Friday Update

Friday Update 9-20-19

September 20, 2019

Greetings faithful readers. Many thanks to Network faithful “Mother of Dragons,” for encouraging us to feature ‘Evan Finds The Third Room‘ by Khruangbin. What makes this video so infectious is the performance of Han Li, a grandmother from Shanghai, China who stars in the video as a hula hoop aficionado. Trust me; this video will make you smile and get a little warm all over. So sit back, invest four minutes and seven seconds to get yourself right with the world. It only works if you commit to the full 4:07, so no cheatin’ on this one! Okay, relive your imaginary hula hoop days and then get to readin’ Friday Update, cuz we got work to do!

Most Important Reads of the Week

Gary Blau Confirmed as Keynote Speaker for the Tampa Conference!
Dr. Gary Blau, Executive Director for The Hackett Center for Mental Health, and long-time leader of children’s mental health efforts at the state and federal levels will provide a Keynote Address at the 33rd Annual Research and Policy Conference on Child, Adolescent, and Young Adult Behavioral Health. He will discuss progress made over the past 25 years in children’s mental health research and policy. As a former “bureaucrat” that was a staunch “advocate” for youth, families and quality services, Dr. Blau will also share his thoughts on the key challenges facing the children’s mental health research and policy community, and steps necessary to address those challenges. Finally, Dr. Blau will share his vision for how public-private partnerships can be strengthened to ensure a higher commitment to fidelity in research, policy, and practice. Don’t miss it!

We Are Mid-Way Through the Call for Proposal Process for the 33rd Annual Research and Policy Conference. Time Is Ticking and  We Are Waiting for You!
Okay, you see above that Gary Blau is joining our esteemed lineup of keynote presentations at the Tampa Conference. We need your brilliance as well! Save the dates for the 33rd Annual Research & Policy Conference on Child, Adolescent, and Young Adult Behavioral Health: March 15 – 18, 2020 in Tampa, FL and get to writing your fantastic proposal. Deadline for proposals is October 11th. Yikes!

Speaking of Conferences, Here are a Couple of “Can’t Miss” Conferences for the Coming Year

Why Does Today’s Youth Feel Alone, Even In Their Relationships?
Give a hearty welcome to our newest Morning Zen contributor, Noah Richardson. Noah describes himself as a “normal” college-aged kid who, through growing up in the mental health system, has seen problems that negatively impact many of his peers, but don’t get addressed. In this Zen post, Noah tackles the challenge of feeling alone in a connected world.

Results First Initiative Saves NREPP from Obscurity
Exciting news for fans of NREPP, the evidence-based website that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shut down in 2018. The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative invested considerable time and effort to resurrect the NREPP website so that all of us can access the valuable information it contained. Not only does the resurrected NREPP website remind us of what an evidence-based repository should look like, but it also provides an incentive to ask the hard questions of SAMHSA about how NREPP’s replacement, the Evidence-Based Practices Resource Center, is doing a better job (or not). I will tackle that question in a follow-up article. Stay tuned!

Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley is Calling for SAMHSA Accountability in Oversight of Mental Health Programs
Senator Grassley (R-IA) sent a stinging letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, asking why HHS has not adopted recommendations from the Government Accountability Office and the department’s inspector general to improve accountability of SAMHSA’s mental health grants. Since 2015, there have been two GAO reports that provide specific examples of a lack of oversight over the use of funding. The most recent audit gave SAMHSA failing marks for tracking and evaluating its grant programs. Senator Grassley has set a deadline of today, September 20 to receive the information.

And the news just gets worse for SAMHSA
Union Alleges Illegal Practices at SAMHSA
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is under fire once again, this time from the union representing career HHS employees, which is accusing SAMHSA of engaging in a series of illegal labor practices.

And now, we appear to be just piling on, but my goodness…

SAMHSA Ranks 413 out of 415 in Best Places To Work In Federal Government Survey 
SAMHSA has experienced considerable turnover and declining morale during the Trump administration, ranking 413th out of 415 agencies in a government employee engagement survey last year. More than a dozen senior officials have departed or been reassigned since the summer of 2018, including a handful of staffers — like the agency’s new chief medical officer — who only lasted several months in their roles. I guess if there is a bright spot, it is that there were two agencies with lower morale in the 415 surveyed – the Office of Intelligence and Analysis and the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, both in the Department of Homeland Security. Wait a minute, what am I saying? 413 out of 415 on the low morale scale is not good for an agency dedicated to the nation’s mental health. C’mon, SAMHSA Administration – you must do better!

A Message to the Hard Working Employees at SAMHSA
I have had the pleasure of getting to know so many of you over the past 30 years and am well aware of the gifts, talents, and dedication you bring to your jobs every day. Know that all of us in the children’s mental health community value you. We need you to hang in there, and as hard as it appears to be (considering the news about morale and lawsuits), it will get better. Please know that your willingness to keep children’s mental health front and center in your work at SAMHSA encourages us on the outside that our advocacy efforts have a common purpose – improving services and supports for children, youth and families. Soldier on!

Transitions to Adulthood Center Research (TACR) Secures Key Role in New National Policy Development Center Preparing Youth and Young Adults with Disabilities for Employment
Congratulations to Marsha Ellison of TACR, for her success in partnering with the Council on State Governments and the K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Institute on Employment and Disability at Cornell University, to secure a $4 million four-year cooperative agreement to operate a policy development center focused on youth with disabilities, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The Transitions to Adulthood Center for Research is Going to the Comics!
This issue focuses on understanding school accommodations and how youth with mental health challenges can access them. The comic strip portrays an anxious young man on exam day and a friend who gives him the details on getting accommodations for his test anxiety. The second page lists a host of resources that young adults and those who are significant in their lives can access — nicely done!

Self -Care is Putting on YOUR Oxygen Mask First
Here is yet another resource from the Transitions to Adulthood Center for Research (do these guys ever sleep?). Check out their new Tip Sheet for Caretakers of those living with mental health conditions. The tip sheet includes links to resources and is written by their Family Advisory Board. Man, what a bunch of overachievers. We love it!

We’re in the Midst of Trump’s War on Children
You’ve heard of the Wars on Drugs, Terror, Poverty, even Women. Well, welcome to the War on Children. It’s being waged by the Trump administration and other right-wing public officials, regardless of any claimed “family values.” For evidence, look no further than the report released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general. It details the trauma suffered by immigrant children separated from their parents under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy. Thousands of children were placed in overcrowded centers ill-equipped to provide care for them physically or psychologically.

Office of Inspector General: Care Provider Facilities Described Challenges Addressing Mental Health Needs of Children in HHS Custody
Facilities that care for children in the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s (ORR’s) custody face the difficult task of addressing the mental health needs of all the children in their care, including children who have experienced intense trauma. According to those who treat them, many children enter the facilities after fleeing violence and experiencing direct threats to their safety during their journey to the United States. Some children also experienced the trauma of being unexpectedly separated from their parents as a result of U.S. immigration policies. In this OIG report, reviewers found that facilities struggled to address the mental health needs of children who had experienced intense trauma and had difficulty accessing specialized treatment for children who needed it.

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About the Author

Scott Bryant-Comstock

Hello, I’m Scott Bryant-Comstock, CEO and founder of the Children’s Mental Health Network. For the past 40 years, my journey as a mental health advocate has traveled from volunteering at a suicide and crisis center, professional roles as a therapist in an outpatient clinic, in-home family therapist, state mental health official, Board Chair for a county mental health program, and national reviewer of children’s mental health systems reform efforts. As the founder of the Children’s Mental Health Network (2009), I lead the Network’s efforts to grow a national online forum to exchange ideas on how to improve children’s mental health research, policy, and practice.

In 2019, I had a full-blown Kundalini awakening. That experience has clarified many of the questions about purpose, focus, and mission that I have had my entire life. And heck, I want to share those learnings with you!

I encourage you to listen to the Optimistic Advocate podcast, with new episodes every Monday through Friday. Episodes always give you something to chew on as you move through the day. Insights from me, always a bit of poetry, and inspiring homework for you, as we move together on this beautiful journey of creating harmony with the universe. As a bonus, periodically, we post a long-form interview with inspiring advocates who help individuals and families make positive changes in their lives in communities across the globe. Remember to stay optimistic and listen to the universe (It’s speaking through you, I promise.).

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