The NAMI Ramsey County Book Club got off to a rousing start by featuring two excellent children’s books about mental illnesses, one by a Minnesota author who also works at NAMI Minnesota and the other by an author who lives in Great Britain.
The March 18 virtual event entailed reading both books out loud, followed by group discussion led by Carrie Roach. Carrie is a member of both NAMI Ramsey County and national NAMI boards.
Kate Bartlein, our guest author, read her lovely book Lennon Bruce Fire Breather and described how Lennon Bruce, a child turned dragon, learned to calm down by using a breathing technique his mother taught him.
Bartlein showed us how to use fire breathing: hold out five fingers as "trees" and breathe fire at each extended finger by slowly breathing in through our noses and out through our mouths, putting a finger down after each breath. She explained that it is easier for younger kids to show anger, which may be covering up other feelings, such as fear. She reminded us that this breathing exercise should be practiced before it's actually needed. This is her first book and thankfully she plans to write more. Besides being an author, Kate leads some of NAMI Minnesota’s parent education and support programs.
The second book was The Princess and the Fog by Lloyd Jones and was another delightful book. In the book, the princess gradually becomes enveloped in a deep fog and is only helped back to "normal" after receiving help from several people, including a doctor who gives her a potion and a wise woman who encourages the princess to talk to people about the fog.
Both books were educational and generated good discussion, including what is "normal," the blame parents often feel when their child is ill, and remembering the time when children weren’t supposed to have mental illnesses.
Join us for our next book club event on Thursday, April 15 at 7 p.m. where we will discuss a middle-grade book, The Notations of Cooper Cameron by Jane O’Reilly. The author will be joining to read passages and answer questions. The book is available in libraries.
Author: Mindy greiling
Mindy was a state representative for 20 years, served on state and national NAMI boards, and is the author of Fix What You Can, a book about her legislative work and her family's story about her son's schizo-affective disorder. She is the board president of NAMI Ramsey County.
1. Start by thinking about what you are advocating for.
What action or position do you want taken? It may help to work on your story last. Focus on elements of your story (or another’s) that support your key message.
2. Introduce yourself (your name and city or town, how you are affected by mental illnesses). Aim for three to four sentences.
Tell your story (what happened; what helped; how are things different today). Aim for five to ten sentences. Your story should support step 3, your "ask."
3. Make your point and your "ask"-- and say thank you. Aim for two to three sentences.
Give a brief, positive message about the need for access to community mental health services for recovery.
Author: NAMI Minnesota
You can sign up for NAMI Minnesota's legislative updates here.
Dear Commissioner Carter:
As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed long-standing, significant weaknesses in the emergency and affordable housing available in Ramsey County.
On behalf of NAMI Ramsey County (National Alliance on Mental Illness), we implore you to prioritize housing for people living with serious mental illnesses who have long been overrepresented--and frequently overlooked--in populations of those experiencing homelessness. All too often people living with mental illnesses are discharged from in-patient hospital care, sober living, and community care facilities to the street with no housing plan. Added to that, their behaviors, stemming from a mental illness and/or substance abuse, too frequently bar them from available shelters.
As our board discussed in a recent letter to you, we urge Ramsey County to opt into the new engagement law allowing mental health workers to work with families on early intervention during the time a person living with a serious mental illness is decompensating. This is crucial to help people from losing their housing, being unnecessarily hospitalized, or worse yet, dispatched
through the criminal justice system when medical treatment for a disease of the nervous system is required.
Our board would gratefully discuss these and other issues related to mental illness and homelessness with you. We applaud your recent formation of county governance and steering committees to assist you in determining Ramsey County’s affordable housing response, and likewise would appreciate the opportunity to provide input from families and people with lived experiences of mental illnesses.
Please share this with the county commissioners and county manager.
President, NAMI Ramsey County
Board Member, NAMI Ramsey County
Author: NAMI ramsey board member michele gran
With editing help from the NAMI Ramsey board.
A new provision to the Minnesota Civil Commitment Act is called voluntary engagement. The purpose is to allow counties to develop relationships with people with mental illnesses in order to intervene early when symptoms are appearing or reappearing instead of waiting until they are a danger to themselves or others.
In order to be eligible for engagement services, the person must be at least 18 years old, have a mental illness, and either (1) be exhibiting the signs of a serious mental illness such as hallucinations, mania, delusional thoughts, or inability to care for themselves; or (2) they have a history of failing to adhere with treatment for their mental illness that has been a key factor in the past for a hospitalization or incarceration, and the person is now showing the symptoms that may lead to hospitalization, incarceration, or court-ordered treatment.
Engagement services include assertive attempts to engage the individual in mental health treatment, engaging the person’s support network including educating them on means restriction and suicide prevention, and meeting the person’s immediate needs for food, housing, medication, income, disability verification and treatment for medical conditions.
Engagement services must consider a person’s personal preferences and can last for up to 90 days. They must be person-centered and can be provided even if someone is in jail.
Services end if the person meets the criteria for civil commitment or if the person agrees to voluntary treatment. When an individual agrees to voluntary treatment, the engagement team must facilitate the referral to an appropriate mental health provider including help obtaining insurance. Engagement staff can be county staff or through a contracted agency. They can include, but are not limited to, members of a mobile crisis teams, certified peer specialists, and homeless outreach workers.
NAMI Ramsey County wrote a letter to county commissioners in support of this new provision. You can, too!
Voluntary Engagement is voluntary for counties, which is why it’s important that you reach out to your county commissioner.
Not sure what to say to support? Check out the guide below!
Author: nami minnesota
Post & guide written by NAMI Minnesota.
Report: NAMI Ramsey County Listening Session on
Police Interaction in Mental Health Crises
In an effort to better understand the dynamics of police interactions with people during a mental health crisis, NAMI Ramsey County (National Alliance on Mental Illness) organized a listening session for people who have experienced these encounters. The goal of the session was to learn more and to provide information to lawmakers and law enforcement regarding how the interactions are experienced by those in crisis.
Statistics collected during recent years indicate an alarming increase in these interactions and the all-too-often fatal outcomes. National Public Radio (Sept. 18, 2020) reported that, since 2015, “nearly one quarter of all people killed by police officers in America have had a known mental illness.” The Pioneer Press reported on March 31, 2018 that during the previous decade “calls to St. Paul police involving mental health issues have doubled.”
NAMI Ramsey hosted the session on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020 starting at 6:30 p.m. on Zoom (due to COVID restrictions). Thirty-one people attended. During the session, four people shared stories of police encounters and four people submitted stories after the event. Most people described events that took place in the last couple of years, but a few described events that spanned the past decade. Those attending were individuals living with a mental illness or their parents. Also, one police officer and one mental health professional attended. During the introduction to the session, those attending were asked to share what was helpful during each encounter and what actions led to a worsening of the situation.
NAMI Ramsey is sharing the results of the listening session with law enforcement and lawmakers in the hope that the personal stories will inform future decisions during this time of change in police departments.
Summary of Stories Shared on Police Interaction in Mental Health Crises
In total, during and after the listening session, eight people shared their stories. One story was recounted by a person with a mental illness. The remaining seven stories were recounted by parents of children with a mental illness.
Of the eight stories, four shared both positive and negative interactions with the police and the remaining four had solely negative interactions.
Three of the eight stories involved the Roseville police. Within these anecdotes, one was negative, the other two involved multiple calls and were judged as mixed. Two of the eight stories shared encounters with Ramsey County Sheriff officers that were both negative. One story involving more than one interaction with St. Paul police was mixed. The other two stories involved non-Ramsey County interactions.
When speakers were asked who they would like to come to their door after calling 911, all agreed that, while people trained in mental health would be ideal, by the time it was a crisis, they preferred both mental health professionals and the police there as back-up.
One story involved a person who was taken involuntarily to the emergency room while officers yelled at her to calm down. Yet, she recalled that she was impressed with the positive encounter she had with an officer who talked kindly to her afterwards.
Unfortunately, one interaction ended with a suicide.
The difficulty of receiving help was a common topic among speakers. In two cases, family members were charged with domestic assault instead of being taken to the hospital. One didn’t get help for another five years. He is now doing well, but has a permanent criminal record. The other person, still untreated, has two warrants and has since fled the state, fearful to return to Minnesota.
One parent said her daughter received wonderful help from the police when she was a teenager and credited them with saving her life many times. Additionally, her daughter received substantial assistance from her school and Northeast Youth and Family Services. However, now that the daughter is an adult, the crisis team will not come out. Furthermore, when she has had to call the police, she mentions they do not always know what to do and in one instance did not believe her.
In one case, mental health workers and the crisis team told a parent that they were not able to do anything since her adult son wasn’t cooperating. The team advised the parent to call the police if things got worse. When the police arrived, they asked the son his diagnosis and when informed that it was schizoaffective disorder, the police told the mother that those with such an illness always act that way. They departed without offering any assistance.
One parent was impressed when the St. Paul police helped her son calm down without an arrest, but also discussed another time when they chased him around the yard. He still is not taking any medication.
One person was very unhappy that the officer never informed the family about the option of taking the family member to the hospital instead of to jail. They only found out about this option when they initiated the civil commitment process.
Conclusion and Recommendations
NAMI Ramsey County hopes that information from these personal stories will help inform future decisions during this time of change in police departments.
The stories show that people with mental illnesses and their families seek:
The goal of NAMI Ramsey is for people in crisis to receive treatment and not jail.
NAMI understands that the problems associated with helping people with mental illnesses, whose brains do not allow them to know they are ill, are very often beyond the scope of law enforcement. We support mental health care being available to people with mental illnesses before a crisis develops. This could include having 911 dispatchers trained to dispatch mental health professionals (or other qualified human services personnel such as social workers or bicultural/bilingual community health workers) instead of the police for non-violent situations. We support Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training programs for police officers who deal with mental health crises in order to improve the outcomes of these encounters.
We urge Minnesota counties to implement the new voluntary engagement option that was passed into law this year as part of civil commitment reform. This legislation, 253B.041 SERVICES FOR ENGAGEMENT IN TREATMENT, was created by a coalition of mental health advocates led by NAMI Minnesota. This promising law calls for up to ninety days of concerted help from mental health professionals for people who appear to be heading into crisis. The goal is to provide early care, while heading off civil commitment and saving public dollars. We urge law enforcement to join in advocating for this option.
As Saint Paul and Ramsey County move forward with re-evaluating the role of law enforcement, NAMI Ramsey urges decision makers to give special consideration to the needs of people experiencing a mental health crisis and to the needs of their families.
NAMI Ramsey County is an affiliate of NAMI Minnesota. We respond to mental health and mental illness concerns specific to Ramsey County, Minnesota. We support, educate, and advocate for those in our community who live with a mental illness and their families. Our nonprofit is governed by a voluntary board. www.namiramseycounty.org
AUTHOR: NAMI Ramsey listening session work group
This group of volunteers organized, hosted, and summarized the listening session. A special thanks to group chair Jennifer LaForgia and NAMI Ramsey president Mindy Greiling.