Monthly Archives: March 2015

Reasonable Accommodations: Do the lives of the mentally ill matter to the Supreme Court?

This week the Supreme Court heard oral argument in the case of San Francisco v. Sheehan. The case could settle the extent to which the Americans With Disabilities Act serves as a check on police officers’ interactions with people with mental illnesses. The law demands local governments to provide “reasonable accommodations” to individuals with disabilities, and courts have interpreted that guarantee to include arrests—that is, police should take into account the people’s disabilities when taking them into custody. But the law isn’t uniform across the board on whether cops should make such accommodations if the arrestee exhibits violent or erratic behavior. Does an outburst by a woman who is suffering from schizoaffective disorder, hasn’t taken her medication, and is found holding a small bread knife in her own home automatically strip her of legal protection? Read about the case at Slate and the Christian Science Monitor

From the MOLST Folks: 2014 Update to Massachusetts Expert Panel on End of Life Care Report

This one in a series of reports on end of life care from UMass. It highlights issues relating to the use of a MOLST, which is a medical form similar to a prescription. It contains instructions from a clinician (physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant) to other heath professionals (e.g., nurses, emergency responders), about what life-sustaining medical treatments use or not use, based on the patient’s own decisions. Read the report: UMASS_MAExpertPanelEndofLife_3-2015 Access the MOLST web page

Huffington Post Op Ed: Elements of a Public Policy Discussion Concerning the Treatment of Mental Illness

Not sure if I see everything the way the author does, but Brad Reed asks some good questions.

“We are all touched directly or indirectly by mental illness. Many commentators note unresolved issues and debatable policies within our mental health system. It is time as a society to rethink our approach to mental illness. This comment begins with an explanation of “public policy,” followed by a very brief general history of our society’s approach to mental illness, and concludes with 15 of the many questions that should be studied and debated.” Article

Out of Detention: How to Stop the School-to-Prison Pipeline – Harvard Political Review

A single instance of incarceration in a young person’s life increases the risk of future imprisonment, at a cost to taxpayers of $240.99 per day. Living in jail worsens the mental, emotional, and behavioral problems with which these children and adolescents must struggle. And mental disorders and youth incarceration already share an alarmingly strong link. As James Barrett, a psychologist at the Cambridge Health Alliance and in Harvard Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry, said in an interview with the HPR, a “massive overlap” exists between the two groups. While just 20 percent of all American youth live with one or more mental disorders, that proportion jumps to 70 percent for the juvenile justice population. Read the whole article.

Campaign to Change Direction: Raising Awareness about Mental Health

Today, in support of her Joining Forces initiative, the Michelle Obama spoke at the launch of The Campaign to Change Direction, a nation-wide effort to raise awareness around mental health in America. The campaign is designed to change the story of mental health across the nation by urging all Americans to learn the five signs that someone might be in distress.

“It’s time to tell everyone who’s dealing with a mental health issue that they’re not alone, and that getting support and treatment isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. That’s something that my husband believes strongly as President. Because in this country, when you’re fighting an illness — whether that’s mental or physical — you should be able to get the help you need, end of story.”

Regional Coordinator Announcement

The Mental Health Litigation Division is pleased to announce that as of March 1, 2015, Susan O’Leary will be the new Regional Coordinator for Bristol and Barnstable Counties and Maureen Breckenridge will continue on as Regional Coordinator for Plymouth County. Susan and Maureen will be working closely together during this transition. Like Maureen, Susan has been a mentor for many years and many of you have also recently seen her present on the subject of expert cross-examination. Please join us in welcoming Susan and thanking Maureen for her willingness to continue on in Plymouth despite her desire to retire one of these days!