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Mental Health

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New York City Mayor Eric Adams has announced a new initiative that would allow authorities to more aggressively intervene to help people in need of mental health treatment. The mayor said in announcing the program Tuesday that there is “a moral obligation” to act, even if it means providing care to those who don’t ask for it. The mayor’s directive would give outreach workers, city hospitals and police the legal authority to involuntarily hospitalize anyone they deem a danger to themselves or who is unable to care for themselves. The mayor’s announcement was met with caution by civil rights groups and advocates for the homeless.

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A new study says the U.S. gun death rate last year hit its highest mark in nearly three decades. And the rate among women has been growing faster than that of men. The paper was published Tuesday by JAMA Network Open. The researchers examined trends in firearm deaths since 1990. They say gun deaths began to steadily increase in 2005. But the rise accelerated recently, with a 20% jump from 2019 to 2021. American men continue to die in firearm fatalities at far higher rates than women. But the researchers said the increase in gun deaths of women is playing a tragic and under-recognized role.

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Fentanyl has become a scourge across America and is taking a toll on the growing number of people living on the streets of Los Angeles. About a third of the 2,000 homeless deaths between April 2020 and March 2021 were from an overdose. The federal government says the highly addictive and lethal synthetic drug has quickly become the deadliest drug in the nation. While help is available, it is outpaced by the magnitude of misery on the streets. Homeless addicts in Los Angeles can be seen sprawled on sidewalks or passed out in alleys. Others peddle tiny doses and puffs of smoke to the desperate seeking their next high.

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A prosecutor says Detroit police officers who fired 38 rounds at a 20-year-old Black man who was wielding a knife will not be charged for his death. Porter Burks, who police said had schizophrenia, was believed to be experiencing a mental health crisis when he was killed by officers early on the morning of Oct. 2. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced her decision not to prosecute responding officers Wednesday, saying they had minimal time to “eliminate the threat." Burks’ aunt Michelle Wilson said the decision “devastated” Burks' family.

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Criminal charges have been dropped against a former deputy who was helping to transport two mental health patients who drowned while locked in the back of a van that was driven into floodwaters caused by 2018′s Hurricane Florence in South Carolina. The van’s driver, former deputy Stephen Flood, was convicted in May of two counts of reckless homicide and is serving nine years in prison. But authorities decided to drop charges against Horry County Deputy Joshua Bishop, who was riding along and didn’t realize until it was too late that Flood was risking their lives. The two women had been involuntarily committed for mental health care and were being transferred for treatment outside Horry County.

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Three years before Tennessee death row inmate Henry Hodges cut off his own penis during what his lawyer called a “psychiatric disturbance,” a fellow prisoner told a federal judge that Hodges was being mistreated. Hodges was kept for three decades in solitary confinement, which experts say is detrimental to a person's mental health even over short periods. Although his act of self-mutilation is extreme, it underscores the significant, unaddressed mental health care needs of prisoners. In Tennessee alone, Correction Department records categorize nearly 23% of inmates as having a “serious and persistent mental illness.” Meanwhile an audit of the state's prison system has raised questions about whether it has done enough to confront the crisis.

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Despite an influx of COVID-19 relief money, school districts across the country have struggled to staff up to address students’ mental health needs that have only grown since the pandemic hit. Among 18 of the country’s largest school districts, 12 started this school year with fewer counselors or psychologists than they had in fall 2019, according to an analysis by Chalkbeat. As a result, many school mental health professionals have caseloads that far exceed recommended limits, according to experts and advocates, and students must wait for urgently needed help.

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The U.S. Justice Department has announced a civil rights investigation into the treatment of people with mental illnesses by the state of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City and Oklahoma City police. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said Thursday that the investigation will focus on whether adults with mental illnesses are wrongly institutionalized in settings such as psychiatric treatment centers rather than community-based settings. The investigation comes as the Justice Department is conducting similar investigations in Missouri, Kentucky, South Carolina, Minneapolis and Phoenix. Spokespeople for Gov. Kevin Stitt and for police did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A city spokesperson said a statement would be released Thursday afternoon.

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As more Americans struggle with depression and anxiety, the cast of “The West Wing” teamed up with the Biden administration on Thursday to share a simple message: you are not alone. Actor Bradley Whitford, who played the role of the president’s deputy chief of staff on the TV show, opened up publicly about a female teacher who he said was inappropriate with him decades ago when he was a sixth-grade student. Whitford said having a safe space to talk about the abuse has helped him over the years. He and his former castmates urged other Americans to talk with family and friends about their hardships, too.

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A former Republican state House member has been tapped by Gov. Brian Kemp to lead Georgia’s mental health agency. Kemp on Tuesday named Kevin Tanner to run the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities beginning Dec. 16. Tanner served four terms in the House and was named in 2019 by Kemp to chair a mental health reform commission. That group spearheaded a new law earlier this year overhauling mental health care in Georgia. Commissioner Judy Fitzgerald is retiring after six years leading the agency. Kemp also says Revenue Commissioner Robyn Crittenden is resigning for a private sector job.

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Abortion bans in several states allow exemptions for life-threatening health emergencies, but they say mental health crises don't count. Some abortion foes say the laws target women who fake mental illness to get doctors to agree to end their pregnancies. But critics say it's an example of how mental illness is often disregarded, as if the brain were somehow distinct from the rest of the body. They note that life-threatening mental health crises happen more often in pregnancy than some realize. A U.S. government report released in September shows mental health conditions recently became the leading underlying cause of pregnancy-related deaths.

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There is no playbook to instruct how athletic departments are to respond to the tragic death of one of their athletes. But those who have experienced the trauma say the increased emphasis on mental health care in athletic departments and universities at-large — spurred in part by the pandemic — help when a crisis strikes. Tragedy struck the University of Virginia earlier this week. Three members of the football team were shot and killed while on a bus returning to the Charlottesville campus from a field trip to Washington.

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The Justice Department says it is investigating whether Missouri has violated civil rights laws by needlessly institutionalizing adults with severe mental illnesses. The federal agency said Wednesday that it will review whether Missouri’s use of guardianships and conservatorships instead of less restrictive forms of assistance needlessly strips people of their independence. Court-awarded guardianships and conservatorships give someone control over certain decisions for another person, including where they live. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division says people with disabilities have too often been unlawfully institutionalized. The Missouri Mental Health Department says it plans to fully cooperate with the investigation.

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A statement from Yasiel Puig's agent says the former major league outfielder did not have a criminal attorney with him and felt compromised partly because of his mental health issues at an interview with federal agents investigating an illegal gambling operation. The U.S. Department of Justice announced Monday that Puig, 31, will plead guilty to lying at that interview. Court documents say he has agreed to plead guilty to one count of making false statements and after doing so could face up to five years in federal prison. He also agreed to pay a fine of at least $55,000. Puig’s agent, Lisette Carnet, says the former Dodgers star was not a member of a gambling ring, did not bet on baseball and has not been charged with illegal gambling.

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A lawsuit alleges two Wyoming State Hospital patients died while staff at the mental health institution failed to follow procedures in several recent food choking, neglect and medication error incidents. Protection & Advocacy System, Inc., filed the lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne. The lawsuit against the Wyoming Department of Health and state hospital directors seeks to force the release of video recordings inside the hospital. Health department director Kim Deti declined to comment Monday. The lawsuit describes one patient choking to death on food and another subject to 15-minute safety checks being found dead and cold in their room.

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Pop star and actor Selena Gomez is being honored for her work as an advocate for mental health awareness. The Boston-based Ruderman Family Foundation says Monday that the 30-year-old entertainer is the recipient of this year's Morton E. Ruderman Award in Inclusion. The organization says Gomez was chosen because she's used her celebrity and her own personal mental health struggles to help other young people get the help they need. In 2020,  Gomez revealed that she'd been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and she's spoken publicly about the challenges of managing her mental health. She's also donated $1.7 million to mental health organizations.

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People who work in hurricane-affected areas often talk about the stress the long rebuilding process can take on people and the anxiety stirred up during hurricane season. A program in Slidell, Louisiana, aims to help participants address some of that. The six-week mindfulness course is being put on by the local Habitat for Humanity and the Northshore Community Foundation. The foundation's president and CEO, Susan Bonnett, says immediately after hurricanes the foundation receives money requests for traditional items like tarps. Months later come requests for mental health services. So they have sought creative ways to address problems they knew would build after events like last year's Hurricane Ida.

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Colorado voters have passed a ballot initiative to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms for people 21 and older and to create state-regulated centers where participants can experience the drug. Colorado becomes the second state after Oregon to establish a regulated system for substances like psilocybin and psilocin, the hallucinogens found in some mushrooms. Colorado’s initiative eventually will allow an advisory board to add other plant-based psychedelic drugs to the program. Proponents argued that the state’s current approach to mental health has failed and that naturally occurring psychedelics can treat depression, PTSD, anxiety and addiction. Critics said decriminalization would jeopardize public safety.

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