Registration is now open for the Out of the Darkness Overnight, Chicago June 27-28, 2009

 

In 2009, the Out of the Darkness Overnight national walk returns to Chicago. We’re planning a beautiful route full of sweeping lakefront views, big city streets and picturesque neighborhoods, supported by the welcoming warmth of the Windy City’s residents.

The Overnight is fundraising walk unlike any other.  Starting at dusk and ending at dawn, we’ll walk up to 18 miles, a moving community of thousands of diverse individuals connected by a common goal.  Please join our community.

This year, we will make suicide prevention a national priority.  And we need your help. By joining the Overnight, you’ll send a loud, clear message, heard from your house to the White House, that it’s time to end the stigma surrounding suicide and shed light on the tragic consequences of depression, substance abuse, anxiety and other mood disorders that, left untreated, can lead to suicide.

Register now for the Out of the Darkness Overnight, Chicago June 27-28, 2009

The funds you raise will further the mission of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the leading not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research and education, and to reaching out to people with mood disorders and those impacted by suicide.logo_overnight

Call your state legislators today at 1-800-362-9472 and ask them to support the bipartisan compromise on hospital assessment and federal fund capture.

Safe Place – Adult Professionals – Fun and Life-Enhancing Programs
More kids become victims or offenders of violent crimes on weekdays between 3-8 p.m. than at any other time.
Kids who return to an unsupervised home are more likely to experiment with drugs, alcohol or tobacco.
Boys & Girls Clubs provide hope, stability and opportunity for youth. Our programs make a diference in their lives:

A safe place that they can call their own.
A caring place where our professionals serve as role models and positively influence their lives.
A positive place where they have the freedom to be kids and have fun while learning new skills, cultivating talents, enhancing their character and education, and learning how to live healthy and honorable lives.

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The Thomas Paine Democracy Network is an IRS approved 501(c)(4) issue advocacy organization dedicated to an informed and participating citizenry. As a non-profit organization, The Thomas Paine Democracy Network is a social welfare organization engaged in promoting the common good and general welfare of the people of the United States of America.

The Thomas Paine Democracy Network recognizes that political participation and voter awareness are at all-time lows, and are committed to educational activities that reverse this trend and motivate American citizens to accept full responsibility for their government and take back control of its activities. Put simply, the health of America’s democracy depends on a return to the ideals of political participation so important to the Founding Fathers and the birth of our nation.

The Thomas Paine Democracy Network is not a campaign organization, and will not advocate for the election or defeat of any political candidate. The organization will instead speak out aggressively on public affairs and officials and encourage citizens to take charge of their affairs. The organization is committed to alerting the electorate when good government is threatened, and advocating for policies that make public officials more responsive and representative of the needs of their constituents.

When inept or unethical forces in politics or the media create a government that fails to work or represent the will or meet the needs of the people – which is the case today — then the American people themselves have a responsibility to step up and fix the problem. The multinational corporations that run our mainstream media and many of our politicians can no longer be trusted to serve the needs of the people, and the activities of The Thomas Paine Democracy Network will help fill this gap and energize our democracy.

Individual, foundation and corporate contributions are welcome, and will be utilized in issue advocacy and educational activities that inspire political participation and hold public officials accountable at the local, state and national levels. Contributions are not deductible for federal income tax purposes.

8darfur_102.jpgWhen millions were murdered in Rwanda, the world pledged that we would never let this happen again — but it is happening today in Darfur. Are the lives of strangers half-way around the world of no concern to the people of America? We demand that our presidential candidates deliver farm subsidies, but nobody is demanding that we create an international force to end the genocide in Darfur. The Thomas Paine Democracy Network challenges the people of the United States to demand more from their government. And if the world doesn’t care for the United States taking the lead in genocide prevention, they will have to learn to understand. To be a force for good in the world, the United States of America must play a leading role in preventing further holocaust. Please go to savedarfur.org to find out how you can help with this tragic crisis, but we also ask you to do something more — support military action to stop genocide when it is occurring anywhere around the world. Lets use our armies to save lives.

As many as 400,000 people have been killed in Darfur. Another 2.5 million have been driven from their homes and into danger. The threat of rape, torture, murder and malnutrition pursue the women and children of Darfur wherever they flee. World leaders must unite now to end the genocide and establish a lasting peace in Darfur.

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In key vetoes, Walker:

• Revived most of his parks cuts, for a net savings of $2.8 million. That means laying off 50 parks maintenance workers and hiring more seasonal help as replacements. He left intact some $648,000 extra for parks improvement projects added by the board.

• Trimmed $2.4 million from court operations, though he spared nine law intern jobs he had earlier tried to abolish. The court funding cut could force trims that Chief Judge Kitty Brennan views as unacceptable. Eliminating weekend criminal intake court or small claims court would be considered if the board fails to override Walker’s veto, said Brennan.

• Shot down several increases for drug and alcohol programs, saying the county couldn’t afford to provide property tax funding to make up for cuts in state and federal aid. Walker said it was important to hold the line on local increases in those instances.

Walker’s vetoes also eliminated a $1 million affordable housing fund; a $188,000 temporary aid program for disabled people; and a $150,000 program to provide educational and recreational activities for youth.

He also cut funding for the House of Correction farm and fish hatchery and the University of Wisconsin Extension program. Those vetoes, if upheld, would kill the programs. The board has consistently overridden similar previous attempts.

If you also blame Scott Walker for draconian budget cuts, please call him at 414-278-4211 and demand that he change his policies.

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Walker’s vetoes force showdown
Board, with two-thirds votes, likely to restore some of county executive’s program cuts
By STEVE SCHULTZE
sschultze@journalsentinel.com
Posted: Nov. 13, 2007

In vetoing $9 million from the 2008 budget Tuesday, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker erased most of the changes the County Board made to his no-levy increase spending plan and set up a veto override showdown today.
90696Milwaukee County Budget
Walker’s
Key Vetoes
$3 million for parks

$2.4 million for courts

$1.2 million for alcohol and drug abuse programs

If you also blame Scott Walker, please call him at 414-278-4211 and demand that he save our parks.

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Supervisors reject cuts for parks, safety, arts
Walker criticizes their budget, pledges vetoes
By DAVE UMHOEFER
dumhoefer@journalsentinel.com
Posted: Nov. 6, 2006

The Milwaukee County Board on Monday voted against draining dozens of county pools, restored millions of dollars in cuts to public safety staffing, the parks and arts, and agreed to the largest contribution to the employee pension fund in the last quarter-century.
77022Milwaukee County Budget
Key Points in Board’s Prroposal
Funding would be restored to keep open county pools, pay for sheriff’s patrols in parks, run the 211 emergency hotline and boost parks maintenance.
Transit fares would rise $104 a year for frequent riders, the biggest jump in 20 years for discounted weekly tickets.
Pension contribution would be $49.2 million – the largest in at least 25 years.
Property tax levy would increase 3.6%. That means an average $33 boost for a Milwaukee homeowner.
Privatization proposals rejected for parks workers, courthouse security and maintenance.

Supervisors said they were protecting the public and preserving quality-of-life programs, and they acted in seemingly veto-proof majorities.

County Executive Scott Walker later said it appeared that they had caved in to union pressure to block job cuts. He promised unspecified vetoes and an attempt to get public pressure on board members.

If you also blame Scott Walker, please call him at 414-278-4211 and demand that he fully fund para-transit programs.

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Mentally ill suffer deadly neglect

With a promise of community care, psychiatric wards were unlocked 30 years ago. Today, the sickest patients live in squalor.

By MEG KISSINGER
mkissinger@journalsentinel.com

Posted: March 18, 2006

First of three parts

Tony Hall roasted to death in the stifling heat of an unregulated rooming house.

Street thugs murdered David Rutledge.

John Collins died after falling from his wheelchair, down the stairs of the unlicensed, mouse-infested group home where his Milwaukee County caseworker placed him. For months after Collins’ death, someone kept using his food stamps.

Abandoning Our Mentally Ill

Bessie Johnson sits on a bare mattress soaked in her urine in January, at a Milwaukee house where she lived for more than five years. The bag to the right is full of used toilet paper. She was moved to another home by her caseworker earlier this month. Both buildings had rats, roaches, broken toilets and a lack of heat.

A plate of discolored eggs and a bowl of mushy fruit salad are put out for breakfast at the boarding home owned by Lois Wimmer in Milwaukee. Residents pay $500 a month for food and rent.

Georgia’s Story

A hauntingly familiar tale: Georgia Rawling’s story reverberates across the years

About the Series
SUNDAY: Preyed upon by opportunists and neglected by the people we pay to care for them, hundreds of Milwaukee’s mentally ill people are fending for themselves. It’s killing them – literally.
MONDAY: How did filthy homes with questionable landlords and long lists of building code violations become acceptable housing for people with mental illness?
TUESDAY: A host of steps can be taken to make sure people with mental illness live in safe places. One of the first: Local bureaucrats need to stop ignoring the problem and blaming each other.
REACTION TO SERIES: The fallout from the series has resulted in Milwaukee County conducting an emergency meeting on housing, a call for reform and a vow to do more to protect people with mental illness who are living in squalor.

Willie Teague tells of looking into the bloody face of his friend David Rutledge after a group of youths fatally beat Rutledge in July 2004. The attack took place just a half-block from where Rutledge and Teague lived in a licensed group home.

John Budski, who has depression and schizophrenia, lives in a rooming house. He previously lived on his own but says the county would not come to his home to provide services.

Debra Rhodes keeps the toes of one foot bare despite freezing temperatures outside, as she watches traffic pass by her boarding home in January. People with chronic mental illness often lack the care they need.

The pantry is all but bare at Lois Wimmer’s group home in January. Four tenants live at the home, where food is included in the $500 rent. All the items on the shelves were past their recommended freshness dates.

Four tenants share this bathroom in January at Lois Wimmers boarding house at 2717 W. Vliet St. A razor and bloody tissue are lying on the floor. City inspectors in the past have found violations, including broken smoke alarms; overcrowding; open sewage; and electrical and plumbing violations.

Lois Wimmer of Milwaukee recalls her years running boarding homes for Milwaukees chronic mentally ill population. At one point, she had 15 rooming houses with up to 75 tenants but has closed all but one, on Vliet St.

Housing

Click to enlarge

How To Get Help
Whom to call with a complaint of illegal group homes or poor living conditions for people with mental illness:
State Bureau of Quality Assurance (608) 266-8481
City of Milwaukee Building Inspection: (414) 286-2268
County Board of Supervisors: (414) 278-4222
Milwaukee Common Council members: (414) 286-2221
Disability Rights Wisconsin
Milwaukee office: (414) 773-4646
Madison office: (608) 267-0214
Northern Wisconsin: (715) 736-1232
About the Reporting

Meg Kissinger
Kristyna Wentz-Graff

Journal Sentinel reporter Meg Kissinger and photojournalist Kristyna Wentz-Graff spent seven months interviewing people with mental illness, their families and neighbors, landlords, caseworkers, government officials and building inspectors, doctors and nurses. They also visited rooming houses, apartment buildings and subdivided homes where mentally ill people live. Kissinger analyzed hundreds of city building inspection records; county, state and federal files; court documents; and medical examiner’s reports.

Thirty years ago, a Milwaukee County lawsuit sparked a nationwide revolution in mental health care. Patients living in locked psychiatric hospital wards were released to live in freedom with the aid of new drug treatments.

An investigation by the Journal Sentinel has found that hundreds of today’s sickest patients suffer in the city’s most broken-down neighborhoods. Some are dying; others are preyed upon by opportunists and neglected by the people responsible for their care. They are not able to fend for themselves, and no one else is taking responsibility for them, despite being paid more than $10 million a year in tax dollars to do so.

In the first comprehensive accounting of Milwaukee’s severely ill mental patients, the newspaper found:

• Hundreds are living in illegal group homes and rooming houses – many of them filthy and dangerous, some deadly – which have sprung up as stealth mental hospitals to replace county wards.

• City building inspectors have failed to identify and close down these illegal homes. And they have never reported illegal group homes to the state licensing agency.

• County caseworkers, responsible for their clients’ well-being, regularly send them to these houses and apartments, despite knowing how filthy and dangerous the buildings are. This is a direct violation of a federal court agreement.

• State group home inspectors generally don’t investigate homes unless they are licensed. As a result, unlicensed, illegal group homes escape scrutiny.

• The federal government adds to the problem by allowing landlords to receive all of a tenant’s disability check directly, despite the obvious opportunity for exploitation.

• Bureaucrats point their fingers at each other, claiming someone else is responsible.

• The problem is especially pronounced in Milwaukee County, where most of the state’s mentally ill people live.

“It is a hidden and shameful thing that goes on here in Milwaukee,” said Tom Hlavacek, who served as chairman of the Milwaukee Mental Health Task Force until last year.

Just how bad are these places?

Ask Willie Teague how two of his buddies died.

On Aug. 7, 2000, city building inspectors got a complaint from some psychiatric caseworkers that Gene Gokhman, a Mequon businessman, was running an illegal group home in his apartment building at 4276 N. 27th St. The caller said eight men, all mentally ill, were living there, signing over their Social Security checks to Gokhman. Inspectors visited eight days later but said they weren’t able to verify that the building was a group home.

Case managers for the county complained again, months later, this time about broken toilets and the lack of heat in the building. City inspectors went back out in January 2001 and found merit to the complaint, but again did not cite the building as an illegal group home or fine Gokhman.

On July 22, 2001, Teague awoke in choking heat and found his roommate, Tony Hall, 34, sprawled out on the couch, dead from heat stroke. Hall was on anti-psychotic medication, which inhibited his ability to regulate body temperature. The home lacked enough ventilation ; Hall died of “environmental hyperthermia.”

Teague ran as fast as he could to a pay phone down the block to let police know. They carted away Hall’s body before the rats that roamed the rooms at night could get to it. Hall’s core body temperature was 100 degrees at the time of his autopsy, which was performed more than five hours after he was found dead.

Police found a notice, near the back door, requiring that the building be boarded and the tenants be vacated. It was signed by the city and dated 10 days earlier.

Scott Ivanowski, Hall’s psychiatric case manager, told police that he had been to Hall’s apartment many times and was aware of the conditions. His former co-workers said he was so upset about Hall’s death that he quit his job and moved away.

Teague took his friend’s death hard, too. He went into a spiral after Hall died, crying often and saying he wanted to be with his mother, Lilly, who had died years earlier. He became combative and eventually ended up in jail for battery. Teague still talks about how much he misses Hall.

“He was a real good guy,” Teague said. “He was my friend.”

Gokhman said he had no idea when he bought the building in 2000 that people with severe mental illness lived there. He admitted that his employee used to feed the men their meals from one common area, in violation of city code. The men had no refrigerators or stoves in their living areas.

“The guy who sold it to me didn’t say nothing about it. I didn’t know it was a group home until later,” said Gokhman. He said he didn’t get a license because he didn’t know he needed one.

Gokhman said he ran errands for the men.

“I helped these guys a lot,” said Gokhman, who confirmed that he had the men sign over their disability checks to him.

Gokhman sold the building in May to a company based in Las Vegas for $305,000, more than twice what he had paid for it five years earlier.

Gokhman didn’t remember details about Hall’s death.

“I was out of town. But I heard it was real hot that week,” he said.

If you also blame Scott Walker, please call him at 414-278-4211 and demand that he protect the mentally ill.

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County budget cuts denounced
Speakers’ funding pleas include transit, drug treatment
By STEVE SCHULTZE
sschultze@journalsentinel.com
Posted: Oct. 29, 2007

Don’t cut bus service, drug treatment or University of Wisconsin Extension programs, speakers exhorted the Milwaukee County Board on Monday night.

The crowd of about 350 at the board’s annual budget hearing skewed heavily against cuts that County Executive Scott Walker made in his 2008 budget.

The board’s finance committee already has restored nearly $8 million in tax levy funding, including dozens of parks, court and correctional officer jobs that Walker wants to abolish and bus routes he targeted for shortening.

The board was urged to stand firm on those actions. Personal stories of how important programs have been for participants were mixed with denunciations of Walker’s trims.

Several self-described recovering drug addicts and alcoholics and advocates pleaded for the county to fill in for $2.6 million in lost federal drug and alcohol treatment money. The spending helps avoid crime and other social costs of addictions, they said.

Although expensive and politically difficult, the treatment spending makes economic as well as moral sense, said the Rev. Joseph Ellwanger, a retired Lutheran pastor.

“The time is always right to do the right thing,” he said, paraphrasing Martin Luther King Jr.

Route cuts and bus and paratransit fare increases should be resisted, speakers told the board at the listening session at the Washington Park Senior Center, 4420 W. Vliet St.

Richard Riley, a transit union official, said the reversal of cuts to several bus routes was important and asked the board to delete Walker’s suggested 25-cents-a-ride fare increase, which would raise the one-way charge to $2.

“I’m tired of the same old song and dance every year,” Riley said, referring to the annual rounds of budget cuts and partial restorations under Walker. He and others called for a dedicated funding source for transit, such as a penny sales tax.

About 40 supporters of UW Extension programs wore blue T-shirts and held signs opposing Walker’s plan to cut some $172,000 in the county tax levy. That would also mean the loss of some $2 million in federal extension aid, a bad trade-off, they said.

The Thomas Paine Democracy Network is an IRS approved 501(c)(4) issue advocacy organization dedicated to an informed and participating citizenry. As a non-profit organization, The Thomas Paine Democracy Network is a social welfare organization engaged in promoting the common good and general welfare of the people of the United States of America.

The Thomas Paine Democracy Network recognizes that political participation and voter awareness are at all-time lows, and are committed to educational activities that reverse this trend and motivate American citizens to accept full responsibility for their government and take back control of its activities. Put simply, the health of America’s democracy depends on a return to the ideals of political participation so important to the Founding Fathers and the birth of our nation.

The Thomas Paine Democracy Network is not a campaign organization, and will not advocate for the election or defeat of any political candidate. The organization will instead speak out aggressively on public affairs and officials and encourage citizens to take charge of their affairs. The organization is committed to alerting the electorate when good government is threatened, and advocating for policies that make public officials more responsive and representative of the needs of their constituents.

When inept or unethical forces in politics or the media create a government that fails to work or represent the will or meet the needs of the people – which is the case today — then the American people themselves have a responsibility to step up and fix the problem. The multinational corporations that run our mainstream media and many of our politicians can no longer be trusted to serve the needs of the people, and the activities of The Thomas Paine Democracy Network will help fill this gap and energize our democracy.

Individual, foundation and corporate contributions are welcome, and will be utilized in issue advocacy and educational activities that inspire political participation and hold public officials accountable at the local, state and national levels. Contributions are not deductible for federal income tax purposes.

Contributions Are Welcome

January 9, 2008

8paine2.jpgThe Thomas Paine Democracy Network welcomes contributions from all sources and guarantees confidentiality, no matter how aggressively the totalitarian politicians, press, or courts may seek the information.

FYI To The Historically-Challenged Censors Out There

Thomas Paine is sometimes known as “The Father of the American Revolution” for his writing for complete independence from royal rule – in his pamphlet Common Sense, Paine’s pro-independence monograph, written in late 1775 and published anonymously on January 10, 1776, spread quickly among literate colonists. Within three months, 120,000 copies are alleged to have been distributed throughout the colonies,[6] which themselves totaled only two million free inhabitants, making it the best-selling work in 18th-century America. Its total sales in both America and Europe reached 500,000 copies.[7] It convinced many colonists, including George Washington and John Adams, to seek redress in political independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, and argued strongly against any compromise short of independence. The work was greatly influenced (including in its name – Paine had originally proposed the title Plain Truth) by the equally controversial pro-independence writer Benjamin Rush and was instrumental in bringing about the Declaration of Independence.
Loyalists attacked Common Sense with vigor. One such early attack, entitled Plain Truth, was written in 1776 by prominent loyalist James Chalmers. An expatriate of Scotland, Chalmers attacked Paine as a “political quack.” Chalmers would serve as commander of the First Battalion of Maryland Loyalists in the American Revolution.

Wikipedia

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