Only 2 Weeks Till NYAPRS Conference! Still Time to Register 5, Get 1 Free!

We’re only 2 weeks away from the NYAPRS Annual Conference!

We’ve gotten a very strong response and rooms have gone very quickly:

Please make sure you get the remaining rooms of your choice by registering today.

Remember: Register 5 Get 1 Free!

All Registrations are Being Handled Directly by the Villa Roma at




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We Remember on 9/11: NYAPRS Cultural Competence Committee

NYAPRS Note: Following the horrific attacks of September 11, the NYAPRS Board decided that it was more important than ever to go forward with the next day’s start of our September 12-14 annual conference. Over 300 members from across upstate were able to get to the conference, an unforgettable experience of the power of community to comfort and strengthen each other in the face of horror.

Several months later, NYAPRS held a special 2nd conference in Brooklyn that featured a stirring keynote from Mary Ellen Copeland, just for our New York City and Long Island members who couldn’t make the first one.

We will never forget the power of reaching out and coming together and, in that spirit, following is a message of comfort and caring from our NYAPRS Cultural Competence Committee.

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Reformers Regroup to Push Cuomo for 15Prison -Day Limit on Solitary Confinement: Gothamist

NYAPRS Note: Undeterred by Albany’s unwillingness to enact Human Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (HALT) legislation last session, advocates for the bill gathered in the Albany area this past weekend, laying out an array of strategies to see the bill passed in 2020. I participated in the retreat, making it clear that HALT’s passage will once again be a major primary of NYAPRS’ 2020 budget priorities at our February 25th, 2020 Legislative Day.

As you can see below, statewide organizer Victor Pate is at the center of the campaign: NYAPRS is very pleased to be honoring Victor, along with Ron Manderscheid, Sally Zinman, Teena Brooks and Rob Kent at our upcoming annual conference. See more at

Prison Reformers Regroup to Push Cuomo for 15-Day Limit on Solitary Confinement

By Ross Barkan      September 9, 2019

When Democrats seized control of the New York State Senate last year, criminal justice reformers were optimistic that the new class of progressives would move swiftly to curtail solitary confinement in New York prisons and jails, a practice increasingly derided as inhumane. By March, a majority of state senators had co-sponsored legislation to restrict the practice.

Instead, amid backroom wrangling, opposition from the powerful correction officers union, and a veto threat from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the bill quietly died in Albany, though the effort did win a package of smaller reforms. It was a grievous blow for reformers, who have quietly been strategizing over how to win passage for legislation that once seemed inevitable, but has run up against a powerful governor and skittish legislative leaders who fret over the political and monetary costs of challenging a deeply entrenched correctional practice.

“I still feel betrayed and my anger has not subsided,” said Victor Pate, the statewide organizer for New York Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement.

Pate, who was formerly incarcerated and spent time in solitary confinement, is one of the advocates who rallied around the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act, a bill that would limit the amount of time an incarcerated New Yorker can spend in solitary confinement to 15 consecutive days (a standard set by the United Nations’ expert on torture). For inmates who need to be separated for longer periods of time, the bill requires them to be transferred to residential rehabilitation units with “therapy, treatment, and rehabilitative programming.”

In the days leading up to the end of the 2019 legislative session, advocates went on an eight-day hunger strike to urge the Democrat-controlled assembly and senate to pass HALT and Cuomo to sign it. Curtailing solitary confinement has long been a goal for criminal justice reformers because the practice—where inmates can spend 23 hours a day locked in a tiny cell, with stays lasting as long as months or even years—can take an extreme psychic toll on prisoners, including sparking panic attacks and hallucinations.

Though Cuomo, at least in the early months of the legislative session, appeared sympathetic to HALT, he later balked at the bill, citing what he claimed was a potential billion-dollar cost of building new facilities to house prisoners not held in solitary confinement. The Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, a Cuomo ally, is a proponent of solitary confinement and has said ending the practice would "invite violence” against officers and inmates.

Proponents of HALT pushed back, arguing the bill could actually save the state money because it would drastically reduce the number of people held in solitary confinement. They also contended that concern over small municipalities having to spend money on new facilities is unfounded because the bill explicitly exempts jails with 500 or fewer inmates from those requirements.

In the end, Cuomo and legislative leaders Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Carl Heastie agreed to several administrative changes that will cap solitary confinement at 90 days starting in 2021—and 30 days by 2022—and prohibited its use on pregnant or disabled inmates. These failed to placate advocates, as an executive order lacks the teeth of legislation, and the measures don’t go as far as HALT.

(The governor’s office did not reply to a query about how much the state expects to save from the looser limits on solitary confinement.)

Pate said advocates are planning a far bigger mobilization around HALT for 2020, targeting legislators who already support it, those who are not committed, and the governor’s office. The coalition’s initial goal is to ensure HALT is at the front of the Democrats’ early agenda, which was overwhelmed last year with a wide range of long-pent-up progressive bills. One hope is to add Senate co-sponsors to increase pressure on Cuomo: 34 Democrats now back HALT, though there are 40 in the chamber. (It would take 42 votes to override the governor's veto.)

Pate said he plans to bring 1,000 supporters of HALT to Albany on the first day of the legislative session, with weekly gatherings to follow, as well as rallies at the district offices of Democrats who back the bill. “We need a mass mobilization of people,” he said.

Asked by Gothamist if the governor would reconsider HALT next session, Cuomo spokesperson Rich Azzopardi said only, “If there’s revised legislation, we’ll review it” — implying that the legislation would have to change in some way to avoid Cuomo’s veto pen.

State Senator Luis Sepúlveda, a Bronx Democrat who is a co-sponsor of HALT, said he has visited almost a dozen prison facilities since the end of the legislative session and is planning to convene HALT advocates, representatives from NYSCOBA, and criminal justice experts to discuss a way forward for the legislation. His office is planning to release an analysis based on the visits he has made to prisons. He also hopes to hold a HALT hearing at a correctional facility in the coming months.

“We had to deal with the governor’s comments that as the bill is, he would veto it,” Sepúlveda said. “He was pretty adamant he would not sign a bill the way it was written. He came up with some pretty high numbers, even a billion dollars. I respectfully disagree with him.”

Concluded Sepúlveda, “We have to fight another day. And we will.”

For Alicia Barraza, a criminal justice advocate closely involved in the fight to pass HALT, Cuomo’s rejection was personal. Her son, who was mentally ill, committed suicide after a ten-day stay in solitary confinement.

For HALT to pass in 2020, she said, advocates must squarely target Cuomo’s office, which she blames for the bill’s demise.

“We need him to see it is not going to cost the tremendous amount of money he’s claiming it’s going to cost,” she said.

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Only 2 Weeks Till NYAPRS Conference! Still Time to Register 5, Get 1 Free!

We’re only 2 weeks away from the NYAPRS Annual Conference! 

We’re getting a very strong response and rooms are going very quickly:

Please make sure you get the rooms of your choice and register today. 

Remember: Register 5 Get 1 Free! 

All Registrations are Being Handled Directly by the Villa Roma at





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NAMI's Honberg on ERPOs, Red Flag Laws

NYAPRS Note: Here’s a good comprehensive summary on the Extreme Risk Protection Orders that are associated with ‘Red Flag Laws’ by NAMI’s Ron Honberg from testimony he gave to the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 26 (see article on that hearing below).

NYAPRS views ERPOs as a very promising public safety strategy, provided it is presented to the public and implemented for ANY individual who poses a gun related threat.

It will be essential that we hold politicians’ feet to the fire when they describe this as a strategy pertaining only to people with mental health conditions  since the overwhelming majority of threats come outside of our community, let alone to avert highly damaging stigma and discrimination.

Further, Ron’s recommendation to include healthcare professionals among those who can petition for ERPOs only makes sense as long as this applies to ALL healthcare practitioners who essentially are treating the entire public.


Statement of Ron Honberg Arlington, Virginia

On Behalf Of The National Alliance On Mental Illness

Regarding Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing On “Red Flag Laws: Examining Guidelines For State Action”

March 26, 2019 10:00 A.M. 

In the aftermath of mass tragedies in recent years, the focus of public opinion and dialogue has often been on mental illness as the culprit. This is unfortunate, both because mental illness is frequently not the culprit, and because the often-unfounded presumption that acts of mass violence must be attributable to mental illness reinforces longstanding negative stereotypes linking mental illness with violence.

Overall, only 4% of violent acts in the U.S. are attributable to mental illness.i Most people with serious mental illness are never violent towards others and are more often victims of violence than perpetrators of violence. As described in greater detail below, although a small subset of people with serious mental illness may pose increased risks for violence towards others, this is generally associated either with other risk factors for violence or the untreated symptoms of psychosis, such as delusions or hallucinations.

Risk Factors for Violence Toward Others

Research on risk factors for violence, including gun violence, have identified the following factors as potential predictors. It is important to consider these factors in context. The fact that a certain behavior or characteristic may constitute a risk factor for violence doesn’t mean that most people who fall into this category will engage in violence.

Evidence-based factors that increase risks of violence include:

·         A history of violence, which the strongest predictor of future violence;

·         A history of physical or sexual abuse, particularly in childhood;

·         Abuse of alcohol or drugs;

·         Domestic violence has been identified as a risk factor, particularly for violence with a firearm;

·         Past convictions for violent misdemeanors;

·         Delusions and paranoia, sometimes characteristic of psychosis. People experiencing first episodes of psychosis may particularly be at risk. However, it should be noted that most people experiencing these symptoms will not act violently towards others.

Suicides – The Most Significant Risk

The magnitude of the suicide crisis in the U.S. cannot be overstated. In 2016, suicides were the 10th leading cause of death for all Americans. Nearly 45,000 people died by suicide. Suicide  rates were more than 2 times higher than homicide rates. For young people between the ages of 10 and 24, suicides were the second leading cause of death in 2016.iii

The epidemic of suicides has been particularly severe among veterans. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reported that about 20 veterans per day  take their own lives.  In that same year, veterans accounted for 14% of all suicide deaths in the U.S. Rises in suicide rates among young veterans between the ages of 18 and 34 have been particularly prevalent between 2006 and 2016.iv

Nearly half of all suicide death in the U.S. are with firearms. And, suicides account for 60% of gun deaths in the U.S. each year. Because guns, when used, are frequently lethal, 90% of suicide attempts with guns result in deaths. Others result in serious disability.

And, a significant percentage of people who die by suicide were diagnosed with major depression or another serious mental illness. While it is difficult to accurately diagnose the existence of a mental illness after a person’s death, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently estimated that about half of all suicide deaths involved people diagnosed with mental illness, and they speculated that the actual rates may have been significantly higher because many others may have had mental health conditions but had not seen a mental health professional and thus were undiagnosed.v Other experts have suggested that rates of mental illness among those who complete suicides could be as high as

Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs).

ERPOs are civil court orders issued by judges to temporarily remove firearms or ammunition from persons who are identified as posing immediate or imminent risks to the safety of themselves or others. Currently, 14 states plus the District of Columbia have passed laws authorizing ERPOs and similar legislation is pending in several other states.vii Although state laws differ in terms of requirements and procedures, ERPOs generally involve a two-stage process, depending upon the urgency of the specific situation.

In urgent cases which involve concern about potential immediate risk of gun violence, an “ex parte” hearing may be held which may or may not involve notice to the individual who is the subject of concern. In such cases, the judge may issue a temporary order prohibiting the  person from possessing or purchasing a firearm. Typically, these orders are in effect for three weeks or less. Based on experiences in the states, sometimes temporary orders are all that are required to alleviate the immediate crisis and prevent harms to the individual or to others.

When ex parte orders are issued or in cases where risk may be viewed as less immediate, a subsequent hearing will take place to further assess dangerousness and determine whether a longer-term order should be issued. At that hearing, the petitioner will be required to testify and present evidence why the order should be issued. The person who is the subject of the petition must be given notice of the hearing and provided with an opportunity to present evidence that he or she is not dangerous and that an ERPO should not be issued.

When the court determines, based on the evidence presented, that the order should be issued, it typically lasts for up to one year. At the end of this period or earlier if the respondent provides evidence satisfying the court that he or she is no longer dangerous, the firearms must be returned. Most state laws also include provisions permitting petitioners to file requests to renew orders if they believe the person remains dangerous and should continue not to have access to firearms.

NAMI’s position on ERPOs

NAMI supports state laws authorizing ERPOs when they are carefully crafted to focus on evidence-based risk factors for violence. ERPOs provide legal mechanisms for family members or law enforcement officers to petition courts for the removal of firearms from people whose actions or statements raise concerns about potential for violence towards themselves or  others. The criteria for issuing ERPOs in state laws are based on specific, real time behaviors rather than categorical assumptions based on past events, such as civil commitments, that may or may not reflect the person’s current state of mind. When properly utilized, they can be potentially lifesaving, particularly in preventing suicides, which are frequently impulsive acts.

To maximize the positive impact of ERPOs and to prevent unintended consequences or abuses of these laws, we offer the following six recommendations.

First, state ERPO laws should emphasize that determinations of risk should be based on individualized assessments rather than stereotypical assumptions about specific groups of people that are not grounded in evidence. For example, as clarified earlier in this testimony, an individual’s history of mental illness or specific diagnosis is not a good predictor for violence. It is therefore neither necessary or appropriate to specifically identify mental illness as a risk factor in state or federal laws. Doing so reinforces historical stigma and prejudice towards people with mental illness, without providing useful guidance on how to accurately assess potential risk factors.

Second, as with any deprivation of individual liberty, it is very important to ensure that subjects of ERPO petitions are afforded due process protections, including whenever possible notice  that a petition has been filed and a hearing scheduled, the right to present evidence in one’s own behalf, and the right to periodic reviews to assess whether it is necessary to continue the order.

Third, law enforcement officers assigned responsibility for removing firearms from individuals subject to ERPOs should receive training on crisis de-escalation and crisis intervention. The removal of firearms from individuals who are reluctant to give up their guns or who are in crisis can be difficult and even potentially volatile. In such situations, protecting the safety of officers and the individuals they are responding to is of paramount important. The nationally recognized Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) model is a proven best practice for training first responders on crisis intervention and for linking those people who require mental health care with needed services and supports.viii

Fourth, the use of stigmatizing language and terminology should be avoided in writing or describing these laws. Terms like “Red Flag Laws” risk increasing stigma towards people who have been historically marginalized and subjected to prejudice and discrimination, such as people with mental illnesses. Perhaps the most blatant example is the term used to refer to mental illness in the federal law authorizing the NICS system, “adjudicated as mentally defective.” Terms such as these are offensive and upsetting to people with mental illness and may even indirectly reinforce perceptions that mental health care should be avoided because of potentially adverse consequences.

The term “Extreme Risk Protection Order” is both less stigmatizing and more accurately describes the purpose of these laws, which is to reduce risks and save lives.

Fifth, authority to initiate petitions for ERPOs in state laws should be expanded to include health care professionals. Most existing laws currently limit standing to petition for ERPOs to law enforcement officers and (in some states) family members. While NAMI respects the importance of protecting the therapeutic alliance between health care professionals and their patients, we also recognize that these professionals are often best positioned to recognize crises situations and when their patients are at risk of harming themselves or others. Although laws such as HIPAA and state confidentiality statutes set forth privacy protections, they also contain exceptions that permit communicating information when necessary to protect the safety of individuals or the public. Adding health care professionals to the list of those with authority to initiate petitions should not establish a mandate, but rather create an option for practitioners to act when circumstances so dictate.

Finally, if ERPOs are to be successfully implemented, it is necessary for states to expend resources on educating key stakeholders, including law enforcement, families, and others, about these laws and how to utilize them. Funding for training and the development of written resources for law enforcement, lawyers, judges, health and social service providers, and family members is necessary. Public education about the availability of these laws and how to use them will also be important, as will be technical assistance on the ground. The implementation of laws authorizing ERPOs will only be effective if assertive efforts are undertaken to educate stakeholders about these laws and provide training and technical assistance on how to use them.

Thank you for this opportunity to testify about ERPOs and their implementation in states. I look forward to your questions.


i J.Swanson, E. McGinty, S. Fazel and V. Mays, “Mental Illness and Reduction of Gun Violence and Suicide: Bringing Epidemiologic Research to Policy,” Annals of Epidemiology, 25 (2015), 366-376.

ii For more information about risk factors for gun violence and suicide, see J. Swanson, E. McGinty, et. al., “Mental Illness and Reduction of gun violence and Suicide: Bringing epidemiologic research to policy,” Annals of Epidemiology, 25 (2015) 366-376; also The Educational Fund To Stop Gun Violence, “Guns, Public Health and Mental Illness: Summary of the Best Available Research Evidence,” Feb. 2018.

iii National Institute of Mental Health, Factsheet on Suicide, downloaded 3/23/2019,

iv L. Shane III, “VA suicide rates for younger veterans increased by more than 10 percent,” Military Times, Sept. 26, 2018, veterans/

v CDC Vital Signs, “Suicides Rising Across the U.S.,” June 2018,


vi J. Cavanaugh, A. Carson, et. al., “Psychological Autopsy Studies of Suicide: A Systematic Review,” 33 Psychological Medicine, 395, 395-405 (2003).

vii States with ERPO laws as of the date of this hearing include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

viii For more information about the CIT program, see


Please note that the hearing below was held last March 

"I Cannot Get Her Life Back": Lawmakers Hold Rare Gun Control Hearing To Discuss "Red Flag" State Laws

By Grace Segers, Camilo Montoya-Galvez  CBS News March 28, 2019

Washington -- Lawmakers on Capitol Hill held a rare hearing on gun control Tuesday morning to discuss so-called "red flag" laws enacted in several states to allow courts to issue orders confiscating the guns of individuals who are deemed to be a risk to others or themselves.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Republican Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham, heard from policy experts, law enforcement officials and advocates -- including a parent who lost her 19-year-old daughter to a shooting -- during the public session.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham concluded the hearing after all senators present had asked questions.

"I'm far more enlightened than I was before," Graham said, adding that he hoped Congress would be able to come to a bipartisan agreement to help implement red flag laws in states.

"I really can't see a reason why we can't pursue this at the federal level, to incentivize states," Graham said.

There are currently two bills in the Senate, one introduced by GOP Sen. Marco Rubio, of Florida, and one proposed by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, of California, focused on incentivizing states to implement red flag laws.

Ernst Asks About High Rates Of Veteran Suicides

Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, of Iowa, asked Ronald Honberg, the senior policy adviser of the advocacy group National Alliance on Mental Illness, about the propensity for veterans returning from combat and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to commit suicide using a gun.

"Many of our veterans, particularly our young veterans, have heroically defended our country and experienced horrific circumstances, and come back and need services and support," Honberg said, adding that it was important to de-stigmatize mental illness.

"We need to talk about mental illness not in terms of violence and criminality," Honberg said. He continued that it was important not to generalize about veterans and those suffering mental illness and their likelihood of committing gun violence, but to look at cases individually to determine whether a person should have his or her firearms taken away.

Protester Interrupts Ted Cruz

When Republican Sen. Ted Cruz began his questioning, a protester stood and yelled for Cruz to "end gun terror."

"Thank you Jacinda Ardern!" The protester, a woman, shouted as she was escorted out of the hearing room, referring to the prime minister of New Zealand who announced a ban on assault weapons after a mass shooting killed 50 people earlier this month.

"People are dying and you're killing them!" The protester yelled at Cruz, presumably for his lack of support for banning assault weapons.

Florida sheriff: "It's imperative that you don't just rely on law enforcement"

Ric Bradshaw, the sheriff of Palm Beach County, urged lawmakers to ensure that mental health professionals be involved in any process of removing firearms from those who are a threat to themselves or others.

"It's imperative that you don't just rely on law enforcement," Bradshaw said. Although he said that officers involved in removing firearms often have training in crisis management, clinicians and mental health experts should also be involved.

Dave Kopel, the research director of the Independence Institute and a gun rights advocate who supports red flag laws, warned that mental health professionals should be involved in the decision to remove firearms, to ensure that people's weapons are not removed without due cause.

"Without good due process, this process could be abused," Kopel said.

Honberg pointed out that it's more common for people with mental illness to commit suicide with a firearm than to perpetrate violence against others.

"It's very important that we not conflate mental illness with criminality," said Honberg.

Witnesses Give Opening Statements

Among the first recommendations was one that embraced the idea behind red flag laws but not the term "red flag." Ron Honberg, senior policy adviser of the advocacy group National Alliance on Mental Illness, suggested that "terms like 'red flag' laws should be avoided." Using the phrase "red flag," he said, indicates that mental illness is a red flag, which would stigmatize mental illness as inherently violent.

Amanda Wilcox, the legislation and policy chair for the California chapters of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, spoke about her daughter Laura's death in a shooting in 2001. Laura was 19 years old. Wilcox said that red flag laws could have prevented Laura's death, as the shooter's family, girlfriend and caseworker had been concerned about him.

Wilcox said that these laws could "save lives every day," noting that firearms could be returned to people.

"One can always give the gun back. I cannot get her life back," Wilcox said about her daughter Laura.

Dave Kopel, research director of the Independence Institute and a gun rights advocate, offered another perspective, describing his opposition to red flag laws which are too strict. He advocated on behalf of individuals' rights to due process, and to defend themselves against having their firearms confiscated without sufficient cause.

"Federal funding should support best practices, and not the worst," Kopel said.

Feinstein Touts Positive Results Of California's Adoption Of Red Flag Law

In her opening statement, Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein discussed her proposed law, the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act of 2019, which would provide grants to incentivize states to adopt red flag laws.

Feinstein cited the example of Nikolas Cruz, the shooter who killed 17 people in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last year. Cruz had shown warning signs of violence prior to the shooting. Florida adopted a red flag law soon after the shooting.

Feinstein noted that San Diego has confiscated 318 firearms, including several automatic weapons, under California's red flag law. She expressed her regret that Congress had not taken more action to prevent gun violence until now.

"I though that the Sandy Hook shooting was a moment when Congress would step up and take action," Feinstein said, referring to the shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut which killed 27 people, including 20 children. She compared the American response to that of New Zealand, which banned automatic weapons six days after the massacre of 50 people earlier this month.

"I am hopeful that Congress will once again find the courage to do what's right," Feinstein said.

Graham Begins Hearing: "Nobody Is Going To Come And Take Your Guns"

Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham began the hearing by praising Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal for his efforts in trying to pass gun control measures. Connecticut, Blumenthal's home state, is one of the state to enact a red flag law.

Graham said that red flag laws did not violate the Second Amendment, but allowed family and friends to petition a judge to remove firearms from a person who poses a risk to themselves or others.

"Nobody is going to come and take your guns," Graham said, "But at the same time, every right has limits."

"We're trying to balance the right to own a gun under the Second Amendment with mental health issues," Graham continued. He cautioned against passing a federal red flag laws.

"I think passing a federal law is more than the market can bear," Graham said, but said Congress may be able to create incentives for states to pass their own red flag laws.

Activists Fill Hearing Room

Activists from groups such as the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Moms Demand Action crowded inside the hearing room in the Dirksen Senate office building, attending to show their support for enacting gun control legislation.

Renata, an intern with the Brady Campaign and a senior at the State University of New York in Albany, told CBS News that she was attending the hearing to raise awareness about how gun violence affects the African-American community.

"As a person who grew up in that community, it's only right to come and make a direct impact, and force our lawmakers to pass commonsense gun laws," Renata said.

Mary Wright Baylor, an activist with Moms Demand Action in the Burke Fairfax chapter in Virginia, said that she was attending to show support for red flag laws, which she called the "easiest and most commonsense" gun control measures to enact. She also said that she was a survivor of gun suicide, and understood how "the despair of gun violence shapes lives."

"Let's take guns away from people who a risk to themselves and to others," Baylor said, adding that she hoped this hearing would "move the needle" on gun control.

"This is going to be a matter of changing the culture and persuading people to see the big picture," she said.

What Are "Red Flag" Laws?

Sometimes called "extreme risk protection order" laws, "red flag" laws are designed to allow family members or law enforcement officials to go to a state court and ask a judge to issue an order that confiscates the guns of an individual who they believe poses a threat to their safety.

Those seeking the restraining order must present evidence to the court as to why the individual poses a threat to others, as well as to himself or herself. If a judge agrees to write the order after holding a hearing, the guns of the individual would be removed on a temporary basis.

There are currently 14 states which have implemented red flag laws, and more than two dozen legislatures considering this measure.

Who Is Testifying?

The senate panel will hear from a group of five policy experts, local law enforcement officials and advocates, including a parent who lost her daughter to a shooting. They are:

Ronald Honberg, senior policy adviser of the advocacy group National Alliance on Mental Illness

Amanda Wilcox, legislation and policy chair for the California chapters of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Wilcox's 19-year old daughter, Laura, was shot to death at a Nevada mental health clinic in 2001

Ric Bradshaw, Palm Beach County Sheriff

Kimberly Wyatt, prosecuting attorney at the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office

Dave Kopel, research director of the Independence Institute and a gun rights advocate

Gun Control: A Contentious Issue In Congress

Gun control has long been a highly contentious issue in Congress. Despite multiple mass shooting in which individuals have used high capacity, military-style weapons to kill dozens -- from elementary school students at Sandy Hook in 2015, to revelers in an Orlando nightclub in 2016 -- no federal gun control measures have passed in recent years. 

Democrats have embraced gun control as one of their top legislative priorities, with many gun control advocates like Georgia Rep. Lucy MacBeth, whose 17-year-old son was shot to death in Florida, winning competitive suburban districts during the November midterm elections.

Most Republicans, meanwhile, continue to oppose any weapons ban, citing the "right to bear arms" enshrined in the Second Amendment. Democrats have accused their congressional colleagues in the GOP of being beholden to the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA).

The "red flag" proposals, however, have garnered bipartisan support in Congress, including from Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who agreed to hold Tuesday's hearing.



Alert: Trump Administration Considers Monitoring People with Mental Illness to Prevent Shootings

NYAPRS Note: The following materials have been culled from a variety of news sources and primary source Washington Post (see below). NYAPRS has joined with over 30 national mental health and disability rights groups to develop advocacy materials and strategies and also responses to these and other likely outrageous proposals in the coming days. One participant on yesterday’s call said it reminded him of the group that helped win passage of the ADA. Your participation will likely be needed: stay tuned.

Trump Administration Considers Monitoring People with Mental Illness to Prevent Shootings: Report

A digest from articles by the Washington Post, Washington Examiner, The Hill, Vanity Fair, Gizmodo, Common and

September 10, 2019

President Trump's administration is considering a proposal to study whether monitoring people with mental illnesses could prevent future violence, The Washington Post reported Monday.

The reported proposal, coined SAFEHOME (Stopping Aberrant Fatal Events by Helping overcome Mental Extremes), is part of a project proposed by friend of the President Robert Wright to develop an agency to look for creative ways to solve health problems. 

Wright has presented the proposed agency known as Health Advanced Research Projects Agency (HARPA) after Ivanka Trump the president's senior adviser and daughter, reportedly asked if the team advocating for the agency could also look into methods to stop mass shootings.

Talks about HARPA were reopened as Trump was assuring the NRA that he would not pursue universal background check legislation to prevent mass shootings, and doubling down on previous claims that people with mental health challenges are the primary cause of shootings—suggesting to reporters last week that the U.S. should institutionalize mentally ill people en masse to prevent violence.

Among other initiatives, this new agency would reportedly collect volunteer data from a suite of smart devices, including Apple Watches, Fitbits, Amazon Echos, and Google Homes in order to identify “neurobehavioral signs” of “someone headed toward a violent explosive act.” The project would then use artificial intelligence to create a “sensor suite” to flag mental changes that make violence more likely.

The document also mentions “powerful tools” collected by health-care provides like fMRIs, tractography and image analysis.

Per the Post, the four-year, 40-to-60-million-dollar project would “attempt to use volunteer data” to detect signs of mental instability that may foreshadow shootings before they happen.

It’s not clear how the agency would detect these possible shooters, or precisely how the data would be collected. But Trump reportedly responded “very positively” to the proposal. “Every time this has been brought up inside the White House—even up to the presidential level—it’s been very well-received,” a person familiar with the discussions told the Post.

2012 study that the Defense Department commissioned after the 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood in Texas explains the significance of that fact in an appendix titled "Prediction: Why It Won't Work."

The Defense Department report illustrates the problem with a hypothetical example. "Suppose we actually had a behavioral or biological screening test to identify those who are capable of targeted violent behavior with moderately high accuracy," the report says. If "a population of 10,000 military personnel…includes ten individuals with extreme violent tendencies, capable of executing an event such as that which occurred at Ft. Hood," a test that correctly identified eight of those 10 dangerous people would wrongly implicate "1,598 personnel who do not have these violent tendencies."

That scenario assumes a predictive test that does not actually exist. "We cannot overemphasize that there is no scientific basis for a screening instrument to test for future targeted violent behavior that is anywhere close to being as accurate as the hypothetical example above," the report says.


Some Reactions

  • Outside the White House, the plan has already set off alarms. “The idea of the [Trump administration] creating a new agency focused on mental health led by a Trump-appointee, all for the purpose of advancing the view that mass gun violence is a mental health problem, should alarm us all,” remarked Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the N.A.A.C.P. legal defense fund.

  • The research program imagined by Wright is aimed at developing a predictive test. But even in the unlikely event that it succeeded, the enormous false-positive problem would remain.

  • Would people with certain psychiatric diagnoses be legally required to carry electronic monitors aimed at detecting "small changes that might foretell violence"? How could such a requirement be reconciled with due process or the Fourth Amendment?

  • “This is scary and dangerous,” writer and disability rights activist Lydia X.Z. Brown warned Thursday. “Negatively racialized disabled people WILL be the most likely to be victimized/targeted by increased psychiatric and police surveillance, leading to confinement or death.”

  • “The research already exists to tell us that mental illness does not predict gun violence. Growing gun violence is not the product of disability, rather it’s a product of political inaction and cowardice tied to an unwillingness to reform how America interacts with guns," Rebecca Cokley, director of the Center for American Progress's Disability Justice Initiative, said in a statement responding to the report. "Increased monitoring, surveillance, and institutionalization of people with disabilities is not a research-based approach and has a real and negative impact on people’s lives.”

  • "I would love if some new technology suddenly came along that would help us identify violent risk," Marisa Randazzo, former chief research psychologist for the U.S. Secret Service, told the Post, "but there's so many things about this idea of predicting violence that [don't] make sense."

  • The question we have to ask here is whether the freedom to use a high-bandwidth telephone is really more important than the lives of our kids. As the Trump administration has made clear, HARPA wouldn’t ban cell phones outright; it would just impose some common sense safety regulations on their use. What’s the problem?

  • "To those who say this is a half-baked idea, I would say, 'What's your idea? What are you doing about this?'" said lead researcher behind the HARPA proposal, Geoffrey Ling. If the program proves unsuccessful at preventing mass shootings, he maintained, it might end up helping address other issues, like suicides or child abuse. "The worst you can do is fail, and failing is where we are already," he added. "You need to find where the edge is so you can push on that edge.”


White House Weighs Controversial Plan on Mental Illness and Mass Shootings

By William Wan  Washington Post  September 9, 2019

The White House is considering a controversial proposal to study whether mass shootings could be prevented by monitoring mentally ill people for small changes that might foretell violence.

Former NBC chairman Bob Wright, a longtime friend and associate of President Trump’s, has briefed top officials, including the president, the vice president and Ivanka Trump, on a proposal to create a new research arm called the Health Advanced Research Projects Agency (HARPA) to come up with out-of-the-box ways to tackle health problems, much like the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) does for the military, according to several people who have been briefed.

After the recent shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, Ivanka Trump asked those advocating for the new agency whether it could produce new approaches to stopping mass shootings, said one person familiar with the conversations who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss them.

Advisers to Wright quickly pulled together a three-page proposal — called SAFEHOME for Stopping Aberrant Fatal Events by Helping Overcome Mental Extremes — which calls for exploring whether technology including phones and smartwatches can be used to detect when mentally ill people are about to turn violent 

Using his personal connections to Trump and others, Wright has pushed his HARPA proposal to the White House and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and several senators and House members, according to two people involved in the effort. Last month, on the presidential campaign trail, former vice president Joe Biden also advocated for creating such an agency.

The violence detection plan has alarmed experts studying violence prevention, technology, psychology and mental health.

“I would love if some new technology suddenly came along that would help us identify violent risk, but there’s so many things about this idea of predicting violence that doesn’t make sense,” said Marisa Randazzo, former chief research psychologist for the U.S. Secret Service.

Beyond the civil liberty concerns about monitoring people through their gadgets, Randazzo said, there’s the problem of false positives.

Even if the technology could be developed, such a program would probably flag tens, or hundreds of thousands, more possible suspects than actual shooters. How, she asked, would you sort through them? And how would you know you were right, given the difficulty of proving something that hasn’t happened?

Most concerning, she said, is that the proposal is based on the flawed premise that mental illness is directly linked to mass shootings. “Everything we know from research tells us it’s a weak link at best,” said Randazzo, who spent a decade conducting such research for the Secret Service and is now CEO of a threat-assessment company called Sigma.

In recent weeks, Trump has repeatedly pointed to mental illness as the cause of the United States’ mass shootings. “Mental illness and hatred pull the trigger. Not the gun,” Trump said immediately after last month’s shootings in El Paso and Dayton. Federal health officials have taken steps to make sure government experts don’t publicly contradict Trump.

But studies of mass shooters have found that only a quarter or less have diagnosed mental illness. Researchers have noted a host of other factors that are more significant commonalities in mass shooters: a strong sense of grievance, desire for infamy, copycat study of other shooters, past domestic violence, narcissism and access to firearms. Experts note that those with severe mental illnesses are much more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators.

“To those who say this is a half-baked idea, I would say, ‘What’s your idea? What are you doing about this?’ ”said Geoffrey Ling, the lead scientific adviser on the HARPA proposal.

A Johns Hopkins University neurologist, Ling was a founding director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office. Ling said having the gumption to tackle really big problems and think creatively is what led to DARPA’s successes.

“The worse you can do is fail, and failing is where we are already,” Ling said. “You need to find where the edge is so you can push on that edge.”

Ling said he began working with Wright on the idea of creating HARPA shortly after the death of Wright’s wife in 2016 to pancreatic cancer. According to Ling and others who have worked on the project, Wright was frustrated with the lack of major progress in halting illnesses such as his wife’s pancreatic cancer — which has an overall five-year survival rate of just 9 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.

Wright was not available for comment while recovering from surgery, said Liz Feld, president of the Suzanne Wright Foundation, the organization Wright has used to lobby for the HARPA proposal. Feld said the foundation has worked methodically to gather support for HARPA in the past two years, meeting with Trump officials and congressional leaders.

The idea has backers in both parties. During an Aug. 8 speech at the Iowa State Fair, Biden said creating a HARPA agency could help solve health problems including Alzheimer’s and obesity. “Those who have been in the military know there’s an outfit called DARPA,” he said. “It’s the thing that allows the military to do advanced research on everything from stealth technology and the Internet and all those other things. . . . We should be doing the same thing with health care.”

There is a huge gap between government research bodies such as the National Institutes of Health that fund research in its early stages and the private sector that often applies them to problems and brings solutions to market, said Michael Stebbins, former assistant director for biotechnology during the Obama administration, who has been hired as a consultant for the Wright Foundation.

“That’s the massive hole that HARPA would fill,” Stebbins said. “It’s about creating new capability, driving innovation.”

According to a copy of the SAFEHOME proposal, all subjects involved would be volunteers and that great care would be taken to “protect each individual’s privacy” and “profiling of any kind must be avoided.

Ling said that even if SAFEHOME fails to predict mass shooters, it could lead to other advances, such as new ways of predicting and preventing suicides or child abuse.

Matthew Nock, a leading suicide researcher at Harvard University, agreed that a new health research arm like HARPA might be helpful. For decades, Nock said he has tried to find ways to predict and prevent suicides. In an email, Nock said he’d welcome an agency that would apply advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence to such efforts.

But he added that using such a proposed agency to “find” links that science has shown don’t exist is dangerous. While research shows mental illness is strongly linked to suicide, Nock noted, the link between it and violence toward others is much weaker.

Other researchers pointed to worrisome results from other recent attempts to use artificial intelligence to predict risk of violence. In court decisions on parole and sentencing, for instance, artificial intelligence programs have at times deepened problems of racial bias, overestimating the likelihood of black offenders committing further crimes and underestimating the likelihood of white offenders doing so, said Stephen Hart, a clinical forensic psychologist and researcher on violence risk assessment.

“The irony is that there are low-tech solutions that already exist for some of these problems that we simply aren’t funding or deploying enough,” said Hart, including research and policies that address the prevalence of guns in the United States.

Another already existing low-tech solution, Hart said, is threat assessment, which emphasizes preventing violence by identifying and addressing problems flagged by fellow students or co-workers.

That was also the conclusion of a 2012 study commissioned by the Pentagon after the mass shooting at the Fort Hood military base. The study’s task force surveyed every technology available that might help predict violence — including DNA swabs, retinal scans and merging big data from military personnel records. Like the HARPA proposal, the task force experts also looked at physical, neurological and genetic biomarkers, but ultimately concluded that predicting violence was a fool’s errand. The study’s panel devoted an entire appendix to dispelling the notion, entitled “Prediction: Why It Won’t Work.” Instead, it recommended approaches such as threat assessment.

“PREVENTION should be the goal rather than PREDICTION,” the task force concluded in its final report.

Jacqueline Alemany and Alice Crites contributed to this report.

Read more

White House considers new project seeking links between mental health and violent behavior



Updated: Only 2 Weeks Till NYAPRS Conference! Ann Sullivan, Luis Lopez, Survivor Panel are Featured Speakers

here’s today’s updated version with placement of Commissioner Sullivan’s and Luis Lopez’ keynotes: sorry for any confusion

NYAPRS Note: You’re only 2 weeks out from this year’s NYAPRS Annual Conference!

This year’s program will feature the following 3 keynote presentations:

  • From Surviving to Thriving Vesper Moore, Central Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community; Lindsey Sizemore, Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network; Sarah Felman will share about their personal experiences as youthful survivors of issues related to suicide, criminal justice involvement and of the mental health system as a whole.

  • Understanding Our Trauma Through Our Own Stories Luis Lopez, Center for Practice Innovation

  • Luis will share some of his thoughts about personal trauma, trauma survivors and how trauma is addressed in the field of behavioral health. Luis tell his stories with passion, humor, and love. Be ready to think, laugh, and reflect.

  • Working Together toward Wellness for All New Yorkers Ann Sullivan Commissioner, NYS Office of Mental Health 

You’re only 2 weeks away till the NYAPRS Annual Conference!

We’re getting a very strong response so please make sure you get the rooms of your choice and register today.

Remember: Register 5 Get 1 Free. 

All Registrations are Being Handled Directly by the Villa Roma at





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Sept 30 Free OMH Web Seminar: How to Make Community Inclusion a Reality

Topic:                 How to Make Community Inclusion a Reality
Date and Time:        Monday, September 30, 2019 2:30 pm, Eastern Daylight Time (New York, GMT-04:00)
Event number:    642 513 255
Event password:         nysomh123

This webex will teach people about Community Inclusion and connecting people with lived experience with natural supports.

The presenter will share practical tools on community inclusion and how mental health providers can utilize it in a recovery plan. Celia Brown, Regional Advocacy Specialist from the Office of Mental Health will be the presenter.

Event address for attendees:

Audio conference information
To receive a call back, provide your phone number when you join the event, or call the number below and enter the access code.
US Toll Free:   1-844-633-8697
Local: 1-518-549-0500
Toll-free dialing restrictions:
Access code:  642 513 255

Tony Trahan

Deputy Director, Office of Consumer Affairs

Office of Mental Health

44 Holland Ave.

(518) 473-6579 | (518) 486-9687 |

Don't Miss This One! Only 3 Weeks Till NYAPRS Conference: Register Today to Get Rooms of Choice

CAUTION: This email originated from outside of the organization. Do not click links or open attachments unless you recognize the sender and know the content is safe.

NYAPRS Note: This year’s NYAPRS Annual Conference is only 3 weeks away!

Don’t miss this opportunity to:

  • Enjoy our new hotel site, the Villa Roma Resort and Conference Center in Callicoon, NY ( We will be the group there.

  • Register at last year’s rates directly with the hotel at Package includes conference registration fee, comfortable accommodations, 7 meals starting with lunch on Tuesday and ending with lunch on Thursday, scheduled activities daily, nightly entertainment, and access to most hotel facilities. Guests who choose to arrive early on Monday will receive a special lodging only rate for that night.

  • Register 5 and get one free!

  • Attend an extraordinary program that includes;

    • 60 timely presentations by state and national experts in 7 separate tracks

    • 1 concert with longtime Open Mic facilitator Mike Skinner

    • Special presentation from OMH Commissioner Ann Sullivan

    • 2 keynote presentations with Luis Lopez and our inspiring Surviving to Thriving panel

    • 3 new films from nationally acclaimed directors

    • 5 inspiring award winners

    • 5 different nightly support groups

    • 6 hilarious new standup comics

    • 7 delicious meals 

We’re only 3 weeks till the NYAPRS Annual Conference!

We’re getting a very strong response so please make sure you get the rooms of your choice and register today.

Remember: Register 5 Get 1 Free 

All Registrations are Being Handled Directly by the Villa Roma at





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Register for Syracuse, Brooklyn Justice Center Regional Conferences

Registration Announcement for Justice Center Regional Conference

The Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs will be conducting a conference with multiple sessions throughout the day. Each session is targeted for different audiences including provider agency representatives under the jurisdiction of the Justice Center, individuals receiving services, families, peer advocates and other interested stakeholders.

Click here for a summary of the session topics .

Registration for October 4 Conference in Syracuse - Location Change

The location for the Justice Center Conference scheduled for October 4th in Syracuse has been changed to allow more people to attend. See new location information below. If you have already registered, you do not need to sign up again.

Friday, October 4, 2019 - new location

Apex Entertainment

Located on the 3rd Floor of the Destiny USA Mall 

9583 Destiny USA Drive

Syracuse, NY 13204


Click here for driving directions . There is plenty of free parking at the mall.

Click here for lunch options at the mall. 

Right Click Here: REGISTER FOR OCT 4‌


Registration for October 24 Conference in Brooklyn - Afternoon Session

The morning session of Justice Center Conference scheduled for October 24th in Brooklyn is now full. You may still register for the afternoon session only.

Thursday, October 24, 2019- location

Shirley A. Chisholm State Office Building

55 Hanson Place,

Brooklyn, NY 11217


Click here for driving directions.

Click here for a map of parking lots near the Shirley A. Chisholm Building.

Click here for public transportation options.

Click here for nearby restaurants. More restaurant information . 



10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. General Session

12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. Lunch (not provided - a list of options will be sent out prior to the conference)

1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Breakout Sessions ( list of topics )

Questions about registration?

Contact Jean Skanes at or 518-713-4726 x201.


Space is limited - sign up today!