JAMES PREIS, Mental Health Update, at WVRC on May 5th (Cinco de Mayo!)
MARK BLOCK gave the Invocation; Prayer has been an important part of our nation’s history. Today, Thursday May 5th is the 60th Annual National Day of Prayer observance. There will be citizens from all walks of life and positions of authority across this nation who will be observing this day by participating in local gatherings. This year’s theme is “A Mighty Fortress is our God”, based on Psalm 91:2, “I will say to the Lord, He is my refuge and my Fortress, my God in whom I trust”. Well spoken, MARK - thanks. ANN SAMSON led us in the Pledge, and after positioning herself where she could read the banner, then took us through The Four Way Test. And who else but LENNY came forward to lead us in God Bless America - he’s a tough act to follow!
We had one visiting Rotarian, Ron Swanson, an attorney from Litchfield, Conn. SUNNY was of course with LENNY, and Special Guest Crista Stilley was introduced by ED JACKSON. PP DON NELSON brought his neighbor, Dr. Jean Louis Reynard, a psychiatrist. JOHN HEIDT introduced Antoinette Kelly, who is in charge of volunteers at UCLA. And while our two regular sleuths were not yet present, it turned out that both TERRY DeSILVA and HANK HEUER were without their pins, thus each $5 poorer.
This led to a sales pitch by President GORDON for several items which we still have in our storage unit. This includes large and extra large versions of our Rotary sweatshirt, which for $15 each were snapped up by PP SEAN MCMILLAN, MARK ROGO (although he did appear a bit surprised), ED JACKSON and PP ED GAULD...RALPH BEASOM and PP STEVE DAY were big spenders for ten bucks each for caps - and, Surprise, these items will also be available henceforth!
Fortunately, there was some justice shown when DON PARK was nicked for the fifty bucks he thought he had escaped last week - his claimed BD date had something wrong with it. This did, however, bring us to May birthdays; SALLY BRANT admitted to the 14th, in Los Angeles. MARSHA HUNT also liked the 14th, but she chose San Diego. ELEANOR MORE was the next day, in Urbana, and we all know that’s in Illinois. And it must be admitted that NONE of the above were present - so no song was forthcoming!
PP DON NELSON came forward to announce that our Rotary Auxiliary will be holding their next-to-last monthly meeting on next Wednesday, May 11th. It’s a trip to the Getty Villa in Malibu, and ROZ NELSON will take your reservation. She will also put you into a carpool, and each car costs $15.00 for parking, so that will be shared. Lunch will be at the Villa. Please call right away, OK? And while he was up there, it’s no surprise that DON felt compelled to pass along a story. We probably all knew that Hellman’s Mayonnaise was manufactured in England. And on her Maiden Voyage, the “Titanic” was carrying 12,000 jars of this condiment for delivery to Vera Cruz, Mexico, which was to be the next port of call for the great ship after New York City. The people of Mexico eagerly awaited the first delivery and were very upset at the news of the sinking. So much so that they declared a national day of mourning, which they still observe today... It is known, of course, as Sinko de Mayo! (and YOE is compelled to point out that he can only record these tales, and thus bears no responsibility for their publication…)
We just had a report that PP HOMER NEWMAN came home today form a couple of days in the hospital. He is OK but calls would be nice, of course. And JOHN HEIDT spoke of the upcoming Homeless Dinner preparation, which we have done a couple of times this year. The next one will be on June 9th, with the usual help needed both for shopping and then preparing the dinner. Call JOHN to come aboard.
PP STEVE SCHERER introduced our Speaker, James Preis, who is the Executive Director of Mental Health Advocacy Services. They were meeting for lunch at a restaurant on Wilshire Blvd, and Jim was a couple of minutes late. Turns out the reason is that he took the bus to get there - and still today, he took the bus to our meeting! Jim has served as Executive Director of Mental Health Advocacy Services for over thirty years. This is a private, non-profit organization, providing free legal services to people with mental and development difficulties. They serve both adults and children, with emphasis on obtaining government benefits, protecting rights, and fighting discrimination. He has written extensively on mental health issues and has taught courses on mental health law in the departments of psychiatry and mental health science at UCLA, Loyola and USC Schools of Law. He graduated from Stanford in 1974, playing football and soccer along the way, and from the USC School of Law. Named the Most Inspirational player as a freshman at Stanford, he was their lightest center. He is married to Debbie, and they are the proud parents of Ann, who is a first year law student at NYU, and John, who will graduate from MIT on June 2nd and be commissioned in the Navy. Jim is recognized in the legal community as one of the preeminent Civil Rights lawyers in the state of California. His topic today is “An Overview of Mental Health Practices”.
He began by telling us why he takes the bus. Three years ago he had a car problem, and so switched to the bus. He lives close to several bus routes, and finds it is easier, plus he enjoys watching people as he moves along. A bit of history - in 1955, 37,000 people were in psychiatric hospitals in Southern California. By 1977, when he began visiting Metropolitan State Hospital in Norwalk, that number had been reduced to 2,500 - and today there are less than 1,000. As these numbers continued to decline, the former residents were being turned out into the general community. On the one hand, this was a way of saving money, since after closing the hospitals, the money was not reinvested in client services. One result, even today, is that some of those people are out on the street - and many of them have no ability to live unsupervised.
He was a second year law student in 1977 when he became involved. At that time, he got an extra unit of credit for being an advocate in their behalf. The hospitals at that time did not welcome these advocates, of course. The pattern at that time was that patients were housed, and protected, but not necessarily treated for their disabilities. Today, the law specifies that having a mental disability is not grounds for incarceration. Today, their liberty is only taken away when it is really necessary. Starting with his involvement in 1977, and even today, the first request of those who are incarcerated is, How do I get out of here? The job of MHAS is to see that those who need services receive them.
This includes finding the resources to provide needed services, and that usually is a legal problem. Today the state budget for such services is $1.5 billion annually. Historically, starting in 1981, MHAS children’s advocacy began, and in11983 they helped create a program that helped large numbers of homeless people obtain General Relief benefits. In 1988, special education students were included. These are all significant milestones. As a specific example, they won a lawsuit 12 years ago, and three years later, began to receive some of the benefits. Currently, they are spending time on arranging housing, which is always in need.
Q&A - How is help for mentally disabled people covered - by state, or federal grants? It is a part of Medicaid, which is a state program, but funded largely by federal grants. Half the money is federal, half from the state. How is eligibility decided? Single adults are not eligible, and they represent a large portion of the patients. Is there current research into mental health problems? Yes, this is well-supported. And whether you have a mental or physical problem, your needs are pretty much the same. The system is geared toward making it possible for the individual to stay in the community. What is the future of the State Mental Hospital Program? It is tenuous, but the facilities do exist, and thus must be maintained. Do you get help from the legal community? Yes, Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, for example, has a large, permanent pro bono department, and most large firms are involved. How did you assume your present position? Three months after passing the bar, the then-Director resigned - and I was appointed!
James Preis, we thank you for a most illuminating report.