Morning Zen

Wall Street Journal editorial on SAMHSA “shameful, deceptive, and untruthful”

April 06, 2014

Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal published an unsigned editorial in their review and outlook section that eviscerates SAMHSA for how (as they state) “undermines treatment of the mentally ill.”  Needless to say, there has been both outrage and support, especially in the midst of the current discussions around HR 3717 – Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. Read the Wall Street Journal article and then read the Morning Zen post below from Guest contributor Jonathan Delman. Please share your comments on this most important topic!

Guest blog post ~ Jonathan Delman 

This editorial is shameful, and even worse deceptive and untruthful.

I know many people like me with multiple hospitalizations, lived in a halfway house for years, multiple meds (still on some of these) and ECT, having been on SSDI, and have achieved what I call a “solid state” of recovery, but clinical work got me only so far, with decent stabilizing improvement I was still miserable with suicidal ideation., etc. …. I got  into the recovery process for several reasons, a few most relevant ones I will state here:

  • By  joining the statewide (Massachusetts) consumer advocacy group (Transformation Center), I could develop an identity, reduce social isolation, get social support, and ultimately a job and wife through this- The Transformation Center is an agency that was financially supported by SAMHSA… Through the Transformation Center- we have certified peer specialists (creating job opportunities for many people), and many other innovations that state has adopted- among other things creating jobs for people like me who couldn’t get them.
  • Getting and taking advantage of employment opportunities – I couldn’t find a job for many years, until a peer run “consumer satisfaction” organization was funded, and I became the peer in charge director, Consumer Quality Initiatives, and (I’m no longer there) I think it’s fair to say that we had a positive impact on both mental health programs, systems and research.
  • My wonderful parents, and my father in particular-put up with, respected my choices, and supported me without conditions. I’m still in awe.

I must say that when I look at people in recovery from or otherwise put living meaningful lives with severe mental illness, the keys are:

  • Family support – I have seen no one do it alone;
  • Opportunities; and
  • Pre mental problems demonstration of competence, even if just for a short time.

Difficult to address the latter, but it’s SAMHSA that has been phenomenal on the first two. And with peer specialist opportunities, I have seen people with severe mental illnesses change their lives dramatically.

The question raised here is “Which groups of people with SMI recover?”, if they do “What are the factors”, and if not “Why not?” We know something about this through the studies of Courtney Harding, Martin Harrow, et al.

These are fair questions, but this ghost written “editorial” is simply a long term public relations ploy of involving people quoted in the article.

Here at UMass. We have developed the Program for Recovery Research to  address in a systemic and thoughtful way these question, but we’re new and will take a bit to get to them.

As a consumer and person in recovery, I greatly appreciate the work of SAMHSA (even if I don’t always agree) and  this council in recognizing the psychosocial factors that in my view are almost necessary for recovery. We KNOW (through high quality research and personal reports) that many people do recover from severe mental illness (Maybe they should have talked to Ely Saks or Moe Armstrong). To attack supporting that reality is despicable, and there is no way mental health care would have prevented 90% of these terrible shootings.

  • Conflict of interest report- I have received reasonable stipends from/through SAMHSA to consult,  some subcontracts using SAMHA money (not the case currently), currently working for the Transitions RTC. I have also achieved wellness in large part via SAMHSA supported activities. in  My wife Deborah is the director of the Transformation Center, which has regularly been supported through mostly SAMHSA network grants (not currently). 

With great respect,

Jon Delman 

delmanJonathan Delman, PhD, JD, MPH is an Assistant Research Professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Department of Psychiatry, and a principal at Reservoir Consulting Group. At UMass, Dr. Delman is the Director of the Program for Recovery Research, and the Associate Director for Participatory Action Research at the Transitions (to adulthood) Research and Training Center. Dr. Delman, himself a person with a mental illness, is considered a national expert on recovery-oriented care and measurement, peer support services, community based participatory action mental health research (CBPR), activating consumer participation in both treatment decisions and policy development, and transition age youth. He has regularly advised SAMHSA (Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration), NIMH, and the state Department of Mental Health on these matters.

Dr. Delman is a 2008 recipient of a Robert Wood Johnson Community Health Leader award, one of ten awarded nationally, for “individuals who overcome daunting obstacles to improve health and health care in their communities.” He has received several awards from the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health for “Distinguished Service”, and is a member of the editorial board of the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal. Most recently, he was appointed to the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Developing Evidence-Based Standards for Psychosocial Interventions for Mental Disorders.

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