Senate Slated to Rubber-Stamp “Mental Health Czar” This Tuesday

David W. Oaks
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A US Senate committee is supposed to approve a controversial Trump appointee this Tuesday, August 1st, 2017. You may not have heard about this in mainstream media, or even the alternative media, though I have been covering this topic for months!

The approval ceremony is scheduled for streaming on the US Senate HELP (Health Education Labor Pensions) Committee website. According to what I have heard, this HELP Committee will genuflect to power, and sign off on the appointment of psychiatrist Dr. Ellie McCance-Katz as the first Assistant Secretary of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a powerful federal agency with a budget of close to four billion dollars annually.

This new “Mental Health Czar,” as it is popularly known, will preside over a SAMHSA that is supposed to be far more friendly to the mental health industry. For example, several leaders have said that SAMHSA will not fund the popular Alternatives Conference after August 2017 in Boston. For more than three decades, this annual gathering has brought together countless USA psychiatric survivors and mental health consumers who lead hundreds of empowering peer recovery programs.

For the past few years, SAMHSA has even begun to fund the support of Involuntary Outpatient Commitment, which often translates into court-ordered coercive psychiatric drugging of people living peacefully in their own homes. All the groups I know led by people who have been through the mental health system strongly oppose IOC.

I just heard from leaders at the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) that this apparently-automatic approval can be watched this Tuesday, August 1st; the link will go live about 15 minutes before the hearing, set for 2:30 EST.

It is not too late to speak out to your US Senators, especially if one is on the HELP Committee. Suggest that the HELP Committee ask Dr. McCance-Katz some tough questions.

Below are six steps you can take, including a link to find out who is on the HELP committee. Reaching your US Senators to oppose this nomination is easy but very urgent!

1. If you do not know who your two US Senators are or how to reach them, go here.

2. Send a web note to each Senator, it takes just a moment: “I oppose the Trump nomination for the new, powerful mental health position, Assistant Secretary to SAMSHA. The US Senate HELP Committee is supposed to ask psychiatrist Dr. Ellie McCance-Katz questions, here are nine questions.”

3. Add your own questions, if any. Copy and post your message, so we all know you speak out for human rights!

4. If your US Senator is on the Senate HELP (Health Education Labor Pensions) Committee, you have extra weight. The list of members is here.

5. For extra, phone up your US Senators. They have both local and D.C. offices. Get to know the staff people who work on health by their first name.

6. Spread the word via email, FB, comments on blogs, Twitter, etc.

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14 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve been trying to get some rapport with certain legislators by contacting them. I try to limit frequency to increase my impact. Or hoping to do so. I figure whatever I send should be no more than a short paragraph, maybe two. That’s it. And not a form letter. How many times can you read the same ole? Another thing I have done (that really works) is either tear at their heartstrings or even crack a joke. Or wish them a nice day.

  2. I emailed both senators, and they sent a form letter email in response that said nothing of any significance,, and my guess is that they will still approve her, but at least I tried.

    And yes, always put it in your own words, be nice and courteous.

    If every mental health “consumer” would do this, maybe they would have to listen to us.

    I also write emails about how I think AOT is unconstitutional to the ACLU. Everyone, take some time and write a nice, courteous letter to ACLU about this. Let them know how you feel about it.

    There have been so many people screwed over by the mental health system that if we would stop fighting each other and unite into one politically active organization we might get something accomplished.

    • Problem is, if you consider yourself a “mental health consumer” you’re already starting from a position of weakness and self-denigration. I emphasize again, there’s nothing these folks “don’t understand,” which is why they plan to keep doing what they do regardless of your/our thoughts on the matter.

      • That there is nothing that they “don’t understand” about the side effects and the human rights abuses is a chilling thought.

        I am so used to being called a “consumer” by them that I don’t know how else to refer to myself, but I put it in quotes because I am not comfortable with it.

    • We can talk all we want about sending e-mails to everyone but the fact is that many of us survivors do not have e-mail and it’s not always easy or convenient to go to the public library to use the computers there. Many of us do not have access to contacting senators and representatives in Congress.

      • How are they reading this then?

        If everyone reading this would email their elected officials and the ACLU, it would be a huge step in the right direction.

        And whenever I hear or read comments from people advocating medications for the mentally ill I always make a point of informing them about the horrible side effects of the psych meds. I make it clear that main reason people stop taking their meds is because they make them feel horrible, not because they lack insight. I run into a lot of people who have been skillfully taught by the government and the media that the only reason we stop taking the meds is because we lack insight.

        • Well, I myself read all this on my computer at work. I can’t afford to buy a computer nor can I pay for the internet. But, because of my job I am allowed to do research on my computer at work. Most of the people I work with in the state hospital don’t even know who their elected officials are. Their lives when they get out of that place are taken up more with trying to find a secure place to live and how to buy food to survive on than knowing who their elected officials are.

          I agree in principle that it would be nice if all of us could voice our opinions about what happens to us in order that we might be heard. We could be an influential group considering that our numbers are great. But, not everyone has access to even the basics.

          I agree, far too many of us have been trained by the system to see ourselves as sick and that the reason we go off the toxic drugs is due to our “illness”. I am in the process right now to try to get the people on the units of the hospital to stop viewing themselves as “mental patients”, as “ill for life” I am trying to get them to view themselves as human beings, human beings with challenges and issues but people who are capable of taking control of their own lives. Very few people embrace this because the system is very good at teaching learned helplessness. How we think about ourselves and how we describe ourselves is infinitely important and makes all the difference in the world.

          • But, it’s frightening for the people on the units to even think about becoming responsible for their own lives since so few of them have ever experienced this. It’s unknown territory and they have no map to navigate with and very few people who are willing to support them in this quest, since almost all staff and many of their family members see them as “ill for life” and incapable of controlling their own destiny. It is frightening.

          • I do take too much for granted. It never occurred to me that people wouldn’t have access to the internet and email. Sorry about that.

            You are very brave to be a psychiatric survivor and work at any kind of hospital, but especially at a mental hospital. I have such a ptsd reaction to the psychiatric industry that I won’t even visit sick relatives at the hospital. If I can at all help it, I don’t plan on ever stepping foot inside any hospital or emergency room ever again for the rest of my life.

  3. @epthe

    No problem, we don’t have to apologize to one another. This is not a simple situation to deal with and it’s not always easy to see every side of every issue.

    I am not brave, just stubborn and determined to somehow get staff and “patients” to change the way they see everything about this so-called “mental illness”. It’s very slow work. There are victories every once in a while, even though they are small in nature. But as my grandmother always said, “If you can save one person you’ve saved the world.” I think that’s an old Jewish saying but I believe it’s true. Thanks for responding.