anosognosiachoicesdj jaffedr. fuller torreyfearschizophreniatreatment

Fear and Misinformation and Throwing Away 50%

Chrisa Hickey10 comments

DJ Jaffe and Dr. Fuller Torrey are two leading figures in the cause for forced treatment of persons with severe mental illness. Their argument is that persons with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and severe bipolar disorder lack the ability to contribute to their care.

While in many cases, that is true, in equally as many cases – by their own admission – it is not.

But that hasn’t stopped them from spewing fear rhetoric to any media outlet that will listen, in order to further the cause for the 50% who truly do need better access to care, a higher level of care, and even involuntary care for their own well-being.

By fanning the fire of half-truths of persons with severe mental illness through an agenda of fear, DJ Jaffe and Dr. Fuller Torrey are doing a huge disservice to the 50% of persons with severe mental illness they couldn’t care less about – the ones that do have insight, that do contribute to their treatment, and do function in society.  And that is very, very dangerous for that 50%.

Here is why DJ Jaffe and Dr. Fuller Torrey dangerous.

Mr. Jaffe quotes – and violently agrees with – Congressman Tim Murphy, about the congressional subcommittee hearing on violence and mental illness held two weeks ago:

This panel is about mental illness and violence, and I am not gonna pull a convicted felon out of jail to talk about why they killed someone. I’m just not gonna do it. … As a psychologist I have an obligation to do no harm. And I am not gonna put someone with mental illness on just to put them on parade. And someone with serious mental illness or schizophrenia or psychotic disorder (this pressure) can set them off.

FACT: One of my family members with Schizoaffective Disorder was approached to possibly testify at the hearing.  Another adult was also approached to possibly testify.  Both were ready and willing to discuss the state of mental health care in America.  But Congressman Murphy didn’t want any consumers on the panel, period.  Murphy -and Jaffe, by extension – perpetuate the fear mongering that persons with schizophrenia are to be feared because they are dangerous.

In this article Mr. Jaffe writes:

But what about the others? The effect of Mental Illness Awareness Week is to divert attention away from the 3%-5% of Americans who are the most seriously mentally ill–like those suffering from schizophrenia or treatment-resistant bipolar disorder, the very mentally ill people who are not “like you and me” and need our help the most.

FACT: I think many persons with schizophrenia who are  aware of their illness and symptoms would disagree – they would say they ARE like us, they DO face stigma, and that they CAN and DO participate in their own care. People like Elyn Saks, John Nash, Meera Popkin, Tom Harrell.

On his Treatment Advocacy Center website, Mr. Jaffe asserts:

Schizophrenia interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions, and relate to others.

FACT: When psychotic? Yes.  Absolutely.  But can a person experiencing positive and/or negative symptoms still relate to others?  Still make decisions about their care? Still think clearly enough to contribute to their care? Yes. Absolutely.  Schizophrenia is linear.  The appearance and severity of symptoms is not.

Here, Dr. Fuller Torrey insinuates that if Connecticut had stronger AOT laws, Newtown might not have happened:

While it isn’t yet known whether Lanza was being treated, it is known that Connecticut is among the worst states to seek such treatment. It has among the weakest involuntary treatment laws and is one of only six states that doesn’t have a law permitting court-ordered “assisted outpatient treatment.” In study after study, AOT has been shown to decrease re-hospitalizations, incarcerations and, most importantly, episodes of violence among severely mentally ill individuals.

FACT: AOT laws would NEVER have stopped Adam Lanza, because the basic tenet of AOT law is that one must be, at minimum, arrested for a crime before the AOT statute kicks in.  Just more fear mongering, with half-truths.

So, Mr. Jaffe, Dr. Torrey, you are guilty of exactly what you preach.  You disregard 50% of persons with severe mental illness.  They aren’t allowed in your conversation. Unless you start thinking holistically about how we need to service and support 100% of persons with severe mental illness, you will never be able to move the 50% you advocate for into the 50% you disregard.  And, after all, isn’t that the point?

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AuroraJames Holmesmental health parityparents

Not Guilty

Chrisa Hickey6 comments

I knew better, but I read the comments anyway.

“He needs the death penalty immediately!”
“Bring back public hanging!”
“Electric chair sounds nice, live on paperview.” (sic)
“Cut his balls off and feed them to him.”

I wish he had pled Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity so the public could see what a joke our mental health care system is in this country.

This is a man who went for help.

He didn’t get it.

We are ALL guilty.

My thoughts are with Robert and Arlene Holmes today, as well as the victims.  They lost their son that night in Aurora, too.

(AP / Ed Andrieski)

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congresslettermental illnessNewtownPete Earley

Congressional Hearing on Violence & Mental Illness – My Open Letter to Congressman Murphy

Chrisa Hickey4 comments

March 6, 2013
Representative Tim Murphy
Fax: (202) 225-1844

 Dear Congressman Murphy:

 My name is Chrisa Hickey and I am a parent of four young adults, two of which are diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder. I write a blog about Childhood Onset Mental Illness and moderate a support group of over 600 parents of children diagnosed with all types of mental illness. I was made aware of yesterday’s subcommittee hearing on violence and mental illness by my friend Pete Earley. I was able to watch the first portion of the hearing on C-SPAN, and will be able to complete watching it this evening. I wanted to thank you for holding this hearing and for your remarks in your opening statement. I do have three concerns regarding the hearing, however, that I wanted to bring to your attention.

In your opening statement, you state that you were there to, “listen and learn from those who have lived lives of fear, frustration, love and compassion: the families of t hose with children who have violent mental disorders.” My first concern is that, in your opening sentences, you link violence and mental illness, even though further into your remarks you accurately state that persons with mental illness are far more likely to become the victims of violent crime than the perpetrators. You also failed to mention that persons with mental illness are far more likely to exhibit violence when they are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, and that persons with substance abuse issues and no diagnosis of mental illness have rates of violence at the same level as substance abusers with a mental health diagnosis. As I stated above, I have yet to view the entire hearing, but I am concerned that there was no discussion of substance abuse and its link to violence.

My second concern is that, as you stated, the subcommittee was there to hear from parents struggling to get help for their children with mental illness, yet when you invoke the Newtown tragedy, you failed to mention Nancy Lanza as one of the victims. Most persons with mental illness who act violently do so towards a close friend or family member, not towards strangers. But when we talk about Newtown, we scapegoat the very person we as a society failed – Adam’s mother. There have been numerous reports from her friends and family that she was trying to get help for her son, but ran into the roadblock so many of us parents face, namely, that until he demonstrated he was a threat to himself or others, there was nothing that could be done. If we are to remove the stigma of being the parent of a child with a severe mental illness – and believe me, that stigma is enormous – we need to recognize there were 27 tragic deaths last December, not 26.

Finally, I am gravely concerned that there was no mental health care consumer on the panel that testified yesterday. I am not sure how we can discuss what is in the best interest of the mentally ill without asking the opinion of persons with mental illness. Would a hearing about cancer rates be as valid if there were no cancer survivors testifying? Of course not. We talk about, as you stated, wanting to, “take mental illness out of the shadows,” but then do not invite the very persons we are trying to help. I have two teenagers, ages 17 and 18, who have severe mental illness and are stable. I have advocate for them in full view so as to teach them how to one day advocate for themselves. I cannot imagine deciding their treatment without their knowledge and input. I wish your subcommittee had given mental health care consumers that same respect, and heard their input on how they are treated by today’s mental health care and social services systems. 

Again, thank you for holding this hearing. It is encouraging to see our representatives in Washington, D.C. begin to hear about the experience of how difficult it is to help a family member with mental illness. I hope you will consider my suggestions for any future investigation this or any other committee has on the state of mental health care in the United States.

 Chrisa Hickey

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abusefraudguest postValue Optionswaste

Value Options is Neither: No is Not The Right Answer – Guest Post

Chrisa Hickey4 comments

Imagine for a moment, you are in the middle of a serious crisis with your child, who has been fighting a potentially life threatening illness for several months; you are doing everything you can to keep it together and ensure that they are getting the best care available. There are multiple hospitalizations, treatment team meetings, deep despair and silver linings. One particular day, you meet with the doctor and treatment team and you’re being told that your child is nowhere near ready for discharge; medications are still being adjusted and symptoms are getting progressively worse in the mean time. The following day, you receive a call from the attending nurse who wants to discuss discharge, even though everyone is aware that if the child goes home, he will likely die. Can you even imagine this happening?

Believe it or not, this is a true story. And the discharge wasn’t being pushed because my son had a miraculous healing overnight, in fact quite the opposite. Even as the discharge was being discussed, he was having a number of major incidents that were indicative of his need for further treatment. After questioning the nurse for a few minutes about how this could be possible, it was acknowledged that the insurance company was questioning the need for further treatment and the hospital was concerned that they would not be paid if they kept my son any longer. The decision was not being made based on the health and welfare of my child but based on the experience this hospital had with the managed care provider hired by the insurance company fueling their fear that they wouldn’t continue to get paid. This managed care company is Value Options. 

Let me take a few steps back. Just after my son’s 16th birthday in 2010, he had a serious mental health crisis. It was, at the time, a potentially life-threatening illness and in fact just prior to this particular hospitalization, he attempted suicide. At the time he was admitted to this hospital (the 5th of his crisis) he also had a letter from his psychologist stating that without long-term hospitalization, he would most likely end up dead.

This incident wasn’t the first time that Value Options had come up in conversation with treatment teams and attending staff during my son’s various placements. In fact, many times the first comments from the team were that they were not sure how long Value Options would allow my son to remain hospitalized. I guess at the time I was pretty naïve because I would respond that it didn’t matter whether or not the Value Options would cover him, he would not be discharged until it was medically clear that he was safe and ready to go home.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that Value Options has a reputation for being difficult to deal with. I found this out first hand, when my son was about to be discharged from the hospital and was clearly not ready. I was given the name of the contact at Value Options and I called. It was then that I found out I had a case manager assigned and that her job was to track my son’s treatment and raise the flag if she felt that treatment was no longer required. This case manager reported to a doctor, both sat in an office 1000 miles away from where my son was being treated. I was told that the Value Options doctor would be meeting with my son’s treating physician the following day and a decision would be made regarding his discharge. I was also informed that the Value Options doctor had the final say as to whether or not further treatment was necessary. While this discussion regarding my son’s discharge was occurring, his treatment team was trying to stabilize him on several medications, which required daily blood work to assess the level of medication in his body, and yet, Value Options was pushing for discharge.

I launched my own personal campaign to keep my son in the hospital; I engaged my HR organization that manages the relationship between my company and Value Options. I wrote letters to the hospital’s attending physician, the treatment team, the Vice President of Psychiatric Care, the Vice President of Client Services and included a whole package documenting my son’s history and treatment up to that point. I also included the letter from my son’s psychiatrist. If they were going to discharge my son before he was ready to safely go home, I was going to put them all on notice that their discharge decision went against all of the information that had been provided on his progress to date.

I was successful in securing additional time for my son during that hospitalization, but Value Options required a move to a Residential Treatment Facility for continued funding. Value Options found a placement at a facility that was not in the same state that we lived in, but they had beds available. My son was transported nearly 1000 miles to go through a 30-day diagnostic assessment.

When my son was first admitted into the Residential facility, I was told by Value Options that at some point they would stop covering my son’s residential placement and that I would need to look at state provided Medicaid. I was also told that I was “lucky” because in the past Value Options didn’t pay for any residential treatment at all. Lucky? That wasn’t the word I was thinking of while I was going through this process. What I wasn’t told at the time was that because my son was in treatment in a different state than where we lived, we wouldn’t qualify for Medicaid in that state.

When the assessment was complete, the treatment team reported that they did not feel that my son was safe to go home and felt further residential placement was necessary. The Value Options case manager participated in the assessment review and stated that Value Options would not cover further funding for my son to remain at that facility and we needed to move him (again) to a facility in our state so that we could apply for Medicaid. Value Options agreed to continue to cover my son until a placement was made.

I immediately engaged my County’s Office of Mental Health to obtain placement approval and Medicaid authorization for my son to move to a facility close to our home. This process was very lengthy and required jumping through a number of hoops. I was told that it usually took 45 -60 days to secure placement. Panic hit me when I found out that the board that approves the incoming residential placements only met once per month. I had already missed the deadline for the approval, however if I pulled the package together, the contact I was working with at the Office of Mental Health would try to get the board to consider the placement. I was able to get the placement approved, met with the new facility and scheduled a date to move my son (and all within 20 days).

The very same day that my son was accepted into the new facility I received a call from my Value Options case manager, letting me know that my son’s care had been terminated 3 days prior. I was 7 days from moving him and having Medicaid pick up the cost of care and Value Options dropped my son and didn’t bother to inform me for 3 days. The decision for the dropped coverage was made by the Value Options doctor, who in a conversation with the Residential Facility’s doctor, was told that my son had not gotten worse and therefore it was determined that he “no longer required residential care”. Even though we were moving him to another residential facility under the recommendation of the attending doctor and treatment team!

Again, I launched a full court campaign engaging my HR organization, the Sr. Vice President of HR, the residential facility, and the Office of Mental Health. I was able to successfully get Value Options to change their coverage decision and they agreed to provide funding for my son through the move date.

While my son has had treatment since this experience, I am happy to report that he has transitioned home and is making great progress. But I am concerned that should he require treatment again, we will find ourselves back dealing with the same Value Options process which puts profit before patients. Honestly, I cannot imagine how things might have turned out for us had I not been able to engage the proper resources and fight tooth and nail for the coverage that I was paying for. In the middle of one of the worst experiences of my life, caring for my ill child, I had to somehow find the strength to stand up and fight for his care and let them know that NO is not the right answer.

Amy White is a mom, mental health blogger and advocate who has been supporting a child through mental illness crisis and the system of facilities, programs, processes, private insurance and public assistance for more than 2 years. Amy uses her own experiences to support other caregivers who are going through similar situations and challenges through her blog, online advocacy and in person support. Her blog is Far From Paradise and you can follow her on twitter .

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parents like us clubricki lake

Childhood Mental Illness – Thanks Ricki Lake!

Chrisa Hickey9 comments

I want to give a big thanks to The Ricki Lake Show, Ricki, Rebecca, her producer, and the rest of the Ricki Lake staff for the amazing show today.  Thanks for portraying our kids as kids that need support, not monsters, not stereotypes.

If you found The Mindstorm after watching the show, we have a club for Parents Like Us.  It’s called – of course – The Parents Like Us Club.  Come read stories of other families raising children with severe mental illnesses and share your story.  Your story could be the one that helps another parent feel less alone.

Raising children with severe mental illness

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ICGValue Optionsvictory

Value Options is Neither – And A Judge Agrees

Chrisa Hickey3 comments

I’m going to post this without commentary.

Ok, one thing.

Value Options,  your days of taking our tax dollars to deny children services are numbered.

Any emphasis is mine.



We call your attention to this January 31, 2013 decision granting a TRO against defendants in the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois.


This was a suit alleging violation of the Medicaid early and periodic screening, diagnostic and treatment (“EPSDT”) provisions. The “Collaborative,” as you may know, is operated by Value Options, Inc. (“VO”) to provide managerial oversight to the Individual Care Grant program. When VO first took over and created the Collaborative, we predicted that the number of ICG applications actually granted would fall dramatically. At the time VO came onboard, there were approximately four hundred ICGs

Now, there are less than 140 and the number actually granted during 2012 was only thirteen. VO has steadily received increasing fees in the millions while more mentally ill children go without services.

The lawsuit involved the Collaborative discontinuing funding for P.G.’s placement at Kemmerer Village, which is a residential facility. In addition, another minor, S.K., was also involved and was in the hospital as described below. P.G. is a sixteen year old Medicaid eligible boy who is psychotic, challenged by Reactive Attachment Disorder, as well as Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and has been hospitalized numerous times. He was accepted into the ICG program in July 2011, which is partially Medicaid funded. The Collaborative, but not Value Options, was sued because they run the ICG program. In August of 2011, P.G. was placed by ICG, but the Collaborative was planning to terminate his funding at Kemmerer Village on January 31, 2013, the day of the court’s ALERT 2 decision. The court observed that if this occurs, P.G. would be discharged from Kemmerer Village. The complaint further stated that if discharge occurred, P.G. would be at risk for further hospitalization and institutionalization. He would also be unable to attend school while he is hospitalized or institutionalized, and he has not successfully responded to outpatient services previously made available.

Essentially, the allegations claim that a discharge, ostensibly because residential placement is no longer “medically necessary,” violates Medicaid law and further residential placement is, in fact, medically necessary and appropriate. 

A.K. is an eleven year old boy suffering from Mood Disorder; Anxiety Disorder; ADHD; Oppositional Defiant Disorder; Learning Disorders; and Reactive Attachment Disorder. He is currently hospitalized at the Methodist Medical Center in Peoria, Illinois, which is a psychiatric hospital. On January 22, 2013 the attending psychiatrist recommended that A.K. receive residential treatment. Moreover, according to the complaint, if A.K. does not receive residential mental health services, he will be at risk for further hospitalization. When he is in the hospital, he is unable to attend school or leave the hospital. Furthermore, outpatient services were unsuccessful in maintaining a sufficiently supervised therapeutic setting for this child.

The complaint states very clearly that both of the plaintiffs need a residential setting for maximum reduction of their mental disability and for restoration to the best possible functional level because sufficient intensive home and community based services have not been made available to them (or been successful).

The plaintiffs seek a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) while the case pends in order to continue funding for P.G. at Kemmerer Village, and in order to provide A.K. with an appropriate psychiatric residential facility. Essentially, qualified personnel have recommended residential mental health treatment for the two young plaintiffs and the Collaborative has ignored these recommendations. The complaint essentially takes the position that psychiatric residential care is medically necessary and to deny it for both children would violate EPSDT provisions of Medicaid. The law mandates that EPSDT services for all persons under age twenty-one must be provided by states accepting Medicaid, which Illinois does. See 42 USC 1396d(a)(4)B. Moreover, psychiatric residential treatment services have been held to be included in the EPSDT rubric. See Collins v. Hamilton, 349 F. 3d371, 374-5(7th Cir. 2003).


The plaintiffs were requesting a TRO to enjoin defendants from failing to take immediate and affirmative steps to arrange and fund the plaintiffs’ medically necessary residential treatment as required by the EPSDT provisions. The court held that the plaintiffs have shown that they are reasonably likely to succeed on the merits of the case, that no adequate remedy at law exists, and that plaintiffs will likely suffer irreparable harm if the TRO is not entered. Moreover, the harm that the plaintiffs will suffer clearly outweighs the harm defendants might suffer if the injunction is granted.

Since Medicaid is a cooperative federal-state program that provides federal funding for state medical services for the poor, if states decide to participate, they must comply with all federal requirements. One requirement is that every participating state have “early and periodic screening, diagnostic, and treatment services,” for persons under twenty-one. The 7th Circuit Appellate Court has interpreted the Medicaid Act to mean that placement in a psychiatric residential treatment facility, where such placement is determined to be medically necessarily through EPSDT screening, is included “within the ambit of covered EPSDT services.” See Collins v. Hamilton. The Collins court was an Indiana case claiming the State of Indiana failed to provide Medicaid eligible children under the age of twenty-one with psychiatric residential treatment facility placements in similar circumstances. The Collins court noted that states are required to provide appropriate psychiatric residential care as a part of EPSDT. In fact, the Collins court stated that “inpatient psychiatric hospital services for individuals under age twenty-one” are coverable Medicaid expenses so long as they abide by the directions of subsection (h) of the Medicaid law. This language, the Collins court found, broadened the definition of inpatient psychiatric hospitals to include services rendered in psychiatric residential treatment facilities (“PRTFs”) by expressly incorporating other inpatient settings as specified by the secretary in regulations. Such regulations were accordingly promulgated to specifically include psychiatric residential treatment facilities as possible venues for patients under the age of twenty-one to receive medically necessary and restrictive psychiatric treatment.


The federal judge granted the defendant’s motion for TRO and ordered defendants (under pain of contempt) to take affirmative steps to arrange and fund the plaintiffs’ medically necessary treatment as required by the EPSDT provisions of the Medicaid Act, including maintaining P.G.’s placement at Kemmerer Village and in addition, maintaining A.K.’s placement at Methodist Medical Center while continuing to seek an appropriate residential facility and fund same.

It should be noted that the Central District (Springfield), Judge Myerscough, U.S. District Judge, has scheduled a hearing for February 15, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. for entry of a permanent injunction against the practices of the collaborative and its co-defendants.

This case should be monitored closely. There is some discussion that the EPSDT issue may eventually reach class action status in light of the rampant ICG denials last year. 

Courtesy of: Whitted, Cleary + Takiff LLC 3000 Dundee Road, Suite 303 Northbrook, Illinois 60062 (847) 564-8662 Fax: (847) 564-8419

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abusefraudValue Optionswaste

Value Options is Neither : Making a Fortune Killing the Individual Grant Program

Chrisa Hickey1 comment

I know a lot about how Value Options does business because the State of Illinois Department of Mental Health began contracting with Value Options in 2007 to manage the Individual Care Grant program.  The Individual Care Grant, or ICG, is a program, became law in Illinois in the 1970’s, and was revised to this current code in 1999.  It’s regulations are listed under Administrative Code 59, part 135.  It’s purpose, as written into the code, is:

This Part is intended to define the terms under which children are eligible to receive funds for residential placement due to their mental illness, including alternative in-home/community services in lieu of residential placement, when clinically appropriate.  Funds are provided to assist parents/guardians in obtaining such services at the appropriate level of care. Among the Part requirements are two primary mandates to be satisfied so that the grant can be approved for renewal on an annual basis. 

 The emphasis is mine. Those are two important points.

The requirements that must be met to qualify for an ICG are stringent:

a)          Parent/guardian must be a resident of the State of Illinois.
b)         The child must have a severe mental illness. A severe mental illness is defined as a mental or emotional disorder which substantially impairs thought, perception of reality, emotional process, judgment, behavior, or ability to cope with the ordinary demands of several life domains.  Symptoms must include severely impaired reality testing and may include hallucinations, delusions, avoidance or withdrawal from human contact, marked effective instability, apathy, bizarre behavior, deficient or unusual forms of communication, agitation and/or danger to self or others.  The course of the illness should indicate that the symptoms do not represent an acute episode from which rapid and substantial remission is likely.
c)         There has been an appropriate trial of inpatient, outpatient and/or community-based treatment efforts,  and subsequently residential services are required.
d)         The child must not be under the guardianship of a State agency, or in the legal custody of a State agency.
e)         The child must be enrolled in an approved educational program at the elementary/high school level.
f)         A completed application package in accordance with Section 135.40 of this Part must be submitted before the child attains the age of 17 years and six months.

 And Tim is as typical a child approved for an ICG as any other child who applies.  I don’t have exact numbers, but there are roughly 265 children in the State of Illinois that have an ICG in place.  Roughly half are in residential treatment and half are in community-based treatment.  265 may sound like a lot, but of the 3.2 million children in Illinois, that’s just 0.00008% of them.   That’s just the most severely ill.  But that’s not all of them.

From 1995 to 2006, before Value Options took over the management of the application review and approval process, as well as the annual renewal process for ICGs awarded, there were an average of 205 applications for ICGs every year, with an average 38.5% approval rate.

Since Value Options took over the process, there have been an average of 273 applications annually, with an average approval rate of 18%.  Let’s see that graphically:

It’s important to note that the applications numbers by year are just the ones that are reviewed.  Oh yes, there are a whole bunch of applications that are rejected for being “incomplete” – there is not definition or explanation of what “incomplete” means.  There aren’t any statistics before 2011, but in the two years where statistics are available, the percentage of applications that weren’t even reviewed were 36% and 44%.  
It might also interest you to know that the average annual cost of the program has risen 15% since Value Options took over management of the ICG program.  Maybe that’s because Value Options makes over $8 Million a year denying children that desperately need the program.  
This may seem like a lot of numbers and figures to you, and statistics are boring.  But these are our childrens’ lives.  These are kids that might have a chance to stay out of repeated hospital stays, homelessness, or prison because they had the care to get to stability in childhood.  
* All information received via a Freedom of Information Act request

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abusefraudICGricki lakeValue Optionswaste

Value Options is Neither – An Open Letter to Tom Warburton, Vice President of Corporate Communications, Value Options, Inc.

Chrisa Hickey13 comments

Perhaps you read about Pickles, the eight-year-old girl with Schizoaffective Disorder that Value Options is trying to have removed from her residential treatment facility against the medical advice of her treatment team.  Adrienne Jones of No Points For Style wrote this brilliant blog post about the situation, which is still ongoing.

Adrienne and Pickle’s mom are dear friends of mine (that’s the three of us, in the picture above, in Los Angeles three weeks ago), and I have reasons to despise Value Options of my own. So I took it upon myself to add a link to Adrienne’s blog post on every posting Value Options made to their Facebook page over the past 30+ days.  They never stay.  They are removed, usually within a day, but I keep posting them anyway, hoping they will be read by the people at Value Options and anyone who thinks working there might be a great way to help their fellow man (hint: it’s not).

Today, via Facebook, I got this email:

Dear Ms. Hickey,

I’m writing regarding your active online campaign against ValueOptions. I believe your persistence comes from a place of compassion for a story you read online and after reading your own blog, it is obvious that you are very passionate about the advocacy of mental health care in the United States, especially when it comes to minors.

We hope you understand that we share this passion. Our company was founded by clinicians and many of our employees are practicing clinicians. Many of our employees have friends and/or family members who are suffering from mental illness and/or substance abuse disorders. Many even suffer themselves. Our mission as professionals and in our personal lives is to help people live their lives to the fullest. We are not in the business of denying care for those that need it. In fact, we believe it is our job to make sure that we manage resources in the most effective manner for those that need. And as I am sure you are aware, funding for mental health treatment is dramatically underserved in both the private and public sector, so resources are scarce indeed. Our goal is to advocate for more spending – public or private – when it comes to mental health and substance abuse treatment. Our goal as a company is to make behavioral health a forefront topic in the national debate, and we have made and continue to make much headway to impact the landscape for effective, accessible care.

Regarding your apparent concerns, I’m sure you know we can’t discuss the confidential facts of any particular case with you. But we do have a few questions for you to consider. Are you sure that you have all the facts in the case you reference? Are you sure that your continued postings are a benefit to others who may need and rely on ValueOptions mental health services? Are you actually driving away those potential jobseekers who share a passion for mental health care? Perhaps those job seekers might help our company become even more responsive and dedicated to the needs of individuals.

From personal experience, we would think you would agree that navigating our health care system is never as cut and dry or as black and white as we would like it to be. But we do our best to make it as seamless as possible for our members, especially those with critical needs. On a national scale, there is an enormous challenge we face, but we work hard to offer individualized services to all our members, because everyone we serve has a unique behavioral health concern.

So again, we hope that you understand that in many ways, we are fighting for exactly the same mission as you and others out there. We ask that you discontinue your repeated attacks, and let us focus on addressing the needs of the individuals we serve and building bridges with like-minded individuals such as you. Now more than ever we should link arms to help move the agenda forward for mental illness. We hope you will consider this request.

Tom Warburton

Here is my answer:

Dear Mr. Warburton:

Thank you for your letter. Let me correct a few incorrect assumptions:

1) I didn’t just read the story of “Pickles” online. The author of the blog post and “Pickles” mother are personal friends. We advocate for our children with mental illness together, a fact you can witness next Wednesday, February 6, on The Ricki Lake Show, where we all appear together to discuss childhood mental illness.

2) If you read my blog, then you know I am the mother of an adolescent with an Illinois ICG, a program administrated by Value Options under the umbrella of “The Collaborative“. As such, I am subjected to a quarterly inquisition by your organization about whether my son still needs treatment for his psychotic disorder. I am also aware of Value Options current trend of issuing 30 day discharge notices to ICG kids – including my son’s roommate at ODTC  – against the medical advice of their residential clinical staff.

To answer your questions:

1) Yes. I’m sure I have all the facts, as I said, “Pickles” mother is a personal friend.

2) Yes. I think it’s important that anyone looking to your organization to be an effective case management organization needs to realize that, your posturing aside, you are ruled by the almighty dollar, above the best interest of patients.

3) I would hope my postings are enlightening those that might apply, thinking they would be able to help, would likely just be sucked into the giant machine of for-profit mental healthcare denial that seems to be your specialty. You are correct that navigating our nation’s healthcare system is a difficult challenge. I have nearly 2,000 readers a day and I support hundreds of parents a year in navigating Social Security, Medicaid, and Special Education. And if I had an inkling that we were fighting the same battle, I’d be happy to support your efforts. But you are a for-profit enterprise whose actions betray the words you write. I hope you will consider my response and reflect on whether your organization truly has the best interest of the people you are charged with managing, or your board and investors at heart.

Chrisa Hickey

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I Met a Teenager On The Internet And Moved Her Into My Home

Chrisa Hickey4 comments

Sounds like the headline of a story in The Enquirer that should have a subtitle of, “And she stole all of my stuff, poisoned my dog, and ran off with the mailman!”  Doesn’t it?

But seriously, we did.  Two weeks ago, a smart, complex, funny young lady came to live with our family.  I “met” her two years ago when she emailed me a letter about stigma and I asked her if I could post it here as a guest blog post.  That post got a lot of attention, even the attention of bestselling author Pete Earley, who contacted me, sure I was a hoaxer who wrote the post myself pretending to be a teenage girl.  After he and I both talked to her mother, we were shocked, amazed, and impressed that a 15 year old girl could have the insight and ability of expression that she did.  That she does.  And over the last few years, we have kept in close contact, moving from email communications to Facebook to phone.  When her mother died last February, I was on a plane 18 hours later, without any sort of rational plan on how to explain to her relatives that some middle-aged stranger from the Internet was flying in to be there to support a 16-year-old.  To their credit they gave me a chance and the opportunity to be there to support her.

We continued to be involved in each other’s lives, albeit from a distance after that.  She had been away at college (yes, at 16) when her mom died, but that proved to be unsustainable for many reasons, and she moved back to her hometown, floating from one sub-optimal living situation to another through Summer and Fall.  At Thanksgiving she came to us for a visit and we got a first-hand account of just how sub-optimal it truly was. It took less than 10 minutes of conversation for Tom and I to agree. We gave her another option.  She could come live with us and our family.  So, two weeks ago, she came. She’s got her own room since Wonderboy, now 22, moved out before Halloween.  Tim and The Girl are thrilled to have a “little” sister.  She’s taking classes at our local community college, and our standard poodle, Chloe, thinks she’s the perfect pillow to sleep on at night. And, with the publishing of this blog post, the assimilation into our strange little family is complete.

We affectionately refer to her as “The Bonus Kid.”  Now we have four.  I think a more appropriate subtitle for this story would be, “and this smart, complex, funny young lady will make all our lives the richer for it.”

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