Senate Quietly Rubber-Stamps Trump’s “Mental Health Czar”

David W. Oaks
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The nation and the media debate Pres. Trump’s mental health. It is kind of a kick to watch Trump act nuts. Maybe it’s like driving past a car wreck on the highway. You vow to yourself to look away, but I look. Maybe you do too.

However, Pres. Cuckoo is distracting us.

Pres. Trump is “crazy like a fox.” The US Senate is quietly approving his first “Mental Health Czar.” Really!

You may have not heard about this controversy at all in the corporate media. This “Mental Health Czar” appointment is moving below the radar of many people. In December 2016, the vast majority of Republican and Democrat congresspeople passed a huge and extreme mental health law for the nation, as part of the “21st Century Cures” bill. As part of this new law, Pres. Trump has nominated a psychiatrist, Dr. Ellie McCance-Katz, for this brand-new, very powerful position, widely considered “a mental health czar” of the USA.

If you are new to the US mental health world, you may not know that SAMHSA is the huge federal agency that funds much of the mental health system. Just one of the SAMHSA agencies is Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), overseeing about half a billion dollars annually, including many of the mental health consumer events such as the popular annual Alternatives Conference (the next one starts August 18, 2017 in Boston). While this process is not spoken about much in the media, the US Senate via Sen. Lamar Alexander’s committee is supposed to ask Dr. McCance-Katz questions and decide about her confirmation. The formal title for this brand-new position is “Assistant Secretary for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA).”

Now Paolo and CMHS find themselves in the middle of a strange and quiet battle. CMHS is headed by Paolo del Vecchio, who has publicly identified himself as someone with “lived experience” of a mental health disability. Thousands of folks in our movement lead by mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors have met Paolo.

For many decades, mental health consumer organizations in the USA have counted on the federal and state governments for their budgets. Only a few organizations have even tried to fund their budgets with donations, memberships, grassroots sales, and small independent grants.

It is difficult to explain to people how much advocacy organizations for mental health are under the control of the mental health industry. Imagine almost all the environmental groups in the USA, such as GreenPeace, getting their funding from the petrochemical industry. You might spot a problem here?

The Chickens Come Home to Roost

I have spent about 40 years working as a human rights activist in the mental health field. I am proud that when I directed MindFreedom International, for about 25 years, we raised our funds the old-fashioned way mainly through membership donations. Yes, we tried to maintain friendly relationships with industry-funded groups, after all they did some good.

It’s time for all mental health consumer and psychiatric survivor advocacy groups to raise part or all of their budgets in a more independent way. The reality today is that many of the mental health consumer groups in the USA are funded by agencies that are headed up by the president, Donald Trump. In other words, the boss’s bosses’ boss of many mental health advocacy groups is Pres. Trump.

Hey President Trump: Before your mental health czar pushes for court orders of any more Americans into forced outpatient psychiatric drugging, will you have a mental health check-up yourself?

I have blogged previously about why this new position is so very dangerous. For example, after decades of new laws on the state level for court-ordered Involuntary Outpatient Commitment with involuntary psychiatric drugging (so-called IOC or as apologists call this violation, “Assisted Care”), this authoritarian practice is now partly funded federally by US taxpayer dollars.

The US Senate should ask Dr. McCance-Katz about federal support and her backing for this forced outpatient psychiatric drugging.

That is correct: if you are an American taxpayer, some of your money goes to forcibly drugging your neighbors in their own homes, using court orders. That might even sound like a good idea to some people, until someone suggests that you yourself might be one of those to be under such a court order.

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) is the only psychologist in Congress, and for years he championed the bill that became 21st Century Cures. You can read many articles about this topic here on Mad in America.

Psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey Gloats

Psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey is widely considered one of the main opponents of our social change movement. This eccentric doctor seems to love the idea of forcing millions of Americans to take super powerful psychiatric drugs. According to a New York Times article on the nominations of Dr. McCance-Katz, Torrey told the NY Times recently, “I feel like I died and went to heaven . . . I honestly didn’t think I’d see something like this happen in my lifetime.”

Sure, we can debate the mental health status of Torrey and Trump, neither of whom appear to have gotten a mental health check-up.

Meanwhile, the US Senate should be asking some tough questions of Dr. McCance-Katz. Maybe the US Senate will approve her, but we Americans can at least ask about controversies such as:

  • Does she support more forced outpatient psychiatric drugging?
  • If so, how many Americans does she feel should get court-ordered drugging?
  • Does she endorse the current use of federal money for this?
  • Does she admit that court-ordered involuntary electroshock on an outpatient basis can be done?
  • What is the long-term impact of psychiatric drugs?
  • Why aren’t non-drug alternatives offered to Americans, including the millions of vets?
  • And many other questions!

Difficult to Learn About the Senate Debate on Trump’s “Mental Health Czar”

When is the confirmation process in the US Senate? How do you submit questions to be asked? What criteria will be used? How can we ask about involuntary psychiatric drugs and their impact on Americans?

The Mental Health Civil Rights Advocacy Subcommittee of the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) holds a monthly teleconference headed by Wisconsin disability advocate Mike Bachhuber. I’ve been on this Subcommittee for many years. Their most recent minutes, from May 24, 2017, reflected a kind of despair about this process. To paraphrase:

“We discussed the nomination of Dr. McCance-Katz to Asst Secretary for HHS. The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) said that it is a done deal. Has support of Mental Health America (MHA). Dan Fisher says that groups will not fight because many get money from SAMHSA and fear retaliation. Instead it’s suggested that we pepper the committee with questions about individual voice of service recipients.”

Let Us Resist! Fight Back Now!

We can at least have a more transparent process about this US Senate debate of the first USA “mental health czar,” appointed by a US President with obvious severe mental health issues.

What is the timeline? How can we get in questions?

Dr. Torrey may think he is in heaven, but I would like a revolution, now!

And in case you still had doubts that Pres. Trump has severe mental and emotional problems: New York Times opinion writer Charles M. Blow recently wondered about Pres. Trump’s apparent “obsession” with former-Pres. Obama.

I think it is pretty clear, from Pres. Trump’s denial of the climate crisis despite mounds of science, that he has severe and dangerous mental problems. In fact, I would argue that to exist, to live, we all have emotional problems. The challenge is to seek positivity and justice. Pres. Trump fails over and over in that pursuit. What an embarrassment, and what a risk, especially to future generations.

But as Martin Luther King warned, beware the paralysis of analysis. The US Senate should be showing some bravery right now, and both of your US Senators should act.

Action: Contact Your US Senators, Now!

Each American has two US Senators. Call and email them now!

Simply say that you oppose the nomination by Trump of Dr. Ellie McCance-Katz for Associate Secretary of SAMHSA. My blog “Trump Appoints Leader who Campaigned for Involuntary Outpatient Drugging” has more detail if you would like it.

Everyone should contact their US Senators. Call both the DC and local offices. Learn the name of the main staff person who works on health. Keep calling and emailing. Please post a copy of your US Senate note, on this blog, on Facebook, etc.

Why?

Ask anyone in the mental health field for a copy of their message to their US Senators. If they do not have a letter copy then you may be looking at a sellout. Maybe a nice sellout, but definitely a very confused mental health advocate!

If you can do more, try to get some good questions asked by the US Senate during this process. You can leave comments here. Just now I phoned up the office of US Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and the person who answered the phone was unaware of this controversy. Sen. Alexander heads the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which is supposed to be in charge of questioning Dr. McCance-Katz.

The Vast Majority of the USA Opposes These Practices!

Note that both Republicans and Democrats widely supported this bill. But both the left and the right have spoken out many times over the years against heavy-handed government psychiatric drugging.

For instance, did you know that the USA Libertarian Party actually had a plank, passed quite a number of years ago, against all forced government psychiatric drugging?

Did you know that several grassroots Republican activists have been key for bringing up psychiatric drugging of children? When foster kids get heavy-duty psychiatric drugging, all of us share the guilt.

This issue is far beyond the usual right and left split.

We need a revolution in the mental health system and in our society. Pres. Trump may seem “crazy” but the fact is that his wild, inappropriate, disrespectful antics get the spotlight, when we should be stopping the appointment of Dr. McCance-Katz and this nightmarish 21st Century Cures Act that Torrey’s group, Treatment Advocacy Center, calls “monumental.”

Let us not be distracted by the bizarre behavior of Pres. Trump. Oppose the US Senate confirmation of Dr. McCance-Katz, and at least let us ask some good questions. Keep your eyes on the prize.

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33 COMMENTS

  1. We can at least have a more transparent process about this US Senate debate of the first USA “mental health czar,” appointed by a US President with obvious severe mental health issues.

    Can’t believe you would say that with a straight face. As has been discussed here in great depth and clarity, to accuse ANYONE of “severe mental health issues” validates the mythology of “mental health” and at least indirectly fosters psychiatric oppression. (And as has been pointed out allows Trump et al. to evade responsibility for their actions.)

    I think it’s pretty well established that the only true significance the psychiatrized have to the vast majority of congress people is as pawns in the red-herring “debate” about what’s responsible for mass violence — “mental illness” or the very existence of guns — so they will be able to claim to voters that they are “doing something about violence.”

    I think the end of SAMHSA cooptation of potential activists will do as much for the anti-psych movement as the election of Trump did for the movement at large (yet to be fully realized). So I don’t think people should put their energy into the appointment of a crazy m-f over a moderate m-f. At least not more than they put into brushing their teeth.

  2. Trump’s problem is not mental illness and though I respect your work, Mr Oaks, it bothers me to see those formerly accused of being mentally targeting others as being mentally ill. Trump’s problem is the greed, selfishness, narcissism, ignorance, and power that is common to those who have grown up and spent their lives having their every whim indulged. He’s immature and spoiled but he’s not crazy. He’s not disconnected from reality. He’s not hallucinating, talking to angels, or manic. We can point out the folly of giving such a man-child so much power, we can mock his immature propensity to tweet nonsense 24/7, his desire for attention, and his tantrums without calling him crazy. Is the wrong man for the job? Yes. Would Clinton have been better? Would more neoliberalist policies have been better simply because the person espousing them lulls you into a false sense of complacency with their measured tones? Not in my mind.

    I waited eight years for hope and change with Obama and all I got was a Wall Street bailout, a giant giveaway to insurance companies and pharma in the name of healthcare reform, and endless wars. We could have, should have, had Sanders. As it stands, we got the “pied piper” candidate and Americans will get to see just how bad things can get under a president and congress whose mission it is to destroy the government that employs them. Maybe, just maybe, if it gets bad enough without starting WW3, we’ll have a political awakening in 2020. With any luck, the DNC lawsuit will be successful and political parties will learn they can’t screw over their constituents by tipping the scale in favor of the establishment candidate.

    What were suffering from right now is the culmination of nearly 40 years of eroding the social contract and blaming those at the bottom of the pile for the state of things. Medical bankruptcies, home foreclosures, endless wars, skyrocketing student loan debt, crumbling infrastructure, the dumbing down of K-12 education, massively increasing income inequality, let me just remind you that since the Reagan era, BOTH parties have contributed to this. The Republicans are only more blatant in their efforts to destroy the system when it’s in their charge. Democrats, the new neoliberal, Third Way, centrist party are equally responsible. They simply couch their conservative policies in terms that the populace can swallow. So please, don’t try to tell me everything would be better if Clinton were president. Some of us know better. Millenials and young folks are smart enough to know they’re getting screwed. And those of you who call those of us with a soul, a conscience and a moral compass ‘snowflakes’: winter is coming.

      • Well I have something to add. Our new “mental health czar” wouldn’t exist were it not for our previous Democratic Vice President Joe Biden personally campaigning and lobbying congress to pass the 21st Century Cures Act. And suggesting that Libertarians are good because they oppose forced drugging is like describing the nature of the universe while looking through a telescope at one corner of the night sky. Let’s not forget that the main tenet of the Libertarian Party is to abolish the federal government and return to state rule. Oh, except for during natural disasters because everyone wants FEMA money when nature comes calling…

    • Agreed! If you are wanting to unite people in a cause, throwing around divisive language and labels (particularly towards the President) will not be the most effective route. I was in agreement with the majority of your article but found it offensive and distasteful thus turning me away from your plea…leave the political name-calling to the media.

  3. God! More of Torrey’s premature ejaculations over pro-force psychiatry!!! McCance-Katz WILL NOT singlehandedly force-psychiatrize us! For one thing, her sanist agendas are well-known and much-hated in the survivor community. Psychiatry oppresses best on uninformed targets, which means that McCance-Katz, if appointed, would face immediate and massive obstruction at every turn – just like Cheeto. Also, survivors like Paolo have long and close relationships with the people they support. Those people won’t tolerate McCance-Katz, in large part, because of her sick plot to sever their deepest human connections. And, finally, a majority of survivors have led lives that were once as turbulent as Paolo’s was. Only a whack-job like McCance-Katz could expect to gut their hard-earned security, which took them YEARS to build. Of course, we need to call our members of congress, and protest her appointment. But, regardless of who becomes the new Asst. Sec., we need to keep faith in our ability to protect our rights. Cheeto or no Cheeto, our liberty is ours for life.

  4. I think its a really bad idea to redefine mental health in terms of who is and who is not a “bad” person. Even for “bad people”… say serial killers ? Psychiatry can (very easily and practically instantly,) ultimately result non-judicial death penalties.

    why are ‘bad people’ automatically mentally ill? makes no biologically scientific sense.

    it only contributes to the ignorant arguments that people use to discriminate against people with cognitive and psychological disabilities or people they suspect of having cognitive or psychological disabilities that they pose a risk to others or themselves, (or that they simply just dis-like them and don’t want them to be a part of their society.)

  5. Additionally, I have no vested interest in calling my senators and begging of them to vote for a better different version of the mental health czar they both voted to install in the first place. My senators – Ben Cardin and “Pay to Play” Chris Van Hollen, are directly responsible for this mess. The vote was held *after* the election. They knew Trump would be making the nomination. Do you think they, or any other senator who voted for the Cures Act thought Trump was going to nominate someone who would advocate for psychiatric survivors or individual rights? What makes anyone think that another choice would be better? As far as I can tell, we might actually be lucky in this case that all of Trump’s appointments want to defund their own agencies. At least whatever horrific policies they try to install won’t go anywhere because they won’t have the funding – unlike if the Democrats had been in power. No, I have no intention of calling my senators because I don’t see that anyone who would be nominated by either side as having my rights at heart.

    • Last year at this time I, along with “Surviving and Thriving,” had just finished attempting to alert MIA’ers and others to the scam being pulled off in Congress to ramrod “Murphy” through under cover of the July 4th holiday. They announced on the Friday of that weekend that a vote would be held immediately after the House returned from the holiday, thus upending all the professional “advocates” who had also taken the weekend off and been caught unprepared to fight this maneuver (although a competent anti-Murphy campaign could easily have anticipated the move). So on July 6, 2016 the House suspended its rules to allow Murphy to sail through the House with a “bipartisan” vote of 422-2, the two “no” votes being cast by conservative Republicans.

      As had been made clear throughout the evolution of Murphy from a totalitarian fantasy to a full-fledged law, the impetus for the bill was “preventing violence.”

      In a similar “bipartisan” maneuver during the subsequent Thanksgiving holiday, key elements of both the House and Senate “Murphy” bills were passed as an amendment to the 21st Century Cures act and are now law.

      While it was necessary for us to put up a token resistance to these last-minute maneuvers by Congress we were up against a monolithic opposition. Even when Elizabeth Warren and Bernie railed against 21st Century Cures they were silent about the provisions which reinforce psychiatric oppression.

      So we should be careful where we concentrate our limited energy. Unless there is a vast coalition involved, trying to pressure Congress is futile, which is why there are so many system types encouraging us to do just that. To a typical congress person doing a “flash card” exercise, the response to “mental patient” is “violence,” which means we need to be kept in our place.

      PS Kindred Spirit is thinking strategically regarding the funding situation. Also, those desperately trying to preserve Obamacare should keep in mind that much if not all of “Murphy” depends on ACA funding.

  6. I think trump knows all about the anatomy of the epidemic, psychiatry’s keep you sick scam, because he called out the vaccine autism link. How can you know about the autism vaccine link without knowing about the anatomy of the psychiatric epidemic ?

    Hillary Clinton advocated biological psychiatry and drugs. She introduced New York University psychiatrist Harold Koplewicz, one of the most radical … https://goo.gl/fNFC5Q “Talking Back To Ritalin: What Doctors Aren’t Telling You About Stimulants …”

  7. The American Psychiatric Association (APA), which includes more than 37,000 physician members, also called the bill “deeply flawed” . The organization, among several other prominent health groups, says it was not consulted during the formation of the new bill. “The Senate proposal represents a significant move in the wrong direction, resulting in fewer people having access to insurance, fewer patient protections and less coverage for essential behavioral health care,” said Dr. Saul Levin, CEO and medical director of the APA, in a statement. “We urge the Senate to reject this harmful legislation and start again on a health care bill that puts patients first.”

    Translation: “We urge the Senate to reject this legislation and start again on a health care bill that puts the psychiatric industry first.”

    “Our nation cannot afford to go back to the days when insurers selectively enrolled individuals to avoid financial responsibility for needed services. Nor can we afford to return to viewing mental health and substance use services as optional”

    I would have rather got the bill for a few days of alcohol detox after very voluntary going to the hospital instead of buying more alcohol that morning to feel “good” for “just one more day” and got the the inpatient nightmare and false accusations of being bipolar, suicidal and the threats of injections when I refused their frighteningly high dose pill lobotomy. I lived the UHS nightmare > https://www.buzzfeed.com/rosalindadams/intake I lived the UHS nightmare as a direct result of having coverage.

    Almost 4 weeks into the UHS kidnapping nightmare I called Mindfreedom, someone had passed the number to me about year before but I thought it started with 1-800 and it didn’t work but then I eventually thought to try starting with 1-877 and got through. The way David talked to these people was epic “Put him on the phone !!” when they talked to him with that authority voice he was having none of it. The results were epic too, the nightmare was over a day and a half later.

    Thanks Again David for ending that nightmare, I don’t know how long that would have continued. If I ever fall into that pit of alcohol again and can’t crawl out I know to stay away from hospitals if I have “coverage” for mental health kidnapping.

    I just lost an AA friend to a heroin or fentanyl overdose, had not seen him in a wile but we did July 4th 2014 together and I was with 2 of the same other people this last July 4th. I just got to thinking of that becuase the health care bill web pages on mental health all mentioning opiate addiction and lumping it together with so called mental illness.

    Its possible it was that same fentanyl dope that another friend of mine from AA ODed on but lived about 5 weeks ago. I always see these war on pain pills articles on MIA and I think my friend might still be alive if he was able to get dilaudids and knew the exact strength and composition of what he was doing instead of using that street crap. I still can’t believe he did that, he was a smart dude.

    Why is it that people with opiate dependencies who seem to be dying all around me can get treatment in unlocked nice places many very similar to vacation resorts yet people accused of mental illness get the locked inpatient nightmares cause they are a “danger to themselves” ?

    • Very interesting Buzzfeed story. They took away her freedom all based on what she said to them. That is the message we all need to get out there: be careful what you tell them because they are not on your side and everything you say can and will be used against you. They rely on what you say to take your freedom away and to force you to take drugs. There needs to be a “Psychiatric Miranda warning” campaign to get that idea out into the public realm that they are so unscientific and so subjective that they rely on what we say to them to then match it up to their DSM diagnosis.

  8. It is difficult to explain to people how much advocacy organizations for mental health are under the control of the mental health industry.

    That’s because they are NOT advocacy groups, they are system apologists. The faux-“Alternatives” conference and related networks are what destroyed the real movement long ago, a great crime from which it is only beginning to recover. The sooner they collapse under their own weight the better.

  9. I thought it was a great essay Mr.Oaks. Don’t listen to these insufferable Bernie Sanders cultists. If I recall cheeto mocked Rosie O Donnell for taking about her ssri treated depression and called her a degenerate. You were obviously using parody when you called cheeto crazy and anyone who thinks you were being serious isn’t very bright. But these people live to constantly“Call out” others for their supposed crimes while they mask in the halo of their imaginary perfection. I’ll try to think of creative ways to fight psychiatry this month.
    Oh by the way, yes I think Hillary would’ve been different. Hillary Clinton worked at the children’s defense fund and I think she has a good heart. I think she’s as brainwashed about “mental health” as anyone else though(probably).
    By the way what did saint bernard sanders think of forced drugging? I have a memory of at least one debate where he tried to change the subject away from his ties to the NRA and talked about shootings being a mental health issue.

    • Cultists? Despite his shortcomings, Bernie Sanders remains the most well-liked and respected politician in America. He won Vermont by such a high margin that Clinton wasn’t even viable – she got no delegates. Clinton on the other hand supported the giant corporate giveaway to insurance and pharma, she called black children super predators, she supported the expansion of the drug war and mass incarceration, she supported welfare reform which thrust many more children in deep poverty, she supported the ban on gay marriage, taking until 2011 to “evolve” once it was politically expedient to support it, she supported Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, she pushed the ouster of Libyan President Gaddaffi – a dictator for sure but one that had pretty darn good socialist policies in place, she hasn’t met a war she didn’t support, she has a “public” position and a “private” position on everything so you can never tell what she really believes and supports. I’m honestly sick of the Hillary cultists making excuses for her absolutely undemocratic platform. She is a Barry Goldwater Republican masquerading as a Democrat and has personally worked toward the destruction of everything the Democratic Party used to hold sacrosanct! She should go back to the woods and never come out. And she can take Debbie Wasserman Shultz, Nancy Pelosi, Madeline Albright, and the rest of the pretend lefties so-called feminists with her. Her only goal is to suck up to Wall Street and the ruling class who have paid her so far over 22 million dollars in public speaking fees. Oh yeah, there’s also that pesky issue of her using slave prison labor while First Lady of Arkansas… For all I can’t stand Trump I was RELIEVED she lost the election because after all the cheating involved in her campaign and the collusion between her campaign and the DNC, I don’t want my daughters to get the idea that cheating is how women win.

      • Anyone who has viewed the horrific murder of Khadafy then seen Clinton laughing it off saying, “We came, we saw, he died” knows that this is a cold-hearted person we’re talking about.

        Sanders’ position on “mental health” does suck however.

        • Sanders is not my savior but he’s the best nationally known politician we have in America. Jeremy Corbyn is more my style. Too bad he’s a Brit. I still hold hope that he’ll win the next election and the UK will start righting it’s ship after so many years of Tory rule.

          I think I’d vote for Tusli Gabbard if she ran.

          • True enough. And it happened under Democrats and under Republicans. When push comes to shove, they all hang together to support corporate power over human rights, and the further from US soil you get, the less we give a crap about the human rights of the citizens involved.

            As to Sanders, one of the great things about him is that he IS open to being educated about things he is not fully informed of. If there is one politician who might be able to be influenced to take a stand contrary to Big Pharma, Bernie is that guy.