Federal Agency Wastes Taxpayer Money on Unproven Mental Health Treatments

Federal Agency Wastes Taxpayer Money on Unproven Mental Health Treatments

The Health and Human Services Department (HHS) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will sponsor the December 4 Alternatives 2013 conference in Austin, TX. A few organizations encourage people with mental illnesses to stop medication and use natural remedies, which are not proven to work.

On May 22, the Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing about SAMHSA’s wasteful spending.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) asked SAMHSA administrator Pam Hyde about the conference from October 2012. One session was called “Unleash the Beast: Primal Movement Workshop.” Blackburn asked Hyde if there is evidence animal-inspired movements, behaviors, and expressions do help those with mental illnesses. Hyde said yoga and mediation help but could not provide a straight answer about animal behavior to Blackburn–or the exact amount of money the department paid. Blackburn then questioned Hyde why the department paid award-winning painter Sam English $22,500 to create a painting for prevention and recovery.

MS. HYDE. We have a responsibility, Congresswoman, to get the word out about behavioral health to all kinds of populations. In this case, the tribal populations are very clear that the way to do that is to use people from their tribes and nations.

Joe Bruce of Caratunk, ME testified in front of the committee and asked them to stop funding organizations that tell people with schizophrenia to stop their medications. Mindfreedom is one of those groups and will be present at the conference again. Joe and his wife Amy tried to get the best treatment for their son William, who has schizophrenia, but SAMHSA-funded lawyers were able to release William. Two months later, he murdered Amy with a hatchet.

Dr. Fuller Torrey and Dr. Sally Satel testified that SAMHSA does not help those with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and it funds groups that believe individuals should not be treated until they are a threat to themselves or others. Torrey said SAMHSA should concentrate on groups that prevent violence. Satel said the group also concentrates on people who can reach out on their own and should help those who do not have the opportunities. Satel believes that in order to properly use funds, SAMHSA should hear from all consumers instead of saying the consumers who can provide for themselves speak for all.

The problem is that some patients are too sick to take advantage of treatment, to collaborate in creating a detailed life plan, or to determine their own “unique path.” I am referring here to the fact that over half of all untreated people with a psychotic illness do not acknowledge there is anything wrong with them, a condition technically called anosognosia. This is a neurological problem caused by disruption of the mechanisms within the brain that mediate our capacity to reflect upon ourselves. They are the most vulnerable of CMHS’ constituency, yet the agency invests not nearly enough in their wellbeing.  

Indeed, during its hearings, the Commission did not hear from the sickest silent minority that is languishing in back bedrooms, jail cells, and homeless shelters. They are too paranoid, oblivious, or lost in psychosis to attend hearings, let alone testify at one.

Before the October 2010 conference DJ Jaffe, founder of Mental Illness Policy, pointed out that those with severe mental illnesses were shunned by the conference. He said the leaders do not believe mental illnesses exist and the phrase “mental illness” was not allowed in the program.

For the ‘labeled’ participants, there will be a workshop on how to go off medications. That could be a dangerous, if not deadly, ‘alternative,’ should someone with schizophrenia who needs medication to prevent them from deteriorating decides to do it. (See note below-ed). The keynote speaker wrote, “Antipsychotic drugs do not fix any known brain abnormality nor do they put brain chemistry back into balance.” One wonders if he ever met anyone with schizophrenia when they were on and off medications.

While proclaiming mental illness doesn’t exist, the Alternatives 2010 leadership purports to speak for people who have it. The ‘celebration’ is funded with our taxes by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA). Dollars meant to help people with mental illness are instead going to people who deny its existence.

The government will spend at least $160,000 on the conference and that includes scholarships for people to attend.