Monday, December 15, 2008



Honorable Representative Sara Lampe:
(Editor's Note: Missouri State Representative - Sara Lampe is planning some kind of investigation into this matter.)

This is an appreciation note to let you know that I am pleased that you are taking the time to look into matters concerning the deaf consumers of mental health services. It is imperative that the Missouri Department of Mental Health follow what the deaf community is requesting.

The past few years, the Department of Mental Health (DMH) has been window dressing and playing shell game with us. Whenever we need services, we end up losing the sight of what is to be delivered to us. There is always someone passing the buck.

Not too long ago, the program was being set up by Steve Hamerdinger who had the right answers to the needs of deaf mental health needs. He is a well respected authority on mental health issues facing the deaf community. He is a brilliant fellow who have foreseen the needs of the deaf community and is able to provide solutions to the problems. He has successfully implemented the same model for Missouri in Alabama.

When it came to budget request of a couple million dollars to meet the needs of the Missouri Deaf community, the people at the top chose to shut down the program and kicked all the staff that were hired by Steve Hamgerdinger out. There were no management succession afterwards. There were no plans to provide outside programs or any follow ups. They simply threw us out on the streets.

Then came Barry Critchfield - he is an expert on deaf mental health. He is internationally recognized for his expertise in that field. The same for Steve Hamerdinger. Barry Critchfield did try to put together the same program he administered in South Carolina. It is also a successful program.

Tell me why did Missouri Department of Mental Health turn deaf ears on both well respected authorities on deaf mental health??? This raises a stink up to the heavens. DMH ought to be investigated.

They chose to play with the funds and only hired the interpreters to the tune of $539,000.00 as of the past year according to their admission at the conference on October 12, 2008. Most of deaf community were in shock when we found out the cost. We recommended that they re-budget the funds to hire 4 deaf mental health professionals at $40,000.00 each. It is only $160,000.00 total and with some benefits thrown in as much as $15 to 20 thousand. There is still some money left to use interpreting services.

They continue to drag their feet in this matter.

Unfortunately the interpreters cannot be true advocates of mental health system. They are "locked" in one role as communication facilitator. The RID Code of Ethics does not allow a certified interpreter to step out of its role in many situations.

This is where we, as deaf advocates, intervene in the interests of our Deaf community. We are not happy and not satisfied with the present status of the DMH. They continue to play games with us and continue hurting us more day by day. We have been without mental health services so long. Many of us are suffering. We are falling through cracks of the service delivery system.

We have constitutional rights to access the mental health services. I have a mental picture of Missouri Department of Mental Health sticking baby pacifers in deaf community's mouths. The current status of DMH does not provide any programs or services that help deaf consumers be self-sufficent. It is audism at work. Audism is where the hearing people make "illegal" decisions for the deaf consumers. This is not at par with the satisfication of the deaf consumers. The people in DMH and the community are not qualified to meet the needs of the deaf consumers.

The fact of matter is that the hearing people have no patience in dealing with deaf consumers. It is considered that there are 98 percent of hearing population having no patience with deaf people in communities. It is an educated guess at this point but it has been happening around the country.

You do need a deaf professional to handle deaf cases. You cannot have a hearing person to handle deaf cases. It is like hiring a man to handle abused women cases? It is like hiring a white person to handle african american cases. It can go on and on.

It is like according to late Gallaudet University President Dr. Merrill, he stated that you cannot hire Japanese teachers to teach English class. It will be chaos.

This is where and why we are requesting that DMH understand our position in having a right person to handle the case management.

I did report to the DMH Commissioners at the top that I was not satisfied with Keith Schafer and his administration including Heskett and Winslow. The chair of Commission wrote me a certified letter stating that he was happy with the current staffing. They just recently hired an interpreter to handle mental health cases. It is a BIG JOKE to us in the deaf community. This is like pulling us down further.

Let me state for the record - they are practicing discrimination loud and clear. They are in violation of Americans with Disabilities Act as well as human rights. I have brought this matter up with the legal profession and state agencies. Everyone's hands continue to be tied.....

Where can we go next?

We will need your attention to this matter of following up on the needs of deaf community.

Before I close, I want to express a bit about myself. I grew up being a suicidal person. I have tried to end my life numerous times as I have been victim of abuses. I have never received proper mental health services to help me stop going to the dark side. I have been to dark side numerous times where I was close to death. I have tried cutting my wrists. I have tried having noose around my neck. I have tried suffocating in plastic bag. I have taken pills to overdose. I have lived dangerously during 20s and 30s.

Since I am a self-starter and self-helper, I take the time to read materials and follow up with a few qualified professionals. I have learned to turn 180 degrees away from the disastrous path. I have learned to use coping skills from the last program. It was 20 years ago that I made that last attempt to commit suicide. So far so good I am doing and coping! I want to stay alive to continue to advocate for the rights of deaf consumers of mental health.

I am working on a documentary about deaf and suicide. I have seen few deaf committing suicide. I have helped one person from committing suicide while in college and failed to help another. He hung himself in the woods behind the college cafeteria. It burns in my mind for more than 30 years. The problems we have are only temporary. Tomorrow brings on new hopes and challenges. This is what the suicidal ones need to know. This is why I am working on "SUICIDE: A LONELY JOURNEY TO THE DARK SIDE"

This is where you can step in and help us set the program right on the track to meet the needs of deaf community! You may use my story for your journey in resolving the problems. We are humbly asking you to end the audism at the Missouri Department of Mental Health.

Thank you for your time and consideration!


Paul Kiel
a private citizen
St. Louis, Missouri

"Tough times never last, tough people do!"

December 15, 2008