Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Shooter’s obscure life leaves few clues in attack

His mother alluded to a more recent change in his countenance.

Read here: Shooter’s obscure life leaves few clues in attack

Friday, April 25, 2014

Views on assisted outpatient treatment: Fuller Torrey, M.D.

Fuller Torrey, M.D.Views on assisted outpatient treatment: Fuller Torrey, M.D.

Read the pros and cons of AOT in the two-part series starting with part one by clicking here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

We need you to help us support the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 3717) which would improve the care of people with serious mental illness.

The legislation proposed by Rep. Murphy deserves bipartisan support. 

The problems it addresses are not Democratic or Republican problems, but rather everybody’s problems. You can find a list of members who support Murphy’s landmark mental health bill here.

If you don’t see your member of Congress on the list:
•    Call your Representative’s office and tell them to support H.R. 3717
•    Ask your member to cosponsor the bill
•    Share your personal story about what this bill would mean for you and your loved ones

"We must no longer be silent on the need to help the mentally ill because millions of families are struggling with a son, daughter, or loved one who is sick and needs help," Rep. Tim Murphy said in announcing the federal legislation. See how H.R. 3717 will help improve care for the nation’s most seriously ill.

Visit the website for the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act.

Friday, April 18, 2014

News and Commentary from the Treatment Advocacy Center
April 14 - April 18, 2014
To get news as soon as we post it, follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

"Mental Health Care in the U.S. Needs a Check-Up" 
The Washington Post became the second national newspaper to come out in support of the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act” in an editorial that says the changes in Rep. Tim Murphy’s bill “would help relieve a lot of suffering that does not make the front page." 

Please send a letter to Post’s editors in support of their position.

"I Thought He Was Safe, That Was a Mistake" 
When Bill O’Quin called the police to warn them that his 41-year-old paranoid schizophrenic son, David, was wandering the streets one night in February 2013, he had no idea the arrest would ultimately lead to David’s death in a Louisiana prison.

"My Son Needs AOT" - personally speaking
"My 39-year-old son was diagnosed with schizophrenia 13 years ago," writes a supporter from Connecticut. "It started with various pains throughout his body. All we are looking for is a law that helps people with severe mental illness who need guidance when they stop taking their medication and start to decompensate." READ IT ALL....

"Recommendations for Improving Treatment for Mentally Ill Inmates"
All recommendations for improving the situation begin with the general premise that individuals with severe mental disorders who are in need of treatment belong in hospitals, not in prisons and jails. READ IT ALL....

A big thank-you to Joanna Taylor, whose letter to the editor was published in the Albuquerque Journal.

If you have a letter or commentary published, please email a link or a copy so we can save it, acknowledge your reform efforts and share it with others.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mentally ill, in prison and locked away alone ... in South Carolina.

The tactic of locking away mentally ill inmates in solitary - often for months or years at a time - has been standard practice in Lieber and other South Carolina prisons for decades.
It's how prisons here, and in many states across the nation, have dealt with unruly - and potentially dangerous - inmates who lash out, try to hurt themselves or others, make threats or otherwise rail against efforts to control their behavior.
But nationally, the tide has been turning against this tactic, with states from Mississippi to Maine taking steps to reduce the number of prisoners housed in isolation, driven by a mix of humanitarian, legal and budgetary concerns. Critics contend solitary confinement has been overused, locking away inmates for nuisance offenses in an environment that can be psychologically crippling.
Read the article: 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Great OpEd, Leisl Stoufer!

Imagine being diagnosed with cancer but being told you are not sick enough to qualify for treatment. Imagine having a serious medical emergency, but there are no hospital beds so you are turned away and denied care. Imagine having a debilitating disease, but instead of receiving treatment and being cared for, you are arrested, thrown in jail or forced to live on the streets.
These are the horrors and the realities that individuals and families who suffer from mental illness face every day. There is no other illness in America that is treated this way. We have abandoned an entire population of people. We deny them treatment, we walk over them in the streets, and we throw them in jail as we look away. For the first time in 50 years there is a real solution that will overhaul our nation’s failed mental health system.
Congressman Tim Murphy, R-Penn., has proposed the Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act that would dramatically change our nation’s approach to mental illness.
In his bill H.R. 3717 Congressman Murphy, a clinical psychologist, lays out a comprehensive approach that would address critical gaps and barriers that keep the sickest patients from receiving treatment. These barriers include strict Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act laws that prohibit family members from sharing vital information about their mentally ill loved ones with physicians. Murphy’s bill frees parents and family members who are caregivers from HIPAA restraints so that they can enter into a healthy dialogue with doctors allowing for a more proactive treatment plan and better treatment outcomes.
The proposed legislation supports Assisted Outpatient Treatment. AOT is court-ordered treatment for the most severely mentally ill who have a history of frequent hospitalizations, incarcerations, threats of suicide or violent behavior and medication non-compliance. Los Angeles County has implemented a pilot program of Laura’s Law, California’s version of AOT, named after Laura Wilcox, a mental health worker who was killed by a person who refused psychiatric treatment. Assisted Outpatient Treatment has proven to reduce incidents of hospitalization, homelessness, incarceration, victimization and violence.
Murphy’s bill also addresses the issue of funding. Approximately 40 percent of Americans suffer from mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or ADHD, while approximately 5-8 percent of Americans suffer from severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe depression. In Murphy’s bill, funding would be shifted away from mental health programs that assist the highest functioning and would be re-focused on the most severely mentally ill.
As we drive by countless homeless people on the streets and hear endless news stories of preventable tragedies, it is becoming harder and harder to ignore the deficits that define our current mental health care system. Congressman Murphy’s Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act is a comprehensive bi-partisan piece of legislature that will eliminate the deficits by integrating mental health care with the rest of our medical system, providing better and more accessible treatment, providing more hospital beds and treating those with the most serious mental illness with the care, respect and dignity that they deserve.
Leisl Stoufer is founder of Bold Faith Ministries, a ministry to individuals and families affected by metal illness.
Opinion column: Overhaul the mental illness system - The Orange County Register

Friday, April 11, 2014

News and Commentary from the Treatment Advocacy Center
April 7 - April 11, 2014
To get news as soon as we post it, follow us on Facebook or Twitter.
"Mentally Ill Often Leave Jail Sicker Than When They Entered"Ten times more individuals with serious mental illness are residing in state prisons and county jails today than in the nation’s remaining state mental hospitals, according to a new study from the Treatment Advocacy Center.
“The Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness in Prisons and Jails: A State Survey” found that, in 44 states, the largest institution housing people with severe psychiatric disease is a prison or jail. Nationwide, the study reports an estimated 356,000 mentally ill inmates compared with 35,000 public hospital patients.
The survey provides state-by-state illustrations of how protocols for treating mentally ill inmates who are deteriorating or acutely ill create obstacles that leave inmates without treatment for extended periods or indefinitely, especially in county jails. READ IT ALL....
"'Zookeepers Are Not Allowed to Keep Animals Like This'" 
Solitary confinement is often used as a punishment for behaviors that are symptomatic of severe mental illness. In fact, an estimated one-third to one-half of inmates in isolation “have some form of mental illness” and the isolation makes it exceedingly difficult for mental health practitioners in the jails to treat patients. 
"Criminalization: Our National Thinking Disorder" 
Our new study found we have placed more than 300,000 severely mentally ill individuals in prisons and jails that are neither equipped nor staffed to handle mental illness. It is a situation that is grossly unfair to both the inmates and the corrections officials and should be the subject of public outrage and official action. 
"Video Testimony on Where the Hospital Beds Have Gone"
If you missed it on C-Span, testimony from a recent House subcommittee hearing examining the disappearance of psychiatric hospital beds is available on YouTube. Founding Treatment Advocacy Center executive director Mary Zdanowicz was among four witnesses at a House subcommittee hearing on Murphy’s “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act.” READ IT ALL....
"If I Get Sick Again, Please Give Me Laura's Law" - personally speaking
"It's civilized, not criminalized. It gives me my right to live, participate and recover in the community,” a woman with serious mental illness writes about assisted outpatient treatment. “Some people — who have never been in jail, homeless, or state hospital — say they do not want “forced” treatment. They say it is an abuse of our civil rights. They have no idea what force means." READ IT ALL....
A big thank-you to Dottie Pacharis, whose opinion piece was published in Ground Report.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


(April 9, 2014) In 1972, Marc Abramson, a young psychiatrist in San Mateo County, California, sounded the initial alarm for what he viewed as the “criminalization of mentally disordered behavior.” As California was emptying the state mental hospitals, Abramson was noting a rapid increase in the number of mentally ill inmates in the San Mateo County Jail. Reports from the California state prisons were describing a similar increase.
jail studyForty-two years have elapsed since Abramson published his observations. The Treatment Advocacy Center’s newest report on the plight of individuals with untreated severe mental illness surveyed each state to ascertain what has happened to this trend during the intervening years.
The Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness in Prisons and Jails: A State Survey” found we have placed more than 300,000 severely mentally ill individuals in prisons and jails that are neither equipped nor staffed to handle such problems. We subsequently have made it very difficult to treat the mentally ill inmates by putting restrictions on other options for controlling their behavior and then blamed the prison and jail administrators when the limited options fail. It is a situation that is grossly unfair to both the inmates and the corrections officials and should be the subject of public outrage and official action.
The survey thus demonstrates that the transinstitutionalization of seriously mentally ill individuals from state psychiatric hospitals to state prisons and county jails is almost complete. From the 1830s to the 1960s, we confined such individuals in hospitals, in large part because there were no effective treatments available. Now that we have effective treatments, we continue to confine these individuals but in prisons and jails where the treatments are largely not available. We characterize seriously mentally ill individuals as having a thinking disorder, but surely it is no worse than our own.
Excerpted from “The Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness in Prisons and Jails.” Read or download the complete report from our website.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

“While we don’t know all of the details at this point, what we do know is that these incidents are rarely spontaneous and in fact have been developing over a long period of time, offering many opportunities to intervene in a mental health crisis situation."

 Rep. Murphy Statement on Attack at Western PA High School
Urging Swift Action on Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act to Aid Those In Psychiatric Need

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Contact: Brad Grantz202.225.2301

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Congressman Tim Murphy released the following statement regarding the attack at Franklin Regional High School, which is located adjacent to the 18th district.

“While we don’t know all of the details at this point, what we do know is that these incidents are rarely spontaneous and in fact have been developing over a long period of time, offering many opportunities to intervene in a mental health crisis situation. We know if we identify kids, get to them early, help them with medication and counseling, it can make a world of difference. But there is a severe shortage of outpatient and inpatient treatment options for these children, which is why we need to pass the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act,” he said.

“Our hearts go out to the students of Franklin Regional High School and the families of the entire school district. They are in our prayers tonight.”

Murphy authored the bipartisan Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act following a year-long investigation into the nation’s broken mental health system. Nationwide support for his legislation has come from newspaper editorsphysiciansand parents of children with mental illness.
Murphy’s Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act has been described as the most comprehensive overhaul of the mental health system since the Kennedy Administration. The legislation expands access to child and adolescent psychiatric and psychological care. To address the shortage of child mental health professionals, the legislation promotes tele-psychiatry and an innovative and proven care program that connects pediatricians with mental health professionals when a child presents a mental or behavioral health disorder. The bill also provides training grants for law enforcement and first responders to understand how and when to properly intervene when a person is experiencing a mental health crisis. Murphy’s bill also encourages states to adopt a “need for treatment” standard of commitment rather than the imminent danger standard and breaks down convoluted legal barriers preventing family members from helping a loved one with a serious mental illness.
Two major components of the Murphy bill were recently adopted by the House of Representatives, and signed into law on last Monday.

Murphy’s mental health reform bill was the topic of an Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing last Thursday.

Tennessee's 3 largest state prisons – Henning, Tiptonville, Wartburg – each have more than 2,300 prisoners; each holds more seriously mentally ill prisoners than the largest state psychiatric hospital.



The largest remaining state psychiatric hospital in Tennessee is the Western Mental Health Institute in Bolivar, with 247 patients. The Shelby County Jail, with 6,800 inmates, almost certainly holds more seriously mentally ill individuals than all four state psychiatric hospitals combined. As early as 1997, it was said that 40 percent of the jail inmates were “taking medication for mental illness” (Commercial Appeal, Apr. 13, 1998). And in 1999, a study reported that “about a third of the state’s jail population . . . is mentally ill” (Commercial Appeal, Mar. 3, 1999). The number of mentally ill persons in jail was said to have been “dramatically exacerbated after mid-1996 when the state shifted funding for public mental health programs to managed care” (Commercial Appeal, Mar. 30, 1999). The situation would be even worse if not for the existence of Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training, which helps police divert mentally ill individuals away from jail; the CIT program started in Memphis in 1988.
The problem in the state’s prisons, where it is said that “one in every three inmates is mentally ill,” is almost as bad as in the jails (News Channel 5, May 9, 2011). The three largest state prisons – at Henning, Tiptonville, and Wartburg – each have more than 2,300 prisoners; each holds more seriously mentally ill prisoners than the largest state psychiatric hospital.

Current Laws Governing Treatment in Prisons and Jails

Tennessee Department of Correction (TN DOC) policies allow nonemergency administration of involuntary medication of an inmate if indicated based on the application of contemporary standards of practice. Authorization of nonemergency involuntary medication is determined through aWashington v. Harper administrative proceeding by a Treatment Review Committee consisting of one psychiatrist and two psychologists who are not directly involved in the treatment of the inmate in question. The policy also specifies that an inmate’s continued need for involuntary treatment may indicate a need to seek the appointment of a fiduciary, who would be empowered to make an informed decision for the inmate.
State law does not prohibit Tennessee county jails from administering medication involuntarily on a nonemergency basis. Therefore, county jails could use a Washington v. Harper administrative proceeding to authorize involuntary medication for an inmate who is suffering from a mental disorder, is gravely disabled, or poses a likelihood of serious harm to himself or others. Based on survey information, if an inmate is refusing medication and needs treatment, Tennessee jails do not administer medication over an inmate’s objection. The only option is emergency commitment to a State Regional Mental Health Institute, which is very difficult.
The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TN DMHSAS) posted the following notice on its website:
A change in state law (Public Chapter 531) effective July 1, 2009 allows the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) to delay admissions at state owned and operated regional mental health institutes (RMHIs) until the facility “has the medical capability, equipment and staffing to provide an appropriate level of care, treatment and physical security to a service recipient in an unoccupied and unassigned bed.” This law removes the requirement that RMHIs admit and treat service recipients without regard to whether the RMHI has sufficient resources to do so.

Live Video « Multiple Students Reported Stabbed At Franklin Regional High School

Live Video « CBS Pittsburgh

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


How do I adequately explain what I just witnessed in my favorite local pharmacy/grocery store? 

I walked down the beverage aisle after picking up my son's meds from the pharmacy to find a large display of sports bottles. You know, the kind with silly quotes on them. Only I spotted one that wasn't so silly. It stopped me dead in my tracks.
"My Goal In Life Is To Have A Psychiatric Disorder Named After Me", it said.
Another said "You Say Psycho Like It's A Bad Thing".
Grrrrrrr ..... my hair started to stand on end.
I was so taken aback, I took out my cell phone, took a photo then walked away.
It nagged at me while I continued my shopping.
It nagged me at the checkout line.
Finally, I asked the cashier if the manager was nearby, she said he was in the back of the store. I asked, could I see him?
He was a young, nice looking guy about my son's age. I asked if he could come with me for a minute, he said sure. We walked up to the display and I explained there were a few sports bottles with offensive sayings he might want to take down. His face literally fell when he saw the two I pointed to. Wow! He got it! He totally and completely agreed! Immediately he began removing them from the shelf, profusely apologizing and thanking me for letting him know. Seriously, these bottles are offensive!

See, it really does pay to speak up. So please be on the lookout for an offensive sports bottle display coming near you. And if you spot any, please ask that they be removed.  Thank you!

Because illness of any kind is nothing to joke about.  

In Tennessee, the Shelby County Jail in Memphis, with 6,800 inmates, probably holds more individuals with serious mental illness than all four state hospitals combined, according to a new study.


In few places are the consequences of non-treatment more visible than in jails and prisons, said the Treatment Advocacy Center

(ARLINGTON, VA.) The first national study to examine the policies and practices under which mentally ill inmates receive treatment was released today by the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriffs’ Association.

The Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness in Prisons and Jails: A State Survey” reports that 10 times more individuals with serious mental illness are in state prisons and county jails than in the nation’s remaining state mental hospitals – an estimated 356,000 mentally ill inmates compared with 35,000 patients.

The consequences of failing to treat individuals with serious mental illness in prisons and jails are usually harmful and sometimes tragic, the survey found. Without medication, the symptoms of the inmates’ mental illness become worse, leading them to sometimes behave in disruptive and bizarre ways. Such mentally ill inmates are vulnerable to being beaten, raped or otherwise victimized; are frequently put in solitary confinement for long periods; and sometimes mutilate themselves or commit suicide. Mentally ill inmates also contribute to the overcrowding of prisons and jails and to the increasing cost of corrections for both states and counties.

Tennessee uses a committee procedure allowed under a 1990 U.S. Supreme Court decision for providing involuntary treatment for prison inmates with serious mental illness whose symptoms render them dangerous or likely to deteriorate into dangerousness. This procedure is now sanctioned by law for state prisons in the majority of states and for a few county jails but it is only rarely used. Barriers to similar treatment for county jail inmates who are symptomatic result in the use of restraints, seclusion or observation rather than medication, the report said.

In almost every state, a prison or jail is now de facto the largest mental institution in that state. In Tennessee, the Shelby County Jail in Memphis, with 6,800 inmates, probably holds more individuals with serious mental illness than all four state hospitals combined, according to the study.

“The lack of treatment for seriously ill inmates is inhumane and should not be allowed in a civilized society,” said Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center and lead author of the study. “This is especially true for individuals who – because of their mental illness – are not aware they are sick and therefore refuse medication.”  


•    Maintain a functional public mental health treatment system so people with mental illness do not end up in prisons and jails

•    Reform mental illness treatment laws and practices to eliminate barriers to timely treatment before people commit crimes

•    Reform jail and prison treatment laws so prisoners with mental illness receive appropriate and necessary treatment,  just as inmates with other medical illnesses already do

•    Use court-ordered outpatient treatment – identified by the Department of Justice as an evidence-based practice for reducing crime and violence – to help at-risk individuals live more safely and successfully in the community

•    Implement and promote jail diversion programs

•    Institute mandatory release planning. A recent study reported that inmates who are not treated following release have an almost four times higher rate of committing additional violent crimes compared to those who receive treatment.

“The mistreatment of inmates in jails in prisons, including the denial of proper medical care, is a national embarrassment and has led to international condemnation,” Torrey said.  “Mentally ill individuals who end up in prison or jail should be treated for their mental illness just as they should be treated for their diabetes or hypertension.”

The full report is available at:


The Treatment Advocacy Center is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating barriers to the timely and effective treatment of severe mental illnesses. The nonprofit promotes laws, policies and practices for the delivery of psychiatric care and supports the development of innovative treatments for and research into the causes of severe and persistent psychiatric illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

The organization does not accept money from pharmaceutical companies. 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.”

Mentally Ill & Homeless in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

GSMNP(WBIR) A 44-year-old woman is in the hospital after Blount County deputies found her in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Monday morning.
GSMNP officials said she woman called 911 on her cell phone Monday morning, saying she had hypothermia.
She told Blount County deputies she was intentionally dropped off at the intersection of Foothills Parkway and Highway 321 about 10-12 days ago. She was not prepared for outdoor living or the weather conditions. She did not have a tent, and carried only a backpack.
Deputies picked her near the spot where she was dropped off and took her to Blount Memorial Hospital.
No word on her condition or why she was in the park for so many days by herself, though officials said she could be mentally ill.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Hospitals vs Community Care: Why Are They Seen As Enemies

From the blog of Pete Earley this morning:
Clearly, funding issues are at play. But I also suspect that much of this has to do with two other influences. The first is our past when underfunded state hospitals were seen as giant warehouses and horrific places. Mental hospitals have been forever frozen in the public’s mind as cruel institutions that by their very existance rob patients of hope and dignity. Consequently, anyone who dares to say that we need more hospital beds is cast in the role of being anti-consumer and an advocate for turning back the clock to the days of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.
read his entire blog entry here:

Sunday, April 6, 2014

These Epic Fails Must End! #TreatmentBeforeTragedy

It happened again. Family members say someone in the midst of a mental health crisis dialed 911 seeking help.
Matthew Pollow, 28, got a death sentence instead.
That's the blunt way to describe the events of last Wednesday at a West Boca apartment complex.
Pollow was shot and killed by a Palm Beach County Sheriff's deputy after things went spectacularly wrong. The Sheriff's Office says Pollow charged at a deputy with a screwdriver. Pollow's family doesn't understand why deputies didn't use a Taser or non-lethal force to subdue Pollow. It's a tragedy for all involved — Pollow, his family, and Evan Rosenthal, the deputy who fired the fatal shots.
Read the story here:

"I think it's time for a law," said Marilyn Salzman, president of the Rio Ranch chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. "The families of those struggling with mental illness have been asking for this for a long time now."

It is reassuring to hear the president of this New Mexico NAMI chapter advocating in favor of AOT laws.

Out of concern for the safety and well-being of their loved ones, Tennessee families have been pushing for an AOT law for over seven years yet TN NAMI chooses to remain "neutral" and therefore non-supportive of an AOT law.  

Like New Mexico, Tennessee is only one of five states without AOT on the books.
Read the article here:

Out of sight, Out of mind.

We treat mental illness so much differently than we treat other illnesses. Not only are we embarrassed by it, we act as if the brain and the nervous system are not parts of the body. 

Virginia State Sen. Creigh Deeds

Read the article here:

From Congressman Murphy's blog: The Definition of Insanity

In case you missed it this week, the Wall Street Journal wrote about the dysfunction of the lead federal mental health agency, SAMHSA. A must-read for those passionate about helping vulnerable people with serious mental illness. I'll discuss our efforts to enact the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act tomorrow morning on CNN's State of the Union at 9AM. - Congressman Murphy


The Definition of Insanity: How a federal agency undermines treatment for the mentally ill.
Wall Street Journal Board Editorial
Published March 31, 2014

Every time a mass shooting happens in the U.S.—Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Aurora—we have the same national discussion: Why can't we identify and treat the dangerously mentally ill before they kill? Here is one infuriating answer.

Inside the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sits an agency whose assignment since its creation in 1992 has been to reduce the impact of mental illness and target services to the "people most in need." Instead the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, known as Samhsa, uses its $3.6 billion annual budget to undermine treatment for severe mental disorders.

Health professionals agree on the need to provide medical intervention for serious psychiatric disorders—schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, severe depression. The National Institute of Mental Health does evidence-based research and promotes medically driven models of care, including early intervention, intense psychiatric treatment and drugs. Doctors have promoted reforms such as "need for treatment" standards in civil-commitment laws, or assisted-outpatient laws so courts can require the mentally ill to receive treatment to avoid hospitalization. These reforms help the mentally ill and reduce crime, incarceration and homelessness.

Instead of being part of this solution, Samhsa is in the vanguard of the legal-advocacy and anti-psychiatry movement that sprang to life in the 1980s, and it continues to waste taxpayer dollars on programs that undercut efforts to help the world's Adam Lanzas.

Known generally as the "consumer/survivor" movement (as in having "survived" psychiatric treatment), this movement largely opposes drug treatment, psychiatric care, civil-commitment laws or even the reality of mental illness. Samhsa pushes the "recovery model," an approach that puts the patient in charge of crafting his own recovery plan and stresses "empowerment" and coping rather than medical intervention.

For instance, Samhsa's Guide to Mental Illness Awareness Week suggests schools invite as speakers such radical organizations as MindFreedom, which rejects the existence of mental illness and stages "human rights" campaigns against drug treatment and commitments. Or the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery, which "holds that psychiatric labeling is a pseudoscientific practice of limited value in helping people recover."

Samhsa underwrites the Alternatives conference, which in 2013 included a session titled "Dance Your Way to Wellness and Recovery" and a presentation from the "Hearing Voices Network," which "believes that hearing voices is a part of human experience."

The recovery model can help people with minor mental illness. But Samhsa's allegiance to it neglects or harms individuals with severe psychiatric disorders. Most of Samhsa's annual $460 million in grants goes to community mental-health centers aimed primarily at the "worried well."

Samhsa's grants prioritize "prevention"—though there is no known way to prevent severe mental illness. Samhsa spends millions on anti-bullying coloring books and online kids games and pamphlets on how to handle emotional distress after floods: "Take care of pets . . . Nature and animals can help us to feel better when we are down."

E. Fuller Torrey, who runs the Treatment Advocacy Center devoted to helping the severely ill, has noted that Samhsa's most recent long-term planning document is 42,000 words but contains not one reference to bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.

Sally Satel, a psychiatrist who served on an advisory committee to Samhsa, told a House committee last year that her review of the 288 programs on the agency's registry of "evidence-based" programs turned up only four aimed at severe mental illness. Most were aimed at helping substance abusers, or enhancing parenting skills, or helping kids recognize "anxiety." Samhsa had even refused to put assisted outpatient therapy on the list, though this is the most-effective program for severe illness.

Ms. Satel told the House how Samhsa leadership routinely rejected advice from the medical professionals on its advisory council. Jeffrey Geller, the director of public sector psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, related to Dr. Satel: "Most members who served [on the Samhsa advisory council] during the years I served gave up attempts for meaningful input and left in disgust."

Pennsylvania Rep. Tim Murphy spent a year reviewing federal mental-health policies and in late 2013 introduced a thoughtful overhaul. One proposal would create a new HHS assistant secretary for mental health to streamline federal programs and take over Samhsa's grant-making—requiring that money go to evidence-based practices. The position would have to be filled by a medical professional.

Some conservatives oppose this new government position, but the status quo is worse—and dangerous. Samhsa is out of control and would be better off abolished. But if that can't be done, the Murphy bill would reorganize government to make it more effective and accountable. And as long as the government spends billions on mental health, it needs someone to streamline and make more effective its dozens of programs.

At the very least, someone needs to assure Americans that their tax dollars aren't feeding a culture of nontreatment. The risk to society from untreated mental illness is tragically obvious. It's well past time for Washington's politicians to clean up HHS's absence of oversight at Samhsa.