Thursday, April 29, 2010

Charles Grassley is an Insurance Industry Shill and Enemy of the People

An article by Katherine Hobson in today’s Wall Street Journal reports that:

State chapters of the National Alliance on Mental Illness received several million dollars in contributions from pharma companies in a little less than five years, with big donations from Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca and Bristol-Myers Squibb, according to a letter from Sen. Charles Grassley.

The article cites an earlier NY Times report of NAMI national as “'hugely influential in many state capitols' for its lobbying efforts to keep states from putting any restrictions on the drugs that can be prescribed to patients covered under Medicaid and other government-funded programs."

Excuse me for breathing too loud, but it seems the only time mental illness gets any attention from the media is when someone with a mental illness shoots someone or gets shot by the police. Or when some grandstanding politician with no moral principles tries to pretend he is speaking for the people.

Anyone who has been following this blog knows I am on the board of NAMI San Diego. I have also been associated with DBSA. Both NAMI and DBSA offer free - I emphasize free, free as in free - programs and services. It has been my honor over the years to serve in the trenches alongside highly - very highly - dedicated individuals.

In a recent blog piece, I posted a video I edited of a group of soldiers serving in Iraq who organized a 5K Run in full body armor concurrent with our NAMI Walk in San Diego. Our local organization is working very hard to raise awareness for PTSD and the special needs of those who serve and have served our country.

At both DBSA and NAMI, we see - everywhere -  a huge unmet need. Individuals enduring extreme personal hells. Families driven to the brink. We know what we’re talking about. Most of us serving in NAMI and DBSA have been through it. Most of us are still dealing with the challenges. Trust me, every soul I have served alongside is uncompromising in his or her belief that no one should ever - ever, ever - have to endure for one day through what they - we the people - have faced day in and day out for years and even decades on end.

Do I have to cite the terrible litany, life by life, soul by soul?

In addition, our organizations benefit from the efforts of those who have dedicated their lives to improving ours. These include enlightened clinicians and students training to enter the mental health field.

Alas, a huge unmet need. Alas, precious few resources. One drop of commitment into a vast bottomless black hole of suffering.

Sad to say, mental illness lacks the cachet of the glamor diseases. High society does not write out six figure checks to support our cause. Hollywood doesn’t rally behind us. Politicians look the other way.

We look around, we in the trenches. We see vital services cut. We see people cut off, cut out. We field their calls for help. We’re there when they walk through the door. But there is only so much we can do. We roll up our sleeves and do what we can. Then we scrap, we hustle, we lift the seat cushions for whatever loose change happens to roll to the floor.

I’m not going to lower myself by responding to Grassley’s shameless accusations and innuendos. But I will note this:

According to, Sen Grassley received $279,118 in campaign contributions from the insurance industry from 2005 to 2010. He voted against health care reform.

The Senator from Iowa is part of the problem, not the solution. He needs to be called out for the paid industry shill and an enemy of the people he truly is.

Thanks. I needed that. Time for me to breathe a little less loudly. Thank you for your patience.

Disclosure: I am on the board of NAMI San Diego. What I said here is my own opinion entirely and does not represent NAMI San Diego or any individuals or organizations it is affiliated with.


Anonymous said...

Amen, Brother!

Gina Pera said...

You made me cry, John. Well done.


Gina Pera said...

As for this part:

"Excuse me for breathing too loud, but it seems the only time mental illness gets any attention from the media is when someone with a mental illness shoots someone or gets shot by the police."

Exactly! Without these tragic outcomes, too many in the media dismiss mental illness as "neurodiversity" or in some other way romanticize it as "creative," And there are always fringe psychologists and psychiatrists willing to tell them what they want to hear and thus grab their only claim to fleeting fame.

Gina Pera said...

Hey, did you see this, John? Just came to my attention.

John McManamy said...

Hey, Lisa. Amen comin' right back atcha!

John McManamy said...

Hey, Gina. I do encourage people to look at the gifts their illness may confer. In Kansas, I joked: We bring the world the gift of civilization and how do they treat us - they marginalize us.

Where I separate myself out is by recognizing the reality that Van Gogh may have painted hundreds of canvases at ages 36 and 37, but he produced zero the next year.

An inviolate law of nature: Dead people don't paint.

Romanticize Van Gogh till the cows come home - he lived a totally wretched life.

Or that John Nash may have won the Nobel Prize, but by his own admission lost 25 years of his life to schizophrenia, and in turn has lost a son to the illness.

I've witnessed first-hand the enormous gifts of those in our population. I've also witnessed these gifts squandered and lives in ruins.

The romanticists (think of authors linking "Advantage" to "Depression" or "Bipolar") either have no idea what they are talking about or lack empathy into the suffering of others. Most likely both. Significantly, the antipsychiatry movement has co-opted them, along with publicity-seeking clinicians who should know better.

Speaking of media: Do they turn up for our NAMI Walk or report on the concurrent Iraq Run? No. A few days ago, the police shot and killed a local man with mental illness and that was all over the news.

We try to raise awareness, encourage intelligent dialogue, show a positive face. Media blackout. I could go on and on.

Gina Pera said...

Totally agree, John. It's the black and white way in which the gifts are romanticized--that's what I mean. Or that the gifts must necessarily come with tragedy.

And yes, either no idea of what they're talking about or lack empathy--and probably both.

John McManamy said...

Absolutely, Gina. To listen to the romanticists, you would think suicidally depressed or ravingly psychotic individuals are dancing and singing in the rain (on second thought, may some of them are, but for all the wrong reasons). Or that they could be if only they would stop being depressed about being depressed or psychotic about being psychotic and just enjoy the state they are in.


Yes, we can learn over time to function in a wider emotional bandwidth. Feel and think deep and wide while staying grounded. But this is a far different proposition than trivializing the sheer and appalling destructive power of our illness.

Being eccentric and over-exuberant did not make me unemployable and friendless. Being ravingly manic did. Being dark and deep and a bit weird did not pose a threat to my peace of mind or my life. Being suicidally depressed did.

The anti's and the romanticists and their fellow travelers have no insight into that.

herb said...

Hi John,

I don’t know if Grassley is a shill or an enemy of the people. I do know he’s a politician and with that fact come my belief that he’s probably and foremost taking care of and advocating for Charles Grassley first. He’s so busy investigating that he never took the time to investigate one of his former colleagues and committee members; disgraced and former Senator Bill Frist just another of the many crooks in government obfuscating their activities and serving themselves to the citizen’s monies. To which I’ll also add Frist’s long distance laughable analysis and comments as it related to the Terri Schiavo affair.

I’m am familiar with one particular investigation by Grassley’s committee which was probably and rightfully something to be investigated but from my readings it appeared to be a half-assed investigation from the get-go and worse yet like many of these investigations it seems nothing of any real value has come from this particular investigation as I’ve followed it.

It kind of reminds me of the current scandals with the SEC. We have all these government people sitting around having been given information relating to criminal activities, rules violations and the like for decades and nothing was ever done.

Grassley’s investigations or in reality those of his staff are in my opinion nothing more than a superficial stirring of the pot maybe to please his backers and lobbyists as I don’t see anything happening other than his running for reelection.

I read various blogs of those espousing anti-psychiatry and/or anti-pharmaceutical sentiments as I chuckle to myself as they also cite Grassley and his committee investigations as if it were a judicial verdict against psychiatry or pharmacy only little do they really know the true desperate need for effective treatment options for this unique community of patients.

Grassley’s not a doctor although Bill Frist is and it frightens me to think that either really knows what they’re talking about.

I might also add as a former DBSA President, board member and facilitator of a local chapter that pharmaceutical companies in no way influenced any of our activities, discussions etc. whether directly or indirectly by way of the national organization.


John McManamy said...

Good to hear from you, Herb. You got it - Grassley is advocating for Grassley. For about two years or so, he has been aided and abetted by Benedict Carey and Gardiner Harris at the NY Times, who are too stupid to see through Grassley or check their facts.

But thanks to the NY Times, Grassley has a gallery to play to. He benefits by the publicity and by appearing to be an advocate for the people against the monied interests, which of course enormously helps him in his reelection.

Were it not for the NY Times, Grassley would have stopped his showboating a long time ago, and found some other faux issue to hype.

Re the NY Times: I do know that Carey has an over-reliance on antipsychiatry sources for his background education on mental illness, and that his stories faithfully parrot the antipsychiatry party line.

He is too ignorant to know he is being played like a puppet on a string.

Meanwhile, the same antipsychiatry sources turn around and cite him as the Gospel truth. One of these antipsychiatry sources even spent the better part of two years taking all the credit for a story that Carey broke in the NY Times.

I could go on and on. The bottom line is these antipsychiatry nutjobs nurse an irrational hatred of NAMI (though ironically not of MHA which receives heavy Pharma donations).

And, of course, the people who espouse hate language against NAMI and their supporters know nothing about NAMI or mental illness. They are not out in the trenches. They have no idea what is going on.

Ironically, the strongest critic of psychiatry and Pharma at the moment happens to be myself. In recent blog pieces here, I savaged diagnostic psychiatry for its over-simplified and meds-centric view of mental illness. Seriously, psychiatry needs to change - it is totally losing its credibility.

Ironically, antipsychiatry would keep that system intact. The losers of course patients with mental illness and their loved ones. Who is advocating for them?

Oh, yes, of course - NAMI.