Author Archives: William Van Ornum, Ph.D.

Sliding Back toward Willowbrook?

Budget Cuts, Nonprofits, and Developmental Disabilities

Several months ago the Cuomo administration announced that budgets for nonprofit agencies serving the developmentally disabled would be cut. This had led to an outcry from parents, community members, and those who work at these agencies. Recently it was announced that the cuts would be changed. Although this is helpful, it still leaves most organizations […]


Welcome Pope Francis

It is not inappropriate for an organization of American Mental Health Foundation—which serves persons of many nationalities and beliefs—to offer our best wishes for the Catholic Church’s new pontiff, Francis I. Sponsorship of mental health programs has been an important role of the Catholic Church in the USA. Many Catholic hospitals have included psychiatric units, […]


Budget Cuts 2013 Endanger Nonprofits

The Mid-Hudson Valley in New York State may be atypical from many other localities: it has the highest proportion of developmentally disabled persons in the country. Over 10,000 developmentally disabled residents from Willowbrook, Letchworth Village, and Wassaic Developmental Center have been re-integrated into the community. A large number of jobs—private and nonprofit—are part of the […]

Therapy Strikes Out?

Therapy Strikes Out?

Several weeks ago Evander, as part of the series of films on mental health, posted a review of Fear Strikes Out. This unique story–coming out mid-point in outfielder Jimmy Piersall’s career—highlights Piersall’s emotional problems and strange behaviors: talking to Babe Ruth’s statue in the Yankee Stadium outfield, squirting home plate with a water pistol so […]

Robert Ethan Saylor in his happy times

Man with Down Syndrome Dies in Police Custody

A young man with Down syndrome has died at the very hands of the police he idolized, the Washington Post reports. The death of Robert Ethan Saylor, aetat. twenty-six, occurred while being handcuffed with at least three set of cuffs as he was being taken by three deputies from a theater in Frederick County, Maryland. […]


AMA and New CPT Codes

Consumers of mental-health services may not realize the extensive system of codes that go into insurance billing and medical records, both for mental-health services and other medical services. For mental health, every person who receives insurance reimbursement receives a diagnostic code from the most current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, as […]

"Three generations of imbeciles are enough." (OWH)

Eugenics: Beware of History Repeating Itself

After physicists split the atom, unanticipated positive effects emerged—such as medical isotopes—and many negative ones as well. Where do we store the waste? How do we understand fallout and its deadly effect? What happens when there are nuclear plant accidents? Biologists work in a similar environment as they work to split the genome. Once again, […]

More on PTSD

It seems we are reminded every day about posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It reveals itself in soldier suicides, which are occurring in a way that is more than we can bear. Shootings continue. In one city (Chicago), one mother has been so badly traumatized: She has lost four children over the years to street violence. […]

The major developer of tests of all kinds

Reasons for Doing Psychological Testing

More and more in our society, any kind of testing that compares people with each other is viewed negatively. Different kinds of testing: No Child Left Behind, End of Year testing, and Intelligence Testing are all types of testing that come under criticism. Here is a different spin on the kinds of tests given by […]

Papa Hemingway as a broken man

Suicide and the Hemingway Family

A new documentary film presents the emotional health history of a famous American family of artists—the Hemingways—according to CNN, whose sources we quote. This film, Running from Crazy, premiered last week at the Sundance Film Festival. Oprah Winfrey is executive producer. “‘Suicide has no rhyme or reason,’ [Mariel] Hemingway said. ‘Some people, it’s 20 dark […]

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord

“I Have Been to the Mountaintop”

Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. When I was in college (several years after Dr. King’s assassination), I took a bicycle trip down the East Coast. One of the stops was Washington, DC. There, I stood on the steps of the Lincoln memorial and had the same view King had when he gave his […]


State of the State of Mental Health 2013

This month governors and the President are reflecting on what is going on in their respective territories. I thought this would be a good time to look at the state of the state of mental health and to offer my own reflections. DSM V Will Be Issued This year will inaugurate the new DSM V. […]

Recommended Books for 2013

From Counseling Today, some recommendations of new books: *The Danger-to-Self-or-Others Exception to Confidentiality (C. Ahia, University Press of America) This topic has been one that has been in the news this past year with tragedies including the movie theater shooting, train deaths in NYC, as well as the Newtown tragedy. The subject is an important […]

Eugene Kennedy, Love, Newtown: A Blow to the Heart

Peggy Noonan, writing in the Wall Street Journal, suggests that we listen to Eugene Kennedy, who spoke about the Newtown tragedy in a much different manner from other commentators: He does not believe that the many “solutions” bandied about will make children (or ourselves) safer. Rather, it is time for us to reflect on this […]

Letter by American Psychiatric Association to Congress Regarding Newtown

On December 20, 2012, the American Psychiatric Association sent the following letter to Congressional leaders in Washington: To:

One of the folks at Abilities First

“I didn’t feel right walking away….”

Word from ABILITIES FIRST in Poughkeepsie, NY October 5, 2012, Poughkeepsie, NY—As Dr. Lori Crispi’s term on the board of Abilities First, Inc., a Dutchess County based nonprofit that serves children and adults with disabilities, was coming to an end, she felt that she couldn’t just walk away. “I enjoyed being part of the organization […]

More from Abraham Low

Previously I’ve written about Recovery International, founded by psychiatrist Abraham Low in the 1940s in Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Low initiated a revolutionary brand of treatment that we now call cognitive therapy: by changing one’s thoughts, one could change troublesome feelings and through practice attain better mental health. Dr. Low used the word apprenticeship to denote […]

Lonnie Snowden

Disparities in Mental-health Care for African Americans

Since the Supplement to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report Mental Health: Culture, Race, and Ethnicity—A Supplement to Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General, several events have occurred. These, say Lonnie R. Snowden, have established a national commitment to understanding African American-White American treatment disparities, their consequences, and opportunities for their reduction. Snowden’s article, […]


Girl Scouts Honored

Two important areas in mental health are prevention and resiliency. Prevention includes all efforts to prevent a person from developing a mental-health problem. One of the most effective prevention programs has been Head Start—from the 1960s, these centers have been a path for positive adjustment for many young persons of disadvantaged backgrounds. Another prevention program […]

Known to all: Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa’a Prescription

Successes of all kinds—academic, vocational, monetary, and material—are highly valued and obsessively pursued. But even those who “have it all” may find themselves spiritually adrift and existentially empty. Paul Wright, M.D., a cardiologist, found himself in this position after having made it to the top in a demanding medical specialty. On November 9, 2012, I […]

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