Families have suffered enough and are turning their pain into action by advocating for solutions that will finally help their loved ones
Arlington, Virginia (PRWEB) May 20, 2015
Nearly 100 family members impacted tragically by untreated mental illness converged on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, today to urge the government to reform the nation’s broken mental health system.
Hosted by the Treatment Advocacy Center, the event represented the first gathering of families who experienced personal tragedy as a result of severely ill loved ones who were unable or unwilling to seek treatment.
“Families have suffered enough and are turning their pain into action by advocating for solutions that will finally help their loved ones,” said John Snook, executive director. “We know that the devastating consequences of untreated severe mental illness can be reduced with treatment.”
Briefing a standing-room only crowd, seven families recounted the horrors they and their loved ones endured as a result of being abandoned by the mental illness treatment system. Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA), sponsor of the landmark “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act,” addressed the panel and attendees, outlining pending legislative actions that would refocus the mental health system on those who need help the most.
Calling themselves “Families of the 4%” in reference to the segment of the U.S. population that suffers from serious mental illness, participants described how non-treatment hurt their loved ones, families and communities.
“Why wasn't I given the authority over my sick son, to get him the treatment he never realized he desperately needed before he committed a violent act?” asked Anthony Hernandez, father of a young man with paranoid schizophrenia who has been jailed for attempted murder and animal cruelty.
“When our son turned 18, he was free to make his own medical decisions, including discontinuing treatment for his bipolar disorder,” said Jennifer Hoff, another parent who shared her story. “We tried unsuccessfully to get him back into treatment, but he wasn’t considered dangerous or gravely disabled enough. Now he’s in prison. It’s like watching your child drown slowly.”
The Hoffs and the Hernandezes, along with the other family members who spoke, said they believe that policy solutions like assisted outpatient treatment laws, HIPAA reform and better training for law enforcement on handling people in psychiatric crisis would help reduce the bad outcomes of non-treatment.
“People with serious mental illness are filling our jails and prisons, they represent more than a third of the homeless population, and they are encountering law enforcement with tragic and often deadly consequences,” Snook said. “These families deserve much more than the systematic failures of the status quo.”
The Treatment Advocacy Center is the only national nonprofit dedicated exclusively to eliminating legal and other barriers to treatment for people with severe mental illness. The organization does not accept funding from companies or entities involved in the sale, marketing or distribution of pharmaceutical products.
The American Psychiatric Association awarded the Treatment Advocacy Center its 2006 presidential commendation for "sustained extraordinary advocacy on behalf of the most vulnerable mentally ill patients who lack the insight to seek and continue effective care and benefit from assisted outpatient treatment.”