The Key Update, Volume 13, Number 6 -- December 2016

Key Update, December 2016

Volume 13, Number 6

BuzzFeed Publishes Exposé of Large Corporate Operator of Private Psychiatric Hospitals

An intensive, yearlong BuzzFeed News investigation of Universal Health Services (UHS), which operates more than 200 psychiatric facilities across the U.S., “raises grave questions about the extent to which [its] profits were achieved at the expense of patients.” UHS took in nearly $7.5 billion from inpatient care last year—with profit margins of around 30 percent—BuzzFeed reports. The corporation is also under federal investigation for possible Medicare fraud. According to a BuzzFeed article posted on December 7, 2016, “Current and former employees from at least 10 UHS hospitals in nine states said they were under pressure to fill beds by almost any method—which sometimes meant exaggerating people’s symptoms or twisting their words to make them seem suicidal—and to hold them until their insurance payments ran out.” BuzzFeed noted that UHS strongly disputes allegations of civil or criminal fraud, is cooperating with the investigation, and “has not been charged with any wrongdoing.” For the BuzzFeed article about its investigation—“Locked on the Psych Ward—click here.

Do You Qualify for an ABLE Account? If So, You May Want to Set One Up Before December 31!

ABLE accounts “are tax-advantaged savings accounts for individuals with disabilities and their families… For the first time, eligible individuals and their families will be allowed to establish ABLE savings accounts that will not affect their eligibility for SSI, Medicaid and other public benefits.” ABLE accounts can be opened online. For information on eligibility, how an ABLE account might help you or someone you know, and more, click here for the ABLE National Resource Center.

Thanks, Miriam Yarmolinsky

Free Webinar on Peer-run Organizations Serving People with Behavioral Health Conditions and Criminal Justice Involvement on January 19; Related Report Spotlights Exemplary Programs

A free webinar on Peer-run Organizations That Serve Individuals with Behavioral Health Conditions and Criminal Justice Involvement will be hosted by the National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse and the Temple University Collaborative on Community Inclusion on January 19, 2017, at 2 p.m. ET. The presenters will be Rita Cronise of the International Association of Peer Supporters (iNAPS), Ellen Healion of Hands Across Long Island, Steve Miccio of PEOPLe Inc., and Noelle Pollet of Peace Work. Harvey Rosenthal of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services will moderate. The 90-minute webinar grew out of a survey by the College for Behavioral Health Leadership’s Peer Leader Interest Group, Mental Health America, the Clearinghouse, and the TU Collaborative. The resulting report, Reentry and Renewal, highlights a dozen exemplary programs, provides recommendations, and spotlights needed policy changes and the importance of expanded funding and research. To register for the webinar, click here. To download the free report, click here.

Brennan Report Provides Blueprint for Cutting Prison Population While Maintaining Low Crime Rates

Nearly 40 percent of the U.S. prison population—576,000 people—are behind bars with no compelling public safety reason, according to a new analysis from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. The first-of-its-kind survey provides a blueprint for how the U.S. can drastically cut its prison population while still keeping crime rates near historic lows. According to the report, approximately 79 percent of individuals who are incarcerated experience either substance use disorders or mental health conditions, and 40 percent experience both. “Alternative interventions such as treatment could be more effective sanctions for many of these individuals,” the report states. “Too many people end up in prison in the first place, when alternatives like treatment would work much better,” said Lauren-Brooke Eisen, an author of the document. “Still others are locked up for too long and research shows those sentences are ineffective. When what you’re doing isn’t working, it’s time to rethink it.” For more information and to download the free report, click here.

The State of Mental Health in America 2017 Has Been Published by MHA

Mental Health America (MHA) has published a state-by-state analysis of The State of Mental Health in America. Among the findings: 56 percent of adults with a mental health conditions did not receive treatment in 2017; and, in states with the fewest mental health professionals, there is only one mental health professional per 1,000 people—and this includes psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counselors, and psychiatric nurses combined. Most telling, “less access to care means more incarceration. Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama had the least access to care and highest rates of imprisonment. There are over 57,000 people with mental health conditions in prison and jail in those states alone. That’s enough to fill Madison Square Garden three times.” For numerous links to all the data, click here.

Only 35% of Medical Treatments Are "Beneficial" or "Likely to Be Beneficial," says BMJ; The Risks of Psychiatric Medications Are of Particular Concern, Researchers Report

Fifty percent of medical treatments are of unknown effectiveness, according to Clinical Evidence, a program of the BMJ—the weekly peer-reviewed medical journal formerly called the British Medical Journal. The BMJ analysis indicates that only 11 percent of treatments are beneficial, with an additional 24 percent likely to be beneficial. With 7 percent, there is a “tradeoff between benefits and harms”; 5 percent are “unlikely to be beneficial”; and 3 percent are “likely to be ineffective or harmful.” People “should be much less afraid of disease & more afraid of treatments. Benefits of most treatments are exaggerated; risks are ignored,” tweeted Allen Frances, MD, author of Saving Normal. For the BMJ report, click here. For a related story, published in Scientific American—“Psychiatrists Must Face Possibility That Medications Hurt More Than They Help”—click here. For another related story—“Study Suggests Long-Term Antipsychotic Use May Result in Poorer Cognitive Functioning”—click here.

SAMHSA and RTI International Launch Substance Abuse and Mental Health Data Archive

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and RTI International have launched a redesigned Substance Abuse and Mental Health Data Archive (SAMHDA) “with new designs, streamlined menus, and simplified navigation. We want to offer our users an easy way to get to the data they need for their analyses,” SAMHSA writes. “We will update and expand our resources, tools, and documentation frequently to deliver the most relevant data for your needs.” For the archive, click here.

Thanks, Amy Smith

Free SAMHSA Webinar on CIT and Provider Collaboration on January 10

SAMHSA and Recovery to Practice will sponsor an hour-long webinar on January 10, 2017, at 1 p.m. ET called Safe and Sound: Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) and Provider Collaboration. This webinar is the first of three that will look at specific but varied intersections of criminal justice and behavioral health. It will review the CIT model; explore how providers can support CIT initiatives before, during, and after crisis; and provide examples of how law enforcement officers, people in services, and providers have worked or can work together to create safer and more recovery-oriented outcomes. For details and to register, click here.

An Invitation from a New Research Initiative to Figure Out Why Hearing Voices Groups Work is a new research initiative in which “voice hearers and allies are partnering to find out what makes our Hearing Voices groups so useful,” according to the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care Hearing Voices Research & Development Fund. “Your voice and stories are essential to answering that question. If you are a voice hearer and have been involved in these groups, please consider offering your wisdom.” For more information and/or to participate in the survey, click here.

Thanks, Elizabeth Saenger

Doors to Wellbeing Continues Its Monthly Webinar Series in January

A free webinar on How to Ask for a Raise: The Peer Support Compensation Survey will be hosted by Doors to Wellbeing on January 31, 2017, at 2 p.m. ET. Doors to Wellbeing writes: “This webinar will provide an overview of the national survey of compensation among peer support specialists. This survey provides peer specialists useful information on compensation rates across different types of service organizations and geographical locations. This webinar will use this data to help peer specialists advocate for improved compensation rates.” The webinar is part of the monthly series hosted by Doors to Wellbeing on the last Tuesday of almost every month. For details and to register, click here. The webinar presenters, Allen Daniels and Peter Ashenden, were two of the authors of a National Survey of Compensation Among Peer Support Specialists, published in January 2016. For the survey, click here.

Sustainability and Leadership Transition Bulletin Published by Café TA Center

Passing the Torch: Sustainability and Leadership Transition has been published by the Café TA Center. “One of the greatest challenges that any small nonprofit can face is maintaining its focus and momentum through times of change,” the bulletin begins. “CAFÉ TAC has created two assessment tools to help you determine how ready your organization is for a potentially disruptive transition. One provides an opportunity to review a past transition and determine what went well and what was problematic. The other offers a chance to take stock of how prepared your organization is for the next transition.” For the free bulletin, click here. In addition, the Clearinghouse published a free four-page bulletin on Sustainability in 2009, available here.

Vera Institute Announces Five Participants for Safe Alternatives to Segregation Initiative

On December 19, the Vera Institute of Justice announced that it had chosen the state corrections departments in Louisiana, Minnesota, Nevada, Utah, and Virginia to participate in its Safe Alternatives to Segregation initiative, which is helping state and local corrections agencies around the country reduce their use of solitary confinement. They join five jurisdictions that have been participating in the initiative since April 2015: Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, New York City, and Middlesex County, New Jersey. For more information, click here. According to "Solitary Confinement and Mental Illness in U.S. Prisons: A Challenge for Medical Ethics," published in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, "Many of the prisoners subjected to isolation, which can extend for years, have serious mental illness, and the conditions of solitary confinement can exacerbate their symptoms or provoke recurrence." For the article, click here. Solitary confinement can also generate symptoms of a mental health condition in people who previously did not have such symptoms. For more information, click here.

Want to Help a Philadelphian Who Is Homeless on the Street? There’s an App for That.

StreetChange, in Philadelphia, is a location-based smartphone tool to help people donate useful items to those who are homeless while also helping to connect them with outreach programs. The creation of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice, it involves a partnership with the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania (MHASP) and a startup grant from the Barra Foundation. It works like this: MHASP outreach teams engage with homeless individuals who may want to participate. The potential participants answer a few questions about themselves and mention some items they need, such as a warm winter coat, shoes, socks, or a toothbrush. And then…For the most up-to-date information about StreetChange, and to find out how the app helps people acquire the items they need and what happens when they pick them up at the nearest outreach center, click here

Alternatives 2017 to Be Held in Boston August 18-21! Save the Date!

The National Empowerment Center (NEC) will organize and host the 2017 Alternatives Conference at the Boston Park Plaza from Friday, August 18, through Monday, August 21, 2017. “The Alternatives Conference 2017 website is in development and will have further information at,” NEC writes. “Announcements will be sent when further information is available, which will include the Call for Presentations, an online submission link, hotel reservation information, and a direct link to online room reservations.”

National Technical Assistance and Networking Teleconferences Are on Hiatus for Now

The National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse is no longer operating under a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Although we are keeping our doors open – including publishing our monthly e-newsletter, the Key Update – we are suspending our monthly national technical assistance and networking calls for the time being. We will keep you posted.

Consumer-Driven Services Directory

The Clearinghouse welcomes all programs in which consumers play a significant role in leadership and operation to apply for inclusion in its Directory of Consumer-Driven Services. The directory, accessible at, is searchable by location, type of organization, and targeted clientele, and serves as a free resource for consumers, program administrators and researchers. Apply online at, via fax at 215.636.6312, or by phone at 800.553.4KEY (4539). To receive an application by mail, write to or Susan Rogers, Clearinghouse, 1211 Chestnut Street, Suite 1100, Philadelphia, PA 19107.

About The Key Update

The Key Update is the free monthly e-newsletter of the National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse. Volume 13, No. 6, December 2016, To subscribe, please send a message to: subscribe thekey. To unsubscribe, please send a message to: unsubscribe thekey. For content, reproduction or publication information, please contact Susan Rogers at or 800.553.4539 x3812, 267.507.3812 (direct). Follow Susan on Twitter at @SusanRogersMH