NAMI-Blue Ridge Family Alliance
June 2001

Support Group Meetings: Thursdays
“The Changing Face of Mental Health Services” was the theme of the NAMI-VA Annual Convention held in Richmond in April 2001. Shelah Scott and I attended the Friday sessions and were particularly impressed with the keynote speaker, Stephen Preas, M.D., and another psychia- trist, Jeff Nard, M.D., as they discussed the new atypical medications now available. Dr. Nard emphasized the importance of a psychiatrist’s knowledge of the chemistry of the medications and how they affect the brain. Dr. Preas All meetings are held in the Board Room of the stressed that the doctor and consumer should “listen to the Region Ten Building, 800 Preston Avenue, from wisdom of the body” in judging the effects of medications. They both felt that with proper medication, recovery is in the not so distant future, and agreed that it is an exciting time to be a psychiatrist, with new discoveries about the brain and recognition of different subtypes of illnesses within schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Shelah and I also attended a seminar about Pennsylvania’s successful efforts in reorienting the focus of the mental About Support Group Meetings
health services’ delivery system away from reliance on large institutions toward community care for persons with severe disabling mental illnesses. The Blue Ridge Family Alliance invites all family
members and friends to participate in our support
Presidents of twelve of the twenty-seven Virginia affiliates group. Julie Curry and Donna Loney, the group’s
met for a brief lunch, and I soon learned that they are a facilitators, have been using the family-to-family
source of experience from whom we can all benefit, as we format, which has pre-set guidelines. These
work together following the mission of NAMI-Virginia, guidelines create a safe environment and generate
which is “to improve the quality of life of Virginians with topics of discussion that help us to explore our roles
serious mental illness by promoting, supporting, and and relationships with our family members who
coordinating the growth and development of local have mental illness. The support group draws from
organizations of families of people with mental illness.” I hope that more of our BRFA members will be able to attend the experience of family members who have done
the NAMI meetings each year. It was an encouraging and this for a long time and learned better ways to
educational experience for all who attended. communicate, and who have unraveled some of the
emotional issues of grief, guilt, and denial.
Sally Rinehart
The group regularly meets the first and third
Blue Ridge Family Alliance sends best wishes to Dr. Thursdays of the month, as listed in the above
Irving Gottesman as he retires from the University of schedule. Newcomers are always welcome, and
Virginia after a distinguished academic career of 41 participants need not come to every meeting. Please
years, including sixteen years at UVA. Professor call 970-1257 if you'd like more information.
Gottesman has made significant contributions to the study of schizophrenia and genetics. He has also been a very good friend to our Family Alliance. NAMI-BLUE RIDGE

Have you read?
Charlottesville, VA 22903
Unholy Ghost: Writers on
Weekly Version of Prozac
Voice Mail: (804) 970-1257
Approved by Government
By Nell Casey
(Morrow, William & Co., February 2001) treatment – but cautioned that it is too How You Can Survive When
They’re Depressed: Living and
Coping with Depression Fallout
By Anne Sheffield
Eli Lilly & Co. said that prescription- On the Web
United by Hope…
turning to the Internet for health-related information. According to a recent report, Editor: Pat Passalacqua
Working for change
Circulation: James Scott
health information and 6% participate in NAMI’s 2001
July 11-15, 2001
(Charlottesville Community Calendar - Family
Hilton & Towers
Washington, DC
Please contact NAMI
for rates and registration
information about the major atypical medications, and also has links for the ___________
If I Had Known…
Well before dawn, on the morning of March 20, 2000 my The Coalition for Mentally Disabled Citizens of Virginia telephone rang. The call was from a mental health worker in was formed in 1986 to educate the administration, the a sheriff's office about two hours from my home. The call legislature, and the public regarding the unmet need for concerned my 31-year-old son, who had been transported to mental health, mental retardation, and substance abuse the sheriff's office. He had been taken there since he was services and to request a significant increase in state funding seen before dawn, kneeling in prayer beside his car, which to begin addressing this need. From the onset, the Coalition he had parked, lights on, in the median of an Interstate has been a major player in all relevant legislation and in highway. His actions certainly were unusual. By telephone successful funding efforts for new services. the mental health worker discussed his situation with me, with a psychiatrist who had recently treated him, and with a In 1988, the Coalition’s work resulted in a 10% reduction in local hospital here in Charlottesville. It was suggested by the the documented need for services. In 1990, Virginia authorities that he be transported by the sheriff's office to the amended the state Medicaid Plan to include new State Plan Option services for people with mental disabilities and initiated a Mental Retardation Home & Community Based If I had known.that the police were going to handcuff and Waiver to replace state general funds with federal funds. The shackle my ill son I would have, without hesitation, driven same year, the Federal Department of Justice initiated to bring him home myself. However, I did not know. I investigations, now completed, into the state facilities under believed then that once the police had taken a person into the Civil Rights for Institutionalized Persons Act. custody that theirs was the only recourse. Not knowing probably cost my son his life. I can hardly imagine what In 1996 the General Assembly established the Joint thoughts went through my ill son's mind. He was known Subcommittee Studying the Future Delivery of Publicly for his gentleness and kindness and for his deep and Funded Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance compassionate concern for others. I can only believe that the Abuse Services. The report of this subcommittee resulted in handcuffs and shackles, along with his illness, precipitated increased appropriations for services and legislation overwhelming panic and fear. I do know that en route to the strengthening the accountability of the service delivery hospital he was able to loosen the shackles from his ankles, system. Legislation in 1998 extended the work of the and then was able to kick the rear door of the car partially Subcommittee to oversee implementation of their work. open. The deputy stopped the car. My son escaped, ran across the highway and was killed instantly in traffic. In 1998 Governor Gilmore established the Hammond Commission on Community Services and In-Patient Care to It was only later, thanks to Phil Theisen, President of the address how Virginia could best build a responsive, quality Lynchburg Depressive Disorders Association, Inc., that I mental health, mental retardation and substance abuse learned about certain provisions of the Code of Virginia that system for the next century. In the first year, the deal with transportation of mentally ill persons: Commission developed values from which to make decisions and made recommendations to the Governor for § 37.1-72. Custody of certified person for purpose of
additional funding and legislation to improve the service transportation: Any judge who shall certify an admission
delivery system. Significant funds were appropriated to under this chapter may order that such person be placed in reduce the community waiting lists and improve care in the the custody of any responsible person or persons, including
facilities. Last year the Coalition led a successful effort to a representative of the facility in which the individual is establish the Joint Commission on Behavioral Health Care. temporarily hospitalized during the temporary detention period, for the sole purpose of transporting such person to The Coalition for Mentally Disabled Citizens of Virginia unites the advocacy efforts of an array of statewide organizations, including NAMI, that are concerned for the My son's death has led to questions about the protection of service needs of people with mental illness, mental the mentally ill. Are the police the appropriate authorities to retardation, and drug and alcohol problems. Consumers, deal with the mentally ill? If so, the Commonwealth of families, and service providers are the Coalition. Members Virginia has the responsibility to provide appropriate focus on the need for residential and associated services and training to those who will be responding to crisis situations. the quality of care in both community-based and institutional California and Tennessee are two states that have developed programs. Members are urged to become acquainted with successful programs in this regard. The models for their legislators, keep them informed on legislative matters establishing such training are already in place. It is our related to persons who have mental disabilities, and responsibility as persons who have been directly affected by encourage them to introduce and support such mental illness to see that these changes are made here in legislation. The Coalition speaks on behalf of those who are the most vulnerable, who are in the greatest need, and who We owe it those we love. We owe it to all who suffer. are unable to speak effectively for themselves.
Elisabeth Looney
Thanks to Jessica Burmeseter for providing this information.
Study Shows High Relapse Rate Puts
Spotlight on Electroshock Therapy
New Executive Director
(From, March 13, 2001) Richard C. Birkel, Ph.D. officially became NAMI’s A study showing that electroshock treatment has an unexpectedly high relapse rate has refocused the spotlight on the procedure 25 years after “One Flew Richard Birkel served for seven years as president of Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” made it seem like torture. the Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Institute, one of the flagship agencies of the Catholic Archdiocese of Although the treatment fell somewhat out of favor Washington and brings almost 30 years of leadership after that Oscar-winning movie, a satirical look at life experience in academia, government, and non-profit in a mental hospital, the National Mental Health human services management to NAMI. His policy Association says use of the therapy has rebounded and program responsibilities have included mental with 100,000 Americans a year now getting it. illness, developmental disabilities, substance abuse, Electroconvulsive therapy, nicknamed ECT, is most homelessness, HIV/AIDS, education, employment, commonly used to treat severe depression that has not responded to medication or psychotherapy. He also brings a very special commitment and A study of 84 patients published in the Journal of the perspective as a person with family members who American Medical Association found that without follow-up medication, depression returned in 84 percent of patients within six months. Even with the A psychologist by training, Birkel received his B.A. best results – using an anti-depressant and anti- from Yale University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from psychotic after ECT – 39 percent of patients relapsed. the University of Virginia. He also received an M.A. in public administration from Virginia. Early in his The results highlight an ongoing debate over the career he served as psychologist for the Dejarnette procedure’s benefits and risks. Major depression affects about 10 percent of Americans 18 and older yearly, or about 17 million, according to government estimates. It has a mortality rate as high as 15 U.S. Launches Suicide Prevention Plan
Clinical Trials in Progress for
Sustained-Release Form of Risperdal
Broadcasters should run public service ads. Doctors
Phase 3 clinical trials are being conducted for a
and lawyers need to learn to spot warning signs in sustained-release formulation of the schizophrenia their patients and clients. And religious groups can drug, Risperdal. Johnson & Johnson developed the help remove the stigma of talking about suicide, the original once-a-day formulation of Risperdal, which government said in its first national prevention guide. has become one of the fastest growing new anti- psychotic drugs on the market this year. Cambridge- The Surgeon General's report also calls for a uniform based Alkermes, under a license from Johnson & way for hospitals, police and coroners across the Johnson, has gone the next step and packaged the nation to identify and report suicides. The goals are drug into an injectable formulation (Medisorb-brand) all part of developing better strategies to address a that will enable patients to get a month long supply problem that claims 30,000 lives a year, officials say. from just two injections. This new system would overcome a major problem of schizophrenia patients The plan, promised in 1998 after a national suicide who do not take their medication every day, either prevention conference, was debated by experts who because they forgot to take their pills or have fears or compiled some 80 recommendations. Pared down to delusions about their medication. It would provide 68, the goals are set for 2005 and would be voluntary sufficient amounts of the drug in the body to treat a on the part of states, local agencies and anyone else schizophrenia patient’s hallucinations and paranoia. who wanted to follow them, officials said.


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An Approach to Interpreting Spirometry TIMOTHY J. BARREIRO, D.O., and IRENE PERILLO, M.D. University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, New York Spirometry is a powerful tool that can be used to detect, follow, and manage patients with lung dis- orders. Technology advancements have made spirometry much more reliable and relatively simple to incorporate into a routin

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