March 30, 2011
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“CRAZY: A FATHER’S SEARCH THROUGH AMERICA’S MENTAL HEALTH MADNESS” PRESENTATION AT VITERBO UNIVERSITY APRIL 18
LA CROSSE, Wis. – Journalist and Pulitzer Prize finalist Pete Earley will present “CRAZY: A Father’s Search through America’s Mental Health Madness” at 7 p.m. Monday, April 18 in the Fine Arts Center Main Theatre.
Earley will share he and his son’s personal story to illustrate how difficult it is to get a loved one with a severe mental illness meaningful help. He will focus on how and why mentally ill people end up in the criminal justice system, and why this is bad for everyone. The presentation will also include the results of his nine-month investigation of the Miami-Dade County jail, where he followed people with severe mental illness through the system and out into the community to observe what services were available. He will make the point that prisons are society’s new asylums, and why everyone would be better served by focusing on successful programs that help people cope with their mental illness.
He will also discuss the ethical issues of mental health care, especially involuntary confinement, by examining questions such as ‘When does a society have a right to step in and force someone into a mental treatment program?’ Most states only allow involuntary commitment when someone poses an imminent danger to themselves or others. This means that a person can be completely psychotic, delusional, and homeless, yet not meet the danger criterion and therefore can’t be committed for their own good. Is this the ethically responsible thing to do?
Earley is a former reporter for The Washington Post and was one of two finalists for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize. He has received awards from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health America, the Washington Psychiatric Association, and the American Psychiatric Association. He is the author of three national best sellers, and six other books.
Earley serves on the Board of Directors of the Corporation for Supportive Housing, which is designed to find innovative ways for states to finance housing projects to help eliminate homelessness. He was also appointed by the Chief Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court to a task force charged with rewriting the state’s involuntary commitment laws. He was cited by Washington Magazine in a cover story entitled “Top Journalists: Washington’s Media Elite.”
Editor’s Note: Earley will also hold a presentation and round table discussion with members of the Mental Health Coalition of the Greater La Crosse Area from 2–3:30 p.m. Monday, April 18 in the Viterbo Reinhart Center Board Room. The media is welcome to attend this event.