Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Now that 2009 is drawing to close!

Missouri Department of Mental Health is still pussyfooting around the real needs of the Deaf community. Despite many meetings and written stories about the lack of mental health services for the Deaf in Missouri, it is a zilch, nada, zero! Not an iota has been done! You can see their website. It is a BIG joke and a BIG insult to the deaf community!

Mr. Schaefer, the top honcho at Missouri Department of Mental Health is laughing his way to the bank. He is thumbing his nose at the Deaf community. He has ignored our pleas for many months. It is time for him to "RETIRE". He is too busy fattening his financial portfolio. He was asked to come back to lead the DMH. It is a waste of taxpayers money having him at the top. He practically did nothing. He wears hearing aid. I am under the impression he is unhappy with his hearing loss.

He used (DAC) Deaf Advisory Committee as a tokenism to glorify his ego that he was working with them in getting issues resolved. Nothing has been done during 2009. He lied to the deaf leaders again and again. He is being despised and being put on the list of "Hall of Shame" for acting as audist and for ignoring the deaf community.

The whole process of doing what the deaf community needed and wanted fell on deaf ears again and again! This has been going on too long!

Mr. Schaefer's cronies (his staff) had the gall to use character assassination against some deaf leaders. This has gone too far!

It is time for Mr. Schaefer and his staff to leave the Missouri Department of Mental Health as they have done nothing for the Deaf community.

How many more deaf people have to die to force them to act?

I am sharing a letter from a mental health professional who spent years and years advocating for the rights of deaf people to have access to mental health services. It has been nothing but nightmares.

"January 26, 2009

Dear Members of the Mental Health Appropriations Committee:

I am writing to express my concern regarding the gross lack of inclusion of Deaf Missourians within the service delivery structure of the Department of Mental Health. It has been my experience for the past 15 years that culturally and linguistically affirmative services for this population are not available. Essentially, this means that persons who are Deaf are not able to receive effective treatment for their mental health needs.

I began addressing this issue professionally when Steve Hamerdinger was the Director of Deaf Services at DMH. Steve brought a wealth of professional skill and experience. (He is now the Director, operating a widely successful Deaf mental health program in Alabama.) While he worked in Missouri, I had the privilege of serving on each of his study groups and research initiatives. Resulting from these and countless avenues of input from the Deaf community across the state, several proposals were submitted to DMH. Each one outlined how successful plans currently used in other states could be implemented in Missouri. Steve even showed how services could be provided by the mere reallocation of existing dollars and staff.

One such model plan we studied was from South Carolina under the leadership of Dr. Barry Critchfield. Deaf in that state were, and continue to receive effective mental health treatment because of the leadership Barry provided. We were able to hire him to implement that model in our state along with his 30+ years of national recognition, experience and training in the field of Deaf mental health. His initiatives, just like those of Steve before him, were not supported by the Department. We are no closer today than we were decades ago to even beginning to have a service delivery system in place for Deaf adults and children.

I am a Licensed Professional Counselor. For the past 14 years I have been providing direct counseling to Deaf people from Joplin to St. Louis. I worked in my own private practice until being asked to move it to Burrell, and then resigned in June 2008. Because I am skilled in sign language and have had training specifically in Deaf culture and language, my services included an understanding of the unique issues represented by Deaf persons in a mental health setting. I typically worked 14 hour days, weekends and holidays, and was always behind…the calls for more service never stopped.

Deaf persons made it clear that they wanted to work with someone with whom they could communicate directly, and who understood and respected the values and heritage of their culture. A Deaf person attempting to access services from a professional who has no such training, even with the best interpreter, will invariably experience misunderstanding in communication, misdiagnosis, ineffective treatment, dangerously inappropriate prescriptions for medication, or worse. There are countless examples of this happening, even today. This is why culturally affirmative services are not simply preferred, they are essential. This is the foundational premise of being "culturally competent".

The same mental health issues represented by hearing persons are also seen among people who are Deaf. They too need counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, trauma specialists, addiction treatment, inpatient services… When I was treating hearing persons, I could readily make an appropriate referral. Since the beginning of my practice, Deaf have had to listen in horror as I have to this day been left with no reply other than, "We do not know of any DMH services that will provide culturally affirmative services for you." Some have said this is like calling 911 and the operator just hangs up.

As an LPC, and just one person, I could not begin to address the hundreds of individuals with the array of needs brought to my office. The same situation is faced by the small handful of professionals who are providing direct services. The search continues to find the name of one person for backup, consultation, additional services. Ultimately, the Deaf person is just turned away, left to endure and cope, with no hope of ever receiving treatment.

This is particularly painful, and actually makes me ill when it happens to a child. Abuse, trauma, neglect, foster care, divorce, behavior issues, serious mental illnesses…all are just left untreated. These children are given a powerful message – If you are Deaf, you don't get help in Missouri. We have watched them grow up, and as the cycle repeats itself…the fallout is entirely unbearable. We see it every week, we saw it today. It grieves my heart and makes me ill… there is no help!!

The efforts I have made are just a small example of the work done by many others. I only mention what I've done to show what has been done and to underscore the urgency of the matter. There are several professionals, citizens, consumers across the state who have been advocating for decades for Deaf mental health needs. They speak for those who are too ill, or too discouraged, or don't know how to help themselves. It is understood that not every single person is able to get the help they need. But they say they have no hope of ever finding anyone at all. Many have made the point that they don't want a handout. They are willing to travel, to pay, to wait awhile for the appointment…If only they were extended the dignity of being able to receive the assistance they need to help themselves in the same manner it is extended to non-deaf persons.

I have heard some say they feel like beggars, standing outside with a paper cup, waiting for the rain, while the "fountain" of services funded by DMH taxpayer dollars is not open to them. The pride and self-respect of a Deaf Missourian takes a hit each time they ask DMH for just one name of one person they can call, and they receive no reply.

My purpose in writing is to continue in my efforts to advocate for Deaf children and families. Thank you for your consideration of this matter. We are truly facing a life-and-death crisis, and the importance of your attention cannot be overemphasized.


Marcia Brewer"

All of those plans and meetings and testimonies and marches have netted ZERO. Not one step forward, as evidenced on the DMH website. Have you looked at it lately? TWO names of LPC's. The rest is "coming soon". Can you imaging rushing into the ER and watching everyone else being taken in for treatment, while they tell YOU to have a seat, that YOUR doctor is "coming soon". And you sit there for not just hours, or days...but for years! This is the experience of Deaf Missourians

This is now being put in the Hall of Shame!