January 27, 2022

Good morning MindSite News readers! In today’s newsletter: A school district in Illinois has rolled out an array of support for “the big elephant in the room” – student mental health. San Jose passed the first ordinance in the nation requiring gun owners to buy insurance, and pay a fee to help fund mental health services. And learn about a settlement in Gretna, Louisiana, involving the death of a mentally ill man at the hands of police.

Choices for Illinois students seeking mental health support 

In the Indian Prairie School District in Aurora, Illinois, students can now chill out in a relaxation room and unwind in a club known as Mental Health Matters, reports the Chicago Tribune. The mental health club, which began at Metea Valley High School following the suicides of two students in the 2017-18 school year, offers interactions with therapy dogs, “stress buster” activities during exams, and a place to talk openly about personal struggles. “No one at the school really talked about mental health too much, and it was the big elephant in the room,” student Michelle Jurec said at a local school board meeting. “But ever since I joined Mental Health Matters, it’s been easier to talk about what I and others are going through.

San Jose first city to require gun owners to buy insurance, pay to reduce gun violence

The San Jose City Council passed a first-in-the-nation ordinance Tuesday requiring gun owners to buy liability insurance and pay a yearly fee to help fund efforts to reduce gun violence, according to chronline.com. The ordinance, slated to take effect in August, will force gun owners to carry insurance that includes coverage for losses associated with negligent or accidental use of their guns. They will also have to pay an annual fee of $25 to $35 to a nonprofit to help fund services – including mental health, suicide prevention, and addiction programs – for gun owners and people who live with them.

In the last couple of years the area has witnessed two mass shootings, one at the popular Gilroy Garlic Festival, where four people were gunned down, and another at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), where 9 people were killed. “When we think about the horrible shooting at the VTA, I don’t pretend to know if we could have stopped it or not,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. “But if, in fact, we could have delivered some mental health services, there may have been a chance.”

Children’s Hospital Colorado names first-ever chief of mental health 

Dr. K. Ron-Li Liaw. Photo courtesy: Children’s Hospital Colorado

Dr. K. Ron-Li Liaw, a child and adolescent psychiatrist with expertise in trauma and resiliency, will build a 5-year plan that includes regular mental health checkups for every child who interacts with the hospital system, according to The Colorado Sun. Last May, Children’s declared a mental health state of emergency when its emergency room saw a 90% spike in visits associated with children’s mental health. State officials are working to reopen facilities for children that have been closed in the last 20 years. Liaw plans to boost early intervention efforts, working with school-based and community programs. “So much of the dollars throughout the country have gone to acute care, in-patient beds, psychiatry-level beds,” Liaw said. “Much of our investments really should be spent in the community and building preventative services and early identification.”

Louisiana police reach settlement over death of mentally ill man

The family of a man who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and died after being struck by police settled with the Gretna, Louisiana, police department for an undisclosed amount, according to nola.com. Five years ago, the mother of Kendole Joseph called 911 to report that he wasn’t taking his medication and had left home in the midst of a breakdown. His family alleged that police beat him, stunned him with a taser, and placed him face down in the police car, where he became unresponsive due to a lack of oxygen. The father of two fell into a coma and died two days later. Lawyers for the city said the police actions were in response to his “active resistance” and that he died of “acute psychosis” and Benadryl. An independent forensic pathologist hired by the family called  the death a homicide. “We can’t bring back Kendole,” said the family’s attorney Michael Oppenheimer. “But at least they feel that now there’s been some justice.” 

In other news:

Photo: Shutterstock

Goldie Hawn on resilience 101: In an Op/Ed in USA Today, actress and comedian Goldie Hawn talks about the horror she felt as a 5th grader watching a doomsday reel at school about nuclear war. For years afterward, she couldn’t shake the fear she felt every time she heard a siren. After  9/11, Hawn worked with experts developing a curriculum to help children understand what happens in their brain when they feel under threat and how to manage it. “We are not properly funding preventive care and early interventions that normalize the mental struggles every individual has at some level,” she writes. “There are everyday tools for mental fitness, just as there are for exercise and healthy eating; we just don’t teach them in any systematic way to our nation’s children.”

Black hair racism and mental health care: “As a Black woman with long, poofy hair, I was delighted to see Oregon join California and 11 other states that have passed laws against hair discrimination. In those states, workplaces and educational institutions can no longer legally discriminate against Black people for their hairstyles and hair texture,” writes psychiatrist and STAT columnist Amanda Joy Calhoun. She says those same protections are lacking in her field, where medical devices that involve putting electrodes to the scalp are not designed for Black hair.

If you or anyone you know is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. And if you’re a veteran, press 1.

Biden Admin Takes on Insurers Over Mental Health

Biden administration begins sustained effort to compel U.S. health insurers to equitably pay for mental health services.

Black-Owned Hospice Brings Ease in Dying to Black Families

A Nashville hospice agency focuses on increasing use of end-of-life care by Black families.

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