roots of where VPS started” by “expanding the peer program” and hoping to establish a space “where peers can feel safe” and have a “one-stop shop” to access resources — or simply have a cup of coffee.

In the short term, Chapman wants to focus on “re-educating the community about what we do,” he said. “Not too many people know who we are,” and “they shouldn’t only know who we are when they’re in the hospital,” he said. He’d like to be more on the preventive side, seeing “how we can support people before they get to the emergency room,” he said. In the longer term, he’d like to seek out more funding to hire more peers. “Our small staff can’t possibly do it all,” Chapman said. “When you’re in the business of saving lives, you need money,” he said. After years of work with youth and family programs in New York, Chapman had come to Vermont to join his girlfriend, who had roots here, and after a year in unrelated work he applied for a job as a recovery specialist at an intensive residential program run by Rutland Mental Health. When they heard his story, he said, the staff member interviewing him told him the agency was in the middle of creating a peer program as part of its crisis team, and the director asked, “Do you want to help me develop it?” In his work there, he was looking for other peer groups and “along that journey came across VPS,” Chapman said. He joined staff in attending the annual Alternatives conference, and Tophre Woods, then the executive director, invited him to join the board, he said. Last summer, Woods suffered a catastrophic medical event. He is now in a long-term and difficult recovery journey, according to a family friend. Chapman had been on the board for about 15 months at that point, and said he wasn’t thinking about the position at all, but when the decision was made to try to recruit from within before doing a broader search for a replacement, some of the VPS staff asked him to step up. “It was humbling,” he said. “People got to know me as a person” in his board role, “and it was a good fit. … It fit with the passion I already had.” Chapman lives in Wallingford and has begun part-time coursework at the Community College of Vermont to work towards a degree in psychology and program development.

Another Way Names Agency Head

MONTPELIER — Another Way, a local community center, has chosen local homelessness advocate Ken Russell as its new executive director, the board of directors announced this summer. He began in his new role in September. Russell brings experience in working for the rights of unhoused individuals for the Montpelier Homelessness Task Force and for the American

‘Talk Dog’ Offered

Does the power of dog medicine intrigue you? Are you interested in learning about psychiatric service animals and other service animals? Do you have a service dog personal story to share? There is an opportunity in Vermont to “talk dog” without having to travel. For further information, contact Melanie Jannery at meljannery@gmail. com.

Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, according to the board’s press announcement. He also brings training in conflict resolution and leadership, the press release said. “Another Way is very excited to have Ken on board to lead us into the future. He is very respected in the community by folks from all walks of life. Ken’s skills in leadership and homelessness advocacy will serve the organization well,” Amos Meacham, board chair, said in the press release In taking on the position, Russell said he hopes to honor the storied history of the organization while helping it adapt to current needs, the release said. “The Another Way community includes folks from different backgrounds. Both folks seeking refuge from mental health institutions and folks without homes. "Finding the right balance in meeting the

needs is an ongoing challenge for the community. "But it’s a vibrant community with a great deal of heart and vitality, so we’re confident that we can grow with the times and thrive,” he was quoted as saying. Another Way is a dropin center with roots in the psychiatric survivor movement and serves a variety of individuals, including those seeking an alternative to the conventional mental health system and people who are homeless, the press Ken Russell release said, with a focus on “non-hierarchical relationships, mutual aid, and peer-to-peer connections and support.”


NEWS . NEWS

Fall 2020 2018 Fall

5

Peer Agencies Pitch in on COVID By ANNE DONAHUE

BURLINGTON — When Governor Phil Scott closed down the state in March under his “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order to contain the potential spread of the coronavirus, peer support services were cut back sharply despite the likely increase in need driven by the isolation and anxiety caused by the pandemic. That is when the state’s four peer-led programs joined in a partnership to create 24/7 access to the Vermont Support Line by using the staff who could no longer provide person-toperson support in community drop-in centers and hospitals. “It was a really wonderful experience to see everyone wanting to come together,” said Katie Bourque, acting services manager of the support line, which is run by Pathways Vermont. By April 26 — just one month after the March 25 shutdown — the support line was fully converted to availability at all hours, she said. Staff from the Pathways community center were able to get on board first, but within a few weeks, staff from Vermont Psychiatric Survivors, Alyssum and Another Way completed training for responding to calls. That meant “we were able to get a whole first shift” in place, and “fully fill in the hours” in the 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. time period that had not been in operation, Bourque said. “It was really exciting to pull together the response,” she said. “It was a lot to shuffle.” There was an “exponential increase” in calls to the support line with anxiety about the pandemic, she said. Pathways not only needed to bring in an influx of borrowed staff, Bourque said, but at the same time had to convert its entire system from two call centers to staff members each working from home. “There was definitely a learning curve,” as well as having to address the challenges of poor internet services in some areas, she said. One person, for example, needed to travel from home to Alyssum to access the internet, she said.

Alyssum, a peer crisis respite in Rochester; Vermont Psychiatric Survivors, a peer-run statewide agency based in Rutland that provides peer patient representatives in hospital psychiatric units and intensive residences; and Another Way, a peer community center in Montpelier, all loaned staff positions in the effort.

Sharing of Staff During Crisis Allowed Support Line To Go to 24/7 Coverage Those staff were unable to perform their usual functions because centers were closed and visitors could not enter hospitals or residential programs under the shutdown.

The partnership support achieved Pathways’ longtime goal of expanding its hours, which is now continuing under a federal coronavirus response grant, Bourque said. Bourque said that Pathways was able to hire and train staff to take over the slots being filled by the temporary staff loaned by the other peer agencies. When the new funding began on July 1, the 24/7 services continued without interruption. Although the emergency funding ends in December, the commissioner of the Department of Mental Health has told the legislature that DMH is putting together funding sources to keep the full services operating for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends June 30. Continuation of 24/7 coverage will require identifying a funding source once again for the following year’s budget, Commissioner Sarah Squirrell said.

Eugenics Apology Is Postponed

MONTPELIER — An apology for statesponsored sterilization in the 1930s through the 1950s that included people deemed “insane” stalled this year when the legislature discontinued its regular process as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the chair of the House committee that was working on it. “The COVID crisis put the brakes on this,” said Rep. Tom Stevens. “I hope to reintroduce this in January.” According to data gathered by the University of Vermont, “Over 80 percent of the sterilized [in Vermont] were deemed ‘mentally deficient.’” Other groups that were subjected to sterilization without informed consent included “members of Abenaki bands [and] Vermonters of mixed racial or French-Canadian heritage,” it said. Stevens had said that he wanted to include a ceremony in the House with representatives of groups that were harmed, but that was no longer

possible when the state house closed down. The legislature later continued its business through remote electronic meetings. A 1931 law targeted “idiots,” “imbeciles,” and “feeble-minded” or “insane” persons residing in state institutions, but also applied to residents of the state in general, according to UVM’s website Vermont Eugenics: A Documentary History (uvm.edu/~eugenics). At least one children’s advocacy group fought for the law by “arguing that it would allow institutions to turn out patients who wouldn’t threaten the community by bearing more defective children,” and thereby save the costs of the growing number of people being held in those institutions, the UVM research found. The sterilization measures “applied to those Vermonters who purportedly had compromised the quality of life for Vermont’s ‘elect,’” it said. According to this year’s resolution, the state

is “sincerely apologizing and expressing sorrow and regret to all,” saying that the “devastating impact of these eugenics-inspired actions on the lives of the sterilized individuals and severed families was irreversible.” According to the resolution, the law was passed after a statewide survey initiated in 1925 measured “evidence of allegedly defective, delinquent, and depraved behavior,” with the intent of “eliminating [them] from the future Vermont genetic pool.” It also found that as a result of the survey files being open to social welfare organizations, “children were removed from families, individuals were institutionalized and incarcerated, family connections were severed, and the sense of kinship and community was lost.” The resolution had 54 sponsors with support across all three political parties.


NEWS 6 NEWS

Fall 2020 Fall 2018

Outreach Prioritized in State Survey By ANNE DONAHUE MONTPELIER — An increase in funding for mental health outreach was selected as the most important priority for policing reform in a survey completed by 1,446 people in Vermont. In all, 62% of those responding said it was “extremely important,” the highest ranking of any of 10 suggested reform initiatives. More than one item could be selected. The next highest rankings were for increased training in de-escalation skills (54%) and requiring the use of body cameras (53%). The survey was circulated primarily through social media, and was created by the Social Equity Caucus, a group of state legislators and advocates who meet to discuss topics and legislation related to equity issues. A group of legislators were circulating the survey in August, during the same time that the legislature held three public hearings on police reforms as part of its work on addressing use-offorce and implicit bias by police. Of a total of 92 witnesses at the three public hearings, 17 focused their comments on mental health issues. Six of those identified themselves as psychiatric survivors. That testimony included repeated references to the need for more support for an array of mental health services and social supports, and some for increased training for police. Lynn Mazza, of Bennington, said she was a peer advocate with the Vermont Center for Independent Living, and was “so angry and frustrated” by the “humiliation, unprofessional conduct, harassment” her peers are subjected to. They are too afraid to file complaints, even through her, she said. “I have no recourse to offer them” because internal reviews are “by the very perpetrator” of the harms. She urged legislators to ensure that civilian complaint boards are established. Kazmir DeWolfe, of Brattleboro, said they were a member of the LGBTQ and psychiatric survivor communities, and that the legislature needed to remember that police units were first formed in the United States for the purpose of capturing escaped slaves. “To this day, police continue to commit violence against Black and brown people and against those of us who don’t pass as sane,” they said. They urged that police departments be defunded over time, with resources put into communities instead. DeWolfe said they considered police social workers and crisis workers with the ability to have people committed to hospitals as part of a system that needs to be reduced, rather than expanded. “I cannot stress enough that forced psychiatric treatment is punishment and forced hospitalization is just punishment,” they said. “Pouring more money into an unjust and violent system will not make us safer,” DeWolfe said. Instead, more money should be put into low-barrier housing, community centers, mutual support networks and universal health care, they said. Melinda White, of St Albans, said she was a person in long-term recovery. She testified that having social workers or crisis workers isn’t necessarily useful because they aren’t willing to respond to emergencies without police backup. She suggested that “it’s more about working together” and “enhancing the partnerships” between mental health and police. Calvin Moen of Brattleboro said he was

a psychiatric survivor and also has been an Call program, but said it was limited by the fact advocate for people in psychiatric hospitals and that it could only help in situations with people on the street. who were voluntary and “being calm enough,” “We will tell you that the most effective and and that the street outreach team only responds immediate thing we can do to keep from being with police backup. killed and injured and further traumatized Among the others who is to get the police out of mental health and testified was Eugene Buffano crisis response altogether,” he said, and of Warren, who said he was “not sending in social workers who work a police officer and that that with them; not involving cops at all.” he disagreed “with about Moen said there was a need for mobile everything” that was said about crisis teams, mutual support, and police bias in testimony prior to “someplace to go and someone to talk to.” his that evening. Ward Nial, of Burlington, said he was a peer As far as mental health advocate who was an advisory member on the support, he said that as a police officer, the Police Training Council. The council has reason he has had to respond is “because recently expanded the range of input it mental health workers had failed.” includes, but people with disabilities are In the separate police reform survey, often the “missing voices” when their hundreds of those responding added interests are being discussed, he said. individual comments, with several A licensed clinical social worker dozen commenting on mental health from Windhall, Joanne Beck, testified issues. that she does advocacy for people Most comments were brief and with mental illness and intellectual urged more training and more disabilities, and has seen “severe mental health support, with some abuse and harm done in the custody stressing that mental health workers of police.” should be separate and autonomous She described a child on the from police agencies. autism spectrum who had a fire Several said that more investments hose trained on him because the in community services would prevent police “lacked the necessary skills to crises and avoid the need to have calm him.” She testified that mental police respond at all. health professionals should work “Redistribute state and local funds,” one with police, and that when police do wrote, “less to police, more to mental health intervene, they need to be trained outreach, education, community centers/ and qualified. programming, food security, housing Another clinician, Alexander programs, social workers, teachers, crossAnylan, of Cabot, told legislators cultural awareness training, de-escalation that last year he lost someone he training, job programs, etc.” had cared for for 20 years to a The public is “shooting the messenger,” one Xenia Williams police shooting. He said he didn’t comment said, when society fails to provide at a Mad Pride bring it up to blame anyone, but to adequate mental health services, and then rally in 2017. emphasize that “what we’re talking blames police for bad outcomes. about is not a casual issue, it’s a matter of life “Create a new system of first responders and and death for a lot of people.” community resources, comprised of mental Anylan said there was a separation of health first responders, housing liaisons, interests in society; that “there is an unwritten social workers, real and long-term addiction understanding in mental health that one of the treatment, and unarmed people trained in defirst rules is to protect the people who own the escalation,” one wrote. stores from the mentally ill people.” Several pointed to the inadequacies of existing “We need to honor all the needs, not just those mental health programs, saying that when called of perceived decision-makers or people who can by police for support, they sometimes don’t review our behavior, whether we’re police or respond for hours, or are afraid of their own citizens,” he said. “We need to create a process clients without a police presence. in which everyone can participate and which has A number wrote that there were too few ways enough transparency to be of benefit.” for people in crisis to access support. There must be collaboration towards building There needs to be access 24/7, one wrote. “I trust and respect “so that no more people die keep seeing cops going to things that they don’t and no more people get hurt,” Anylan said. have any business doing, but I know from calling Two people who said they had family mental health systems that they’re not open at members with psychiatric labels testified about 2am, and I get stuck calling the cops” they wrote. collaborative models between mental health “Which sucks. It’s not they’re job, and they clinicians and police. shouldn’t be doing it. Why am I stuck calling the Michelle Bos-Lund, of Westminster, said that cops? Why aren’t the people who are trained to only two state police barracks have embedded do it actually doing it?” workers. When police respond to a crisis, it Surveys were returned from every county creates a “higher chance to have escalation” and in the state. The age of those responding was deaths, she said. “Sometimes the police end up lower than the average age of all Vermonters, using violence against those people because they and also included a higher percentage of people don’t know how to de-escalate the situation,” who identified as Black or other minority groups Bos-Lund said. than are represented in the state’s population. Mary Cox, of Burlington, praised the “beefedAmong those who responded, 184, or 13%, up crisis response” and collaboration that she said they were a person living with a disability, said she has seen with the Burlington Police and 94 of them disclosed the type of disability, Department in recent years. which included 34 who identified a mental She also touted the Howard Center’s First health or psychiatric disability.


NEWS . NEWS

2020 Fall 2018

7

STATE POLICE TO INCREASE MENTAL HEALTH STAFF • Continued from page 1 similar recognition that mental health providers also create risks of harm. The expanded use of trained peers and of broader peer community services to prevent crises was also proposed in testimony. The Senate Health and Welfare Committee took briefer testimony, hearing from six witnesses. Wilda White, founder of a new psychiatric survivor advocacy group, MadFreedom, whose mission, she said, “is to secure political power to end the discrimination and oppression of people based on mental status,” opened her comments by responding to earlier testimony by DPS Commissioner Michael Schirling. “This is a proposal whose time has passed. Commissioner Schirling talked about how he was baffled why anyone could be opposed to it, and I have to express my bafflement at his bafflement,” she said. “In this post-George Floyd, Daniel Prude era, it is imperative to eliminate law enforcement’s interactions with people with mental health and emotional distress, whether they’re working with embedded mental health clinicians or not, except perhaps in situations involving violence to others,” she said. Representatives from community mental health centers involved in various models of mental health crisis response also provided testimony to both committees. In the debate between the budget conference negotiators, Ashe said that there are two state police barracks with embedded worker programs that have been “up and running for years” and have been “universally commended by both the mental health providers and the state troopers who work alongside with them.” By trying to change the model, “we’re going to put that at risk,” he said. Sen. Jane Kitchel, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said that “the dynamics are very, very powerful” for change

to be driven by ownership of the money and the responsibility for it. To change law enforcement response, “the leadership and ownership has to come from the state police [because] that’s where the culture change needs to take place,” she said. “We want to make the responsibility and the leadership and the vision to start moving away from that more traditional law enforcement response with the very department that has got to undertake it,” she said. “That has to come from the department. It has to come internally.” Rep. Mary Hooper said the House felt “pretty strongly” that making the shift away from “regarding individuals who are experiencing mental distress as being aberrant and needing a police response” required recognition of mental crises as a health care issue, with the leadership therefore coming from DMH. She said it also “needs to involve folks with lived experience” of mental health conditions. “Those are all of the elements that are going to drive the cultural change,” Hooper said. “We want to make sure that we have the right people at the table.” In negotiating the compromise, the Senate refused a statement by the House that a purpose of the project was “to enhance the ability statewide to provide safe, appropriate crisis responses that reduce involvement of law enforcement when those supports are not necessary for public safety, and that ensure strong coordination when those supports are necessary.” The House had also wanted DMH to coordinate further development of a statewide approach to mental health emergencies and emergency calls “under the leadership of impacted communities” and in collaboration with law enforcement, mental health agencies, and the DMH standing committees for adult and children’s mental health. The Senate rejected that as well. The House Health Care Committee had heard

testimony that people in the LGBTQ and Black communities who experience a crisis are at significant additional risk of police use of force, and included as stakeholders “those whose identities cause them to experience additional marginalization.” Ashe challenged that language, saying it was an unrelated issue, but he withdrew his request to remove it. Burlington, which has had an ongoing protest over police use of force, has also announced plans for mental health staff to be added and housed under the police department. One of the three officers who protesters have been demanding be fired had punched a man who was experiencing a crisis. He died a few days later and the death was ruled a homicide, but the officer was not prosecuted. The Burlington police proposal resulted in objections from the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance, which issued a statement saying that “social workers in the police department creates a dangerous precedent and blurs the line between policing and social services at a time when community members are asking for clearer separation of roles.” A study on how mental health and race data could be tracked in the future on emergency service calls, and the outcomes of those calls, was added in a separate section of the budget bill. It was based upon a proposal made by White, who testified in both the House and Senate that the police-mental health worker proposal would have a “disparate effect on Black people and people of color.” She cited the history of disproportional use of psychiatric diagnoses on those communities, often “equating race with insanity,” and said that because of institutional racism, embedding of mental health workers in law enforcement is “a combustible mix” that her organization opposes.

Survivor Added to Police Council

MONTPELIER — A bill for reforms to police oversight passed in September with a mandate for the involvement of psychiatric survivors in five different initiatives. It requires that at least one member of the Criminal Justice Council “be an individual with a lived experience of a mental health condition or psychiatric disability.” The 20-member council has authority over training and standards of professional conduct for police, including adjudicating charges of unprofessional conduct and imposing penalties. The bill, S. 124, sets out a series of specific tasks for the council in the next year that

require consultation with “statewide groups representing individuals with lived experience of a mental health condition or psychiatric disability.” These include review of current training on “implicit bias, de-escalation, and recognition of and appropriately responding to individuals with a mental health condition or psychiatric disability, and whether that training is embedded into training on other policing policies such as traffic stops and searches.” The tasks also include making a recommendation on one or more models of civilian oversight of law enforcement, identifying

a central point for reporting allegations of officer misconduct and how those allegations should be handled and recommending policies for responding to public records requests for body camera footage. S.124 also penalizes police departments that fail to comply with a law passed three years ago requiring that a death or serious bodily injury resulting when police respond to an apparent mental health crisis be reported to the attorney general’s office for the review of the Mental Health Crisis Response Commission. Departments can be cut off from state grants and access to the police academy.

Counterpoint Telephone Poll QUESTION: Should police be the ones to respond to mental health emergencies? VOTE “yes” or “no” by calling:

888-507-0721

(Toll-free call)

Results of the poll will be published in the next issue of Counterpoint.


NEWS 8 NEWS

Fall 2020 Fall 2018

Hospital Peer Support Started in 1795 BRATTLEBORO — Mental health peer support began in 1795 in France, not in the late 1990s in the United States, according to Larry Davidson, Ph.D., of the Yale University Program for Recovery and Community Health. Now, it has become “one of the new and exciting evidence-based recovery resources,” meaning that formal studies have validated its effectiveness, he told participants at the annual Vermont Suicide Prevention Symposium in August. The panel workshop during the symposium — titled “The Nature and Roles of Mental “Philippe Pinel Releasing Lunatics from Their Chains at the Salpetriere Asylum in Paris in 1795” by Tony Robert-Fleury. Health Peer Support” into account. He said that some descriptions Services, in which he discussed how after 20 — included four presenters, all of whom had a of peer support are of a one-way relationship, years as a mental health professional he first direct tie to types of peer support, though only helping a person who has had the same lived sought psychiatric help himself. Davidson identified as having a lived experience experience, while others focus on a two-way “And it was going to be me who would have to of a psychiatric label. relationship between the two people. struggle with the issues of disclosure and stigma Davidson’s presentation on the history of peer Davidson said new research has shown and possible discrimination from my family, support began by describing the work of Dr. “positive improved outcomes” through peer colleagues, coworkers, and employers, not the Philippe Pinal at the Paris Asylum, memorialized support. clients I had gently reassured by touting the in a painting by Tony Robert-Fleury that He described the outcomes as based on virtues of the Americans With Disabilities Act,” depicted Pinal freeing patients of their shackles. qualitative factors in three realms. he wrote. Pinal then hired recovered patients to staff the Peer staff can help people be “pushed in The other three presenters in the workshop hospital, Davison said. directions they want to be pushed” away from included: Peer support in mental health experienced “disengagement after being beat down by the Peter Espenshade, executive director of the its most rapid growth, however, in the 1990s, system,” he said. Vermont Association of Mental Health and particularly after it was approved for Medicaid The empathy peers have as a result of their Addictions Recovery, who identified himself as funding, which is now an option in some 40 own life experiences brings about patience, he a person in recovery and described the work states, he said. The Veteran’s Administration said. of the agency’s substance use recovery centers; alone has some 1,200 peer support workers, he Finally, they bring persistence in the effort to Laurie Emerson, executive director of NAMI said. Its growth and the federal funding have help others regain their own autonomy. Vermont, who identifies as a family member of a “led to concerns about co-option and the loss of According to Davidson’s conference person with psychiatric illness and who outlined integrity,” Davidson said, because of its roots in biography, he is a researcher on processes of the family and peer support programs at her advocacy and patient rights. recovery and its implications in the development agency; and Heather White of the Vermont When those aspects are curtailed, it “creates and evaluation of recovery-oriented policies, branch of the American Federation for Suicide tension” over whether peer support remains including peer-delivered recovery supports. Prevention, a survivor of suicide loss, who “authentic in its role in the system.” He suggested He identifies as “a user of psychiatric care” discussed the “healing conversations” groups it that there a continuum of types of peer support and wrote a personal account in 2001 entitled offers for peer-to-peer support among survivors and that their distinctions are not always taken “Us and Them,” published in Psychiatric of suicide loss.

Ex-Sheriff Shares His Struggles

BRATTLEBORO — Keith Clark, the former Windham County Sheriff long known in the psychiatric s u r v i v o r community for his work to eliminate the use of shackles in sheriff transports, shared his own experience with severe depression and hospitalization in a talk at the Vermont Suicide Prevention Symposium. In 2016, “I checked myself into the Keith Clark

Brattleboro Retreat” after fighting depression and suicidal thoughts, he said. Clark’s presentation focused on how people in leadership have to cope with and overcome stigma in order to get help. “If I told anyone,” he thought to himself, “my career was over.” Two weeks prior to entering the hospital during his annual physical, his doctor of 30 years asked him if he was okay and was sleeping alright. “He knew something was wrong,” Clark said. Clark hadn’t slept for days, but told his doctor he was fine, he said. “I couldn’t tell the truth even to my own doctor.” Nor did he share what he was experiencing with his wife of 43 years, he said. A sheriff is an elected position in Vermont, and his fears of losing his career were too overwhelming, he said.

“All of that turned out to be not true,” Clark said. “When I went public with my diagnosis, all I received was support,” he said, including thanks from others for being public about what he went through. He was re-elected as sheriff the next year. His advice for leaders who experience mental health diagnoses is to “be honest with the people you work with.” “It pushed me to another level,” he said. “I’m better and I’m moving forward.” Clark was the Windham County Sheriff from 2007 to 2019. He now speaks to law enforcement agencies and other groups about the dangers and signs of stress-induced depression and suicide. “We don’t talk about ourselves,” he said. “That would be a sign of weakness.”


NEWS .

Fall Fall2018 2020

Anti-Racism as Suicide Prevention

BRATTLEBORO — The intersection between suicide prevention and anti-racism was the focus of a keynote presentation at the annual Vermont Suicide Prevention Symposium. “Anti-racism work is suicide prevention,” said Jennifer Kelleher Pata Suyemoto, chair of the Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention Alliance for Equity’s People of Color Caucus and one of the two panelists. It intersects because racism increases the risk of suicide, she said. Co-presenter Jennifer Kelleher said that “we as white people have to do this work” because “white people have more power that we

can leverage” and “as white people who unjustly benefit from racism” it is “our own responsibility … to dismantle systems of injustice.” Kelleher is managing director of the coaltion and is the chair of the white ally caucus. Taking responsibility means educating ourselves but also moving from education to action, she said, and experiencing the discomfort that can exist because Vermont has been “incredibly sheltered” from knowing the impacts of racism. Allies can confront resistance and help in seeing blind spots, she said.

9

Suyemoto said that people of color “take care of ourselves” which creates burnout, and she said that makes it important to identify allies. “Insist that white folks educate themselves and take responsibility for their own piece of t h e Pata Suyemoto work” instead of doing it for them, she said. When there is resistance, “meet people where they’re at” and try to identify the source. The work “is never static, it never ends,” Kelleher said. It is “critical that we all work on our blind spots — and we all have them.”

Attempt Survivors Share ‘Greatest Wish’

A video presentation at the start of the suicide prevention conference presented perspectives from multiple people identified as “stakeholders” in the field. They included 10 community leaders or mental health professionals and three who identified as survivors. Each was asked to give a 30-second response to the question, “What is your greatest wish for suicide prevention for youth, families and communities across the state?” The statements of those who directly identified as survivors/ peers/consumers are transcribed here. Kristi Hommel “My name is Kristi Hommel. I speak from NAMI Vermont’s In Our Own Voice program. I’m a two-time suicide survivor. My greatest wish for suicide prevention is to change the language around suicide. Mental illness is not something that you can see and easily diagnose, like a broken arm. We are all unique, we

are all human. Yes, we still need more awareness, less shame, and an open and familiar vocabulary to talk about it. I look forward to a day when it’s not just a hot topic, but it’s a topic that we are discussing, and problem-solving, with more than just hotlines, with more education, and health care reform, to support all affected by this. Thank you.” Joseph Smith “My name is Joe Smith, a veteran of the

United States Army and a suicide survivor. My dream is to live in a world where veterans from everywhere, from all branches of service and from all walks of life, can overcome the stigma that our training leaves them as far as seeking help with their mental health issues. There is a lot of stigma there, and I think that is a roadblock and I would like to see that they would overcome that.” Anne Donahue “I’m Anne Donahue. I’m a suicide attempt survivor and a state legislator. My greatest wish is that we had more focus on peer support. There’s a lot of talk about bringing clinicians instead of police in a crisis, but for many of my peers, the clinical world can feel just as much a tool of oppression. If you can’t share your feelings without fearing being taken into involuntary custody, how is that a safe space? We need safe support so that scary feelings don’t stay hidden until they reach a crisis.”

Peer Agencies Receive COVID Grants Vermont Psychiatric Survivors RUTLAND — Vermont Psychiatric Survivors received a grant for $18,320 to get information distributed at psychiatric facilities so that patients know that patient representative services are still available despite COVID-19 no-visitor policies, according to the peer-run agency’s policy specialist. Tom Johnston said the money from the Department of Mental Health was the result of federal COVID emergency funding. “There were people who wanted to reach us and couldn’t” because VPS patient representatives have not been able to visit hospitals and residential programs during the state of emergency, he said. A staff member will be bringing pocket cards to each program to have distributed. Along with the phone number, it will let patients or

residents know that they can access a patient representative through video-chat, and at some facilities, in person by appointment, Johnston said. The grant means VPS will be “going out and making sure everyone knows [we are] still here,” he said. “This is reigniting the presence of VPS around the state.” The grant was one part of $65,000 that was provided for COVID-19 outreach work for mental health. Pathways Vermont received $18,320, and another $36,640 was divided between NAMI Vermont and the Copeland Center. Vermont Center for Independent Living MONTPELIER — Another grant is providing access for the direct needs of people with disabilities to help weather the crisis, according to the nonprofit agency that is coordinating it. RISE — Resilience and Independence during

a State of Emergency — will enable people to get practical supports like laptops or cleaning equipment, according to Peter Jonke of the Vermont Center for Independent Living, who explained the program in a public Zoom meeting. VCIL is a cross-disability organization with offices in Montpelier, Burlington, Brattleboro, Bennington, Morrisville and Rutland. The primary requirement for use of the money is that the need “must be related to COVID-19,” he said. It must also be a necessary item and a reasonable expense. Jonke gave the example of a laptop that was needed for telehealth or academic coursework. Although applicants need to identify a disability, there is no need for physician documentation or income test. The maximum amount per individual is $2,500. People may apply by contacting the closest VCIL office.


The Arts

Fall 2020

presents: The ANEW Exhibit

10

ANEW is the latest Inclusive Arts Vermont exhibition showcasing works by Vermont artists who self-identify as living with a disability. It is a traveling exhibition of work by 29 Vermont artists. The included artwork represents each artist’s unique interpretation of the title — highlighting beginnings, doorways, fresh starts, and opportunity. The

mission of Inclusive Arts Vermont is to engage the capabilities and enhance the confidence of children and adults with disabilities. More about Inclusive Arts Vermont can be viewed on its website, www. inclusiveartsvermont.org, along with information about the ANEW exhibition, including an audio tour, verbal descriptions of

all works and links to the first in their new series of Artist Talks. Beginning on October 6, the exhibition will be back on tour at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Inclusive Arts Vermont is on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) with its upcoming events, artist spotlights and creative opportunities.

Willow Bascom, Off the Couch! 2019, yarn, beads, multimedia, 24 x 39 inches Gyllian Rae Svensson, who-winter window, 2019, photo collage print, 24 x 36 inches

Kent Corduan, Kiva, 2019, 16 x 30 inches

Jessica Greenwald, Photograph 1, 2019

Lissa Nilsson, Untold Depths to Heights Unknown, 2019, mixed media on paper, 15.5 x 24 inches Jef Hill, Northern Sky, 2016, encaustic painting, 8 x 8 inches


The Arts . 11

Fall2020 2018 Fall

The ANEW Exhibit

ARTISTS TALKS — Executive Director Katie Miller chats with ANEW artist Aurora Berger about Berger’s artistic process during the first of Inclusive Arts Vermont’s new Virtual Artist Talks. More information about the ANEW exhibition, can be viewed at www.inclusiveartsvermont.org. (Photo courtesy Inclusive Arts Vermont)

Michael Leavitt, Dad and Fledglings, 2017, digital photography, 10 x 5.5 inches

Gwendolyn Evans, Summoning, 2018, polymer clay and acrylic paint on canvas, 16 x 12 inches

Cristina Clarimon, Growing up, 2019, collage on paper, 8 x 10 inches

Katarina Pringles, State House, 2019, ink on canvas, 8 x 8 inches

Karen J. Lloyd, After the Storm, 2019, photograph, 10 x 8 inches

Marguerite Adelman, Seeking Peace, 2019, acrylic, beads, felt, and origami on canvas, 20 x 16 inches


12

The Arts

Fall 2018 Fall 2020

Louise Wahl Writing Contest Runners-Up

When When will it go away? When will I escape? The thoughts bouncing in my head as I pick my mom off the floor and lead her to bed. I tell her it’s ok, hoping maybe she’ll wake up one day, but knowing I’ll be cleaning up the shattered picture frames and glasses the next night. Knowing she might be away suddenly, leaving me to hope the lights stay on till she comes back. Eviction was often and each couch got crummier. Living with strangers who she’d met weeks before. Packing my things until I had nothing left, but what I can fit into my small backpack. I’m told I’m young, but have so much more ahead of me as I walk across the stage graduating early from high school. As I continue college with high grades. As I move from my poor community to Vermont. A new start to get myself better, but to find that life was going to get harder in a new way. Feeling like I never left my abusive mother as PTSD reminds me each night the things I endured. The anxiety telling me I’m nothing and will never be anything. But while my brain pleads to not attempt again. I sit there with my friends and realize that no one knows anything about me. No one sees the pain that hides behind my eyes. Afraid of rejection from past experiences, I lock myself in while others whisper in the background about my instability.

by Brianna E. Dailey South Burlington

Honored to be your caretaker your friend your aunt in love friends of your mom and dad

Let’s show the world the beauty here, The peaceful calm I hold dear. Perhaps then more will understand... Why this simple spot helps hold your hand. Blue calm water trickles down, Past the rock bed, peaceful sound.

by Anna Marie Jacobs Rutland

So Please! Speak, speak! To me! To me! To me!

it doesn’t matter for you have left paw prints all over my heart forever

Please include name and town

Wishing to stay, but needing to go… One more moment, breathe in, let’s show.

But because I am clearly not free, For a mare put restraints on me! And now in large and worse, I can only use my words.

Where did it all begin? Did you pick me did I pick you or did we pick each other

or mail to Counterpoint, The Service Building, 128 Merchants Row, Suite 606, Rutland, VT 05701

I feel you near me, I feel your soul, Warmth spreads throughout, despite the cold.

And just because I look free, From outside — you to me And I do not mean to disrupt, Or certainly be abrupt But I suppose that if you did care, you would Sit in the opposite chair and Talk to me.

I remember the first time I saw you the first time I held you. Your sweetness melted my heart and took my breath away

Email to counterpoint @ vermontpsychiatricsurvivors.org

Here in nature, I’m at home, Sitting solo, but not alone.

In terms of large and worse, To be Restrained by a bragging horse In Self defense and lords, I skip with no lagging remorse!

Puppy Love

Share Your Art!

Worries melting, chaos stops... Ignoring others as they mock.

Silly Simple Tune

I want my brain better, But when will I wake up....

(town requested to be private)

Blue calm water trickles down, Past the rock bed with peaceful sound. Warm sunrays envelop me, As I sit quiet near the stream.

When will they realize that I won’t suddenly get better. That I won’t wake up one day to suddenly find my brain had forgotten.

by Jan Abbott

Blue Calm Water

by Neal Muse

Burlington

by Allegra Harvard Hanover


The Arts . 13

Fall 2020

Picture Poem by Colby Lynch, Montpelier

Only the Basics As interpreted and paraphrased Christianity Love God, and love other people as much as you love yourself. Judaism Be fair, be kind, and look up to the Lord your God. Islam Respect Allah (God) and his prophet, Muhammed. Buddhism Reverence all living things. American Indian Take care of the land and the animals, our cousins. Share with others. Simple teachings, but what a difference it would make if we all actually tried to live them every day!

by Ellen Gawrys, Rutland

by Eleanor Newton, Burlington

Louise Wahl Memorial Writing Contest 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 winter 2020 Counterpoint.

Enter This Winter’s Contest: Deadline November 6

$250 in Total Prizes! Send submissions to:

Counterpoint, The Service Building, 128 Merchants Row, Suite 606, Rutland, VT 05701 or by email to: counterpoint@vermontpsychiatricsurvivors.org

Include name and address.

Previous Contest Winners First Place Prose $150 The Bird - Anthony Parshall - Essex Junction

First Place - Poetry - $50 Pearl - Dennis Rivard - White River Junction Second Place - Poetry - $25 Trees - Natalie Frost Third Place - Poetry - $25 Seeking the Perfect Hurricane - Marla Simpson - Randolph


14E

The Arts

Fall 2020 Fall 2018

‘Voluntary’ this is voluntary; sign your name so that we hold no blame. helena, one word, a symbol of my autonomy. it is absurd that with the stroke of one pen men owned my rights to dress to possess to bathe to shave. i would think about that moment for many nights to come,

how no one told me I was signing away the privilege of an unlocked door, a private conversation, a moment alone. these freedoms took years to regain and involved so much pain. … I was alone in a room with men. “we don’t believe you,” they said. “don’t misconstrue,” I replied. I closed my eyes

counted to ten, maybe this wasn’t happening again. they demanded to see my body. they had the degree, the PhD. who was I to say no, let me forego? “please, no,” I whispered. “you must,” was their reply. … these memories are blurred, as every time i think about my “voluntary” treatment tears return and fears

Truths Multiple Power

by Tahnee M. Rifaiy

flood my brain. I think of professionals, their power, and i’ve decided I’ll no longer cower. they tried to give me no choice; they tried to lock the door and throw away the key, but today I have a voice. I have grown, and they were overthrown. this is my story. their antics are no longer obligatory. this is my life now.

by Helena Bigelow Landgrove

Dedicated to Bernie Sanders Reshaping world view to clear the racial cross As Bernie Sanders’ aim transforms COVID-19 albatross Encapsulating dreams of fear Taking all living things so dear Wishing you trusted yourself With investment to health Rather stocks and bonds. Those war-time songs That continue to play over and over In a world design to drug the lover Healthcare economics as the topics of debate Aligned with darkness and hate What is sacred to humanity Turn its back on non-reality Virus take-over advancing Bella Ciao’s spectrum we sing Growing global emergency From western worlds big city Cultural shut-down spreading Intemperance plague to the ‘spring-fling’ Cancellations stomp exodus wave 5G freeze and fry line to behave Bernie’s stand upon the bridge His statement of prayer to take courage The world’s greatest need Is in humanitarian action and deed. Best accident of flattened death Between... Genetic connections to rationalize Engagement moving... Back for untraceable Miracles on the crossroads of Post-virtuals Of Italy’s essence in later existence... That which is authority inspired why People divide what experience or belief The sun and moon hide To viral fear by eyes and ear Listen to understand And take Bernie’s stand Overlapping non-accidental rotation That re-interpret self-creation Referring back to what is a hero Bernie’s brilliant light of supreme Untruth in knowing truth’s arrow Viva Italia! ‘Questa Mattina’ Brattleboro


The Arts 15

Fall 2020 2018

y r t d e r o a P v i e h R T s i n n e D f o Chime In

Pandemic

Parking lots all but empty. Even outside hospitals, from here to Waco. Boy wearing a light green mask and on a black bicycle goes down the block, throwing those newspapers, wrapped in clear plastic, at the deadcalm houses. No horsing around.

Spreading The Word A poem can be a heavy load of mail, borne by a thin pony. Express, across the happy hunting grounds of the lonely planet. As it nears the station, it has no intention of stopping. It looks like some blind pony, a pony that has lost its mind. But on and on it goes, chasing down a scent, a wild scent — in the spirit of the eternal letter not sent.

Actually Thought I’d Always hoped and actually thought I’d grow up to be a fly on the wall, some kind of poet. Fly in the ointment. Thought I might just bring that ointment down. Well, I suppose all of that ended up happening. In some small way, at least. But now that I’m kind of turning into an old man, I get scared. I’m often worried about where the flyswatter is.

Even though I don’t know how to pray, I try hard to figure it out on my own. Without having to go out and get some manual or other. I always fall into the false hope that if I go to all the trouble of sitting still for however many minutes, leaving myself open to the whims of the idiots who jabber always inside my head, God will cut me some slack and chime in.

Who Are You Anyway? God Don’t Make No Trash, read the poster I still remember from 20-something years ago. I saw it first on the poster in Harold’s room, down the street from the Special Needs Department headquarters. I think it was also on bumper stickers. If I remember correctly. And there you are — whoever you are — throwing trash out the window. Of your car, on Chancery Street. From a moving car. With me practically right next to you. Just who do you think you are, anyway?

Among Them All

The battle between a man and his invisible enemy, depression, is not a battle that involves guns. Or any Medals, of honor or otherwise. It does not call for the spilling of any blood, unless you spill your own, trying to send out some sort of distress call. A big dramatic message you’re too messed up or

Dennis Rivard has been submitting poetry to Counterpoint from his home in White River Junction for almost two decades. Rivard is a prolific poet who reflects upon different facets of human nature. He writes from the perspective of someone labeled with a mental illness, and his work explores society’s reactions to people with these labels. Rivard was born in 1953 in Bedford, Massachusetts, and describes himself as “pretty much a wandering hippie throughout the ‘70s.” Despite what he termed “mental health trouble,” he held jobs and graduated college, marrying his wife Shirley in 1992. He was “always battling with depression and ‘thought disorder,’” he said. In the early 2000s, “mental health sent me into different way of life, working in convenience stores” and becoming involved with Health Care and Rehabilitation Services in White River Junction. “The whole time,” he said, “I worked on my poetry,” which he started as a teenager. It was through HCRS that he discovered Counterpoint, and began submitting his poetry for publication. “More and more through recent years, my poetry has been my anchor.

too inarticulate to put down in words. The hardest job in the war on depression is separating all the enemies of your happiness and well-being from yourself. That — as well as the invisibility of the whole crumby deal you deal with. The general public doesn’t hear any sirens blaring. No smoke burns their eyes as you pass among them all.

It’s Pretty Bad

It’s pretty bad when you’ve got to take the word of a homicidal maniac just because he can put on his doctor costume and say he’s there to help you. His so-called nurse then steps forward to take your so-called vitals. And she looks like the maniac’s alcoholic mother in surgical garb. It’s pretty bad when those two wheeler-dealers shoot you up with their so-called moon-rain — “just to see what happens,” as they put it, lower the lights and then don’t stick around to see what does.

Can’t Help But Think Can’t help but think that poets have something like a duty I guess to try bringing some cheer to the low in spirit. One way or another, and also a responsibility to bring some gloom up close to those who would otherwise be missing out on the pearls of wisdom that come along attached to the very bottom of depression’s most impressive boat. And you could call it a lifeboat, maybe. I’m not sure I can say. But one could.

My outlet,” Rivard told Counterpoint. In early 2020 he was sent to Genesis Healthcare rehabilitation center in Lebanon, New Hampshire. He was living there when the coronavirus struck. “So much free time on my hands,” he wrote to Counterpoint, “but in some ways it’s not such a bad thing. I’m in the midst of a big, big splurge of writing new poems — like, about 15 new poems in about a month’s time!” He moved in January to Davis House in Windsor, an assisted living facility, where he continues to write. “My mind is working overtime — trying to think like an artist, be an artist in poetry. Words, words. Rhythms, rhythms.” Counterpoint is celebrating Rivard’s poetry with this special page of his work over Dennis Rivard the past decade.


EDITORIAL PAGE 16 COMMENTARY

Letters

Fall 2018 Fall 2020

Opinions

Appreciation To the Editor: I want to start off by saying thank you. I really appreciate your work. Stumbling across this magazine and organization gives me so much hope. It felt validating to read the pieces by Isaac Jose Lezcano and Susanna Jaeger. I have struggled with many similar experiences to those described. To know that other people struggle with those same situations is comforting; I struggle with invalidating my trauma from psych treatment. If you can, please thank them for their work and advocacy. Reading their pieces made me feel not alone in this scary system of coercive mental health treatment. I don’t know if this would be possible, but it would be really neat to have a support group focused on healing from trauma caused by inadequate mental health providers. HELENA BIGELOW Landgrove

Guest Editorial

Policy Discussions Must Center on Those Most Impacted By CALVIN MOEN In August, I delivered a portion of the following as my testimony in a public forum on police reform held by the House Judiciary Committee. The two-minute time limit allowed me to read barely a third of the text here, so I have submitted it in its entirety to Counterpoint. Thank you to the committee for this opportunity to speak on this crucial topic. I identify as a psychiatric survivor and am currently a user of mental health services. I have lived in the Brattleboro area for over eight years, during which I have worked as an advocate for patients on locked psych wards and people in the community who have interactions with the mental health system. Many of them have experienced ongoing police surveillance, violence, and abuse. These folks have shown me bruises and black eyes, have suffered sprains and fractures, much of which went undocumented; have been shoved from behind, knocked down, and dragged from their homes, illegally taken into custody without a warrant. Their experiences are validated by national statistics that half of police shooting victims are disabled, with at least half of those having psychiatric disabilities. I have also found from my experience that many of these victims and survivors are living in poverty, are people of color, immigrants, and/or LGBTQIA. Statewide, we’ve seen six people killed by Vermont police in the last few years while in some kind of emotional or psychological crisis. And in reviewing those incidents and deciding on policy changes, people with psychiatric labels have been largely excluded. After Phil Grenon was shot to death by police in his home in 2016, a review commission was formed to investigate such incidents. This commission has only one seat for a person with lived experience of having a psychiatric diagnosis or disability. Appallingly but not surprisingly, the commission found little fault with the police department responsible for Grenon’s death, instead pointing to community mental health agencies as not doing enough. Yet it was the

police department that increased spending and resources as a result. It was only in the minority report filed by two commission members—the sole psychiatric survivor and a disability rights advocate—that called out bias on the part of the Burlington PD and pointed out how officers failed to follow department policies. If you ask survivors, we will tell you that the most effective and immediate thing we can do to keep from being killed, injured, and further traumatized is to get police out of mental healthcare and crisis response altogether. Out of “wellness checks,” out of emergency rooms, out of hospital transport. Not sending social workers who collaborate with them, but actually not involving cops at all. I do not advocate for increased police training. There has been little evidence that crisis intervention training is at all effective, and officers have fatally shot disabled people after receiving this training. I have done police trainings myself and looked out on bored or angry faces, heard arguments that the media make police look bad by reporting on excessive force, listened to people wearing guns tell me that my community is dangerous. These same officers write in their reports that “people who suffer from mental health issues can become violent without warning” in order to justify throwing someone calmly seated in a chair onto the floor. Statistically, we are no more violent than anyone else and in fact many times more likely to be the victims of violence. I keep hearing this repeated, from members of my community all the way up to the Department of Mental Health and state officials, but what will it take for this to be heard? More importantly, training can never address the systemic nature of this violence against us. As long as our diagnoses continue to be an excuse to take away our civil rights through involuntary hospitalization, forced drugging, and outpatient commitment (“orders of non-hospitalization”), this violence, coercion, and surveillance will continue to be justified. I would place body cameras in the same

category as crisis intervention or sensitivity trainings. They’ve been tried. Police continue to enact harm even as it is being recorded by a camera, and this record is rarely used to hold them accountable for use of force. Further, changing the regulations or protocol for when police are allowed to use force hasn’t yielded results, either. Ask anyone who is part of an over-policed population, and they’ll tell you they are subjected to illegal searches, restraints, and detention because in our society police act with impunity. They don’t need to follow policy. Their word is regarded as the truth, their motives regarded as trustworthy. The only solution is to divest from this punitive system and invest in community supports that prevent harm and respond to crisis with compassion and understanding. We need mobile crisis teams that provide actual support, not just assessment. When we’re in a crisis, we need a place to go and someone to talk to, not to be locked up, restrained, and/or drugged by force. And above all I must insist that those of us impacted the most — psychiatrically labeled and otherwise disabled, neurodivergent, BIPOC, LGBTQIA, poor people, drug users, houseless, migrants — be not just included but centered in policy decisions involving police. Don’t just invite but ensure our participation in shaping public safety policies and budgets. In Brattleboro, the Selectboard has accepted a public safety review process proposal from the community that will ensure participation of those most impacted by policing. It centers those already doing social justice and equity work in our community and compensates participants for their time and expertise. I invite you to look to that model as an example of how we can lift up marginalized voices in the service of real change. Calvin Moen is the statewide trainer for the Peer Workforce Development Initiative and does grassroots organizing for mutual support in Brattleboro.


COMMENTARY COMMENTARY. .

Fall 2018 2020

17

Why Empathic Support Matters By HILARY MELTON

I

wrote my July blog post about our Pathways Vermont Support Line and shared it with a friend who expressed concern about how it might make me look. She was apprehensive that people would be worried about me and question my leadership. Her concern is what many people might feel, and it is also, I believe, emblematic of what is wrong with the way we think about challenging thoughts and feelings. Depression, loneliness and despair are all rampant in America. The number of people taking their own lives is at an all-time high. What I have found after decades of working in the mental health field is that, above all else, talking about our pain and our experiences without being judged or assessed — holding the space for the pain, for the experience to see the light of day — helps. All of us know pain and dark times. All of us do. And you can experience those things and still be functional, still be good at your job, still carry on having a life. As so many of us know. Our silence is killing us. ____ I was sitting at my dining table a few weeks ago looking out the window. I live on the fifth floor of an apartment building that looks over a courtyard and a street. I started to imagine what it would be like to remove the screen, open the window, and jump out. The image was very clear. Almost as if it had already happened and I was reviewing the memory of it. How I didn’t go feet first but launched myself off the window sill as if diving into a pool. How my clothes flapped against my skin with the sudden rush of air as I fell. How everything went black before I hit the ground. I have bouts of what I call “feeling blue.” A

blue bout will show up out of nowhere and pass through me like a fever. It is awful when I am in it, but I know it passes. Recently at a training about suicide when we (the participants) were asked if we had ever wanted to kill ourselves, I reflected that I have never acted on any thoughts I have had because when I have those thoughts I generally don’t have the energy or interest in taking any action at all. The thoughts come and go, and can even be comforting. I have been in therapy, all different kinds, most of my adult life. I have tried multiple tools, including medication. I have come to know my blue bouts and recognize them when they appear. For me, weighing all the pros and cons of different options to help, the most palatable I have found is to not suppress or “treat” them, but to ride them out. So far, they have never lasted very long. Knowing what I do about depression, on the spectrum of depression, I suppose I am on the lucky end. There are many mental health tools, and they all work differently for different people. Getting to know ourselves and finding the mental health tools that work for us is a part of our journeys. The other day, when I was at my window, having my blue thoughts, I wanted to talk to someone. I have found that sometimes (not all the times) talking can help. I thought about how the conversation would go with my therapist. I knew as soon as I mentioned the window she would do two things: She would start assessing my suicidality, and she would start problemsolving. If you have ever spoken to a mental health professional about thoughts of killing yourself, you will know exactly what I mean. Instead, I spoke with a friend who could hold the space for me to talk about the window. Someone who wouldn’t assess me or try to problem-solve. Someone who understands what I was feeling. Not everyone has friends like that they can call. Having someone to talk with who can open up the conversation, who can hold the space for

very dark thoughts, who have been where you are, is an essential tool in everyone’s mental health toolbox. It is the reason we started the Pathways Vermont Support Line seven years ago. The Pathways Vermont Support Line provides anonymous, nonjudgmental support and connection for all Vermonters by phone. It’s staffed by local peers who’ve been through tough situations themselves. They listen, talk with you, provide insight, and help you face life’s challenges. The line is available 24/7 via text or phone call at (833) VTTALKS and is free for all Vermonters. As part of the federal COVID-19 money that

has come to Vermont, the Support Line was given $200,000 in order to remain open 24/7 until December 30, 2020. Life is hard. And harder for some more than others. Trauma impacts so many people and manifests in complicated ways in our lives. I know it has mine. Having someone that I can call when times are rough is essential. Everyone deserves to have access to a nonjudgmental, supportive, empathic person to talk with whether they are struggling with the pandemic, having financial problems, relationship woes, experiencing anxiety, anger, confusion, panic, loneliness, or sitting looking out a fifth-floor window. Hilary Melton is the Executive Director of Pathways Vermont.

Letters to the Editor

Wrongful Use of Behavioral Program

To the Editor: Approximately 28 people were arrested for civil disobedience in White River Junction in August 2019. The immediate issue was the rights of undocumented immigrants. There was, as well, a constitutional aspect. Vermont has laws which specifically limit the involvement of local law enforcement in dealing with undocumented immigrants. Many municipalities have additional laws, statutes, etc., that also deal with the question. There is a dangerous trend of law enforcement violating these laws. Law enforcement in Vermont has even detained people due to skin color and questioned them as to their right to be in this country. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution forbids “unreasonable searches and seizures.” Originally, the protections of our Constitution applied to anyone resident in this country. In Hartford Township the police

department had defied the town legislature and cooperated with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. I have a lifelong, debilitating, physiological hidden/invisible disability. This created a serious problem to attend court over 90 miles from my apartment for an 8 a.m. court hearing for the civil disobedience. I chose the diversion program, which was transferred to Newport, in Orleans County. The diversion guidelines don’t require that the individual express remorse. However, Diversion refused to clear me, stating that I didn’t feel remorse. This appears to be illegal. They then attempted to force me into the Tamarack program, for which I specifically and definitely do not qualify. Tamarack is specifically for people who qualify under one or more of the following: past criminal record, alcohol/substance abuse problems or mental health issues. After I refused to be forced into

a program for which I didn’t qualify, I received notice that I had quit the diversion program. This is libelous. The routine placement of people into behavioral health is pervasive in areas of the U.S. and elsewhere. In countless instances, this practice is illegal. I satisfied the requirements of diversion by acknowledging my actions. I even stated that I intended to refrain from such activity for another 20 or more years. As far as regretting my actions, the actions of law enforcement in Hartford Township and Orleans County Diversion are a more serious breach of law than the actions we took that day. When such dangerous acts are committed under color of law it is necessary for people to act in order to preserve our liberties which are guaranteed under our Constitution, laws, statutes, etc. SCOTT NORMAN ROSENTHAL Hartford

Send your comments or reactions to editorials or commentaries to: Counterpoint, The Service Building, 128 Merchants Row, Suite 606, Rutland, VT 05701, or to counterpoint@vermontpsychiatricsurvivors.org.


. 18E COMMENTARY COMMENTARY

Fall 2020

The Path from Endurance to Purpose By ZACHARY NUZMAN

self-help, and gardening/sustainability books online, and it was very important to rue endurance is not based on help others maintain quality of life. rigidity, for endurance implies So, I stayed working from March to now movement, not immobilization. By even though I may be at risk more than adapting to change we can stay in the race, others, because through all the mess of but only by deepening our sense of purpose my life, I have always chosen to not let my can we develop the fortitude to win it. afflictions dictate my own existence. Continuity is achieved through movement, Brattleboro passed its face-covering not by keeping still. That which ceases to grow ordinance before it became a state mandate. is close to death. Gratitude is the recognition I cannot actually cover my face and nose that I am flawed and will at times experience with a mask. It creates a tickle in my throat, learning moments from which I can grow. Zachary Nuzman with his daughters Autumn, a ninth grader and I end up coughing up excess phlegm, Those are the lessons I have learned and my impaired breathing becomes worse. through the many troubled times in my life, (left photo) and Desireé, a seventh grader. I decided to wear a face shield, which still so I want to share how I have gotten to where A month and a half after Desireé was born, my I am, here in Brattleboro working and raising my girlfriend’s mom told her that I must go. With complicates my breathing but is less abrasive to two daughters. my next paycheck, I got bus tickets to Vermont, me compared to the facemask. Politics, because of all the social and civil I was born the youngest of four children on for the three of us to stay with my sister here. Whiteman Air Force Base in Warrensburg, I was torn and heartbroken because I was unrest, seems to be intruding in areas it should Missouri, in October 1982. I ended up in leaving my first-born in Pennsylvania with her not at this point. It is becoming increasingly Brattleboro by accident but thought it was worth mom. I didn’t know much about Vermont at all uneasy. Even though every person’s physiology is being here. other than it was part of this country. My story before that point is abrasive and raw. It became increasingly difficult to cohabit a similar, we are not the same. Using logic, one Joining the Armed Services was a very single-family home with my sister, and finding could theorize, our bodies will all react differently important part of my father’s ideology; he had work was difficult in 2009. I reached out to our to the given situation of face masks, yet they are worked for the Air Force his whole life. case worker, and she got us into the Morningside everywhere you look at this point. Every once in a while, I feel I am wrong for When I was 17, things weren’t going so well, Shelter. We were there a couple of months before but I had finished high school and my father we found a residence and our housing advocate wearing a face shield instead of a mask — though thought it was a good idea to call up an Army helped me find a job trial through VocRehab. In it meets CDC requirements — because I am not recruiter so I could move on to being an adult April 2009, I was put on payroll and everything able to be supportive in the way it is desired in Brattleboro. and transition successfully. After my series of started from there. The place I thought to be supportive of physical tests, the final doctor looked at my chart everyone in every given situation — this town and informed me that I should not join the Army — now seems to be less caring. Everyone is because I have reactive airway disease. My story ... considering their own self-preservation and the After I got home, things went from bad preservation of humanity as a whole. to worse. My father was confused about the is abrasive and raw. Masks are being encouraged so much that diagnosis and irritated that I was red-flagged, there are businesses refusing sales to people for and my relationship with him became volatile. In my first experience with a Gallery Walk in not wearing one. Looking at me, you would not After arguing with my mother for months, Brattleboro, I was amazed by the number of people think I have breathing issues and I don’t usually my father looked at me and then spoke to my preaching equality and nondiscrimination. On talk about what makes me frail. The response I mom clearly and plainly. “He is not my son. top of it, there were others here that had a sad get does not seem proper, and it saddens me. Either he goes or I go.” My mother told him to story and were hurt, so I seemed to blend in My father has passed on due to cancer at this leave and asked for a divorce after 25 years of easily. Things went well for several years. I kept point, and now I am also once more dealing with marriage. Ashamed and heartbroken, I moved making more money and receiving less help all of this regretful memory and trying to find to Pennsylvania with my mother to stay with my from the state. I also got custody of my oldest understanding. aunt and her family to try and start again. daughter, Autumn, because things were not I am still struggling to get by. I ended up becoming a father in Pennsylvania working out for her mother. But I have my own place. My girls and I are to two wonderful children with two different Our lease and Pathways to Housing voucher healthy, and we have love for each other. women. My oldest, Autumn, was the reason I ended. We were accepted and moved to Moore I take comfort in knowing that even if the decided life was worth living. I tried to be with Court. I thought it was good for us at the time world does not have love and understanding her mother and even became engaged to her, but because it was income-based. I continued to for me, my family does, and the terrible things she betrayed me and my trust. She ran away to excel at my work, and six years after moving into that happened to me in my life were beyond my New York and spent all of our savings at the race Moore Court I was paying full price for a twocontrol and not my fault. tracks. She had met someone from Vermont and bedroom apartment in public housing. They just happen. left me in Pennsylvania to figure it out. That Christmas, the office was broken into and This is how I came to see gratitude as the I moved in with a friend, and things went a bunch of mail was stolen, including my money recognition that I am flawed and will at times south. I became homeless. I was living out of order for the rent. I was not informed until I owed experience learning moments from which I can my car and bathing in the river. I worked almost a couple thousand dollars. The management was grow — and to understand, that which ceases to 18 hours a day at different places because I had changing, and the new housing manager pursued grow is close to death. no other option. I would buy a hotel room for a our eviction. It has taken years to understand this. I have week, then live in my car for a week. I moved my family into a home being vacated spent a lot of time blaming myself for my own A year or so went by, and I ended up meeting by friends. The landlord offered to sell me the disparity and the disparity of others. Now I try to the mother of my second child, whom we named house as a rent-to-own, but after a couple of years be appreciative and understanding of everyone Desireé. Things got terrible really quickly. he came to inform us that we had to close on the I meet. I got in a bit of trouble with the local authorities house or vacate because he had another buyer. Mood permitted, I try and smile to be uplifting over a driving incident on a foggy day that was Trying to stay above water but being in way over to all those I come across and seek brotherhood my fault, and had to pay fines. I couldn’t pay rent my head, I went to the bank and applied for a through acceptance. I give spare change if I can, because I had a family I was trying to build and loan for a trailer here in Brattleboro. My bank, whenever I can, and will do as much if not more was terrified of not paying my fines and ending having a big heart, approved the loan and gave to help those in need. up in jail. me a preapproval letter. I found a five-bedroom I have been the person desperately needing I lost my job and had to find other work trailer for sale and ended up closing on the home help at times when there was no one to help, so I quickly, but it took a couple months. By the in December 2019. have learned to help others. time I found new work, I had lost my apartment I still work at the business I started at in 2009 and was homeless again, now with a pregnant and am feeling my way through being thrown Zachary Nuzman lives with his two daughters girlfriend. We moved into her mother’s house in into the deep end after coronavirus hit and the in Brattleboro. Harrisburg, but that was a rocky time also. state shut down. We sell nonfiction, spirituality,

T


COMMENTARY.

Fall 2020

19

Essays on Force Versus Autonomy By ROY BUZZEL

A

while back I thought I might attempt a book. Recently, one of my grown daughters suggested that I start by simply writing an essay. I did. Then another. Here is the beginning of a growing collection of manageable chunks of information. Maybe someday, a book. Thank you For being a target audience

Enforced Hospitalization

I know from direct experience that an involuntary hospitalization results in less effective treatment than that which is available in the community. Essentially people are incarcerated, not helped with an illness. The only nod to treatment is drugging. Those who wish to leave the facility are compelled to submit to this. The environment is hostile. The “patients” are given fewer human rights than criminals. One person with letters after their name has the power to declare someone dangerous. Someone with a diagnosis is burdened with the task of proving their sanity. Difficult while experiencing the trauma of it all. Definitely people in such a situation are not taken at face value. Access to the outside world is restricted. No cell phones. (No contact list.) Remote access to personal affairs. Bills, mail, etc.… One’s life is on hold. No release date given. At this point in my life, if someone mentions a trip to the hospital as a solution to a crisis, I immediately feel threatened and enter fight or flight. Hospital equals trauma. Don’t fool yourself. Forced hospitalization is convenient disposal of a local problem at the expense of a fellow human’s rights in response to another human’s fear.

Thoughts: EE Alternatives

Repurpose the $2,500/day Medicare hospital cost. Address individual reasons for potential involuntary commitment: - Danger to self - Danger to community Allow client to stay home? With conditions, guard at door with taser (extreme example)? No more one size fits all. Allow “manic” energy to be harnessed by client internet access. Cell phone. Normal correspondence. Respect client’s human rights and autonomy. Don’t anticipate and punish future crimes.

And don’t call incarceration and drugging “treatment.” This is laziness and a pass-the-buck mentality. Today’s accepted “treatment” is medication. Yesterday’s was bleeding for infection. Doctors are not gods. They may say advances are being made. Really! Just new drugs. Try opening your minds wider. Consider other options. And quit limiting money flow to those other ideas. Let me choose as a human. Now EE means hospital. Hospital means drugs. And incarceration. Restricted access to therapy and personal research. A toxic environment with bad energy. Interrupted sleep with flashlight checks every 15 minutes. Currently, I am judged and feared and called “dangerous” by someone without access to my thoughts and emotions. Sent away with the burden of proof on me to gain my freedom. No crime on my part. I am somehow the victim of a doctor’s fears and that doctor’s “responsibility” to allay the public’s fear.

Treat me as the intelligent and autonomous human I wish to be. Maybe if diagnosed individuals weren’t seen as pariahs and treated as criminals (and with criminals), the public outcry to medicate, supervise and fear them would be less prevalent and pervasive. Had I committed a crime, innocent ’til proven guilty. Potential for bail. As it is, another’s fear of imagined future events, coupled with a strong profit motive from the hospital, and freedom is difficult to obtain.

Personal Story

So, I have long wanted to see whether my brain still functions after multiple decades on psychotropic drugs. My team was aware of this. They were aware that withdrawal can cause issues of readjustment and a period of symptoms mimicking the illness these drugs are meant to treat. I assumed that during this time of readjustment I would receive some degree of latitude in lieu of this. I thought that if I broke no laws, I would keep my freedom. Wrong. I had a traffic stop and was sent to the local emergency room to get my blood sugar checked (diabetes preexisting from previous psych meds). I arrived by ambulance and was greeted by a worker from the local mental health agency. Who called this guy? Why is he here? He asked me if I want to go to the psychiatric hospital.

Trigger alert. Wrong thing to say. I ask if I can leave the emergency room. He says “no.” Again, wrong answer. I have been sent away for “treatment” other times. Several years earlier, I was held against my will in this very same ER, drugged so completely that I lost control of my bowels. I was strapped to a gurney for days (weeks? not sure), then sent to Brattleboro. This “treatment” is mostly just being locked up. No cell phone. No belt. No shoelaces. No smoking. Locked restrooms. Many restrictions of a one-size-fits-all variety. Rules, rules, rules. Also, drugs are nearly mandatory. Without them, one is seen as noncompliant and certainly not on the road to recovery. A psych bed is $2,500 to $3,000 per day. No talk therapy. So, I found myself locked up, having committed no crime. Put in a situation where the only “help” wasn’t helpful. And access to ways of finding help were unavailable. Away from my home, my cat, my responsibilities and any real and effective means of helping myself. My vehicle was impounded at $50/day for over four months. My cat was left to fend for herself until my son corralled her. He and his girlfriend cared for her, but not like I do, and Elizabeth, the cat (also diabetic), could have died without my care. My home became mouse-infested. I lost my rights to my same phone number. And so on. Back in the community. Trust for the system totally violated. Forced to submit to a full year of mandatory psychiatric care and oversight with rehospitalization held over my head as a threat. I asked for a case manager (denied). My thought was, “If this happens again, I want someone to act on my behalf while I’m away.” I have attempted for years to get the agency’s medical director to understand and respond to my wishes for freedom and autonomy. I thought that if I had him on board, I would have an ally in my hope to avoid hospitalization and pursue alternative options of care. I considered legal action against the doctor, the agency, big pharma. Ultimately, I decided to try and influence the system from within. Not much to gain for me, at least monetarily. However, perhaps Counseling Service of Addison County would have listened and policy would have changed. CSAC: Please do not mistake my not taking y’all to court as a stamp of approval on a profitdriven system. Highly entrenched, with no incentive to hear new ideas. The minimum I require is please, please, please, honor the Hippocratic oath, taken by doctors. “First do no harm.” And treat me as the intelligent and autonomous human I wish to be. Roy Buzzel writes from Middlebury and would appreciate feedback at roybuzzell0@ gmail.com.

Have an Issue to Discuss with Other Survivors? COUNTERPOINT IS THE PLACE FOR YOUR VOICE. Names may be withheld on request but must be included with letter or commentary. Please identify your town. Letters or commentaries do not represent the opinion of the publisher and may be edited for length or content. Send comments to: Counterpoint, The Service Building, 128 Merchants Row, Suite 606, Rutland, VT 05701, or to counterpoint@vermontpsychiatricsurvivors.org


20 Resources Directory SURVIVOR PEER SERVICES Vermont Psychiatric Survivors Peer Support Groups During COVID-19 crisis restrictions, call first to check whether groups are meeting

Fall 2020

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE 800-273-TALK (8255) 24/7 confidential support

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

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; 24 hours, 365 days [833-VT-TALKS] By call or text

PEER PLUS (STATEWIDE):

802-595-0588; 7 days/wk, 6-9 p.m.

MUTUAL SUPPORT NETWORK THE HIVE: info@hivemutualsupport.org www.hivemutualsupport.org 802-43-BUZZ-3 (802-432-8993)

CRISIS RESPITE

Alyssum, 802-767-6000; www.alyssum.org; information@alyssum.org

VERMONT PSYCHIATRIC SURVIVORS OUTREACH AND PATIENT REPRESENTATIVES (800) 475-4907 info@vermontpsychiatricsurvivors.org

HOSPITALIZATION ALTERNATIVE

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

Samaritans Hotline

877-870-HOPE (4673)

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: support1@biavt.org; 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.

Peer Centers & Employment Support 0920; info@anotherwayvt.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; tpccvbarre@gmail.com

BENNINGTON, Turning Point Center, 465 Main St; 802-

442-9700; turningpointbennington@comcast.net

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,

Crisis Text Line

390 River Street, Springfield, 05156; 886-4500; 51 Fairview St., Brattleboro, 05301, 802-254-6028; 49 School St., Hartford, 05047, 802-295-3031

LGBTQ Youth Crisis Hotline:

24-Hour Crisis Lines: Involuntary Custody Screening

Around-the-clock help via text: 741741 for a reply explaining the ground rules; message routed to a trained counselor.

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-

ANOTHER WAY, 125 Barre St, Montpelier, 802-229-

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.

ing Service, 316 Dewey Street, CRT Center

BURLINGTON: Every Thursday 3-4:30 pm; St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, 2 Cherry Street (enter from parking lot into lower level)

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-

BERLIN: Second Thursdays each month, 4-5:30 pm; Central

days 8 a.m.-4 p.m. 802-888-4914; Nights and weekends 802-888-4231

RUTLAND: First and third Sundays 4:30-6:30 pm; Well-

Human Services 800-696-4979

NATIONAL ALLIANCE ON MENTAL ILLNESS-VT (NAMI-VT)

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-

Vermont Medical Center Board Room, 130 Fisher Road.

ness Center (Rutland Mental Health) 78 South Main Street (parking/entrance off Engrem Avenue)

802-876-7949 x101, or 800-639-6480; 600 Blair Park Road, Suite 301, Williston, 05495; www.namivt.org; info@ namivt.org

ESSEX, CALEDONIA AND ORLEANS: Northeast Kingdom

tation Services, 800-622-4235

Please contact us if your organization’s information changes: counterpoint@vermontpsychiatricsurvivors.org

BRATTLEBORO, Turning Point Center of Windham Coun-

ty, 39 Elm St.; 802-257-5600; tpwc.1@hotmail.com BURLINGTON, Turning Point Center of Chittenden County, 191 Bank St, 2nd floor; 802-861-3150; www.turning pointcentervt.org or GaryD@turningpointcentervt.org

MIDDLEBURY, Turning Point Center of Addison Coun-

ty, 228 Maple St, Space 31B; 802-388-4249; tcacvt@ yahoo.com

MORRISVILLE, North Central Vermont Recovery Center, 275 Brooklyn St., 802-851-8120; recovery@ncvrc.com

RUTLAND, Turning Point Center, 141 State St; 802-7736010; turningpointcenterrutland@yahoo.com

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; tpfcdirection@gmail.com ST. JOHNSBURY, Kingdom Recovery Center, 297 Fall St;

802-751-8520; c.boyd@stjkrc.org; j.keough@stjkrc. org; www.kingdomrecoverycenter.com

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, Upper Valley Turning Point,

200 Olcott Dr; 802-295-5206; secondwindfound.org; mhelijas@secondwindfound.org

Veterans’ Services

Vermont Veterans Outreach

WWW.VERMONTVETERANSSERVICES.ORG

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

HOMELESS PROGRAM COORDINATOR: 802-742-3291 BRATTLEBORO: Morningside 802-257-0066 RUTLAND: Open Door Mission 802-775-5661; Transitional Residence: Dodge House, 802-775-6772

BURLINGTON: Waystation/Wilson 802-864-7402 FREE TRANSPORTATION: Disabled American Veterans:

Toll Free: 1-866-687-8387 X5394

Homeless?

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