Roman J. Israel, Esq.: Assembly line, rubber stamp prosecution affecting peers.

Guest commentary, reprinted with kind permission of Steve’s Thoughtcrines.

Watch this movie, give it some thought.

Roman J. Israel, Esq.,_Esq.

This is movie not seen widely enough. This speaks to a truth in criminal justice that goes unspoken because “bargaining” from an “overcharge” is what DAs and defense choose rather than actually doing the work. Keeping the court dockets light is preferable to giving every person their day in court. And people admit to crimes they DIDN’T commit for fear of incarceration for decades, to secure a “smaller sentencing.”

For crimes they didn’t commit.

Add to that DAs receiving “bonuses” for every conviction, say in zero-tolerance domestic violence cases, where in years past “he said/she said” cases wouldn’t even be considered for prosecution. With the funding incentive for every conviction, any police report mentioning anything that can construed as “domestic violence” is charged (a man in Albuquerque was sentenced for throwing a roll of toilet paper against the wall, which never hit his wife), and every charge is fed into the “bargaining overcharge” machine because that’s the way it works.

People admitting to crimes they didn’t commit to receive a reduced sentence.

Again: For a crime they didn’t commit.

And too many of these coerced admissions are peers, peers without the financial resources to build a strong, dedicated defense.

And where are civil rights law entities like Disability Rights New Mexico in all of this? Complicity nowhere to be found.

I worked many years in jail diversion for peers. This is yet another way peers are victimized by a justice system unaware of peer suffering from systemic societal neglect.

Watch the movie, think it through.

World Suicide Prevention Day 2020

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

For those of us who suck at killing themselves and thusly are reading this, EVERY DAY is suicide preventation day.

I’m stoked you’re here. I’m stoked I’m here. Let’s help each other keep it that way.


STS Online Mental Health Support Group – Monday through Friday – COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t mean we have to be alone.


Support Groups by Peers and for Peers.

All times are Mountain Time Zone (GMT -7)

12:00PM to 1:30PM

12:00PM to 1:30PM

7:00PM to 8:30PM

7:00PM to 8:30PM

7:00PM to 8:30PM

– STS is using Google Hangouts for our online support groups. You will need a free Google account to join the online groups.

– That day’s online group Hangouts link is provided on the homepage of our two STS websites, 30 minutes before group begins.

– The daily Hangouts link is also available to subrscribers of the STS Community Beacon email list.

– Facilitators open the support group 15 minutes prior to group start time.

– You can join the group at any time. You don’t need to show up at the start of group.

We hope to see you! We don’t have to be alone.

Opinion: Is it fair to compare Suicide to Coronavirus?

by Steve Bringe

Circulating the past few weeks are a number of comparisons of the death tolls from suicide versus COVID-19 (coronavirus). This is an unfair measurement. Let me explain why.

COVID-19 is a novel infectious virus identified less than three months ago. If anything, the comparison is of DEATH RATE and not BODY COUNT.

But COVID-19 hasn’t run its initial infectious course. More people are surely to die from COVID-19 in the coming weeks if not months. How many people and how quickly? The current data populations cannot project either death rate or body count.

The only useful metric of COVID-19 is the ever-evolving R-naught which has no equivalent suicide metric.

The COVID-19 R-naught is 3.0, up from an early value of 1.2. This is highly infectious, at least as infectious as its coronavirus cousin, SARS. And thus far, the number of deaths from COVID-19 is outpacing SARS in its first three recorded months.

Right now, it’s premature to use COVID-19 as a side-by-side similarity for suicide rates and totals. This data on COVID-19 doesn’t exist and any quantitative claim of how much worse suicide is compared to COVID-19 isn’t accurate or possible. This comparison of suicide to COVID-19 is providing misinformation that lessens the true by-the-numbers impact of suicide.

Too many peoole die by suicide. I’ve tried myself. Unquestionably, advocacy and education about suicide is crucial. It’s just there are other more useful and more valid ways to continue bringing awareness to the tragedy of suicide without piggybacking on a highly visible – and highly disparate – ongoing public health concern like COVID-19.


Reprinted with kind permission of Steve’s Thoughtcrimes.

Opinion: What’s it going take before we take mental illness violence seriously?

The Monsey machete attack, the media is focusing on the racism of the horror. Soon, the focus will move to any mental disease history. Today, the first mental disease article hit the newsfeed.

Suspect in New York Hanukkah celebration stabbings has ‘long history of mental illness,’ family says

The public discussion will follow the bread crumbs leading to the well-trot “mental illness means violence” stigma. This stigma will lead the discussion, and in time the discussion will find another well-trot topic:

Why wasn’t he getting treatment?

Assisted Outpatient Treatment. Kendra’s Law. Preemptive Services.

It’s a no-brainer. It’s obvious. It’s a simple solution. Why hasn’t it happened yet?

The conversation on preemptive services exists. It has for years. To answer these questions, here are some thoughts on what’s holding things up.

I’m placing no dispute or endorsement for preemptive treatment. This info is based on advocacy work I’ve done in jail diversion and law enforcement crisis response. And what might sound like an absolute is only to shorten this article.

As I see it, there are three conflicting factions that stall any serious and productive resolution.

One faction is law enforcement. Their primary principle is “officer safety first.” Repeated engagements with a violent peer wears on the officers. Left to their own, violent peers would be removed from society permanently … not execution, permament incarceration. Since this isn’t possible, preemptive and mandated statutes like AOT are ideal to them.

The next faction is parents of adult children with violent mental illness. In New Mexico, well-organized members of this faction can be found in NAMI. Their primary motivation is love. They love their children and want for their children safety and happiness. Left to their own, these parents would have the legal authority to direct their adult child’s treatment, including the legal authority to place their adult child inpatient; often, violent peers need safety from themselves. Since their children are adults, rarely is guardianship granted. So, AOT is very attractive to these parents, as are programs like Community Engagement Teams.

The final faction is civil rights advocates. These individuals are often lawyers who studied constitutional rights for peers. Ensuring all programs, services, procedures, and statutes adhere to constitutional guarantees first and foremost is what motivates them. They are watchdogs and are often directly opposed to both law enforcement and parents.

The iffy collaboration of these three factions jam up any real progress on preemptive services. I’ve muscled my way onto enough committees and elbowed my way in to sit at enough tables that I have a really good handle on the segregation and dynamics of preemptive service development.

A few closing remarks:

Purposely, I left out providers because traditonally they side closely with law enforcement. Providers are witness to “revolving door treatment.” In and out of the ER, in and out of jail. Providers interact with law enforcement by circumstance.

And, I didn’t include peers. I’ve been doing this long enough I know peers are undependable. This includes me. A peer’s primary purpose is being healthy. This is a fulltime job. Many times, symptomatic behavior is intense enough all their energy goes into staying well. It’s very difficult to be fully dedicated to advocacy, legislative advisement, directed community committees, and all venues where the discussion and decisions affect peers and how pees function in society.

Peers can’t guarantee consistent availability. I was knocked out of the game for two years after being attacked by another peer at an APD meeting. Two years is what it took to learn about myself and CPTSD. Writing this comment now that I’m back is a huge triumph for me.

What I’m saying about peers is it’s difficult creating lasting advocacy groups to see a project through from start to finish. If peers can get themselves to the table, they are the only true volunteers, with families as well. Every other faction receives a salary as their part in the behavioral health community. It’s also tough to be a meaningful faction when available time is curtailed by having to make a living elsewhere.

The term “preemptive services.” It’s a semantics argument, stating “preemptive”; it portends a violent act fueled by mental disease is a foregone conclusion. “Preemptive” also suggests a lack of trust in the peer and a lack of faith in recovery and maintained wellness. I’m giving feedback on how I would view this if I was mandated to “preemptive services.” It’s not a useful term.

The final comment is there is a notion that “everyone has a right to their mental illness.” This is true However, everyone has the same social contract and part of that contract is behaving in a way that isn’t harmful to the community. Violent behavior from mental disease breaks this contract and like anyone else, a peer must be removed from the community if attacking others.

I know the original lament is this dude is only going to get help now, after he killed someone, and the humane thing to do was to get him services before he killed someone.

As I like to put it: “Catching us upstream before we hit the rapids.”

I just wanted to share my thoughts on why such an obvious solution stalls and doesn’t come to fruition.

How just another behavioral health meeting opened my eyes and my heart

During my short tenure on the NAMI Albuquerque board, the one project I worked on was Community Engagement Teams (CET). The idea behind CET was if a family member, neighbor, friend, etc. believes a peer might benefit from services, they can request a CET visit with a peer and offer help locating services, before the peer falls into crisis. As I liked to call it, “Catching us up river before we hit the rapids.” CET could be the conduit to services.

I saw a secondary purpose for CET. I remember when I first was divorced. I had no idea where to get help, and I really wanted to keep my treatment going and didn’t know how, or even where to start. The ex-wife was the person who helped me with this. In my struggles to get help, I really could have used a clearing house for info on and direction to services. CET could be the conduit to services for peers who want to catch themselves up river.

For several legislative sessions a state CET bill failed to become law. The best chance it had didn’t come through because the governor vetoed the bill, on the grounds the service should be in HSD (Human Services Department) and not DOH (Department of Health). Drats.

After the bill was vetoed, a small group of us went a different way. We decided to ask for the blessing of HSD to develop and implement a pilot project in Bernalillo County. The two people I worked with closely were Jim Ogle and Nils Rosenbaum. We all came to the table with distinct perspectives on how CET could be useful.

We had several meetings in Santa Fe with HSD to lay out our ideas for the pilot project. For one middling meeting, two representatives from the City of Roswell asked to attend. Their names I can’t remember. Their faces I do. One worked directly with their mayor, the other was a peer who was there to describe what mental services were available to them. This peer was a revolving door peer at their detention center … jail. This was the only mental health service in Roswell. Literally.

Mistakenly, these two representatives believed that CET was a fully realized program with funding. They were attending to speak of their community’s needs and secure funding. If CET funding was dedicated to Roswell, this would bring providers and services to Roswell to support CET. Sadly, this wasn’t going to be available.

I’ve been at a few hundred behavioral health meetings in the last decade. This meeting I remember because of what the mayor’s rep said.

“I’m supposed to be going home with hope. I was supposed to bring services to Roswell. What do I tell them now?”

He said this through tears.

Of all the behavioral health meetings I attended, this one meeting exemplifies the critical need for services around our state and how the programs and funding do not exist. And Roswell is not a tiny railroad town. It’s one of the largest cities in southeast New Mexico.

More and more, the issue I see that is impeding health care availability in New Mexico is funding. There are so many great, innovative solutions already planned for addressing the needs of frontier services, but without money it’s just talk.

Having an active and funded CET program to share with other needful New Mexico communities woukd have been … just grwat. I teared up big time at this meeting, and meeting that proves New Mexico social are dangerously underfunded. The coffers run in the red. And, newly identified peers with specific needd aren’t addressed because it’s a lot of money to develop brans new services.

We need money. The reality is New Mexico is one of poorest (financially poorest – we are rich in community and culture) states in the union year after year. A main primary solution is to identify services peers don’t use and don’t want and eliminate these to fund the useful needs of peers. Based on our peer focus groups, I can name five of these progeans right here in Albuquerqhe. Another solutionn is to look at novel funding otberwise untapped. I’ll be sharong more on this after beta-testing with STS funding. And where it comes to government funded social services, we need to get out of the cycle of increnentally taxing the existing pie more and morr year after year We must make our tax pie larger.

The CET meeting opened my eyes and my heart to realities outside my day to day life. And very directly, I find these realities unacceptable and, thankfully, only temporary. I have a few ideas.

Song Motivation to Show You The Way through Peer Support

By Patrick Byers-Smith

Back in 2005 Rich Ward of Stuck Mojo and Fozzy had released a solo album under the alias The Duke,  entitled “My Kung Fu Is Good.” Unfortunately many radio stations, here in New Mexico overlooked this album,  as one of our CPSWs (Certified Peer Support Worker) used to work with his label at the time.

That CPSW being Patrick Byers-Smith. ” A lot of  music industry people have done peer support for each other, before becoming recognized. Too many of my musiciansare often uninsured and can’t make copays to see a therapist. This song is dedicated to you brothers and sisters. This is one of my motivations to do Peer Work and gets me motivated to start my day. It’s called Show You The Way by The Duke.Recovery Is Possible!”


In the past STS did some work with The Rock At Noonday in Albuquerque, a center providing those experiencing homelessness with excellent services like two meals a day, clothing, showers, internet access, phone access, laundry, and even pet check ups from a local veteranarian. Our peer support group members would bring donations of clothng and I eventually asked dude-at-the-helm Pastor Danny what items would be most useful. His answer was one item:


His answer was surprising. Explaining, he said that for someone like me, I can keep socks for years because I don’t wear them all day, and I’m not always walking from shelter to meals to services. Plus, being able to wash socks makes a huge difference in how long they last.

Now, our group members bring lots of socks, including mismatched socks.