Yavapai County AZ (June 21, 2021) – “Decriminalizing Mental Illness and Addiction” is the topic of Mental Health Monday on June 28th, 10-11:30 AM, via Zoom. The program has been organized by NAMI Yavapai and the Northern Arizona Peer & Family Coalition and is free to the public. The program will feature three speakers as follows:
- Mary Lou Brncik: Founder and President of David’s Hope – Arizona Mental Health Criminal Justice Coalition. Mary Lou’s son David was diagnosed with Schizoaffective disorder at the age of 23. Soon after, David’s life intersected with Arizona’s criminal justice system. These events led Mary Lou to years of battling both the mental health and criminal justice systems to get treatment for her son.
- Beya Thayer: Executive Director of the Yavapai Justice and Mental Health Coalition. Beya works to develop and implement strategies that lead to the long-term and sustainable involvement of community institutions, organizations, and individuals within the intersections of justice and behavioral health – with the goal of addressing partnership and systems change.
- Dorothy O’Brien: mother. Dorothy’s story began 40 years ago when her beautiful, smart 2-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Leukemia. They were told she had a 65% chance of surviving if they agreed to their very aggressive protocol including chemotherapy and cranial radiation. Years later, she would begin to show signs of brain damage, often manifesting as mental illness. Today in 2021, she has been in the State Hospital Forensic Unit for almost five years after being charged with felonies related to her trying to remove an uninvited man from her apartment.
The program is free by going to https://namiyavapai.org/mental-health-monday/ or contact NAMI at NAMIYavapai.org for more information.
Hi. I am an established mental heath care activist, and an associate of Mary Lou Brncik from a number of years ago. I have been hospitalized at AZ State Hospital before. And I know that things there today are no better than were during my period of time at ASH. Circa 2011-2012, I witnessed from day one and was personally subject to before long in my own right, graphically unlawful abuses and gross violations of my (our) given civil and human rights, as it was condoned at the time by ASH administrators (Cory Nelson, Donna Noriega, et al), and senior medical providers at ASH (Laxman Patel, Steven Dingle, Pervaiz Akhter, etc.).
Prior to my first diagnosis with serious mental illness in 2010, I was a practicing attorney, not for long (2 years), but long enough it has served well in making me a formidable adversary to these such issues. I have relied upon this as means to expose issues that I know to be unlawful and detrimental to the health and wellbeing of persons affected by mental illness, as am I.
I am also an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, and during my time at ASH I befriended several younger natives who came from AZ based tribal nations. While my own father, a full good Chickasaw man (Jackson Reed Pickens), committed suicide in 1971, while still an active career officer in the US Navy, and when I was all of 10 years old. On this plainest of bases, what my family went through after my dad’s suicide, and very much including my struggles (as the youngest of four children) with mental illness (major depressive disorder, suicide attempts, etc). My work in recent years has extended towards a small range of specific concerns to American Indians in context, the need- for example- of state managed mental hospitals to provide traditntal native spiritual services, sweat lodges, e;g, as these services might be afforded to prison populations but not to American Indians who just happen to be hospitalized in these such hospitals- the natives I came to know at ASH expressed how meaningful it would be to their own recovery interests to be provided access to their own specific traditional spiritual practices. But like all things mental illness, as I have learned, few people so affected by mental illness draw the attention that persons not so affected have going for them. Adding to that the history of American Indians, the systemic prejudices against us, I am well aware that mental illness only furthers the foundation of these prejudices, in effect. A double harm, that is.
And I definitely abhor the entire corrections industry as it feeds on those of us who are affected by serious mental illness, the direction that this issue has been going since the deinstitutionalization period in contemporary American history, etc..I appreciate beyond bounds your own dedication to these issues, and if there is anything at all that I might offer, please feel free to let me know (email [as provided] is my only means of direct contact).
In April, 2012, I founded my first blog project, “PJ Reed. The Arizona State Hospital and Patient Abuse,” an essential documentation of my experiences at ASH with particular focus upon issues that I knew to be great concern, such abuses, coverups of some of the ugliest events at the time (e.g., the summer 2011, Jesus Rincon Murrieta’s violent escape from ASH), and a slew of hard document data including my copies of numerous grievances, of back and forth correspondence with AZDH (the grievance appeal process, namely), as well as direct contact and correspondence of federal authorities, inc.the specific Civil Right divisions of both the US Dept. of Justice (ADA concerns) and The US Dept. of Health and Huma Services (HIPAA concerns). And, as my effort to expose these things prevailed circa 2012-2014, crucially needed federal oversight and intervention came about in due fashion, and some seven ADHS employees working in direct association to the ASH operation were summarily fired as a result of my work.
These things said, I heartily support and in fact applaud all that Mary Lou is doing today. I live in MT today (since 2014). MT has had one of the highest rates of suicide in the nation- more years than not- for at least as long as public health statistics have been compiled in the interest of public. This is a crisis of around significance, and it may be no surprise to you folks that MT based American Indians bear the highest in state percentage of deaths by suicide. In August, 2021, I founded a new project, “The Montana Suicide Rate Reduction Council” (MSRRC). a citizen generated direct action effort and demand that the highly entrusted health care officials in MT’s Dept. of Health and Human Services (MT DPHHS) and the elected state representatives who appoint those officials exercise due diligence with regard to this crisis. I have a working relationship at this time with one young man from the Blackfeet reservation, and a lesser ongoing association with a practicing psychiatrist who hales from and is employed by the Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribes.
In my work today, I am looking at an abject lack ethos and breach of duty today that’s on point with I challenged in AZ, the ASH project, that is. And, of course (?), there are a handful of such officials who I know very well are behind this matter. Not that it is anyone’s fault, mind you. Rather that it is the responsibility of the state to do all that it can as means to provide the citizens of MT with the same level of suicide management that virtually all other states provide to their citizens, very much including MT tribes. To the extent that this is an issue with direct bearing on MT natives, I am looking for any level of support (and I DO NOT MEAN $$$) from all and any tribal entities aware of this issue, with very particular understanding of suicide in Indian Country today. It’s a tangle of jurisdictional issues (go figure) and health disparities that are by no means unique to MT. Any tribal person who has gone though what I know our natives are going through would be of great value to this project, from simple moral support to participation in the discourse, and so on. Likewise, any person and not necessarily those of native heritage who also share in the awareness of what suicide can amount to in any family or community, as well. Thanks, and sorry for any typos.