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“Removing The Stigma of Mental Illness “

U.S. Library of Congress DIX, DOROTHEA LYNDE. ...

YouTube Video Link

I thought I would post something a little lighter, yet still important in many ways.  This video talks about removing stigma surrounding mental illness through the use of education

“Liz Allen: Erie’s homeless women have few options”


This article discusses some of the issues faced not just by homeless folks in general, but specifically those faced by women who are homeless.  The article is specific to Erie, PA, but I think that some of what is said could easily fit other places as well.

MHA PA: Act Now! – “Stop the Cuts to Pennsylvania’s Most Vulnerable Citizens!”


This link will take you to the MHA-PA website, specifically a page where they are encouraging folks to contact their PA Legislatures and let them know what kind of impact their decision to impliment a ‘cost of living decrease’ to folks on SSI in Pennsylvania.

MHA is also holding a rally to protest this decrease, details will be in a seperate post so they are easier to locate.

Follow up … Do I laugh or Cry?!?!

I know the post “Do I laugh or do I cry” was pretty charged and in many ways could amount to more of a rant rather then anything overly constructive with the exception of the idea that others can see copies of scanned documents I received I have to say there is a lot wrong with that particular post despite being based on the information I had at the time I wrote it.

Some thingsa I feel I need to clear up…

In the other post I said something about hoping that our state government doesn’t vote for a raise for themselves in light of the cost of living decrease they handed to folks on SSI.  In light of being in contact with a state representative, it is my understanding that the legislatures did NOT get an increase in their income this last time.

I also feel like I need to clarify that I personally don’t expect an increase in my Social Security benefits every year, and do understand that the economy hasn’t been too good in recent times.  I would have been mopre accepting if I had been told that my benefits would be frozen at their current amount until the economy improves, as opposed to having them decreased.  I don’t know numbers or anything to back this up, but I suspect there are others out there who hoped for an increase, but would have been understanding if they were told there wouldn’t be an increase and that benefit amounts were frozen.

For me personally, I think the thing that frustrated me the most, is that I was told by Social Security I qualified for “X” amount of dollars in benefits, and then to have the State decide to decrease that amount, despite the fact that I hadn’t had any changes such as a job, birth of a child, marriage, divorse or any of the other things that can effect my benefits, I felt like I was being told yes I qualify for a certain amount, but the state wasn’t going to hold up their end of what on some level has the appearance of a contract based on my qualifications for the benefits.  My understanding had been that as long as I met the qualifications, and I reported any changes in regards to other income or  things like marriages, divorce, birth whatever, I would be receiving a certain ammount that wouldn’t decrease unless something on my end changed.  that is pretty much how Social Security portrays the benefits to people receiving them, I never once was told that my benefits could go down because of decisions made by my state or federal government.  In light of this, I would like to ask that Social Security at both the state and federal levels, better inform those receiving Social Security benefits that it is possible for the government to decrease benefit amounts without notice, based on what the government feels is best rather then them looking to see what the actual impact could be beyond the actual budget they are working on.  With something like Social Security, politicians and the general public need to realize that while it looks like just numbers on paper, behind every single number on that paper, is a life that will be impacted in some way by the decisions made about the numbers.  For folks who live below the poverty level, a change of $5 can be huge in terms of being able to meet basic needs like food, shelter, clothing, and for those who do try to work or are even in the process of going to college in an attempt to better themselves and gain skills that might make them more employable, the $5 decrease that PA State Government decided on, could mean the difference between being able to have money to pay for tranportation to get to class or work, so while I keep hearing about programs like “Ticket to work” or “Welfare to work” personally I find that decisions such as the one made by the PA state government to decrease benefits is pretty much counter productive for those trying to make an effort.  We are told we can keep our helth coverage for “X” amopunt of time while we work even if we don’t qualify for Social Security, but then if we don’t have the skills to get a job where the employer offers health insurance comparable to what we had, it puts us in a position where we have to choose between paying rent or paying for healthcare, and many will choose things like food, rent, transportation, and clothing over medication if put in that position.  For folks with mental health disabilities, putting us in a position like that can result in us not getting the medication we need to remain stable enough to continue to work, and result in us having to quit working and go back on Social Security or other benefits just so we can once again stabilize our disabling mental health issues.  For someone with a severe and disabling mental illness, it can take several years for them to stabilize enough to where they are able to return to work, but then they are risking putting themself back into a situation where they once again have to choose pretty much between sanity and insanity because of a high potential for not having access to health care coverage to prevent having to choose between medication and a basic necesity like food, clothing or shelter.  It’s a viscious circle and I know based on experience that there are people out ther who believe that if everyone on social security or welfare simply “got a job” everything would be better, but I have to ask these people are they saying it would be better for the individual being told to get a job?  or would it be better for the person making or implying such statements who obviously have no clue what life with a disability of any kind is like.  For me personally to be able to work I would need a guarantee that I would have adaquate health care coverage that was compareable to my current coverage with coverage for my mental health treatment being treated equal to the treatment avaiable to someone with a medical condition such as diabetes, which I have been told for years that for me, taking my meds is as important as insulin is to a diabetic, but yet I’m told that unlike the diabetic, if I’m working, heath insurance isn’t required to give me the same coverage for my medications and other vital treatment as a diabetic would be entitled to with the same health care coverage.

No, I don’t have a degree that I can say backs up anything I’m expressing, but I can say I have life experience that has taught me that because my disability is a mental health disability, I’m better off not working then I am to attempt to work.  Society through their policies has taught me that, but given a chance to work at a job that was friendly to my mental health disability and provided me with insurance compareable to what I have now, I would make an honest effort to try to work at least part-time.  Until I find that combination, I will do what I can to give back to society through my limited freelance writing, and other odd jobs I sometimes do mostly on a volunteer basis, just so I can feel like I’m making an effort to be productive in some way regardless of the views held by those who would claim I’m freeloading.

So while this may be in some ways, yet another rant, I hope that people will be more aware of the viscious circle that folks like me end up in because of society’s view of us and the fact that I believe that many, not all, but many politicians forget that there are lives that will be impacticted by changes made to the numbers they are juggling when balancing budgets.  I feel that special interest typ projects that by design will only impact an individual community, such as funding for stadiums for example should be where cuts should be made, not because stauims don’t serve a purpose, but because people can live without a stadium, they can’t live without food.

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“Budget cuts victimize the disabled”

This article excerpt found in the January 26, 2010 Philly Daily News and can be read in full at this address …. http://www.philly.com/dailynews/opinion/20100126_Budget_cuts_victimize_the_disabled.html

“If $5 and $10 cuts don’t seem like much, consider this: People who are “totally and permanently disabled” – physically unable to work at all – get no more than about $700 a month in federal SSI payments, and many get less. (That’s at least $2,430 lower than the federal poverty line of $10,830 a year for an individual.) In that world, $5 means a lot – the copay on necessary drugs, for example, or the last few dollars for the electric bill or the rent.”

Do I laugh or cry?!?!?!

Ok many of you know that Pennsylvania is in the process of decreasing what they give to folks for the state portion of Social Security, the amount had been $27.40, but is decreasing to $22.10 well today, February 1, 2010.

Saturday I got more mail from my County Assistance office of which I’ve kind of begun cringing at the sight of the CAO return address, not really knowing for sure if I really want to know what they are doing to me now or not.  Well, I hesitently opened the letter, and like the one that told me I was going to be losing about $5 per month starting today, this one was also 2 pages, but as I read it I wanted to both laugh and cry.  I’m still kind of shocked about it to be honest.

Well the letter basically said that because my income had changed that effective today (2-1-2010) my food stamps would be increasing.  the amount isn’t huge, but it was a $2 increase in my food stamps, so while I’m glad I got a portion of the $5 I lost back, I find myself dumbfounded, because I’m pretty sure that the 3 mailings I received from my CAO this past week (the 3rd was telling me they had received my application for LIHEAP) that the $5 that the state claimed they would save on me today, was pretty much spent just in mailings. 

Here is a scanned copy of the letter I got telling me about the decrease in my state portion of my SSI (more will follow it) …..  I received this on Saturday, January 23, 2010 ….


Notice they explained the decrease in a single sentence … well here is the page they included with it telling me all about my right to appeal …..


On Saturday,  January 30, 2010, I received the following letter telling me about the increase in my foodstamps ….


It was accompanied by a second page as well that told me about my right to appeal in fact, it was identical to the second page of the previous letter, so rather then posting it I’m going to ask you to take my word on the idea that it was identical.

Now why am I sharing these scanned copies with the world?  Simple, to point out not only that I like many others had been told I qualified for a specific amount in Social Security (I personally receive Disability and SSI), and then I basically like many  others in Pennsylvania who receive SSI get told that despite the fact I was told I qualified for a specific amount, the state is going to decrease the amount they contribute.  So, even with the $2 increase in my food stamps, I’m still being shorted $3 of what I was told I qualified for.  So basically the state is ripping me off.

I know there are those out there who would think they are all high and mighty because you work and don’t receive benefits from the government, but before you start slamming me with comments telling me I’m lazy let me point out that in order for me to qualify to receive Social Security Disability, I had to work, so yes, I have worked, and have held several jobs over the years, but because of my disability I wasn’t able to continue with those jobs for very long.  I keep trying and hope that I will find a job I am able to do well at over the long-term.  I am a volunteer at a Service Dog organization, and I do some freelance writing, in addition to this blog and other projects I try to help with as I’m able to, so I’m not just sitting back collecting money and not giving anything back to society.  So if you plan on hitting me with that line of thinking, I assure you it won’t get very far here.  Yes, you are entitled to your opinion, but you should also know that while you may be on a high horse now, looking down in disgust at folks like me, you yourself could be a single car accident or other life changing event from being in exactly the same position I am in financially.  I hope that nothing happens to anyone, but it is something to keep in mind for those who feel they are better then me because I receive benefits from the governeent and they don’t.

My point is this in my case, I earned the ability to receive these benefits, and now I’m being told my benefits will be decreased through no fault of my own, so yes, for lack of a better word, I’m pissed!  I’m also angry, because I know there are folks who want to work but have never been able to who are also losing money from their benefits.  Those of us on Social Security are living well below the poverty level, so since we are now living lower today then we were yesterday, I would like to ask if anyone knows who’s wallet is being padded with the money I was told I qualified for and have had pretty much stolen from me?

For the sake of the politicians, in Pennsylvania, I certainly hope you opt to NOT vote for a raise for yourselves this year in light of screwing so many people over here in Pennsylvania.  I know for a fact there are efforts being made by various groups challeniging this state decision, and I certainly would think that if you want these groups to promote you as someone who is friendly to folks like me when you are up for re-election, that you strongly consider keeping your overly high pay-rate where it’s at and NOT increasing it., because that would simply be like adding insult to injury in my eyes and the eyes of many others in Pennsylvania who got hit with this year’s cost of living DECREASE!

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Facts about healthcare reform

  First off I know this is more of a national issue then it is a Pennsylvania specific issue, but it is something that once all is said and done and whatever the final plan is that is put into action, it is something that will effect each and every person in the country in one way or another how exactly that effect will occur I can’t say, but I can say that I’m really to a point where I want to hear facts and not hear about the latest town hall meeting that went haywire.  To me that isn’t news worth focusing on yes eveyone is entitled to their views, but can it be presented by the media in a way that is more like a healthy debate instead of focusing on what ammounts to people making fools of themselves on national TV by yelling and screaming and interrupting the person trying to present information rather then simply listening to what the person(s) have to say before flying off the handle and in some cases becoming physically aggressive towards the speaker?

Ok now that I’ve vented a little I will include a link I received from the whitehouse specifically the president’s office/staff this explains facts about what the President is trying to convery and some of the misinterpretations that are out there …. I hope to add more links as I find more that aren’t glorifying town hal brawls but this is a starting point …..


Keep in mind that just because I post something from the president or any other politician does not mean I agree 100% with what the person, party or office is saying it simply means I’m offering it as something I found to be more productive then the nightly News’  coverage of townhall brawls.

If you have a problem with information that is contained in any of the links, please respectfully contact the person, party … etc. represented by the site you don’t agree with.  As the saying goes you can catch more flies with honey then with vinegar.  Keep in mind that while politician do hold positions of power, they are there because we the American people gave them that power and that we are partially responsible for the political nature of our communitees, states and country because of our choices we make when we choose to vote or not vote for someone.

For folks with any type of disability check out … the Disability Voting Coalition of Pennsylvania for a starting point with regards to disabled folks who want to excercise their right to vote …..


They’ll get you started with where to register if you haven’t registered already and will guide you through the first steps towards having a stronger voice in our political system.

“Author describes ‘Out of Sync Child’”


This article was found in the April 28, 2009 edition of the Warren Times Observer and can be seen in its origial format at …. http://www.timesobserver.com/page/content.detail/id/515790.html?nav=5006

A child sits in class, fidgeting. He stretches his shirt over his knees and gnaws on the collar.

Perhaps he has attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Maybe not.

Carol Kranowitz, author of “The Out of Sync Child,” explained the effects of sensory processing disorder (SPD) on a child’s behavior during one of two presentations at the Holiday Inn on Monday morning. The event, sponsored by the Forest-Warren Local Interagency Coordinating Council and other groups, attracted more than a 100 people.

For the child stretching his shirt, Kranowitz said, “He is trying to get proprioception.”

Kranowitz explained that there are environmental senses; visual, auditory, smell, taste and touch. In addition, there are body-centered senses of vestibular, which deals with the inner ear and balance, and proprioceptive, which deal with muscle and movement.

SPD is the inability to respond appropriately to ordinary sensory experiences and occurs when the central nervous system processes sensations inefficiently or inaccurately.

“The nervous system is not processing ordinary sensations in a normal way,” she said.

According to Kranowitz, who taught preschool for 25 years, the hallmarks of SPD are avoiding ordinary touch and movement, seeking excessive touch and movement, or difficulty making one’s body cooperate.

“Behavior means something; when a child does that (stretching his shirt over his knees), he is trying to pay attention,” she said.

SPD breaks down into three subcategories; sensory modulation disorder, sensory discrimination disorder and sensory-based motor disorder.

Sensory modulation disorder is comprised of three different sensory problems. The first is sensory over-responsivity, which is when a child has a low threshold for sensations and avoids them.

“Most things that are going on are overwhelming all the time,” she said of the children’s perceptions.

Also under the sensory modulation disorder is sensory under-responsivity, which is when a child requires more stimuli to be receptive.

Kranowitz described a child named “Paul” who was generally unresponsive to class interaction. Then one day, the fire alarm went off and Paul was fascinated with the loud siren and strobe light. The teachers had a hard time pulling him from the classroom. From then on, Kranowitz said she and other teachers approach Paul with a big, loud welcome.

The final part of sensory modulation disorder is sensory seeking or craving, which is when a child searches out more sensory input. Children with this type of SPD are often described as “dare-devilish.”

As Kranowitz continued through the explanation of SPD, she explained why it is important it is to create public awareness about it.

She said, “We hope to get SPD in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5).”

With entry into the DSM-5, SPD can be recognized by insurance companies and other service providers to give the children necessary therapy. The DSM-5 is scheduled for completion in 2012 and the next one after that is in 2025.

“Can we wait that long?” Kranowitz asked.

SPD, she explained, can co-exist with other disorders such as autism, Asperger syndrome, Down syndrome and many others.

“Whatever the cause of sensory processing problems, the treatment is the same…occupational therapy techniques and sensory intergration,” Kranowitz said. “The person grows into it (SPD) and not out of it.”

“Mental health center defeated”

This was in the Thursday, April 9, 2009 issue of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and can be found at the following address … http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09099/961562-55.stm

Mental health center defeated
Large audience applauds Baldwin Township decision to deny Mercy Behavioral Health’s request for a permit for the facility on Newport Drive
Thursday, April 09, 2009

It involved hours and hours of public testimony, followed by more hours of private deliberation.

But the Baldwin Township commissioners decision to deny an application by Mercy Behavioral Health to operate a residential mental health facility in the township took just minutes on Tuesday night.

In front of a packed meeting room, filled with residents who in recent months have voiced their steadfast opposition to the project, the commissioners voted 4-0 with one abstention to deny Mercy the conditional use permit that would be required to operate the center at the site of a former assisted living center for the elderly.

It was a decision that was met with thunderous applause by the standing-room-only audience.

Commissioner Nick Pellegrino abstained from the vote because before he was appointed to the commission he spoke against the center at a meeting of the township planning commission.

Mercy officials said it was too soon to tell whether they will file a court appeal of the decision. They have 30 days to make such an appeal, said Mercy attorney Arnold Horovitz.

Not much explanation was given at Tuesday’s meeting about why the commissioners voted for the denial.

But a 42-page findings of fact document the commissioners signed after their vote explains the basis for their decision. That document was delivered to Mercy officials yesterday, Mr. Horovitz said.

The crux of the issue is whether or not the proposed mental health facility would be a nursing home.

Mercy officials had contended in their oral presentation to the township that the proposed center was essentially a nursing home and that it should permitted since the township allowed the Rolling Hills Manor Assisted Living center to operate at the site it hoped to use on Newport Drive.

But in the end, the commissioners found that the proposed facility did not fit the definition or a nursing home and that Mercy officials had no plans to file for a nursing home license for the center.

The Mercy proposal called for housing a long-term structured residence program and an acute-care program. Each would have accommodated 16 patients.

The programs would serve patients who suffer from such chronic mental illnesses as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder. Some former Mayview Hospital patients were expected to be residents.

Mercy made its application on Sept. 19, 2008, to operate the program in a building that was originally built as an elementary school. It sits in the midst of a neighborhood that is zoned R-1 and a conditional-use approval was needed for the project.

The township planning commission, after holding two meetings on the topic, voted to recommend that the commissioners deny the application because the facility did not fit the definition of a nursing home.

That decision was followed by a public hearing held by the commissioners that started on Nov. 17 and was continued on Dec. 18 and Jan. 28. Each of the sessions lasted several hours and were held in front of packed audiences at the Castle Shannon Fire Hall.

A number of residents voiced their opposition to the facility both before the planning commission and the township commissioners.

Among the issues they raised was fear that residents from the facility could get out and harm someone in the neighborhood, worry that property values would drop and concern that calls to the facility would drain the emergency services of the township, which is just one square mile in size.

The findings of fact document said commissioners decided the proposed Mercy facility was not a nursing home because Mercy was not required to apply for or receive a nursing home license and was not required to have a professional nursing staff on site.

The document also noted that because one of the programs was set to receive former Mayview patients, that it would serve as “a micro-Mayview of sorts” and that some of the patients could present “a clear and present danger” to themselves and others.

The document also noted the fact that the Mercy architect testified that a 4-foot-high fence surrounding the property would be increased to 6 feet for security reasons, all windows would be rendered non-operational and no visitors would be permitted without constant supervision and all would be wanded for security reasons.

The findings of fact also state that after the public hearing was concluded, Mercy Behavioral Health provided an “MBH Incident Report” that disclosed a total of 17 elopements from its facilities from 2006-2009.

The document also refers to local newspaper accounts of crimes committed by mental patients, some of whom were former Mayview patients.

It said the commissioners found these events to be relevant in weighing the credibility of the Mercy and Mayview officials who had “evaded or downplayed the existence of such incidents” and the danger associated with them.

The findings said that the facility would “substantially affect the public health, safety or welfare” of the community and that its uses are “incompatible with surrounding land uses” and “may have a negative impact on potential hazards” and does “not conform to the character of existing uses in the R-1 residential zone.

Mr. Horovitz said while he had received the findings of fact document he hadn’t read it and couldn’t comment on it. He said he will review it over the next several days and then discuss with Mercy officials whether or not an appeal is warranted.

In the meantime, residents who expressed their relief after Tuesday’s vote, said they aren’t letting their guard down.

At the exit to the commissioners’ meeting room, they were still collecting donations for the neighborhood legal fund. The residents had hired attorney John Arminas to represent their interests during the public hearings.

The notes distributed said: “We’ve just begun to fight. Regardless of the outcome tonight, this may just be the beginning.”

“World crisis hits Nicaragua mental health hospital”

This article posted March 4, 2009 at the following address … http://www.philly.com/philly/wires/ap/news/nation_world/40741997.html  discusses the impact of the world crisis on mental health systems in developing countries. Despite all the problems with the mental health system in the US and the barriers I often face, this article makes me glad I live in the US and have the treatment available to me that I do even if it is in need of improvement.

World crisis hits Nicaragua mental health hospital


The Associated Press

MANAGUA, Nicaragua – Nicaragua\’s National Psychiatric Hospital houses about 140 patients. But with little financial help from the government, it lacks the resources to help them.

The World Health Organization has warned that the global financial crisis could worsen the situation for patients there, as well as in other mental hospitals in poor countries.

For now, private companies and good Samaritans have been donating food and helping the patients, some of whom have been housed there for 30 years, said Dr. Maria Esther Paiz, the hospital\’s assistant director.

They depend on the hospital for complete support because their families have abandoned them, she added.

A church helped renovate the wing for elderly patients, which used to flood every rainy season.

Director Dr. Roberto Aguilar says the hospital, founded in 1936, needs new cars to transport those patients who are allowed to visit relatives. But limited government resources go to medical hospitals that need advanced equipment rather than to mental-health care.

\”Other hospitals and clinics around the country are getting new equipment and are being renovated,\” Aguilar said. \”Here all we have to work with is our minds.\”

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