Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Corey Feldman and What's Wrong with the Corey's Law Petition


Corey Feldman and What's Wrong with the Corey's Law Petition
by Angela Smith, HEAL National Coordinator/Co-Founder

First, let me say I believe Corey Feldman was a victim of exploitation and abuse as a young child actor.  I have compassion for all such victims and wish justice for everyone who has been harmed by exploitation and abuse.

I do believe Feldman has engaged in unethical conduct and exploitation of young women over the years and I find it personally difficult to reconcile my support for Corey the victim with my frustration with his actions as an adult towards his former "angels".  Mara Moon (a former Corey's Angel) reports he physically, emotionally, and verbally abused her regularly.  [See: http://ccreports.ca/2017/12/09/exclusive-former-coreys-angel-mara-moon-speaks-out/]  I find it very difficult to balance supporting victims who become perpetrators, especially if it continues over a long period of time with multiple victims and no remorse or regret for the harm caused to others.

I was willing to set aside my annoyance with this whole situation for the sake of hoping that justice may finally be served.  And, I will say I believe Judy Haim and Corey Haim over Corey Feldman regarding what happened to Corey Haim and who is to blame.  In addition, after many comparisons I have seen a lot of inconsistency in Feldman's claims.  All of this has led me to believe he is not the best person to bring this issue to light. 

All that said, I was initially going to support the petition for "Corey's Law" [you can view and sign it now at: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/coreys-law] , but, being a legal researcher I wanted to check the language of the petition before going forward with that.  I've repeatedly met with federal legislators who have repeatedly informed me that much of what needs to be done to protect children and youth from exploitation and abuse MUST occur at the State level.  So, I wanted to check the federal laws and statute of limitations on sex crimes against minors. 

Guess what?  There IS NO FEDERAL STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS on federal prosecution of kidnapping, sex abuse and sex crimes against children and youth.[1] [18 U.S.C. § 3299]  So, a petition to create a new law extending the Statute of Limitations is unnecessary and superfluous because such crimes that meet the federal requirements for prosecution can be prosecuted as long as the victim is still alive or within 10 years of the crime, whichever is longer.

So, what are the federal requirements for such prosecutions?  "Whoever, in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States or in a Federal prison, or in any prison, institution, or facility in which persons are held in custody by direction of or pursuant to a contract or agreement with the head of any Federal department or agency, knowingly engages in a sexual act with [a minor]..." can be federally prosecuted.[2]  [18 U.S. Code § 2243 - Sexual abuse of a minor or ward]  So, if there is a private detention center holding a federal contract housing undocumented (or citizen) minors where they have been raped or assaulted, then, the federal government can prosecute, for example.  But, when it comes to crimes committed in local or state jurisdictions, it is those jurisdictions that set the Statute of Limitations.  So, in the case of Corey's law, you would want it to be initiated in the State of California (or any individual State) in order to eliminate or extend the Statute of Limitations.  Corey's Law's petition says they want to extend the federal Statute of Limitations indefinitely.  However, there is no Statute of Limitations on this type of crime at the federal level and therefore the language of the petition is virtually meaningless when it comes to any federal reform, since no federal reform is needed on this particular issue.  What we need is State reforms and this is why HEAL has been working on our State Action Plan for many years with some successes around the country.  The legal language that should be used if looking to eliminate the statute of limitations should be the language set forth in the federal statute.  Alaska is one state that already has no Statute of Limitations on sex crimes against minors.[3]  So, their existing Statute can also be used as a model for California or other states to adopt.  And, HEAL Illinois' campaign for reform includes a petition specifically citing Alaska's law in asking Illinois to make the needed reforms which could be used as a template for actions in other states.  See: https://petitions.moveon.org/sign/illinois-general-assembly?source=c.tw&r_by=10225086

Now, what about California?  Commencing in January of 2017, the new law in California eliminates the Statute of Limitations on prosecuting sex offenses.  So, the problem has been solved in California for now.[4]  Activists in California will want to keep an eye on this issue and make sure that if a new Statute of Limitations is imposed (none now exists), that it protects the rights of victims and understands the trauma that results in delayed reporting which has previously resulted in failure to prosecute due to past statutory constraints. 

So, what can Corey do?  Well, if he successfully proves that he named names of evident abusers in a report to the proper (LAPD) California authorities before his 40th birthday and that he filed a complaint against those abusers willing to press charges before his 40th birthday, then he may finally see justice served.  If he did not file an official complaint prior to his 40th birthday, then he may not get justice given the state of the law leading up to his 40th birthday in California.  However, if he discusses it with an attorney and can prove that he asked to file some complaints or press charges but was refused by law enforcement, he may have a civil suit against those law enforcement agencies.  Given that it has been 24 years since the 1993 interview with law enforcement, it may once again be too late for even a civil suit for malfeasance against those agencies.  And, that is likely his only option given that he is now 46 years old and under the old law, he needed to come forward before his 40th birthday in California.

Alas, all of the above paragraph is also moot.  Because, when Feldman was interviewed by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff''s Office and reportedly "named names", law enforcement told him he needed to file those reports in Los Angeles County or with the LAPD because the crimes were in that jurisdiction, NOT Santa Barbara County.  Feldman admits he never followed up by filing complaints or reports in the proper jurisdiction.  So, he cannot now claim that he was denied access or no one would listen to him because he was told to report in the proper jurisdiction and chose not to do so.  You can see the evidence of all of this by watching the video here: https://youtu.be/llEUEg_F-YE.  [Please do not assume this is an endorsement of that entire video or channel.  But, Feldman clearly states he was told by the SB Sheriff to file reports in LA County, the proper jurisdiction and he clearly says he never followed through with doing that.]

I would suggest any individuals who were victims while a ward or minor in federal custody or assaulted while on federal land/property, immediately report those crimes to the FBI.  You can find reporting resources at http://www.heal-online.org/report.htm.  If the crimes against you do not meet requirements for federal prosecution, you will need to file complaints and press charges against those that harmed you at the State or Local level and depending on jurisdiction, you may or may not see justice served.  This is why we ask that you become smart activists and actually know what is needed before creating petitions and taking action so you don't waste your own time and everyone else's. 

HEAL actually researches everything before we create any petitions or organize any marches/protests/campaigns.  Because, we don't want to waste anyone's time, especially our own.  So, we hope you will become a smart activist too, if you are not already, and use your mind more than your emotions when deciding how best to advocate on any issue.  A good primer for new and/or confused activists is HEAL's free e-book available at: http://www.heal-online.org/activism101.pdf. 
 
Become better informed citizens and vote like an activist.  These are the two most important things you can do towards improving things in the US.  And, they require some effort on your part that doesn't involve self-absorption, throwing parties or events to celebrate yourself, or emotional pleas for money and praise.  We can change things when we understand how and take the right actions.  HEAL has proven this to be true.  So, it is up to you to decide whether you want to be a poser or a hero.  If you choose hero, you can organize with us or ask for our assistance for your independent campaigns by following the guidelines at http://www.heal-online.org/solidarity.htm.  Godspeed.



[1] https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL31253.pdf (page 5)
[2] https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2243
[3] http://codes.findlaw.com/ak/title-12-code-of-criminal-procedure/ak-st-sect-12-10-010.html
[4] https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/09/28/495856974/california-eliminates-statute-of-limitations-on-rape-cases

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Why Is Exploitation and Slavery Permitted in the United States?


Why Is Exploitation and Slavery Permitted in the United States?
by Angela Smith, HEAL National Coordinator

In recent news, individuals seeking help with drug addiction at local rehab facilities found themselves enslaved at a chicken processing plant in Missouri.[1]  This story is not unique, HEAL has received multiple reports from people being used for labor while seeking legitimate mental health services by unscrupulous profiteers who see their patients as nothing more than society's throwaways who will learn to contribute to society by creating profits for their overseers at the program/plantation.

HEAL has been investigating multiple complaints about similar practices at programs like Teen Challenge, Provo Canyon School, Q & A Associates, and Bethel Boys Academy for nearly 20 years.  We always recommend these violations be reported to labor regulators and the Department of Justice so they can be investigated and prosecuted.  Unfortunately, these violations are done under duress and often through coercive means.  If a victim reports, they are told they will never heal and never find legitimate work in the "real world".

People ask HEAL, if this is going on, why hasn't anything been done about it?  There are multiple factors involved.  The torture and coercion of clients to pay blind obedience to their masters at the program involves the tearing down, infantilization, learned-helplessness, and absolute desperation of the exploited individuals who are so traumatized by being tortured and enslaved that they can't psychologically process their own suffering and pain.  The fear is so outrageous that they remain silent in hopes to finally just be left alone. 

Those that do speak out are targeted for harassment, baseless lawsuits, and additional abuses (including death threats).  When you are dealing with people who have endless resources and friends in public office who are nothing but criminals in nice suits, and, you are a vulnerable member of society due to poverty, exploitation, or disability, you may decide the risk outweighs the benefit for yourself personally to take a stand.  This is why it is important to care about more than yourself if you want to change things.  Unfortunately, often these programs turn all their clients into snitches and junior overseers abusing those who are new to the program.  And, they want their clients to be totally self-involved, only worried about their own "advancement" in the system, with no regard for their fellow victims. 

But, there are more sinister reasons at play.  These programs either own or contract with other businesses to farm out the labor of their clients while receiving the rewards for that forced labor.  And, they use cult-like, coercive thought reform techniques to achieve obedience and subjugate their "clients".  They get away with it because there is little to no legitimate regulation of these facilities and programs. 

You will find in most states, if not all, that faith-based providers are exempt from any regulatory requirements.  In many states, even secular facilities are not effectively regulated.  Here's how the game is played...  There is a private residential school operating in Arizona that solely claims to be a private residential school in the eyes of the law.  Arizona does not regulate nor require any state oversight of such a program.  [2]  HEAL has called Utah regulators to complain about abuse at residential treatment programs operating in Utah.  Utah regulators have told us they rely on criteria such as whether or not a program is accredited by the Joint Commission or is eligible for federal Medicaid funding to determine whether or not it meets the state's requirements.  The Joint Commission relies on self-reporting and self-assessment and refers complaints back to the state regulators.  And, Medicaid relies on the Joint Commission.  So, it is a bit of a big run around.

Now, today, I was researching Timber Ridge School in Virginia at the request of a parent who contacted HEAL for assistance.  Timber Ridge School is accredited by the Council On Accreditation (COA), another private agency, like the Joint Commission that relies on fees charges to the programs they accredit to sustain themselves.  In addition, they also rely on the "good faith" of those they accredit to honestly self-report and self-assess when filling out COA forms and surveys to be rubberstamped for approval.  The most COA reports charging annually for a private facility or program to be accredited is $355,411.[3]  Now, that's just what they charge one program annually.  If someone told you they were "acting in good faith" and sent you a survey/report saying that they agree and meet your standards with a check for $355,000, would take their word for it?  HEAL wouldn't.  But, we have ethical standards which are grossly lacking in corporate America.  Apparently, most everyone else would.

So, we know COA takes tons of cash from the programs they "accredit" and which the government permits to act as a private "regulator" of the industry they serve.  They do not serve the public interest nor the public good, and, this is why we need to demand public oversight and accountability of all such entities and stop allowing private agencies to take blood money to keep silent about abuses while the public interest and public good is sacrificed.  But, how does the COA get approved as a recognized accreditation agency and how do they avoid accountability to public regulators as a result?

The COA has a lot of money.  Clearly, if they accredit thousands of programs and receive as much as $355,411 annually from any individual private program they accredit, they have lots of money.  What do they do with it?  And, whose interest is being served?  Well, COA partners with the National Association of Private Special Education Centers (NAPSEC).[4]  And, if you look at the California Lobbying Directory for 2017-2018, you will find the California Association of Private Special Education Schools (CAPSES).[5]  CAPSES was initially a part of NAPSEC and still claims some affiliation and partnership.[6]  So, do you think it is likely that COA through their partnerships is funneling money to lobbying firms to benefit the programs they accredit?  They consider the programs they accredit their clients, remember.

Beyond that, COA's board of trustees include Robert B. Shanks, Vice President of Legal International and Washington Operations for the Raytheon Company.[7]  Raytheon is a defense contractor.  So, you explain why on the board of a health accreditation agency is a Vice President of a defense contractor...  Waiting... 

Raytheon Company has been targeted for divestment because of its contribution to human rights violations around the globe.[8]  Now, a company that engages in such practices certainly isn't who you want on the board of a health care accreditation agency unless you support torture, abuse, and slavery, right?  

"Amnesty International identified the use of Raytheon-supplied "bunker buster" bombs in the targeting of civilian homes, among other targets, during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. According to OCHA, 2192 Palestinians were killed during the 50 days of Protective Edge, including numerous whole families. More than 20,000 housing units were destroyed, leaving more than 100,000 people homeless."  Source: http://investigate.afsc.org/company/raytheon-company

So, you see, we have a real problem.  Whether it is Raytheon or RAND Corporation or some other arm of the global corporate system of oppression, we are seeing gross human rights violations and a US government that would rather act like private contractors doing the bidding of their corporate masters for profit than protect the public interest and the American people. 

You need to be informed and protect yourself and your family from exploitation and modern slavery.  You can do this by not buying into the system and not subjecting your children and loved ones to exploitative private entities that lie to trick you so they can take your money and exploit your family.  You also need to take responsibility for being an informed citizen and voting accordingly.  Both major parties, the Democrats and Republicans, are guilty as sin.  We have to break the 2-party system.  Vote third party or run for office yourself.  Even if it is a local position, you can act as a voice for change in the corrupt system that is trying to turn the whole planet into a for profit wasteland while killing everyone they can in the process.

So, deception and exploitation by usurpers of the people's power is the reason more is not being done to stop fraud, exploitation, and abuse in residential programs for vulnerable populations including children and youth.  The only ones who can stop this are the ones who are willing to seek the truth, share it with everyone, and take real action.  Are you up to the challenge?  HEAL does our best.
 


[1] https://www.revealnews.org/article/they-thought-they-were-going-to-rehab-they-ended-up-in-chicken-plants/
[2] https://www2.ed.gov/admins/comm/choice/regprivschl/regprivschl.pdf (p. 20)
[4] http://coanet.org/about/sponsoring-supportingand-partner-organizations/partners/
[5] http://prd.cdn.sos.ca.gov/Lobbying_Directory.pdf (p. 397)
[6] http://www.napsec.org/napdirhm.html and https://books.google.com/books?isbn=1475814496
[7] http://coanet.org/about/coa-staff-and-board/board-of-trustees/
[8] http://investigate.afsc.org/company/raytheon-company

Friday, October 27, 2017

How Should I Decide Who to Vote for in Local Elections?


How Should I Decide Who to Vote for in Local Elections?
By Angela Smith, HEAL National Coordinator/Co-Founder

I live in Washington State and decided to take a closer look at the City of Everett's local election races this year.  I started by reading through the Voter Guide which arrived less than 2 weeks before the vote.  I read through all the candidates' descriptions and biographies.  Then, I decided to e-mail each of them and/or their campaigns to ask specific questions related to issues I care about.  While I understand some of the offices are non-partisan, I still wanted to know which parties the candidates most aligned with and a few other questions directly related to HEAL's primary campaign of stopping institutionalized child abuse.

There were 12 total candidates running according to the guide.  There were no Green Party candidates running in Snohomish or King County.  But, there are two great Green Party candidates running for local positions in Olympia, WA right now.  You can learn more about their campaigns at: http://www.gp.org/candidates_in_olympia

I contacted the Everett Mayoral Candidates Cassie Franklin and Judy Tuohy.  I also contacted the following candidates for the Everett City Council: Paul Roberts, Lee Dart, Jeff Moore, Alex Lark, Scott Murphy, and Jennifer Hesse.  In addition, I contacted Amy Kaestner and Laura Van Slyck, both vying for judgeships and running unopposed leaving voters with only one choice to fill those judicial seats.  It is not really democratic when you only have one option on the ballot. 

Beyond that, I contacted both Pam LeSesne and Janelle Nixon who are running against each other for the Everett School District Director position.

I asked 3 main questions, with additional questions specific to the office the candidates were seeking:

1.  What political party platform is most aligned with your positions on the issues? (Please specify Green, Libertarian, Socialist Worker's, Democratic, or Republican)

2.  What is your position on segregated congregate care (i.e. group homes, residential treatment programs, boarding homes/schools, etc.) for vulnerable populations (children, youth, disabled, and elderly)?

3.  What will you do to prevent the abuse of public funds and protect human rights and dignity when it comes to segregated congregate care? For example, will you ban the use of special education funding for private segregated schooling and care for vulnerable populations?

I also attached the legislative request (see: www.healreport.tv/heallegislativerequest.pdf ) HEAL researched and presented to our federal legislators last March and asked that the candidates adopt, promote, or make some progress on all suggestions that can be adopted locally.

I received responses from Mayoral Candidate Judy Tuohy, City Council Candidate Jennifer Hesse, School Director Candidate Janelle Burke, City Council Candidate Paul Roberts, City Council Candidate Jeff Moore, and School Director Candidate Pam LeSesne.  I agree with Jesse Ventura (see: https://www.rt.com/shows/the-world-according-to-jesse/407370-marijuana-legalization-colorado-us/ ) that it is likely better to vote for those who responded than those who did not.  And, lucky for me, my choice has become much easier because of the willingness of some to respond to voters/constituents.

City Council Candidate Jennifer Hesse reports she is most aligned with the Libertarian platform.  She sees private charities as the answer to public need.  And, she supports the use of segregated congregate care for vulnerable populations.  She also reported, "I love the policies that you are supporting, especially those relating to education."  I believe Hesse is open to discussion and we may find some common ground for improving things for vulnerable populations.  Overall, I'm impressed that she read through my message, responded thoughtfully, and read through the attachments as well. 

City Council Candidate Paul Roberts reports that the issues I raised have not been brought up before the council, but, he would consider my views if it came up.  He did report, "I have - and do - support protecting human rights and protecting vulnerable populations and individuals."  Roberts also reported that he is most aligned with the Democratic Party, but, reminded me that it is a non-partisan office.  I appreciate that Roberts took the time to respond and that he at least agreed that we need to protect human rights and vulnerable populations.

City Council Candidate Jeff Moore also reminded me that this is a non-partisan office.  But, was kind enough to let me know that he is most aligned with the Democratic Party.  He reported that he supports keeping special needs children in public schools and providing them what they need in their own communities and homes.  To me, this is a big plus.  He also said the issues I raised had not come before the City Council to his knowledge and that he would keep my views in mind should it be brought to their forum.

Mayoral Candidate Judy Tuohy reported being a lifelong Democrat and having many Democratic endorsements.  She reported, "I am highly supportive of any measures we could enact at the City of Everett that would protect our youth, disabled, and elderly from being subjected to substandard housing, violations of their civil liberties, and/or abusive 'treatment' programs. The proportion of our population living in segregated congregate care is alarming, and I know we have several agencies that run such programs operating in our community... I do not have a legislative plan to address the concerns you have raised. I need to do more research on these matters before determining the best course of action for the City to take. Whether I am elected Mayor or not, I would welcome some time to meet with you to discuss this matter further. Thank you for bringing it to my attention!"  I am impressed with Tuohy's responses for the most part.  And, very happy to have an invitation to meet with her regardless of how the election turns out to discuss the issues I've raised.  She has my vote!

Here's where things get tough...  The judges don't give a hoot because they are running unopposed.  And, only one of the two options for the other seats responded.  Except, both School District Director candidates did get back with me in detail.  And now, my decision gets a bit tougher...

Everett School District Director Candidate Janelle Burke, reported not really being aligned with any political party and being more of an independent.  In responding to my other inquiries, Janelle said, "After reading the documents you sent me regarding your stance and the issue of segregated congregate care I must say that I actually agree that Everett needs to take a long hard look and consider (with maybe a push from the citizens) adopting these policies. I will be honest with you and say that until this email I was very ignorant as to this being as big of an issue as it is."  In addition, Burke invited me to work with her church and community organization to help promote HEAL's legislative agenda when it comes to stopping institutionalized abuse.  I remain very impressed and excited to hopefully work with Burke whether she wins or not on tackling these issues.

Everett School District Director Candidate Pam LeSesne also responded to my inquiry.  She reported that her views are most aligned with the Democratic Party, but, also reminded me it was a non-partisan office.  LeSesne didn't appear to take the time to read through my legislative request nor to answer my questions effectively in my opinion.  So, that decision just got much easier and Janelle Burke has my full support.

No matter the election cycle, as an activist, you should know the issues you care about and know what you expect of those running for any office.  You can write them and ask their position(s) on issues that you care about and make more informed decisions with minimal effort on your part.  I hope you will be inspired to get more involved at every level of the political process and commit to making more informed decisions.  This will help push through policies that will improve things for everyone.  And, it is the main peaceful option we have to putting an end to this fascist corporatocracy in the United States.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Are Victims of Institutionalized Abuse "Survivors"?

Are Victims of Institutionalized Abuse "Survivors"?
By Angela Smith, HEAL National Coordinator/Co-Founder


Merriam-webster.com defines "Survivor" as living after someone has died (i.e. family survives death of parent in obituaries), as living or existing after a disaster (i.e. someone survived an earthquake, car crash, etc.), or continuing to function or prosper despite hardships (i.e. Trump filed bankruptcy multiple times and later became president).  Sources: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/survivor, http://connect.legacy.com/profiles/blogs/who-to-include-in-the-obituary, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2016/08/26/italy-earthquake-posta/89426564/, and https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2016/live-updates/general-election/real-time-fact-checking-and-analysis-of-the-first-presidential-debate/fact-check-has-trump-declared-bankruptcy-four-or-six-times/

Have victims of institutionalized abuse survived an industry and conditions where others have died?  Yes.

One of the most documented abusive segregated congregate care youth facilities has been the Dozier School for Boys where over 100 corpses of children have been found buried in mostly unmarked graves on the property.  The Dozier School was a residential "character training" program in Florida before it was finally closed down in 2011.  See: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/archaeologists-finally-know-what-happened-brutal-reform-school-180957911/   But, that's just one facility.  So, what's the number? 

There's no record of the number of children killed in treatment/institutional settings.  The best estimate available is from the Hartford Courant, which reports: "A 50-state survey by The Courant, the first of its kind ever conducted, has confirmed 142 deaths during or shortly after restraint or seclusion in the past decade. The survey focused on mental health and mental retardation facilities and group homes nationwide.  But because many of these cases go unreported, the actual number of deaths during or after restraint is many times higher.  Between 50 and 150 such deaths occur every year across the country, according to a statistical estimate commissioned by The Courant and conducted by a research specialist at the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis.  That's one to three deaths every week, 500 to 1,500 in the past decade, the study shows."  Source: http://www.charlydmiller.com/LIB05/1998hartfordcourant11.html   This was the last legitimate study by a legitimate research specialist on this issue to HEAL's knowledge and would suggest a minimum of  975 deaths of children due to restraint and isolation (3750 restraint and isolation related deaths, if we include all age groups of the study referenced) in institutional settings in the last 25 years.  While the Dozier School for Boys opened in 1900 and closed in 2011 with over 100 children's dead bodies buried in unmarked graves around the facility "over the years".  (Source: http://www.npr.org/2012/10/15/162941770/floridas-dozier-school-for-boys-a-true-horror-story )  So, why not go back 100 years and apply the modern statistics?  That would suggest 3,900  deaths of children in institutional care as a result of restraint and isolation (not including other deaths in care, such as overmedication or medical neglect) since 1917.  And, that's just the number of institutionalized kids that have died as a result of institutionalized abuse (restraint and isolation) while institutionalized.  In addition, 43 adjudicated children and youths have died while in detention centers in a 4 year (2002-2005, last available data) survey of US juvenile detention centers, but, not all centers reported/participated in the study, so again, the number of deaths in detention may be much higher.  (source: https://www.bjs.gov/content/dcrp/tables/juvtab5.cfm ) And, that would suggest 11 adjudicated juvenile deaths per year in detention.  It is likely that even more than that have been killed in institutional settings as a result of institutionalized abuse with thousands more committing suicide after having been through that trauma.  And, if you want to get really "crazy", consider this....  Let us say that at the "best" segregated congregate care facility there are 0 deaths and at the "worst" (i.e. Dozier) there have been 100 deaths due to malfeasance (restraint, isolation, medical neglect, overmedication, etc.) and take the average death toll over a 100 year period to be 50 per facility.  The CDC reports there are 2,250 such facilities in the US.  (Source: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nsrcf/NSRCF2010SelectedSurveyParticipants_091409.pdf )  Then, over a 100 year period, you have an average of 112,500 malfeasance related deaths, or 1,125 deaths annually in institutional care due to malfeasance, across all demographics.  If 26% of those deaths are of youth (as the Harvard research suggests), then it would amount to roughly 292 deaths of youth in institutional care annually.  This would make the death toll over a 25 year period for youth in segregated congregate care 7,300.  But, medical malpractice accounts for 210,000-440,000 medical negligence/malfeasance deaths in the US annually according to a Journal of Patient Safety study in 2013.  (Source: https://www.propublica.org/article/how-many-die-from-medical-mistakes-in-us-hospitals )  While these numbers are staggering, they do not even touch on the post-institutionalization suicides of those traumatized by abusive and negligent care in segregated congregate care facilities.

Is the segregated congregate care industry a "disaster"?  Well, how does merriam-webster.com define "disaster"?  A "disaster" is a sudden calamitous event bringing great damage, loss, or destruction according to https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disaster  For the individuals subjected to being terrorized in their own homes in the middle of the night, taken by strangers to an undisclosed location, held incommunicado and mistreated before earning their levels and mistreating those of lower status as a means of "progress" as defined by the behavior modification arm of the segregated congregate care industry, they may consider their experience to be disastrous or a disaster.  And, arguably, it is a legitimate view to hold of an industry that even the Surgeon General claims is ineffective at best, and at worst harmful. Source:  https://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/ps/access/nnbbjc.pdf  (page 10 of .pdf and page 160 of document)  Given the loss of liberty and dehumanization that accompanies segregated congregate care, many would argue the loss and damage to the individual is devastating and may rise to the level of disaster, when considering annual death tolls and other harms  (i.e. rapes, permanent mental or physical injury, etc.), certainly suggest it is not unreasonable to see the segregated congregate care industry as a disaster to those unfortunate enough to have experienced it firsthand.  So, Yes, it is a disaster depending on your point of view.

Do victims of institutionalized abuse continue to function and prosper despite those hardships?  Here's where it gets tricky.  Some of our fellows believe there are survivors of institutionalized abuse, but, that the majority are victims because they do not meet the third definition (the basis of the question above), and clearly are not able to function and prosper subsequent to their segregated congregate care experiences.  Many of our best and brightest, including Jon Martin Crawford and Nick Romano, are no longer with us, though they showed the most promise in regards to intellect, ability, and business acumen.  Many are unable to take slight criticism, shut down in the face of adversity or conflict, and cannot function in any job where they are not in control and able to avoid correction or, even guidance, in performing assigned tasks.  This makes for high unemployment rates and can be understood when you look at criticism or correction as a PTSD trigger (particularly for those who experienced what is called "positive peer pressure" aka "Attack Therapy" aka "Confrontation Therapy" (in which in a group setting, an individual is targeted by the group and torn down for hours non-stop with insult after insult, correction after correction, criticism after criticism, which is clearly traumatizing and should be considered a form of excessive bullying...often being scolded for minor infractions such as not making the bed perfectly or not folding laundry per program standards...) leaving many survivors and victims, unable to function and prosper by society standards.  However, "2 out of 3 ain't bad" and even if unable to function and prosper due to PTSD or related issues, defining these victims as "survivors" fits within the accepted understanding of the term "survivor".

So, what can survivors of institutionalized abuse do to better function and prosper with PTSD?  First, they need to recognize their PTSD and begin learning to manage triggers and develop healthy coping strategies.  There is no cure for PTSD.  Trauma is both physical and mental and the body and mind are hard-wired to recognize trauma and use trauma experiences to protect the mind and body from future trauma.  A trigger is an event (as simple as a look, as complex as an environment) that reminds the mind and body of the trauma and ignites a protective response which often includes hyper-vigilance (what others perceive as "over-reacting") to stop the triggering event to protect the individual with PTSD from additional harm.  It is up to survivors of trauma to recognize their PTSD and to learn to manage triggers and develop healthy coping strategies to better function (and prosper) in life.  Many acknowledge this is often easier said than done.

Survivors must communicate to their friends and family that they have PTSD and need their social support system to avoid triggering them to the best of their ability.  Friends and family of those living with PTSD must never pressure their loved one with PTSD to get help, treatment, or the like.  One reason is because "help" and "treatment" are most likely trigger words for survivors of institutionalized abuse.  Friends and family must be patient and supportive of their loved ones with PTSD and let individuals with PTSD be the first to mention help or treatment and give them complete authority and empowerment to choose or refuse treatment in their own time and when they feel ready.  Love is not selfish and if you truly love someone with PTSD, you will be patient and supportive, not add pressure, trigger episodes, and demand a "quick fix".  There is no "quick fix".  And, accepting that reality is necessary both for people living with PTSD as well as their loved ones.  For tips on how to support a loved one with PTSD (and how to manage your own PTSD/triggers), visit: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/helping-someone-with-ptsd.htm

In addition, survivors of institutionalized abuse will only be retraumatized, even in a non-abusive institutional setting, if reinstitutionalized according to the report by the Anna Institute available here: https://www.theannainstitute.org/Retraumatization%20with%20chart.ppt.   So, if you want your troublesome family member with PTSD to "go away and get help" so they aren't such a bother, you are triggering their PTSD and actually creating setbacks to their recovery.  It is of vital importance when helping and supporting anyone with PTSD that you be patient, a good listener, and make the person with PTSD feel safe and empowered.  Once they feel safe and empowered (confident to accept or refuse any assistance without feeling like they are disappointing their support system when refusing unhelpful or harmful treatment or triggers), loved ones with PTSD may seek help for learning to better manage triggers or develop healthy coping strategies.  But, until they feel safe and empowered, any pressure, demands, or the like will only make matters worse.  This is one reason HEAL does not recommend treatment to survivors of institutional abuse.  We believe that every survivor must come to that decision in their own time and on their own when they feel safe and ready to accept or refuse treatment or help without fear of reprisal or judgment from family members who, often mistakenly, believe that there is help to be found in the mental health industry.  However, we do suggest that survivors with PTSD begin to learn about PTSD, managing triggers, and healthy coping strategies so they can progress towards a more functional and prosperous life.

PTSD sufferers who are not survivors/victims of institutionalized abuse, may find various treatments and treatment settings helpful.  This, unfortunately, is not so with survivors of institutionalized abuse, particularly in "therapeutic" settings, where any similar setting is a major trigger of their PTSD.  It is a heartbreaking reality that institutionalized abuse makes getting legitimate help damaging and next to impossible for survivors.  But, there is hope...  Survivors of institutionalized abuse can recognize their PTSD, learn about managing triggers, and adopt healthy coping strategies.  It all begins with feeling safe.  And, a survivor is only going to feel safe when they don't perceive any threats.  Perceived threats act as triggers and therefore cause setbacks.  It is important to give voice to those small feelings of apprehension when interacting with others so the triggers don't compound into flashbacks and outbursts.  For example, many survivors of institutionalized abuse would prefer a corner table or booth when going out to eat.  They prefer to have their back to the wall in such a situation and a "bird's eye view" of the entire establishment.  But, because they often don't feel empowered (or feel embarrassed or ashamed --which they shouldn't), they remain quiet when going out to dinner and sit in uncomfortable and awkward silence in such situations, sometimes having a violent outburst over "nonsense" and leaving the situation in a fit of hostility, leading to more feelings of shame and embarrassment.  You don't have to announce to the world that you have PTSD and special needs.  You simply need to say to the host (in the restaurant example), "I would prefer a corner table.  I would be more comfortable with a bird's eye view of the restaurant."  Hosts and waiters are happy to accommodate such requests and I've never had a problem getting my needs met by voicing them simply in any given situation (with the exception of while enrolled in segregated congregate care).  So, there are ways to learn to communicate your needs simply, manage your triggers, and develop healthy coping strategies.  If you feel triggered, give yourself permission (empowerment) to walk away from a situation that is making you uncomfortable.  This includes ending calls that may be triggering for you.  If your family is pressuring you to get "help" and that is a trigger, tell them they are triggering you and that you do not feel safe when they say those things.  Share with them the guide here: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/helping-someone-with-ptsd.htm  And, let them know that just because they don't yet understand PTSD, they can still learn how to help you and that it doesn't help at all when you are triggered.
 
Compassion, empathy, love, patience, and a willingness to meet the needs of loved ones with PTSD is the best medicine.  And, survivors can actively create a safe space for themselves and in their relationships while developing confidence (empowerment) to voice their needs and manage their triggers effectively.  Without that feeling of safety, healing and progress are not possible.  And, that's where it must begin.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

HEAL Book Review: "Mental Health Inc: How Corruption, Lax Oversight, and Failed Reforms Endanger Our Most Vulnerable Citizens by Art Levine"


HEAL Book Review: "Mental Health Inc: How Corruption, Lax Oversight, and Failed Reforms Endanger Our Most Vulnerable Citizens by Art Levine"

By Angela Smith, HEAL National Coordinator/Co-Founder

Author and Journalist Art Levine was kind enough to send me the manuscript of his soon to be released exposé titled "Mental Health Inc: How Corruption, Lax Oversight, and Failed Reforms Endanger Our Most Vulnerable Citizens".  You can learn more about the book at www.mentalhealthinc.net,  https://www.scribd.com/user/9995978/Art-Levine-Mental-Health-Inc, and https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mental-health-inc-art-levine/1124110816?ean=9781468308372.

I have read the manuscript in its entirety and for a mainstream look at the issues with institutionalized abuse of children, youth, veterans, the elderly, prisoners, and the disabled, it is an excellent read.  If you are looking to introduce a novice to many of the major issues with fraud, abuse, and corruption in the mental health industry and government agencies, this book may be the best place to start.

This book does not address the socio-economic conditions of the vast majority of individuals labeled, marginalized, and systematically broken to be easier to manage and control that is the true underlying problem that must be addressed in order to reduce, if not eliminate, mental distress and ineffective or "unhealthy" coping strategies.  For a look at arguments and studies showing the environmental and social factors that create misery and mental distress that could be relieved by improving the human condition through progressive economic change and basic human rights or, if not changed, result in self-medication (drug abuse/addiction), see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/johann-hari/the-real-cause-of-addicti_b_6506936.html

Levine does a stellar job in exposing fundamental problems, including cover-ups and a "let them die" attitude towards veterans and anyone "the powers that be" deem to be "unfit" and worthy of sterilization and long-term extermination.  (see: http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/news/a56482/tennessee-sterilize-inmates/, https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2014/09/26/following-reports-of-forced-sterilization-of-female-prison-inmates-california-passes-ban/, http://www.newsweek.com/one-way-end-opioid-epidemic-let-them-die-639272) Not only do they sterilize or force/coerce sterilization of inmates (even in California, even now), it happens in other institutional settings.  HEAL interviewed one young African American woman who sued the residential treatment center in Texas where she was placed for forcibly sterilizing her without her consent and against her will.  This is actually happening and if you study social justice movements and the systematic oppression and persecution of poor communities, you will begin to understand that their life experiences tell them daily they are targeted and oppressed and that it is not Schizophrenia or Paranoia, but, trauma-informed living after witnessing the firsthand and repeated abuse and repression of their communities and themselves.  (see: https://youtu.be/LBGRfqdD6JU)  Of course, those who radically adhere to neo-liberalism, prefer to blame those living in poverty for their circumstances because blaming social and economic inequality is perceived as a threat to the almighty status quo and labeling people who dare to speak out about social and economic injustice as "crazy" (see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/30/bernie-sanders-socialist_n_7182752.html, http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/284011-trump-sanders-is-crazy-as-a-bed-bug, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/donald-trump-mental-illness-signs-yale-psychiatrist-dr-bandy-lee-dangerous-us-president-goldwater-a7700816.html (Sanders and Trump have both been labeled as "insane".  Some pundits calling for Trump to be institutionalized in a psych hospital.  But, because of the socio-economic status of both, it only rises to the level of libel or hyperbole.  But, when you don't have money and fame backing you, the powers that be find it all too easy to marginalize and/or institutionalize dissidents.)) so they can be marginalized and dismissed by the sleeping majority has proven an effective tool in squashing dissent and coercing or forcing "treatment" (institutionalization) on those individuals neutralizes the threat they pose to the "system".  Levine does not make these arguments in his book.  I've included them here to hopefully provide additional insight and nuance to the overall discussion of the topics covered in Levine's work.

I've been working in the field of child and family advocacy for over 20 years and while I tend to live in a world of perpetual outrage, "Mental Health Inc" served to confirm my most disconcerting concerns about the entire field of mental health and the corruption by big money from the pharmaceutical industry which coerces and bribes providers to drug all problems away and not look at underlying causes of distress or ways to alleviate the stress without the use of dangerous pharmaceutical drugs.

Levine writes, "...the current mental health system is such a fiasco that even having health insurance doesn't ensure good -- or even safe outcomes."  Levine goes on to point out that the majority of the industry is engaging in "scientific fraud" and reports, "...so many people have been damaged by a mental health system that doesn't work and is too often run like a racket."

"Mental Health Inc" provides anecdotal personal accounts of institutionalized abuse and malfeasance along with mostly well-researched documentation showing the systemic problems within the mental health industry.  Like many others, Levine wanted to offer some hope or positive outlook and in so doing, may have been too quixotic in some of his recommendations for "good treatment" options.  This is one of the primary issues I found with Maia Szalavitz's writing as well. (See: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/help-at-any-cost-maia-szalavitz/1101076791)  Like Szalavitz, Levine wants to offer hope for recovery and mental illness management, but, appears to have looked in the wrong places for some of his treatment suggestions. 

Levine does a great job of promoting empathic or empathetic treatment providers and it is empathic/empathetic providers that are the only professionals HEAL would recommend.  However, in Chapter 11, Levine also recommends Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and EMDR therapy, among other questionable and experimental therapies.  For criticism of CBT and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), see: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-justice-and-responsibility-league/200903/four-drawbacks-cognitive-therapy, http://www.whywesuffer.com/cognitive-therapys-flawed-premise/#more-2090, https://www.madinamerica.com/2013/05/cognitive-behavioral-therapy-the-good-the-bad-the-limitations/, https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-22/edition-5/moving-beyond-cognitive-behaviour-therapy, http://www.theness.com/index.php/emdr-science-or-pseudoscience/, https://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/emdr.html, https://www.myptsd.com/c/threads/emdr-lashback-when-emdr-goes-wrong.1388/, and http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/14-05-21/.

In addition, the last couple of chapters of "Mental Health Inc" seem to suggest that Schizophrenia is a biological rather than environmental/socially-caused form of mental distress.  Levine has written in-depth articles expanding on that debate and draws no definitive conclusions, because the science is simply not in nor complete for such conclusions.  For example, read his Huffington Post article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/art-levine/abilify-is-top-selling-us_b_6282684.html  Arguments can be made on either side, but, HEAL would remind readers that the mental health industry was born out of the eugenics movement in the United States (see: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4579550/, http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/abs/10.1176/ajp.90.2.277?journalCode=ajp, http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/jlg/vol311/211-236.pdf. etc.) and that as referenced above, sterilizing the "unfit" (particularly people of color) remains a goal of most segregated congregate care facilities, programs, and prisons.  Beyond this, it is easy to label someone as "delusional", "paranoid", and "schizo" when their life experience is so foreign to the professional class/upper middle class life experience that those "professionals" engage in delusional and damaging denial of the actual cause(s) of mental distress in poor people and see them as needing to be controlled through chemical lobotomies so they don't make trouble for the "status quo".  Even if they don't consciously make the choice using that language, their entire profession has been built on that primary purpose and it can't be ignored when discussing what's wrong with this industry.  You don't have to be a person of color to be given a chemical lobotomy, just ask human and civil rights activist, Abbie Hoffman.  (see: http://www.heal-online.org/different.htm)  Oh, you can't, because he's dead.  And, he was labeled after being literally spied on (tapped phones, being followed, the works) by law enforcement who found him to be a "national security threat" because he was charismatic, white, and willing to adopt the class struggle and anti-war agendas alongside African American activists (who were similarly targeted and harassed).  For more on this, see other blog entries regarding this with the title: A BRIEF HISTORY OF INSTITUTIONAL ABUSE IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ( a multi-part and ongoing series which begins here: http://heal-online.blogspot.com/2014/07/a-brief-history-of-institutional-abuse.html).  Was Abbie Hoffman paranoid?  No.  Did he have a rational understanding of his life experience?  Yes.  Did that fit with the status quo?  No.  So, he was labeled and neutralized through chemical lobotomy by so-called "caring professionals".  You can't even start a "revolution" when revolutionaries are identified, targeted, and neutralized regardless of whether that "revolution" is peaceful or not.  And, the affluent certainly have a vested interest in these methods which they may see as a more humane alternative to death camps.  But, that's not saying much.

Speaking of death camps, Levine does mention the Dozier School for Boys where over 100 corpses of children have been found buried in mostly unmarked graves on the property.  The Dozier School was a residential "character training" program in Florida before it was finally closed down in 2011.  See: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/archaeologists-finally-know-what-happened-brutal-reform-school-180957911/  However, he goes on to mention an estimate provided by SIA (www.sia-now.org) that there have been a maximum of 300 institutional deaths of children (including suicides following abusive/coercive treatment) over the years.  This was a gross under-estimate and not based on any legitimate fact gathering by SIA "researchers".  This may seem a small matter, but, grossly misrepresenting the number of deaths in institutional care or as a result of institutionalized abuse is wholly irresponsible and hurts efforts of those of us who care enough to get our facts straight, understand problems with current laws and legislation, and put in the time to get things right.  By misrepresenting the number of victims by providing such a low estimate, SIA helps further marginalize the call for reform by suggesting too few people are affected to have it reach the level of national concern. 

So, if it isn't a maximum of 300 dead child victims of institutional abuse (including suicides following institutionalization), what's the number?  There's no record of the number of children killed in treatment/institutional settings.  The best estimate available is from the Hartford Courant, which reports: "A 50-state survey by The Courant, the first of its kind ever conducted, has confirmed 142 deaths during or shortly after restraint or seclusion in the past decade. The survey focused on mental health and mental retardation facilities and group homes nationwide.  But because many of these cases go unreported, the actual number of deaths during or after restraint is many times higher.  Between 50 and 150 such deaths occur every year across the country, according to a statistical estimate commissioned by The Courant and conducted by a research specialist at the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis.  That's one to three deaths every week, 500 to 1,500 in the past decade, the study shows."  (Source: http://www.charlydmiller.com/LIB05/1998hartfordcourant11.html ) This was the last legitimate study by a legitimate research specialist on this issue to HEAL's knowledge and would suggest a minimum of  975 deaths of children due to restraint and isolation (3750 restraint and isolation related deaths, if we include all age groups of the study referenced) in institutional settings in the last 25 years.  While the Dozier School for Boys opened in 1900 and closed in 2011 with over 100 children's dead bodies buried in unmarked graves around the facility "over the years".  (Source: http://www.npr.org/2012/10/15/162941770/floridas-dozier-school-for-boys-a-true-horror-story)  So, why not go back 100 years and apply the modern statistics?  That would suggest 3,900  deaths of children in institutional care as a result of restraint and isolation (not including other deaths in care, such as overmedication or medical neglect) since 1917.  In addition, 43 adjudicated children* and youths have died while in detention centers in a 4 year (2002-2005, last available data) survey of US juvenile detention centers, but, not all centers reported/participated in the study, so again, the number of deaths in detention may be much higher.  (source: https://www.bjs.gov/content/dcrp/tables/juvtab5.cfm) And, that would suggest 11 adjudicated juvenile deaths per year in detention.  It is clear that many more than that have been killed in institutional settings as a result of institutionalized abuse with thousands more committing suicide after having been through that trauma.  And, that's just the number of institutionalized kids that have died as a result of institutionalized abuse (restraint and isolation) while institutionalized.  And, if you want to get really "crazy", consider this....  Let us say that at the "best" segregated congregate care facility there are 0 deaths and at the "worst" (i.e. Dozier) there have been 100 deaths due to malfeasance (restraint, isolation, medical neglect, overmedication, etc.) and take the average death toll over a 100 year period to be 50 per facility.  The CDC reports there are 2,250 such facilities in the US.  (Source: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nsrcf/NSRCF2010SelectedSurveyParticipants_091409.pdf )  Then, over a 100 year period, you have an average of 112,500 malfeasance related deaths, or 1,125 deaths annually in institutional care due to malfeasance, across all demographics.  If 26% of those deaths are of youth (as the Harvard research suggests), then it would amount to roughly 292 deaths of youth in institutional care annually.  This would make the death toll over a 25 year period for youth in segregated congregate care 7,300.  But, medical malpractice accounts for 210,000-440,000 medical negligence/malfeasance deaths in the US annually according to a Journal of Patient Safety study in 2013.  (Source: https://www.propublica.org/article/how-many-die-from-medical-mistakes-in-us-hospitals)  While these numbers are staggering, they do not even touch on the post-institutionalization suicides of those traumatized by abusive and negligent care in segregated congregate care facilities.

As stated above, most of the information in Art Levine's "Mental Health Inc" is well-researched and invaluable.  Even though a couple of his suggestions or sources are questionable, overall, it is a great read and one HEAL would heartily recommend.

[Coming Soon: The HEAL Report youtube series interview with "Mental Health Inc" author, Art Levine.  See: https://www.youtube.com/user/HEALwantsTEENliberty]

* Corrected on July 28th, 2017, formerly read 86 which was a calculation error in reading the death total tables from the BJS. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Overweight People Don't Need Government Sponsored "Fat Camp"!


Overweight People Don't Need Government Sponsored "Fat Camp"!
by Angela Smith, HEAL National Coordinator
 

I am overweight and have struggled with weight issues for most of my life.  I had control of my weight when I was in my early 20s.  But, I began taking hormonal birth control (Depo Provera) in my mid-20s and I gained nearly 90 pounds in 6 months without having changed my diet (vegetarian) or my exercise regimen (walked 2 miles every morning).  Not only did the hormonal birth control cause weight gain, fatigue, breakouts, and abnormal hair-growth, it also stunted my sex drive.

Many people with PTSD and trauma, particularly victims of sexual assault and abuse (like myself), often struggle with weight because our bodies want protection and in our society no one supposedly wants to get physical with fat people.  So, we use weight as a coping mechanism.  "Intensive Behavior Modification Therapy" is not going to help those of us struggling with our weight because it focuses solely on changing behavior, often through confrontation (aka "attack therapy"), ridicule, and aversive/abusive therapies instead of addressing the trauma or underlying causes of weight problems.  Some of which include adverse reactions to behavior modifying/psychotropic drugs.

I'm currently losing weight and have lost 20 pounds this year.  Here's how I am doing it:

1.  I figured out what my goal weight should be for my age and height.  According to the CDC, my goal weight/healthy weight is between 122-164 pounds.  (Yes, I currently am considered "obese" by the CDC standards and NO, I don't want to be put in fat camp or any other behavior modification program using Social Security dollars as current legislation is seeking to do.  More on this below.)  You can figure your "healthy weight" here: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/  (Click on BMI Calculator link and enter your current height and weight, it will tell you if you are "obese" and what your "healthy weight" range should be.)

2.  I set my goal weight at 130 pounds and wanted to know the number of calories that are needed to maintain a weight of 130 along with the average amount of activity I do per day.  So, I found the following site: http://caloriecontrol.org/healthy-weight-tool-kit/assessment-calculator/  and entered in my sex, height, goal weight, and activity level and hit "Re-Assess My Goal" button.  This gave me the number of calories I needed to maintain my goal weight each day.  I set my activity level to "sedentary" and depending on my level of activity on any given day I figure out how many calories I burn to decide how much over the maintenance calories I can eat on that day or at the end of the week. 

3.  So, to figure out how many calories are burned by a given activity (i.e. 30 minutes of yard work), you can use www.google.com and enter in "How many calories do I burn doing 30 minutes of yard work or 1 hour of yard work?" and you may find this page: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/calorie-burners#1  or a number of other pages.  And, the same can be done for any activity.  If I do 1 hour of yard work, I can guess at about 200-400 calories were burned, and if I need to lose weight, give it the lower end of 200 to minimize any chance of "over-eating".  Given my goal weight and my activity level, I should only be eating about 1750 calories per day.  I do my best to keep it at 1500 during the week depending on my activity level.  And, yes, this is different than the average 2000-2500 you read on most food packages.  But, those food packages are not based on you, your lifestyle, or your weight.  They are national averages boosted, in my opinion, to keep people fat. 

I didn't learn how to calculate my healthy weight, healthy calorie intake, or healthy activity level in any primary or secondary school courses, including Health classes.  I was never taught how simple it is to manage my weight or how to understand metabolism, activity rates, and caloric intake.  And, even when I've joined weight management groups and organizations (haven't been part of any for many years), they never provided me with this simple information on how to figure it out.  No doctor I've visited ever sat down with me and looked at this issue simply and no nutritionist explained it to me in simple terms because they all wanted me to keep paying them to tell me what to do instead of how to figure out how to take care of myself.  Behavior modification programs do not help, they make things worse.  I know that for a fact too because I am a survivor of abusive/aversive behavior modification and I would never want anyone to go through that, especially not for being overweight when compassion, love, time, and basic health information and tools can address the issue effectively.

This is why I do not support HR 1953, the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act of 2017, which will divert Social Security funds to paying for overweight people to be placed in "intensive behavior modification therapy".  That is abuse.  It is awful.  And, no one should support it, period.  If you agree, please join me by signing the petition at: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/oppose-hr-1953-treat?source=c.tw&r_by=9710095