Volume , Number 0
There are no articles.Commentary
There are no articles.Culture
There are no articles.Features
Journal of the 18th Year
Z Papers on Vision
Gender & Race
Gay & Lesbian Notes
There are no articles.
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
I n October 2003, Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) introduced House Concurrent Resolution 292, which expressed “the sense of Congress that Congress should adopt and implement the goals and recommendations provided by the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health through legislation or other appropriate action to help ensure affordable, accessible, and high quality mental health care for all Americans.” Although Rep. Napolitano’s resolution wasn’t accepted, when the new Congress convenes it will likely take up the issue once again. When it does, expect an unusually passionate debate over the role the federal government should play in promoting a broad array of mental health services.
When the Bush administration set up the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health in April 2002, it was the first such national focus on mental health since the Carter Commission of the mid- 1970s. Charged with conducting a “comprehensive study of the United States mental health service delivery system” the New Freedom Commission unveiled a set of sweeping recommendations in July 2003 in a report entitled “Achieving the Promise: Transforming Mental Health Care in America.” To its credit the report promotes a vision that individuals with mental illness can recover if they are provided access to effective treatment and community assistance including health care, housing, and job supports.
While there is widespread support by mental health consumers, advocates, and professionals for the Commission’s goals, the report is not without controversy:
- Consumer/client and ethnic organizations/providers are concerned that the Commission’s goal of promoting “evidence-based” or science-based services may squeeze out support for emerging treatments that are not yet mainstream
- Privacy “watchdog” groups and conservative organizations are troubled by the report’s Recommendation 4.2 that states: “The key to improving academic achievement is to identify mental health problems early and, when needed, provide appropriate services or links to services. The extent, severity, and far-reaching consequences make it imperative that our Nation adopt a comprehensive, systematic approach to improving the mental health status of children;” and Recommendation 4.3 which backs “systematic screening procedures to identify mental health and substance use problems and treatment needs in all settings in which children [and] youth...are at high risk for mental illnesses or in settings in which a high occurrence of co-occurring mental and substance use disorders exists. In addition to specialty mental health and substance abuse treatment settings, screening for co-occurring disorders should be implemented when an individual enters the juvenile or criminal justice systems, child welfare system, homeless shelters, hospitals...”
- Others are concerned that the lack of new funding for goals and priorities will result in a federal shell game as existing dollars are either reshuffled or actually reduced. For example, Medicaid, which provides essential funding for state mental health services to the poor, is being held flat or is actually declining as a result of new federal requirements. States such as Mississippi, Utah, and Washington are cutting the scope of mental health services as well as who is eligible. Other funding priorities, most notably the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, leave little to no room for the expansion of mental health services.
One of the biggest potential problems with the Commission’s recommendations, however, is the unacknowledged influence of the pharmaceutical industry in the Commission’s support for the adoption of medication algorithms (decision systems) that promote use of new generations of expensive antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs. The biggest customers for these drugs are cash-strapped state Medicaid programs.
According to a January 2003 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “prescription drug costs [are] the fastest-rising component of Medicaid costs” and they “are rising sharply because of increases in the number of prescriptions used, increases in the prices of prescription drugs, and the tendency for prescriptions to shift from older, less-expensive drugs to newer, more-expensive ones. In the past year, the great majority of states have adopted initiatives to limit the cost of, or access to, prescription drugs to slow Medicaid spending growth.”
The New Freedom Commission cites a Texas-based project called the Texas Medication Algorithm Project (TMAP) as an evidence-based practice that leads to better consumer outcomes. Launch- ed in 1995, while George W. Bush was still governor, TMAP was developed through an “expert consensus” process that included the University of Texas, the mental health and corrections systems of Texas, and representatives from—or with strong financial ties to—the pharmaceutical industry. TMAP was funded through a grant by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as well as money from ten drug companies.
The new generation psychiatric drugs—both antidepressants and anti-psychotics—represent a growth market for drug companies. “National sales of antipsychotics reached $6.4 billion in 2002, making them the fourth highest-selling class of drugs, behind cholesterol-lowering drugs, ulcer drugs, and antidepressants, said IMS Health, a company that tracks drug sales,” the New York Times ’ Erica Goode reported in May 2003. In 2002, according to NDCHealth, another company monitoring the industry, “more than 7.4 million prescriptions were written for Zyprexa and more than 7.6 million for Risperdal.” Antidepressants and antipsychotics constitute two of the four top classes of drug sales.
The Texas program—which tends to support the first line use of these newer, more expensive antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs —became the subject of a national debate when Allen Jones, an employee of the Pennsylvania Office of the Inspector General, turned whistle-blower and revealed that key officials with influence over the adoption of TMAP in Pennsylvania had received money and perks from drug companies involved in promoting the medication algorithm. Jones’s removal from the investigation is now under FBI examination.
In his report, posted on the website of the Law Project for Psychiatric Rights, Jones documented that the “pharmaceutical industry has methodically compromised our political system at all levels and has systematically infiltrated the mental health delivery system of this nation. They are poised to consolidate their grip via the New Freedom Commission and the Texas Medication Algorithm Project” (www. psychrights.org).
The influence of the pharmaceutical industry has become so controversial that the National Institutes of Health recently proposed new restrictions on its employees’ financial relations with drug companies. According to a mid-July report in Mental Health Weekly , NIH employees would be limited to no more than 400 hours of outside work with payments equal to no more than 25 percent of base pay. Much of this outside employment and consulting has been on the payroll of the pharmaceutical industry. If this is a new NIH limit, imagine the extent of prior drug company direct financial influence.
Allen Jones not only investigated the conflict of interest of Pennsylvania officials, but also pointed out that the companies that funded the start up of the Texas project were big contributors to Bush’s reelection campaign. In addition, some members of the New Freedom Commission have served on advisory boards for these same companies, while others have direct ties to the Texas Medication Algorithm Project.
According to a May 2004 New York Times report, drug companies are using new strategies to capture the government’s lucrative Medi- caid and Medicare markets that involve a “focus on a much smaller group of customers: state officials who oversee treatment for many people with serious mental illness. Those patients—in mental hospitals, at mental health clinics, and on Medicaid—make states among the largest buyers of antipsychotic drugs. For Big Pharma, success in the halls of Congress has required a different set of marketing tactics.” For the states, increased spending on psychiatric medications is one of the biggest drivers for the current fiscal crisis that is resulting in the denial of care to Medicaid recip- ients and the uninsured.
Psychiatric medications are essential to the recovery of many people with mental illness, but they are not without risk. The dramatic increase in the use of medications in the treatment of children has given rise to questions about safety, effectiveness, and the “off-label” use of drugs without adequate age-specific scientific research. The role that antidepressants might play in adolescent suicide has recently made headlines in Britain and the U.S. There is also mounting evidence of the serious and even lethal health effects of the new anti-psychotic medications—including diabetes, serious weight gain, and heart arrhythmias.
While these medications may help people with mental illness live meaningful lives, the scientific verdict is not in on some of the newer drugs. What we do know is that these new psychiatric drugs consume a huge share of the public health care dollar—often at the expense of other services. Political influence and big money make scary bedfellows when questions of health are in the balance.
During the past year a number of federal agencies have been developing policy initiatives and restructuring funding incentives to promote the Commission’s recommendations. In January, the new Congress is expected to consider related funding increases. Although mental illnesses remain four of the top ten causes of disability in the U.S., according to the World Health Organization, it is unclear whether Congress will move beyond lip service and address our national crisis in mental health.
According to a recent Bazelon Center Mental Health Policy Report, President Bush, rather than actively supporting his Commission’s recommendations, had actually “proposed cuts in his…2004 budget to the jail diversion grants program ($7 million) and the seniors mental health program ($5 million)”—two areas of critical need according to the New Freedom Commission.
Mental illness is not a Republican or Democratic issue. While there are specific grant initiatives that will be dealt with by Congress, no comprehensive legislative package is “being proposed at this time,” Leah Young, Director of Media Services at SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), told me in a telephone interview earlier this fall. “There will be a report, a roadmap” that will be issued later this year that will discuss “where we are going from here,” she said.
Bill Berkowitz is a freelance writer covering conservative politics. This article was written with the assistance of Gale Bataille, director of Mental Health for Northern California’s San Mateo County.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.