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March 2005
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Mothers Against the Draft

President Bush during the campaign last fall in 2004 said that there would be no draft and yet our military forces are over stretched, there are stop loss orders forcing soldiers to stay on active duty beyond their active duty agreements, and sizable bonuses are being given for re-enlistments.

Recruiting targets are not being met, and even though our politicians lie to us and equivocate to forestall resistance to a draft, a growing number of sophisticated people can see the writing on the wall, that reinstating a draft, if the politicians could get away with it without too much citizen opposition, would be an easy fix for the problem and allow our government to continue its immoral policy of pre-emptive war of imperial domination.

Mothers Against The Draft is attempting to stop the inevitiable forces that could culminate in a reinstatement of the draft.

"Mothers Against the Draft (MAD) is organizing to pre-empt a return to conscription. Unlike those who burned draft cards or fled to Canada during the Vietnam War, MAD isn't defying an existing (albeit unjust and unconstitutional) law; it's seeking to prevent the passage of that law by forcing Congressmen to go on record before the measure finds traction in the House. The focused activism of 100 mothers in a given congressional district would be sufficient to compel a Congressman to oppose any measure reinstating the draft in any form."

It probably goes without saying, but the debate rarely gets framed in these terms, so let me say it out loud, that war is bad for the public health and the mental health of human beings. Those of us dedicated to improving the public health and mental health of the people have a professional obligation to speak out against governmental policies which are dysfunctional and destructive to life on our planet.

Link: Mothers Against the Draft.

Quote of the day

"Harvesting the consequences of a well lived life is a source of satisfaction for the person who created it and a blessing for those who witnessed it and benefited from it. It short, it is a blessing from God on one and all. It is created with joy and suffering, with struggle and flow, with doubt and uncertainty, with confidence and conviction."

Harry Holleywood

A Certain Kind of Death, the film

A_certain_kind_of_death A Certain Kind Of Death is a documentary released in 2003 which is a very special movie about what happens to people in California when they die without next of kin.

The county coroner's office takes over, makes funeral arrangements or "disposition" as the coroner's staff call it, and settle the person's estate.

This film brings the viewer face to face with death, and how it is dealt with in an unvarnished, and realistic fashion.

This film is not for the squeamish. It is blunt, real, and gives the viewer a bird's eye view of what coroner's staff go through handling human remains and effects.

If the subject matter is of any interest to you, I highly recommend this film.

Link: A Certain Kind of Death (2003).

Nascar Continues Veering Off Tobacco Road

Budweiser_sports_league There is an interesting article in Sunday's, April 24, 2005 issue of the New York Times about Nascar's relationship to tobacco.

"Tobacco is almost as much a part of Richard Petty's life as stock cars. He worked on his uncle's tobacco farm when he was a boy in North Carolina. He chewed tobacco, dipped snuff and smoked cigars until he quit it all five years ago, cold turkey.

Petty drove in the Nascar Winston Cup Series, named for a cigarette brand. Since retiring as a driver in 1992, he has continued to field cars in the series. He knows tobacco helped make him rich and famous. But life is not what it used to be, either.

"My uncle's gone, and Nascar is not in the tobacco business anymore," Petty, 67, said last week in a telephone interview from his office in Randleman, N.C.

Nascar's top series is now sponsored by Nextel, the wireless communications company, and Petty has become a spokesman for Nicorette, a smoking-cessation nicotine gum manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare."

It is interesting how congress has gotten all upset over steroids in baseball, but steroids in baseball is nothing compared to the involvement of tobacco and alcohol in other sports.

Tremendous amounts of money are spent by advertisers of tobacco and alcohol in collegiate and professional sports activities to entice young people into using their products. Media literacy programs heightens awareness of how mood altering substances are marketed to the American population via Nascar, the NBA, NFL, etc. Watch the commercials of these televised sporting events or how these products are sold at these events themselves. It is amazing how sports and substance abuse have become twins where sports without mood altering drugs is like a day without sunshine.

Link: Nascar Continues Veering Off Tobacco Road.

Violence-related Stress May Harm Kids' Health

The idea that violence related stress causes health problems is not new. There are studies which have shown that children growing up in violent families have more physical health and mental health problems.

A study in the March, 2005 issue of The Journal of Pediatrics found that kids who live in violent neighborhoods also have more health problems.

Reuters reported on this study on April 20, 2005.

"The stress some young children suffer after being exposed to violence in their neighborhoods or homes may have repercussions for their physical health, according to a new study.

Researchers found that among 160 preschoolers from low-income families, 78 percent had been exposed to some form of violence -- either in their communities or in their own homes, sometimes in the form of child maltreatment.

Those children who consequently suffered symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder -- such as nightmares or bedwetting -- were at greater risk than their peers of having a number of health conditions, including asthma, gastrointestinal problems and headaches."

Knowing this relationship leaves us with the question of what to do about it. There are probably multiple activities which would protect, reassure, and ameliorate these children's stress so that symptoms would decrease. I would hope that these activities would be heavily weighted toward psychosocial services like counseling, facilitating the development of positive support systems, etc. rather than giving the kids drugs which seems to be all the rage these days no pun intended.

Unfortunately, mental health services to children and their families have been significantly cut over the last 15 years, and these problems are increasingly not dealt with until symptoms become severe enough to demand attention from the criminal justice, child protection, or educational systems.

Link: MedlinePlus: Violence-related Stress May Harm Kids' Health.

First Citywide Homeless Count Finds About 4,400 on Streets

"Whether sleeping under a bridge or encamped in public parks, an estimated 4,395 people in New York are homeless, city officials said yesterday.

That number is the result of the first citywide census of the homeless. In the previous year, the city had counted only those homeless on the streets of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island. This year it included the Bronx and Queens as well as the subways.

City officials said the number of street homeless in individual boroughs counted in the past had remained remarkably stable, although some advocates for the homeless disagreed.

Manhattan, with 1,805, has by far the largest population of street homeless, the survey found. The next-largest group, 845 people, was found on subway platforms. Brooklyn and the Bronx each had a little fewer than 600. Queens and Staten Island each had fewer than 350."

Link: First Citywide Homeless Count Finds About 4,400 on Streets.

Factors That Explain How Policy Makers Distribute Resources to Mental Health Services

If you are a regular reader of this blog you have read my opinions about legislators doing our society a disservice by not better funding behavioral health programs.

There is an interesting article in the April, 2003 issue of Psychiatric Services which attempts to analyze, conceptually, how these policy decisions are made. Basically, the model that the authors develop describes three criterion that decision makers use: does the program serve a strong need, is the program effective, and how responsible are program participants for their own problems?


If you are interested in a conceptual model of how resource allocations are made for behavioral health services, click below on the link.

Link: Factors That Explain How Policy Makers Distribute Resources to Mental Health Services -- Corrigan and Watson 54 (4): 501 -- Psychiatric Services.

U.S. Prison Population Soars in 2003, '04

Prison United States, ladies and gentlemen, the land of the free and home of the brave, that would dare to bring democracy to other nations around the world, incarcerates more of its citizens than any other nation in the world. Let's read that again. The United States incarcerates more its own citizens than any nation in the world.I'll bet you thought it was China, or Russia, or some Middle Eastern Country, right?

"According to the Justice Policy Institute, which advocates a more lenient system of punishment, the United States has a higher rate of incarceration than any other country, followed by Britain, China, France, Japan and Nigeria."

And it is getting worse not better.

"Growing at a rate of about 900 inmates each week between mid-2003 and mid-2004, the nation's prisons and jails held 2.1 million people, or one in every 138 U.S. residents, the government reported Sunday.

By last June 30, there were 48,000 more inmates, or 2.3 percent, more than the year before, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The total inmate population has hovered around 2 million for the past few years, reaching 2.1 million on June 30, 2002, and just below that mark a year later.

While the crime rate has fallen over the past decade, the number of people in prison and jail is outpacing the number of inmates released, said the report's co-author, Paige Harrison. For example, the number of admissions to federal prisons in 2004 exceeded releases by more than 8,000, the study found."

The biggest burden of incarceration falls on people of color. Not because they are of color, but because they are poorer than whites and so don't get the defense and breaks in the criminal justice system that whites have.

"In 2004, 61 percent of prison and jail inmates were of racial or ethnic minorities, the government said. An estimated 12.6 percent of all black men in their late 20s were in jails or prisons, as were 3.6 percent of Hispanic men and 1.7 percent of white men in that age group, the report said."

As I have long stated on this blog, mental health and substance abuse services are being cut right and left in the United States so that the mentally ill and the chemically dependent are increasingly being handled by the criminal justice system. It has always seemed very ironic to me that the first things that legislators cut out of budgets is behavioral health services without realizing that they will pay two, three, four times what they cut from behavioral health services for criminal justice services.

For example, it costs over $30,000.00 per year to incarcerate an inmate in a New York State prison. That same person could be treated for their substance abuse or mental health problem for well under $10,000.00 per year, and could be helped to find employment so that they can contribute to their family's welfare and pay taxes.

Prisons are major pork barrel programs in rural areas in many states and the state prison is the major employer in some counties and so are very popular with many taxpayers. Taking poor people out of cities and incarcerating them in rural areas so that lower middle class people can have jobs as correction officers gets many legislators elected.

"Added Malcolm Young, executive director of the Sentencing Project, which promotes alternatives to prison: 'We're working under the burden of laws and practices that have developed over 30 years that have focused on punishment and prison as our primary response to crime.'

He said many of those incarcerated are not serious or violent offenders, but are low-level drug offenders. Young said one way to help lower the number is to introduce drug treatment programs that offer effective ways of changing behavior and to provide appropriate assistance for the mentally ill."

This national disgrace is another example of the class struggle that exists in the United States and nobody wants to talk about it. It always seems laughable to me that a petty thief who steals $500.00 from a convenient store will get more time in prison than a white collar criminal who steals multi-millions from his employee's pension fund.

Link: Yahoo! News - U.S. Prison Population Soars in 2003, '04.