Friday, December 26, 2014

The More Sensitive, the More Susceptible: A Son’s Words: On Pete Earley's blog today.


As we celebrate the holidays and coming new year, I am drawn to what Sander Pick, the son of Jessie Close, said during a speech a few years ago.
“I’ve always thought that the more sensitive a person is, the more susceptible they are to mental illnesses. A sick joke in our universe is that the more it allows a person to see its beauty and deep connectivity, the more difficult it becomes for that person to maintain good mental health.
     “In our culture, we tend to treat this tradeoff with a fierce double standard. As long as they are sharing with us beautiful insights into humanity, we will love and cherish them as heroes, but if they fall into substance abuse, depression or any other form of mental illness, we tend to say, ‘It’s not our problem.’
     “Classically, these are artists, musicians, writers, etc., but, of course, they come in all sorts, unsung or not. These people tend to add value and meaning to our lives. At their best, they are the types who make us laugh and cry, to learn and to take risks and to love. They are brave and it angers me that as a society, we abandon them when their skies darken.”
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Criminal Deviance or Psychiatric Illness?

cid:image001.gif@01CE6085.30391FD0Tim Murphy
U.S. Congressman for the 18th District of Pennsylvania

Click here to watch Dr. Michael Welner discuss the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act.

Criminal Deviance or Psychiatric Illness?
Dr. Michael Welner Examines Murder of NYPD Officers, Points to HR3717

(PITTSBURGH, PA) — This morning on CNN New Day, Dr. Michael Welner, Chairman of the Forensic Panel and author of the Depravity Scale, explained the different motivating factors for recent violent crimes involving perpetrators who may have exhibited signs of mental illness. Welner distinguished between crimes resulting from malicious intent and those from a psychiatric illness, as well instances where both are at play.

“A mental illness-driven crime has a quality of irrationality to it in a way that nobody could relate to it except the perpetrator himself because he’s playing to himself and his own needs,” said Welner who went onto describe how in many instances a crisis situation has emerged where families should be able to intervene.

In the murder of two New York City police officers, Welner explained that the shooter had been arrested on 19 different occasions and had seen one or more psychiatrists during his run-ins with law enforcement. Although there is no evidence currently of the perpetrator having a mental illness treatment plan, his sister maintained in an interview that he was “an emotionally troubled kid” who “needed help [and] didn’t get it.”

When asked how it is possible for families to get help for loved ones with untreated mental illness, Welner responded, “We absolutely have solutions available to enhance the ability of families to deal with people who are in crisis…but there are laws that need to be passed, [like] Congressman Tim Murphy’s Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act…I would encourage your viewers to call their Congressmen and support H.R. 3717.”

Rep. Murphy’s bipartisan Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, which has 115 cosponsors, would make two significant reforms. First, it fixes the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to increase family access to information and eliminate barriers to communication between families and providers. Second, H.R. 3717 modifies involuntary treatment laws so families and clinicians could intercede to provide medical care when an individual exhibit signs of severe mental illness and whose condition is deteriorating. Most states only permit intervention when an individual is imminently dangerous — even if they have a history of psychiatric illness, hospitalizations, arrests, and are incapable of caring for themselves.

Nationwide support for Dr. Murphy’s legislation continues to grow from newspaper editorsphysiciansand parents of children with mental illness. The bill also increases access to hospital beds and proper care while decreasing criminalization for people with serious types of mental illness; permits federal Medicaid dollars to be used to pay for acute inpatient psychiatric treatment by creating an exception to the current Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) exclusion in Medicaid; expands effective Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) services; increases funding to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH); re-appropriates the budget of the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to increase support for programs designed to help those with the most severe cases of mental illness.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Nation needs to treat mental illness as a crisis ~ Thank you, Tampa Tribune!

cid:image001.gif@01CE6085.30391FD0Tim Murphy
U.S. Congressman for the 18th District of Pennsylvania

Tampa Tribune Endorses The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act

For Immediate Release: Monday, December 22, 2014
Contact: Murphy Press202.225.2301
(WASHINGTON, DC) – After meeting with Congressman Tim Murphy, PhD, last week, the Tampa Tribune became the 21stnewspaper to endorse the bipartisan Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 3717). Nationwide support from parents of children with mental illness, newspapers such as the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, and mental health professionals continues to pour in for the Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act.

Here’s the Tampa Tribune editorial in support of Dr. Murphy’s bipartisan legislation:
Nation needs to treat mental illness as a crisis
By the Editorial Board, December 21, 2014

What will it take to get this country to treat mental illness as the national crisis it has become?

Throughout the United States, more than 50 million Americans experience some form of mental illness a year — 11 million are considered severely mentally ill.

Beds in treatment centers are being replaced by beds in county jails and prisons. Homeless people with mental illness are roaming the streets. Millions of residents with mental illnesses aren’t in treatment. Federal and state laws have become a barrier to people who need help the most.

And mass killings carried out by people with mental illnesses are becoming far too common.

A major reform is greatly needed. U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania offers one in The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. Congress should approve it, and President Obama should sign it.

Murphy, a Republican, has been studying the nation’s shoddy mental health treatment networks and laws since Adam Lanza gunned down 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Lanza, who killed himself, was mentally ill but resisted therapies and wouldn’t take his medication, reports show.

Murphy knows what he is talking about. He is a mental health professional — a psychologist — who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. He is being assisted in his calling for national awareness of mental illness by U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, among others.

The legislation, which so far has garnered 115 cosponsors from both sides of the aisle, would put the focus back on where it should be — providing treatment for people who need it, instead of criminalizing mental illness.

The legislation would address a shortage of inpatient beds by lifting a 16-bed cap in cases where Medicaid funds care. It would advance “tele-psychiatry” to connect pediatricians and other doctors with mental health professionals in areas where patients have no or limited access to such care. Brain research funding would be increased.

The federal privacy law known as HIPPA, which often prevents critical exchanges of information, would be amended to free up mental health professionals and relatives of the mentally ill to discuss a patient’s background and issues. This would allow quicker treatment.
Medical malpractice insurance issues would be addressed to allow more physicians to volunteer at mental health centers and clinics, enabling more people to be treated.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — which has been criticized for poor accountability for mental health funding — in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services would be reformed. A new high-level position would be created — assistant secretary for mental health — to elevate awareness of mental illness and have a point person to lead a national effort.

Funding for mental health programs would be reviewed for effectiveness. Training for law enforcement officers would be expanded, and “mental health courts” advanced so patients with mental illnesses aren’t warehoused behind bars.

Treatment options would be increased as alternatives to institutionalization.

And states would be encouraged to update laws regarding involuntary commitment of the mentally ill so they can be treated. In Florida and several other states, that step only can be taken if individuals pose an imminent threat to themselves and others. Although due care must be taken, it makes sense to allow for a reduced standard in certain circumstances to protect the public from mentally ill persons who may become violent — and to prevent them from harming themselves.

The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act would reform how the country treats mental illness and the mentally ill. It also would have a cumulative effect. Lives would be saved. Taxpayers would save money, Murphy believes, and the rates of suicide, homicide and homelessness would go down.

“We need to change the system,” says Murphy. We agree.

Click here to read online. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Rep. Murphy:‘How many more must die before we fix our broken mental health system?’

cid:image001.gif@01CE6085.30391FD0Tim Murphy
U.S. Congressman for the 18th District of Pennsylvania

Rep. Murphy:‘How many more must die before we fix our broken mental health system?’
Emerging Info Reveals Former Marine in Mental Health Crisis

For Immediate Release: Thursday, December 18, 2014
Contact: Brad Grantz202.225.2301

(PITTSBURGH, PA)  Congressman Tim Murphy (PA-18) announced he will be working with House Veterans Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller on Miller’s review of the recent mass killing perpetrated by former Marine Bradley Stone. According to media reports, Stone had been evaluated and cleared of having suicidal or homicidal tendencies by a Department of Veterans Affairs psychiatrist just days before he killed his ex-wife and five of her family members near suburban Philadelphia this week.

“Before there was Bradley Stone, there was Elliot Rodger in Santa Barbara, Jared Loughner in Tucson, James Holmes in Aurora, Colorado, and Aaron Alexis at the Washington Navy Yard. How many more must die before we finally deal with our broken mental health system?”

“Sadly, what happened to this family near Philadelphia was another preventable tragedy. The mental health system knew Stone was suffering from serious and persistent mental illness, but for some reason, the VA failed to intervene and lives have been lost as a result. In many cases, families know a loved one is in a mental health crisis and their condition is deteriorating, but as my Subcommittee investigation showed, these families are excluded from being part of the care delivery team because of a confusing patchwork of state and federal laws. I am thankful Chairman Miller is examining this case and encourage his review to cover whether warning signs of Stone’s mental illness, such as information from his family members and his Facebook postings, were known by the VA and others who were in the position to prevent this awful episode of familicide from occurring.”

Background on the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act:
Stone reportedly did not meet Pennsylvania’s standard of involuntary commitment threshold, which requires an individual to be “imminently” homicidal or suicidal to be kept for medical treatment. Rep. Murphy’s groundbreaking bipartisan legislation, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, would address the commitment standard so families and clinicians can intervene when an individual with serious mental illness is in need of immediate medical care.

Nationwide support for Dr. Murphy’s legislation continues to grow from newspaper editorsphysiciansand parents of children with mental illness. The legislation includes provisions to increase hospital beds and proper care while decreasing criminalization for people with serious types of mental illness; reform the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to increase family access to information and eliminate barriers to communication between families and providers; permit federal Medicaid dollars to be used to pay for acute inpatient psychiatric treatment by creating an exception to the current Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) exclusion in Medicaid; expand effective Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) services; increase funding to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH); re-appropriate the budget of the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to increase support for programs designed to help those with the most severe cases of mental illness.
Beginning this January, Rep. Tim Murphy will enter his seventh term representing Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district, which encompasses suburban Pittsburgh and parts of Allegheny, Washington, Westmoreland and Greene Counties. Rep. Murphy also serves as a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy Reserve Medical Service Corps as a psychologist treating Wounded Warriors with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury. Prior to serving in Congress, Dr. Murphy, author of “The Angry Child” and “Overcoming Passive-Aggression,” was a practicing psychologist specializing in child and family treatment. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

ABLE Wins Final Vote In Senate!

WASHINGTON, DC -- The ABLE Act won final Congressional approval today in the Senate on a 76-16 vote and now heads to President Obama for his signature. The vote culminated an eight-year campaign to gain Congressional approval for tax-free savings accounts to help individuals and families finance their longterm disability needs.

Sponsored by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Richard Burr (R-NC), the bill attracted unusual bipartisan support, including co-sponsorships by both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. ABLE, or the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, was voted out of the House last week 404-17.

"We celebrate Senate passage of this historic bill that will provide families with disabilities with what they deserve: a chance to help themselves," said Autism Speaks President Liz Feld. "As 50,000 kids with autism age into adulthood every year, the passage of ABLE could not be timelier.

"Autism Speaks is grateful for the tireless effort of Senators Casey and Burr who joined our champions in the House to build extraordinary bipartisan support for the bill," she added. "We also thank Senators Reid and McConnell for their early support and leadership to make this a priority in the closing days of this Congress. It also could not have been done without the Senate Finance Committee leadership provided by Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), whose long-standing support for the bill was vital.

“Passage of this bill through the House and Senate shows that Congress can work to accomplish big things and that there is no greater force than an idea whose time has come. Finally, this could not have been done without the power of individuals coming together to advocate for good policy that makes sense.”

ABLE would amend the federal tax code to allow tax-free savings accounts to help finance disability-related needs. They would be similar to Section 529 college savings accounts and would eliminate, for ABLE accounts, the current $2,000 cap on savings for individuals with disabilities.

Under current law, people with disabilities who save more than $2,000 fail to qualify or risk the loss of their Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid and other benefits. Funds deposited in ABLE accounts would have to be used exclusively for disability-related expenses. If signed into law, ABLE accounts would not become available until later next year because of the need for the Internal Revenue Service to define qualifying expenses and complete other regulatory steps.

"For years, we’ve created incentives in the tax code to save for higher education or to save for retirement," said Casey. "Now at long last for Americans who have a disability, those families will be able to save – whether it’s to pay for health care or education, the basic expenses that these individuals with disabilities have wanted to save for for many years.

"We believe -- and this is what undergirds the ABLE Act-- that people with a disability have a lot of ability to live a full life if we give them the tools," Casey added. "One of those tools is an incentive to save for the future."

Burr said the American people “look at us and say, this makes common sense. What took so damn long? Well, you know, I’m embarrassed that it took so long, but this is a product that Congress, the Senate, can be proud of.

"One of the clues that something was wrong was the fact that we penalized individuals who had disabilities from holding assets," Burr added. "It meant they couldn’t buy a car and have it be in their name. It meant that they could only earn so much before they were penalized. What we’ve done is we’ve changed the landscape."

According to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, eligible expenses could include:
employment training and support
assistive technology and personal support services
health, prevention, and wellness
financial management and administrative services
legal fees
expenses for oversight and monitoring
funeral and burial expenses
other expenses to be determined by IRS

To learn how ABLE accounts would work, go HERE.

Earlier this week. a driving force behind the creation of ABLE accounts, Steve Beck, the father of a daughter with Down syndrome and a board member of the National Down Syndrome Society, died suddenly. In his honor, Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), the original House sponsor of the bill had the measure renamed in Beck's honor.

“Steve represents the soul of the ABLE Act and played a central role in getting if off the ground more than eight years ago,” said Crenshaw. “More importantly, on behalf of his own daughter Natalie and millions of others with disabilities, Steve never gave up hope that ABLE would move across the Congressional finish line and become law of the land. History was made in large part because of his steadfast dedication to improve the quality of life for so many – an important lesson we would all do well to keep close a heart.”

Several states are now moving to create ABLE accounts providing state tax income benefits, consistent with the development over the years of college savings accounts at both the federal and state levels. Massachusetts created a state ABLE program earlier this year.

Live Today: Glenn Treisman, MD To Present Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder Virtual CME Symposium

Live Today at PsychiatryCareLive
Clinical Challenges in Psychiatry:
Focus on Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder

Live! Complimentary, Online Continuing Medical Education
Today from 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM Eastern

Login Now at PsychiatryCareLive
Wednesday, December 17, 2014 from 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM Eastern
Schizophrenia Subsession
10:00 AM Eastern
  • Russell Margolis, MD, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
  • Glenn Treisman, MD, PhD, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
  • Michael R. Clark, MD, MBA, MPH, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
Bipolar Subsession
10:30 AM Eastern
  • Glenn Treisman, MD, PhD, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
  • Russell Margolis, MD, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
  • Michael R. Clark, MD, MBA, MPH, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
CME Reviewed By
Gregory M. Asnis, MD.
Professor Emeritus, Dept of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Connect online with
thousands of your peers.
Learn about the latest
treatment options.
Engage in real-time Q&A
with top faculty.
Category 1 Credits
This session has been approved for 1.0 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™.

This activity is supported by PlatformQ Health Education, LLC.. 


Accreditation Statement

The activity has been planned and implemented in accordance with the Requirements of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education through the joint providership of Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Montefiore Medical Center and PlatformQ LLC. The Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

Credit Designation Statement
Live Internet Activity 

The Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University designates this live internet activity for a maximum of 1.0 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.
Enduring Material
The Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University designates this enduring material for a maximum of 1.0 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) accepts AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™ from organizations accredited by the ACCME.
American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) accepts AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™ from organizations accredited by the ACCME.
American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) accepts certificates of participation for educational activities certified for AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™ from organizations accredited by the ACCME. Physician Assistants may receive a maximum of 1.0 hours of credit for completing these programs.

Date of Release
Live sessions will be available: Wednesday, December 17, 2014 from 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM ET
Enduring materials will be available from December 17, 2014 until June 17, 2015.

Learning Objectives
Describe the classic features of bipolar disorder and differentiate among other conditions that have similar presentations
Develop strategies for overcoming common challenges in treating patients with schizophrenia

Monday, December 15, 2014

Caregivers are warriors!

Read article here: Caregivers are warriors - Daily Courier: Life

From Knoxlife Church: A guide for loving on Knoxville this holiday season.

Knoxville is an incredible place to live. This is our city and we love it here. Don't even get us started on all the amazing reasons why Knoxville is where we choose to work, live and raise our families. Seriously, don't do it. :)
However, like any city, there is always room for improvement. Knoxville needs our help. Our objective is to highlight and promote the many projects that everyday people just like you can lend a hand and get involved with to make a difference and bring about restoration and renewal in the city we all call home.
Below is a list of causes, projects, ideas and ministries that we love and support.
For more information or if you have a serving opportunity that we can help with, email us at
Keep Knoxville Beautiful
Knoxville Area Rescue Mission
Amachi Knoxville
Knoxville Leadership Foundation
Focus Prison Ministries
YWCA - Downtown Knoxville
FISH Food Pantry
The Next Door
Phyllis Wheatley Center
Beardsley Community Farm
Habitat For Humanity
Volunteer Ministry Center
Second Harvest
Lost Sheep
Water Angels
Mobile Meals
Angelic Ministires
Knoxville Office On Aging
As a community at Knoxlife, it's part of our DNA to come together and hit the streets in search of how we can tangibly reflect God's Kingdom.
It takes on a bunch of different forms, sometimes it is working in yards, cleaning up graffiti, working with other organizations or cleaning houses. Our desire is to "stop talking" and "start doing". Some are simple one day events, some are long term projects and some organizations simply need ongoing volunteers to help out one day a week. Our goal is to love our city through serving our city.

go to: to learn more!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Tennessee, Listen Up: We need AOT!

This morning I received this message and editorial from Michael Biasotti, my friend and fellow advocate in New York. Thanks, Michael. You are absolutely right!  I hope Tennessee is listening.
Hi Karen,

Here is a link to a great editorial in the Baltimore Sun. It's message is also what Tennessee needs to hear.
Too often families of people with serious mental disorders feel they have little choice but to stand by and watch helplessly as their loved ones' condition deteriorates. Many mentally ill people do not realize they are sick and resist seeing a doctor or taking medications. As a result their conditions can worsen to the point where they pose a danger to themselves or others, lose their jobs, end up on the streets or run afoul of the law. Yet short of having an adult relative involuntarily committed to a mental institution, which is extremely difficult under current Maryland law and is not a long-term solution, there are few other options for families seeking to get loved ones the help they need.

That's why a state health department proposal, announced this week, to allow courts to order some mentally ill people into outpatient civil commitment programs if they don't take their medications as prescribed could help hundreds of Maryland families care for relatives. whose condition falls short of the standard required for involuntary commitment to a hospital. Under the proposal, judges could force patients to accept treatment and counseling on an outpatient basis, take their prescription medications and comply with their doctor's instructions under court supervision.

That's in line with policies adopted by 45 other states and the District of Columbia, which have approved outpatient civil commitment programs for mentally ill patients who don't require immediate hospitalization but who are still unable to manage their symptoms in way that doesn't disrupt their own lives or those of people around them. Maryland is playing catch-up to well established practices elsewhere that are intended to protect mentally ill people from a downward spiral into psychosis that is ruinous to themselves, burdensome to the state and sometimes threatening to others.

Some advocates, however, have criticized the idea of forcing mentally ill people into treatment on the grounds that it violates their civil liberties. Certainly there would have to be adequate safeguards against abuse: Under Maryland's proposal, officials would be required to get a referral from a mental health professional before any action could be taken, and the process would also require a finding by an independent review panel and court approval. Moreover, only patients who had been involuntarily committed to a hospital at least twice within 48 months could be subjected to an outpatient civil commitment order.

The advocates' concern for the civil liberties of mentally ill people is commendable, and it's perfectly understandable that they would prefer pursuing voluntary strategies to get people into treatment. But the health department's proposal wouldn't prevent them from doing that; on the contrary, it is aimed at patients for whom voluntary treatment strategies already have failed and whose conditions render them incapable of making rational decisions in such matters.

Studies elsewhere have shown that outpatient civil commitment can reduce the number of involuntary hospitalizations by interrupting the vicious cycle of psychotic breakdowns, bizarre behavior and arrests that can keep victims bouncing in and out of the health care and criminal justice systems for years. Just as important, it offers a way for families to help stabilize a mentally ill loved one without going through the lengthy and often frustrating process of trying to get a judge to issue an involuntary commitment order for someone who isn't showing unmistakable symptoms that would make them a danger to themselves or others.

There should be some middle ground between the extremes of confinement to a hospital and letting someone simply spin out of control. Legislation to implement an outpatient civil commitment program in Maryland will be taken up when the General Assembly convenes next year. This is a complex issue that requires sustained and careful scrutiny if it is to be effective, but we hope lawmakers will find a way to act on it that guards the civil liberties of people suffering from mental illness while at the same time giving families and health officials more options to get victims the help they need.

Friday, December 12, 2014

'I ask members of Congress to look those Newtown families in the eye' - Congressman Tim Murphy

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Rep. Murphy will appear on C-SPAN Washington Journal this Sunday at 8:30AM to discuss his mental health reform efforts on the second anniversary of the Newtown, CT tragedy.

cid:image001.gif@01CE6085.30391FD0Tim Murphy
U.S. Congressman for the 18th District of Pennsylvania
* * * In Case You Missed It * * *
'I ask members of Congress to look those Newtown families in the eye'
By Wayne Drash
December 11, 2014
House leaders tapped Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania to reform America's mental health system after Newtown.

House leaders tapped Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania to reform America's mental health system after Newtown.
Washington (CNN) -- Tim Murphy was fascinated with trains at the age of 9. Every morning and evening, he went outside to watch an iron horse roar by on the railroad line that cut through Northfield, Ohio.
He placed pennies on the tracks. He waved at the engineer and watched the caboose disappear into the distance.
But one time, the train didn't come. A patient from the nearby state psychiatric hospital had escaped and laid down on the tracks.
Murphy didn't see the body, but news of the suicide hit hard.
He calls it his "first encounter" with mental illness.
"It was frightening to me, and I didn't quite know how to comprehend this. But I remember being very shook up for a number of days."
Now Murphy is a psychologist -- the only one serving in Congress. And as the nation marks the second anniversary of the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, the representative from Pennsylvania is shook up.
The mantle he accepted and embraced in the aftermath of Newtown haunts him: to fundamentally change America's mental health system.
"It's two years and nothing's happened. Period," says Neil Heslin, whose 6-year-old boy, Jesse, was killed that day. "It is what it is."
Murphy met with Newtown families whose children were killed in the massacre and pledged to dedicate his career to fixing a broken system. As a reminder, he keeps photographs of the children on a table in his office.
He traversed the nation, holding dozens of public forums on mental illness and meeting with hundreds of families affected by a system that too often fails their mentally ill children. The Republican congressman held multiple hearings looking into the state of the nation's mental health care system.
Even with his years of training, Murphy still gets taken aback when he hears stories from families. He marvels at the love of traumatized parents and ponders tough questions: Why has mental health care abandoned those it is meant to help the most?
What emerged from his work was legislation that seeks to make the most sweeping change in the system in more than two decades.
But it's almost as though Murphy's Law got in the way of Murphy's law: Everything that could go wrong did.
A Democratic bill introduced this spring scuttled bipartisanship and undercut his hard work. House leaders raised budgetary concerns. International crises in Iraq and Syria diverted attention over the summer. And a fickle public moved on.
Two years after Newtown, the nearly 14 million Americans with serious mental illness must navigate the same patchwork system that failed the nation on December 14, 2012.
Says Murphy: "I ask members of Congress to look those Newtown families in the eye."
A message of hope
From the beginning, Murphy was emphatic about what drove Adam Lanza to kill 26 people, including 20 children inside Sandy Hook Elementary School. In a closed-door meeting -- what he called Psychology 101 -- with House Republicans two years ago, he told fellow lawmakers to stop turning a blind eye to mental illness.
"I see it as the center of the issue," he said. "Get mental illness out of the shadows."
On an appearance on CBS's "Face The Nation," the congressman blasted those who blamed violent video games as the genesis for the shooting spree. "We're chasing the wrong rabbit down the wrong hole," Murphy said. "We need to be addressing mental illness, and we're not."
If 20-year-old Lanza and 26-year-old Jared Loughner had been forced into treatment, Murphy says, the tragedies in Newtown and Tucson could have been averted.
Loughner pleaded guilty in the January 8, 2011, attack that killed six and wounded Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords and 12 others -- and was diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic only after he went to prison.
Patient advocacy groups always say, " 'Well, you couldn't have predicted that.' Yes, you can," Murphy says, his voice rising. "In each of those cases, the family knew that their son had a serious mental illness, and they couldn't get them help."
Laws prevent parents and caregivers from being involved in children's health care decisions once they turn 18 -- even for the most seriously mentally ill who have cycled in and out of psychiatric care for years.
His bill -- introduced this time last year -- would allow more parental involvement in a young adult's care, create a new assistant secretary for mental health and make it easier to commit people to court-ordered treatment against their will.
The issue of forced treatment is highly contentious among civil libertarians and patient rights advocates. It ignited a civil war inside the mental health community. The key argument: Should a seriously mentally ill patient be medicated over their objections as a last resort, or does that approach violate their civil liberties?
Murphy's bill would also gut more than $400 million from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and move the money to the National Institutes of Mental Health for effective programs with evidence-based research to get people better. As Murphy puts it, treatment should be "led by a doctor, not a lawyer."
"We need to bring mental health treatment into the 21st century," he says.
Patient rights groups wholeheartedly reject his approach. They see his bill as a two-pronged attack: They lose funding, and the mentally ill lose rights.
Murphy's supporters consider him a savior of the mentally ill. His critics call him a bully trampling individuals' rights.
Though his bill will die in this lame-duck session, he will reintroduce the legislation, possibly with some tweaks, next year to a GOP-controlled Congress. He has 115 co-sponsors, including nearly 40 Democrats onboard.
To the families he has met over the past two years, he has a message of hope: "Their voice is being heard, and it will not be simply dismissed."
"Our bill really pushes for solutions to help address the unique needs of not only those with serious mental illness, but families and communities and caregivers."
A lifelong commitment to the mentally ill
Murphy grew up one of 11 children, the fourth from the oldest in his family. His father was a podiatrist, and his mother was a nurse. His first paying job, at 10, was cleaning horse stables at a nearby farm.
"We mucked up the stalls for 50 cents, and I could ride horses," he says. "I like to say that sometimes the difference between that and Congress is: I don't get to ride horses."
Living in a large household helped shape his views. Siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles crammed the home for family events. There were things every family member knew, Murphy says, but no one ever talked about.
"And those things take a toll on a family," he says. "And maybe it was the sum of those many experiences that certainly drove me to, instead of being afraid of mental illness, to be compassionate and driven towards saying, 'I'm going to walk into this and dedicate my life to changing things so that other people don't have to feel the pain.' "
Pressed about his devotion to the mentally ill, Murphy, 62, says he watched "things erode and decay" during his formative years with friends and family. But he stops there, saying only that there was a great deal of sadness involved.
"Some day I'll disclose," Murphy says, "but I'm not comfortable with that yet."
His interest in psychology grew as he went off to college. He earned his bachelor degree from Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia in 1970, before seeking a master's in clinical psychology from Cleveland State University and working at a community mental health center.
"I found the field of psychology fascinating," he says. "The more I got into it, the more I felt this is where I could make some difference."
He earned his PhD in psychology from the University of Pittsburgh and worked in various Pennsylvania hospitals. He became an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh and was known as "Dr. Tim" from appearances on local television.
He opened his private practice around 1987.
He came along at a time when the main psychiatric hospital in Pennsylvania, even in the early 1980s, still used archaic treatment practices, such as dunking patients suffering from depression into ice water, thinking it would snap them out of it. "The asylums of yesteryear needed to be torn down," he says.
As a young psychologist, he heard horrific stories of sexual abuse of children and "physical beatings that were awful." He counseled those children and fought for their well-being.
More recently, he joined the Naval Reserve in 2009, and every month spends two days at Walter Reed hospital counseling war veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder. "I thought if I'm going to be voting to send them over to war, then I have a responsibility to help them when they return," Murphy says.
When he informed a wife of the extent of her husband's war wounds, she left him; the spouse of another had the opposite reaction: "If it takes me 50 years, I'll teach him to laugh and love again."
In the stories and struggles of his patients, Murphy finds resolve. "You develop a lot of what they call 'compassion fatigue,' " he says. "But then, I'd say, 'That's nothing compared to what people face.' And it just gives you strength."
Dennis Roddy, a long-time journalist in Pittsburgh who went on to become an aide to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, says it was considered an oddity when Murphy became a state senator in 1996. The stigma of mental illness was so prevalent, Roddy says, that some constituents had a hard time with the thought of a psychologist in office and wondered: "Should we feel comfortable about it?"
"He was at the forefront of the politicians who recognized the dilemma" of mental illness, Roddy adds. "When he got into Congress, he waited and worked his way until he was in a position to do something about it."
Politics PA, a buzzy blog tracking the state's political scene from Erie to Philadelphia, once dubbed Murphy one of the smartest lawmakers in the state.
"He has the capacity to pay attention and the talent to listen," Roddy says. "This psychologist doesn't look at the clock and say, 'I see our time is up.' "

Last year Murphy introduced the most sweeping mental health bill in more than two decades.
Opponent: 'Back to the Dark Ages'
Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, doesn't buy it. He believes Murphy used his position as a psychologist to curry favor among GOP leadership, "bootstrapped onto Newtown" and was sold a bill of goods by those who believe medication over objection is the answer to treating the seriously mentally ill.
"I would say he puts out there that he cares about this population, and he really doesn't," Decker says. "In the meantime, it adds to the stigma."
The Murphy bill, he says, focuses on a "coercive lock-them-up and throw-away-the-key kind of approach and ignores the whole movement that's been going on in the mental health community for the last couple decades" -- one based on recovery and support systems within communities.
Decker agrees with Murphy that the mental health system must be revamped to repair "this really dangerous patchwork of services." He just doesn't like Murphy's approach.
To be clear, Decker has a beef with Murphy. He says his Disability Rights Network would see its federal funding shrink from $38 million a year to $5 million under Murphy's plan. He says Murphy puts on this public persona that he's willing to work with his opponents, but then "he brings them in and yells at them."
"What he's trying to do is kind of scary," she says. "If he takes away Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness, then we do go back to the Dark Ages where we can be involuntarily committed someplace and abused and neglected."
On that point, Murphy pushes back. And hard.
Spinmasters, he says, have distorted his bill to scare away support. He is all for current comprehensive approaches -- peer support, medication, psychotherapy, group therapy, safe housing. Yet he ardently rejects the status quo -- $130 billion in federal funds, with what he says are millions upon millions being wasted on "feel-good" programs that don't work.
If patient advocacy programs were so effective, he says, then why over the past 20 years "have we seen an increase in incarcerations, suicides, substance abuse, suicide attempts, suicidal thoughts, homelessness, disability and unemployment among the mentally ill."
"On every metric," Murphy says, "this country is failing."
His opponents, he says, are perfectly fine with the mentally ill going untreated: "These groups push for a right to be sick, a right to be homeless, a right to be in jail, a right to be unemployed."
"If people want to defend that, then put that in front of the American public, because the American public does not agree with them. People have a right to get better."
There is no doubt that treatment works, Murphy says, even for the most seriously mentally ill. He knows that from counseling hundreds of patients over the years and from court-ordered programs that help the seriously mentally ill, but only after they have committed a major crime.
"Why not fight for what is right, what is appropriate, what is necessary?"
And so Murphy persists.
Despite critics. Despite a stalled Congress. Despite waning public interest.
Murphy: 'In this together'
At a hotel ballroom in the nation's capital, Murphy stands in front of more than 1,000 people for the keynote address of the annual conference of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the largest nonprofit mental health advocacy group.
It's early September, and Murphy hopes to ignite these advocates to get their lawmakers to lend their support in advance of the midterm elections.
Moments earlier, Democratic Rep. Ron Barber of Arizona appeared via video to promote his own mental health bill -- one that was introduced this spring and has garnered little bipartisan support. As Murphy prepares to speak, murmurs bounce around the room:
If there are two bills, why can't they just work together and hammer out an agreement?
Barber was a key staffer for Giffords and was among the 13 wounded in the attack that nearly killed her. He knows first-hand the horrific effects of untreated mental illness.
Barber assumed Giffords' seat in June 2012. His bill avoids the controversial treatment provisions of Murphy's, instead focusing on creating a White House Office of Mental Health Policy, continuing to support the funding of SAMHSA and other initiatives.
"It is imperative that we find a way to establish common ground on provisions in each bill that we both support and move forward with a bipartisan bill that can pass the House and garner bipartisan support in the Senate," Barber says. (Barber is currently steeped in a recount in Arizona, and his staff would not make him available for an interview for this story but provided a written statement echoing his NAMI comments.)
But Murphy won't budge. He believes his bill is too critical in meeting the needs of the seriously mentally ill: "Why would I want to compromise when you hear these stories over and over?"
Murphy looks out over the crowd. He's met many of them over the past two years as he's traveled the country or hosted congressional hearings. He immediately sets the tone.
"I'm not interested in just passing a bill. I'm interested in making a fundamental change to America's abuse of the mentally ill," he says to raucous applause.
He speaks for 55 minutes, stepping the audience through the changes he has proposed and why he believes so adamantly about the most drastic portions of his bill. His speech is interrupted by applause 30 times.
He urges the crowd to tell their representatives to support the bill. "You are an army of soldiers with the biggest hearts and greatest love that is out there," Murphy says. "There'll be people out there who fire upon you slings and arrows of lies and stigmas and deceit and mistrust."
When those people attack, Murphy says to stand strong. "We are in this together."
Sorrow, stigma and heartache
A woman trembles: "My daughter Sarah died by suicide on July 16."
Says one man: "My brother got better treatment in 1957 than he would today."
On and on, the stories keep coming from people gathered in the Rayburn Office Building to talk with Murphy. Sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives. They're locked away in prisons; they're homeless; they're untreated; they're dead.
These families hail from California, Kentucky, New York, Oklahoma, Ohio and Pennsylvania. It doesn't matter where they're from: their stories are the same -- a mental health system laden with hurdles and bureaucracy that makes it difficult to get proper care.
Murphy agreed to meet with families in advance of his keynote speech at the NAMI conference. It was supposed to be a small gathering, but word spread among families, and the numbers swelled.
"No one came in here saying what party they're in," Murphy tells the group. "I know that mental illness doesn't discriminate by party, by race, by age, by income."
The congressman listens to their stories and engages with each on a personal level. "I want to hear from you," he tells them. Dressed in a navy suit, he stands in front and points around the room to individuals who recite their travails.
"Every time you think your heart can't take any more," Murphy says later, "you hear more."
Rich Mandich and his wife, Joyce, sit in the front row. Like a shaken Coke bottle, Rich is about to burst, his emotions pent up for three years.
"I want to tell you about my son, Steven," he tells Murphy.
His son was 28 and suffered from schizophrenia. Police in Bedford, Ohio, knew him well. They'd responded to the home dozens of times during his meltdowns over the years.
Shortly before 6 p.m. on November 26, 2011, Steven called 911 to say his father had his medications. "They laughed at him," Mandich says. "They thought it was funny."
His wife moans, her body shakes.
Police came to the home. Mandich says he tried to intervene, but was Tasered and dragged out of the home by officers. His son had a knife in his hands and was Tasered multiple times, before being shot to death in his bedroom. Police said he lunged at them with a knife.
The family eventually filed suit against those involved. It was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
Mandich had always been his son's protector, but "that day, I couldn't save him because they got in the way." He breaks down, years of bottled-up pain welling over.
Murphy takes off his glasses and wipes his eyes. "He had rights and you had rights," Murphy tells the father. "He had a right to go and live a full life."
"He was a valuable person to us," Mandich says. "This kid had a kind heart."
The two agree that Steven Mandich deserved better treatment than being gunned down in his room. It is an important acknowledgment for a family still grieving -- to hear someone in power say that their son mattered.
When the session ends, Murphy strolls outside around the nation's Capitol, unable to shake the power of the Mandiches' story.
"They lost their loved one long ago," he says, "but they've never lost their hope that something can change."
The congressman is energized. In his view, the very least he can do is maintain that hope -- that changing the system is worth the fight.

# # #
Murphy Press | Congressman Tim Murphy (PA-18)
2332 Rayburn House Office Building | Washington, DC  20515
(202) 225-2301 | (202) 225-1844