Mill, Bills, and Capitol Hill

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The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a new favorite organization of mine, and one whose advocacy recommendations I intend (with God’s help!)  to review regularly. Deep inside I know how crucial it is to stand up for our brothers and sisters with mental illness. My book characters, Mill and Gary Fairbairn, are brothers who struggle with these issues as well.

With this in mind, I educated myself this week on two federal mental health services bills competing for the privilege of becoming law. schoolhouse-rock-bill2

“At least I hope and pray that one will, but today it is still–just a bill.”  (thanks Schoolhouse Rock)

Here is a little bill background, courtesy of NAMI:

“Both bills authorize federal resources for jail diversion, expand resources for suicide prevention, protect access to psychiatric medications in Medicaid and Medicare, and provide financial incentives for improved health information technology in mental health care. There are also some differences that reflect contrasting visions of what is needed to improve the mental health system.”  

In my book, “The Reluctant Archivist,” I weave the late 1970’s version of mental health care into the story–the good, bad, and ugly. How far have we come, or were people better off in 1975?

Quench Your Thirst for Meaning–Read.

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Part of JFK’s Vision for (Mental) Health Care?

Photo1297FYou value privacy in your health care, but if that privacy prevented your primary MD and a specialist or two from coordinating your various treatments, you might feel differently. And the state of Minnesota seems to be leading the charge in enabling MDs, paramedics, and ER clinicians to share information when needed.

I assert this is even more crucial for people with long-term mental illness. Family and friends,  strained by the person’s unpredictable or unpleasant behavior,  may be unavailable or unwilling to take the time to advocate for the patient. When docs can’t access the treatment and medication history needed to create a personalized treatment plan–look out!  People are misdiagnosed, prescribed duplicate or previously intolerable meds, and are at great risk for relapse or re-hospitalization.

Many of us remember the Community Mental Health Act, passed during JFK’s administration. The Act funded construction of outpatient community mental health centers, with the good intention of making the psych unit obsolete. Medical and treatment monitoring boosted patient autonomy and positive self-image. Unfortunately, the under-funded programs didn’t translate into enough centers to accommodate the many people who needed them.

Because of the push from government budget concerns, groups of hospitals, home care agencies, and physician practices are finally collaborating. Sharing information via integrated software networks is permitted as patients sign a release upon admission. Having sympathized at the bedside with hundreds of patients insisting “their doctors never talk to each other,” I know this is not an isolated problem.

Whether or not I am a JFK-admirer is not the point. I think JFK would be encouraged and pleased with Minnesota’s Community Health Network. Not to mention coalitions such as Rush University Medical Center’s Bridge Program, here in my good ‘ol Chicago.

 

 

 

 

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Taking More Than Just A (News)Bite

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We’re living in a political world, but I’m not a political girl. Can I be reformed? Start to care? You’d think a writer whose main character, Mill Fairbairn, is running for mayor, would be politically aware and fascinated by the latest party wranglings. Not so much. I have a hard time concentrating during five minutes of radio news bites.

I’m aware of this shortcoming and ready to repent of it. So I’m going to launch another experiment: for the next two months I’m going to write a weekly post about what I’ve learned from at least one story concerning state or national politics. Obama? ISIS? Murder rates in Alaska? I’d welcome any suggestions of sources of reputable information: TV, websites, magazines–any and all.

Let my journey from uninformed to cutting edge begin. I think Mill would be proud.

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Advantages of OCD?

Sunkgarden Ever since TV shows about hoarders came on the scene, people started using the phrase being “a little OCD” when talking about their passion for order in some sphere of their life. Hoarders don’t appear to embrace neatness, but their passion for perfection often arises from the fear that to discard any piece of paper or possession will result in a crucial lost opportunity.

Mill, from my book The Reluctant Archivist, is sufficiently affected by his perfectionism to merit a  Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder diagnosis. Yet Mill’s influence and loyal following continue to grow. Seem puzzling? Social workers often say the difference between an eccentricity and a disorder is the extent of its interference with daily tasks and routines.  So there must be an upside of the inclination to save, categorize and file!

I personally think I could have made a respectable career as a Professional Organizer. My ability to enter a room, view a pile of mismatched items of various sizes and shapes, and quickly visualize them arranged for convenient access in bins, on hooks or shelves is not universal.  I begin with the end in mind, savoring the simplicity organization may bring.

Mill and I would have been kindred spirits, yet like most of us, organization in itself doesn’t bring the peace he hopes for. In my book, you’ll discover how Mill redoubles his efforts to pursue his hijacked goals and eventually reclaims what is most important to him.

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Free E-Book Samples

Dear Reader,

I am offering samples of my flash-fiction (very short stories) e-books in exchange for your email address and a posted comment about them. First choice: “Life Bubbling Over,” which chronicles people’s mishaps when life gets in the way of their goals–lofty, and…less so.

The other collection, “Adventures in the Land of Confusion”, finds Gramma Loretta, retired teacher coping with Alzheimer’s disease, living life to the fullest in spite of it all!

Just contact me at juliehadler.com to get your copy! Not expiring soon, no black-out periods.

Keep following! Future sketches and samples are coming soon to acquaint you with my new characters.

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The Reluctant Archivist–Sneak Peek

Excerpt from The Reluctant Archivist

He couldn’t believe she had gotten it so messed up. It was important to keep things in order. His system was flawlessly executed: each cataloged chronologically, except for the special editions which were categorized by the nature of their value. The 1950’s would have to be meticulously re-filed, more than half of them were on the floor. Besides that, she had rearranged the boxes and thrown into disarray the color-coding system he’d applied last year. To him it was intuitively obvious, but she didn’t seem to grasp that the system was important not only for his enjoyment, but also his peace of mind.

He didn’t really want to review everything with her again. She didn’t need to be involved in the day-to-day routine he used to keep everything pristine. But he needed to say something.
“Mom, remember–I said you didn’t have to dust my room—I’ll do it myself!” A wispy-browned haired woman looked up from the kitchen table where she sat looking through a cookbook.
“Honey, I keep telling you but you always forget. Your baseball card collection is important, but you know dusting and vacuuming helps keep your allergies in check. I’m sorry about knocking over that box—the vacuum attachment got away from me.”
“I’ll vacuum too. Just don’t touch the collection, okay?”
She sighed. “It’s hard to avoid when it covers most of the wall and desk space. Couldn’t you store some of them in the garage?”
“What? Are you kidding? What if Cal and I want to compare 1948’s short-stops? I need everything at my fingertips, Mom.”
Mom went to the broom closet and extracted a canister vac the size of a beaver. “Come here then. I’m going to give you a crash course in vacuuming. You’re in seventh grade, it’s time you helped out more anyway.”

 

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What’s An Archivist, Anyhow?

So my character Mill is, among other things, an archivist? What in the heck is an archivist, and why would an aspiring politician want to be one?

People are more familiar with the term archives, which brings to mind dusty records piling up in some kind of library, maybe consulted by a TV detective for evidence. Actually, many lovers of history, writing, and the ethical tightrope we call “politics” are users of or workers in archives. Archives are a treasure trove for biographical or historical researchers. They contain primary sources–that is,  narrative written by or directly quoted from the historical figure or event of interest. Eyewitness, on-the-scene descriptions. Any organization can maintain an archives, but large institutions such as universities, museums, city halls,  and presidential libraries are typical places to find them.

Can you imagine the millions of pieces information collected in one museum’s archives alone? Newspaper articles, letters, ledger entries, meeting agendas, official memos–maybe even top-secret! No wonder a trained staff of archivists is needed to read, organize, catalog, and protect them.  Not to mention assisting researchers to find what they’re looking for. In the past, original copies were stored in special archival containers to protect them from the ravages of light, water, and time.  In our time, many collections have been converted into digital copies for safekeeping.

Safekeeping the past, so that we aren’t doomed to repeat its mistakes. Learning of fascinating events  from those who were there. These are some of the reasons Mill became an archivist. To find out the other reasons, you’ll have to read my book. Coming soon.

 

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Mill Fairbairn–Politician, Archivist, Reluctant detective? A Look Inside the Upcoming Book

People tend to hate elections because it whisks them into the Cynical Zone. With the gubernatorial and congressional elections fast approaching, it seems timely to note that my upcoming book features Mill, an honest-to-goodness politician who wants to be of service to his community. Of course, Mill (full name Millard, after the little known President Millard Fillmore) won’t get off so easily. Good intentions aren’t enough to glide Mill into the position he longs for–Hizzoner the Mayor. Mental illness in the family, legal woes, and opposition with deeply bribe-lined pockets careen Mill’s campaign from shoe-in success to almost-certain failure. With all these challenges, Mill has to ask himself how much does he want this job, and what will he do to get it? 

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Character Sketch: Rich the Stalwart

Rich is Mill’s second, his loyal friend from his University of Illinois days.  He’s not as focused as Mill, but at times has more common sense. He followed Mill’s lead into journalism and has found he has a flair for the reporter’s life of bizarre encounters with the people of Champaign.  Rich has few challenges in his daily life, with the exception of helping Mill wade through to the other side of his many obstacles to success. In fact, without Rich, Mill would probably still be in his pajamas at 10 am instead of out and about conquering the world–or at least  Champaign County.

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Free E-book Samples

Dear Reader,

I am offering samples of my flash-fiction (very short stories) e-books in exchange for your email address and a posted comment about them. First choice: “Life Bubbling Over,” which chronicles people’s mishaps when life gets in the way of their goals–lofty, and…less so.

The other collection, “Adventures in the Land of Confusion”, finds Gramma Loretta, retired teacher coping with Alzheimer’s disease, living life to the fullest in spite of it all!

Just contact me at juliehadler.wordpress.com to get your copy! Not expiring soon, no black-out periods.

Keep following! Future sketches and samples are coming soon to acquaint you with my new characters.

 

 

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