Compass House serves people with mental illness in Jackson County

KTVL, May 9, 2014

Compass-House-new-building_12209Chad McComas is the board chairman for Compass House, a clubhouse model of psycho-social rehabilitation.  When the Dasil Drop-in Center and Hawthorne Center went out of business, those with mental illness in Jackson County were left in the dark.

“So often they’re trapped at home somewhere and they have no place to go. And we want to get them out of the isolation and get them back into the community,” says McComas.

Last year Hawthorne Center merged its assets into Dasil, formally changing its name to “Compass House.”  McComas says the clubhouse is a place where members can take a few hours to stop focusing on their disabilities and strengthen their abilities.  He adds, ” It’s where they come and realize that there’s help available for them and that their not an outcast to society. There’s a place where they can come kind of put their lives back together.”

The group that’s often overlooked is youth with mental illness. Bob Lieberman has worked with children with mental health challenges most of his adult life. As the chief executive officer for Kairos,  a Grants Pass based treatment center that works with at-risk youth, he’s dedicated to transforming healthcare and safety nets for kids and young adults with mental disabilities.

“It is about helping them not feel alone, helping them feel like there’s hope in life, and it starts with empathy,” says Lieberman.

Kairos is working with Jackson County Mental Health, Youth Group Oregon, and several local companies to open “Medford Drop,” also known as “The Hub.”  Lieberman says, “We’re really excited to be able to bring this into the community.”  Teens and young adults ages 14 through 24 will work with staff who have suffered with mental disorders themselves.

Lieberman stresses, “Someone who’s been there and had the experience can often be very affective in helping people feel supported, feel like they’re not alone, feel like there’s hope in life.”

The computer lab at the drop-in center will be used to teach youth skills they can utilize in their daily lives to help the transition into adulthood.  One of those skills is computer coding. The Hub offers a character academy where members will make their own apps and then try to sell them. A portion of app sales will be recycled back into the center’s budget.  Youth will also have the opportunity to take leadership classes and volunteer around the community.

“It’s an opportunity to kind of learn how to manager your challenges better, find their assets, find their strengths and move on to better things in their lives,” says Lieberman.

Kairos is linking up with Jackson County Mental Health on several other major projects. One of those is an outreach program where  state mental health associates go to a family’s home to teach and practice with children skills with which they are having trouble.

Lieberman points out, “They’re good kids. There’s no such things a bad kid. And they have challenges in terms of their neurological development. And there’s a lot we can do just with these kind of resources to help things get better.”

The same organizations have also bought a brand new house in Medford.  It will be used as a crisis respite treatment foster home.

Lieberman explains hospitals do not have the resources to treat children in crisis. The foster home is a  place where children will be taken during a melt-down but do not necessarily need to be hospitalized.

“I think for any of us walking into an emergency room, they make us anxious they make us nervous, they’re kind of traumatizing in a way. They make us feel like we don’t have much control because there’s a lot people who are hurting in a very serious way,” says Lieberman.

In the end, it doesn’t matter if a person is young or old, at risk or not.  What matters is everyone is on their way to a brighter future.

“It’s a bunch of people coming together and saying lets figure out the best way we can try to make a difference in the lives of these people,” says Lieberman.

Compass House and The Hub are scheduled to open in June 2014.

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OSH inmate who killed mother in 2009 must stay in hospital

Albany Democrat-Herald, May 7, 2014

Josh Staddon

Josh Staddon

A man who stabbed his mother to death in Brownsville in 2009 — and was found guilty except for insanity — won’t be released from the Oregon State Hospital.

The state’s psychiatric review board ruled Wednesday that Josh Lee Shaddon was still suffering from mental illness or defect after a hearing that took more than four hours on Wednesday.

“You need to continue to work with the hospital and the staff that’s been assigned to you,” said Kate Lieber, board attorney.

Oregon law requires a review every two years on whether a patient who is guilty except for insanity could be adequately treated in the community.

Shaddon didn’t help his case, appearing unemotional and testifying that he thought he was framed for his mother’s death by his stepfather, who was in attendance during the hearing.

He has maintained that he can’t remember killing Gerlene Thorne, 48, on Oct. 23, 2009.

“In my knowledge, in my belief, I did not. … There’s a possibility of that happening, knowing what went on in my life,” Shaddon testified.

Mental health professionals at the hospital have diagnosed Shaddon as suffering from psychosis linked to methamphetamine withdrawal around the time of his mother’s death.

A month before Shaddon killed Thorne, he was target-shooting and tried to shoot his stepfather Michael Thorne, but the weapon didn’t fire. In 2011, he pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of first-degree assault regarding that incident.

Defense counsel Harris Matarazzo said Shaddon had not been prescribed medications for four years, and he had no symptoms of psychosis since months after his mother’s death.

“Whatever he had, he no longer has,” Matarazzo added

Assistant Attorney General Doug Marshall, representing the state, argued that Shaddon posed “an extreme danger to society.”

“When is this guy going to grow up and be an adult?” Marshall asked.

“That’s his whole modus operandi, to blame someone else,” he added.

Mental health professionals also recommended against releasing Shaddon.

Psychiatrist Dr. James Peykenu questioned whether Shaddon was forthright with his lack of memory, and said Shaddon was in denial about his substance abuse problems and relapse risk, and that his engagement in treatment was “superficial at best.”

Shaddon’s relatives also urged against his release during the hearing.

“If you release him, believe me, he’s going to hurt again. … I’m afraid for my life. I went and got my concealed permit,” said Kathy Rocha, Gerlene Thorne’s sister.

Rocha showed family pictures of happier times, then crime scene photos showing her dead sister, including defensive wounds on her hands and arms.

“Look at it, Josh,” exclaimed Michael Thorne, from the audience.

Shaddon continued staring straight ahead.

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Schizophrenia Oral History Project collects voices

The New York Times, May 8, 2014

The psychologist Lynda Crane found that of the many injuries inflicted by schizophrenia, the greatest could be the pain of being forgotten. Just naming the illness somehow erased the person, something she learned when her 18-year-old son’s doctors said he had schizophrenia. Six years later, he committed suicide.

“It took me a long time to come to terms with it,” Dr. Crane says. “Even I had a hard time understanding it, how this bright man, with a brilliant future, could suffer like this. One thing I learned was that as soon as you mentioned the word, people stopped seeing the person. They just saw the diagnosis and a collection of symptoms. Doug, my son, was forgotten.”

For years Dr. Crane, a professor at the College of Mount St. Joseph in the western hills of Cincinnati, sought a way to enlighten her students and others about the ordinary people who live with schizophrenia despite its extraordinary burdens – the confused thinking, the delusions, the hallucinations, the anxiety and fear. Then she discovered a tool more commonly used among sociologists and anthropologists: oral history. Employing the device to examine schizophrenia has shifted her own perspective about a disease she thought she knew well.

LISTENShirley Austin

LISTENAlice Fischer


“People with schizophrenia do not lose their individuality, even when the illness is very severe,” Dr. Crane says. “What I discovered through oral history is that it’s not about schizophrenia. It’s about a complexity of life that is very hard to get at any other way.”

For the past three years, on their own time and with no outside money, Dr. Crane and a fellow Mount St. Joseph psychologist, Tracy McDonough, have built the Schizophrenia Oral History Project. Other oral history collections have focused on diseases like AIDS or leprosy, but this is the first to focus on schizophrenia, they say.

So far they have recruited two dozen people to sit down with them and a voice recorder, asking their “narrators” simply: What’s it like to be you?

“The real beauty of this project,” says Dr. McDonough, “comes out of the fact that Lynda and I really try not to ask a lot of questions. The narrators want to tell their stories. They have something to say. Many of them have told us that no one has ever asked them about their lives before.”

The psychologists began the project by alerting local mental-health organizations that they were looking for participants willing to volunteer directly. “We didn’t want the providers to make the call because that can create a sense of, ‘I have to do this because my therapist wants me to,’” Dr. Crane says. “So each of the narrators had to take the initiative.”

One participant, Shirley Austin, 47, lives by herself on the west side of Cincinnati with her terrier, Fluffy. After a nightmarish childhood of violence and sexual abuse, Ms. Austin learned as a teenager that she had schizophrenia, and she says that even though she takes her medication, has relatives nearby and attends a church, she wrestles with loneliness. When her therapist told her about the oral history project, she was curious.

“Not even my therapists have ever asked me about my life that much,” Ms. Austin says. “I felt like I got strength and courage talking about what happened to me. I want to tell all the teenaged girls to be strong, that I’m a survivor, and they can be, too.”

Dr. Crane and Dr. McDonough have delivered more than 30 talks about the project in the Cincinnati area, visiting schools and local groups and collecting responses.

“I like to think of myself as open-minded, but the Schizophrenia Oral History Project helped me see that I was stigmatizing patients,” said Vicki Cheng, a nursing student at Miami University who heard one of the talks. “I would not have been surprised to learn that a patient with cancer or heart disease loved organic gardening or painting. Why in the world should I be surprised that someone with schizophrenia has hobbies, too?”

The project has benefited participants, too, like Alice Fischer, 43, who has schizoaffective disorder, a variant of schizophrenia, and lives with her mother and brother in her childhood home in Cincinnati’s Price Hill neighborhood. Ms. Fischer said she had been teased since grade school well into adulthood. “Even right now, sometimes on the bus, people say mean things to me,” she said.

She jumped at the chance to join the oral history project as one of its first narrators because she says newspapers and television too often communicate the wrong idea about people with mental illness. Ms. Fischer also prodded her brother, who has schizophrenia, to participate in the oral history project, but he resisted, fearful of repercussions from going public with his illness.

The project’s website features Ms. Fischer’s vivid paintings of owls or hearts or handprints with upbeat messages for world peace. “I want people to know I’m not dangerous,” she says. “They don’t know what a nice person I am.”

One of the narrators most gravely affected by schizophrenia is Paul Drake, 49, who for 14 years has lived with a tabby cat named Tiger in a small cluttered apartment on Cincinnati’s west side. Through his reading, he learned organic gardening to supplement his meager food budget. He starts tomatoes and other vegetables on his windowsill and grows them on a small plot behind his building. He has taught his neighbors how to garden.

Dr. Crane and Dr. McDonough have shared with the narrators some of the written responses they’ve received from listeners to the oral history project; one comment for Mr. Drake said, “I respect Paul’s insights and appreciate his straightforward sharing of how he copes.”

Mr. Drake says the positive reactions “make me feel good.” Amid the disorder of his mind, he frames a sentence to describe the impact that his participation has had on him.

“It gives me,” he says, “some immortality.”

Dr. Crane is retiring from teaching this spring and turning over leadership of the Schizophrenia Oral History Project to Dr. McDonough, who has been applying for grants to support the work and searching for more narrators.

A few weeks ago, they got a call from Alice Fischer’s brother. He said he was ready now to tell his story.

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New risk assessments aim to reduce prison population, increase treatment and other services

The Oregonian, May 6, 2014

County courthousePeople charged with certain felonies and facing prison time in Multnomah County will soon undergo a new risk assessment before they’re sentenced to see if they would do better on intense probation rather than serving time behind bars.

The new program, scheduled to start July 1, is the county’s answer to House Bill 3194, a legislative initiative aimed at keeping people out of prison or sending them to prison for less time to free up money for treatment and other community-based services. If successful, the county could reap a multimillion grant in the 2015-17 biennium under the state’s Justice Reinvestment Program. Some have estimated the windfall could be up to $12 million.

The risk assessments would be done on people who are in jail after their arraignments and as they await trial. The evaluations, recognized nationally as the Level of Service Case Management Inventory, would consider an accused’s criminal history, education, employment, family, any alcohol or drug problems or mental health needs…

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