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July 27, 2005
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ACCUSED MURDERER'S COMPETENCE DEBATED.
Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO); 7/26/2005
Byline: Clayton Woullard And Felix Doligosa Jr., Rocky Mountain
A woman accused of killing two men in Denver last year told a psychiatrist she is a government-paid assassin with plans to form an army of 700 killers.
Dr. Mark Diamond, chief of psychiatry in the forensics division of the Colorado Mental Health Institute, testified Monday in Denver District Court that Amber Torrez, 20, is delusional and not competent to stand trial.
But a second doctor who testified Monday disagreed.
Dr. Karen Fukutaki, a psychiatrist at Denver Health Medical Center, said that based on her 90-minute meeting with Torrez in March, she believes Torrez is competent to stand trial.
Torrez is facing first-degree murder charges for the slayings of John Hand and Masfin Gazahgne.
Hand, the founder of Colorado Free University, was found in his east Denver apartment on March 28, 2004. He had been stabbed in his face, arms, torso and legs.
The next day, Gazahgne, a 45- year-old Freedom Cab driver, was stabbed 39 times.
Torrez was linked to Hand's murder through purchases she allegedly made with his credit card.
The night of Gazahgne's murder, Torrez was arrested in an alley while trying to hide a knife in her jacket pocket. Police said there was blood on Torrez's clothing.
Diamond said Torrez believes she is an assassin hired by the U.S. government.
Diamond also said Torrez described to him plans for a company of 700 assassins she would lead called Shadow Angel Industries that would carry out government- sponsored murders.
"She believes she is doing the right thing by killing people and that the government will reward her," Diamond said of Torrez.
Torrez has rejected her lawyer's options to plead not guilty by reason of insanity and not guilty due to post-traumatic stress disorder. This is because she does not believe she has a mental illness, according to Diamond.
Diamond diagnosed Torrez with a bipolar type of schizo-affective disorder with anti-social personality disorder. He said she is more calm and focused on medication, but holds onto her delusions, chiefly her belief that the murders of Hand and Gazahgne would be forgiven by the U.S. government.
Torrez told him she killed Hand because he attempted to pay her for sex and killed Gazahgne because he tried to rape her, Diamond testified.
Her desire for vigilante justice also stems from incidents in her past, according to Fukutaki, the Denver Health psychiatrist.
Fukutaki testified that Torrez told her that when she was 15 a man approached her from behind, held a knife to her neck and threatened to kill her. Torrez managed to break free, suffering a laceration to the neck, but didn't feel the man was properly punished, Fukutaki said.
Torrez also told Fukutaki of being drugged with the date-rape drug GHB and raped by a male friend who she said was never charged.
Monday's hearing ended before prosecutors and defense attorneys delivered closing arguments, which are scheduled today before Judge Christina Habas, who will decide if Torrez is competent to stand trial.
Amber Torrez allegedly made purchases with Hand's credit card.
COPYRIGHT 2005 Rocky Mountain News. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of the Dialog Corporation by Gale Group.
$40 million boon for mental health producing turmoil.
North County Times (Escondido, California) (via Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News); 7/24/2005
Byline: Gig Conaughton
Jul. 24--SAN DIEGO -- The county has asked people with business connections to the mental health community to resign from county panels that dole out public money for mental health programs, a move that has angered some mental health advocates who say the move will keep valuable experts off the panels.
The county has received about $40 million as a result of a new law, Proposition 63, which passed last year. The law imposes a 1 percent tax on California residents who make $1 million or more to help pay for mental health programs.
Counties have been instructed to submit plans for the money ---- with advice from patients, family members and mental health service providers ---- to the state for approval.
The office of Alfredo Aguirre, director of the county's adult and children's mental health departments, sent letters earlier this month telling agencies that anyone with any connection to a company that could bid to provide services paid for by Prop. 63 funding would have to resign from the work groups.
Aguirre said the county was being cautious about whom to allow on the panels in order to avoid conflicts of interest.
The county does not want to jeopardize the $40 million by giving anyone a chance to say later that it allowed service providers ---- companies that could profit from Prop. 63's funding ---- to influence how the money should be spent, Aguirre said.
"It's all about whether you're involved as a contractor," he said. "At the end of the day if there are services approved ... that organization could be subject to potential disqualification from seeking those funds because they were involved in the voting."
But Karen Luton, executive director of the Mental Health Association in San Diego County, and Paul Cumming, a longtime member of the county's Mental Health Advisory board, said last week that barring some mental health experts from the work groups was a bad idea. The panels will decide how to spend money on help for mental health patients through educational programs, therapy, medication and other services that require the knowledge of experts, the two said.
"You want your experts to be involved," Luton said. "If you eliminate those folks you're left with a much smaller pool ... of people who don't have the same depth and breadth of knowledge and experience."
The county initially planned to include most of the agencies in its working groups, but asked them to resign after the plan triggered alarm bells in the county counsel's office.
Cumming and Luton said it was perfectly reasonable for the county to be concerned about potential conflicts of interest.
But they said the county has taken that concern to unreasonable lengths. Luton and Cumming said the county had stretched the definition of a potential "contractor" to include people who volunteer their time to be on boards of agencies that provide mental health services.
"For instance," Luton said, "Mental Health Services has had a contract to run a rehabilitation center in Chula Vista for the last six years. But we've been in the advocacy business for 65 years ---- talking about legislation, approaching county supervisors, to make our (mental health) system better. I have a volunteer on the board of directors. She's not allowed to participate."
The 49-year-old Cumming, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in his 20s, said it's common for patients and family members of people who have suffered mental illness to volunteer their services to the agencies that have helped them.
Cumming said he's been kept off the work groups because he is a volunteer director on the board of the San Diego chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. The group's main purpose is to inform the public about mental illness and erase the public stigma attached to it in the hope of encouraging treatment. But Cumming said the group does contract to provide some mental health services, including a bookkeeping service the county outsourced years ago.
Cumming said the county's conflict-of-interest ruling is eliminating a lot of important advice. Mental health "experts" ---- providers, patients and others ---- that make up its Mental Health Advisory Board have been barred from the voting working groups.
"To give you a quick example, housing (in mental health) is a very complicated issue," Cumming said. "The Mental Health (Advisory) Board has a housing subcommittee of highly qualified professionals and consumer and family advocates. Not one person from this committee passes the conflict interpretations. Therefore, there are no housing representatives on the work groups."
Cumming said the work groups from which agencies have been barred were not making recommendations about funding specific programs, but were creating priorities for potential services they think should receive funding.
"They really reached out far and wide to exclude people," he said, "completely ignoring the fact that all we're talking about is preferences, not specific programs."
One thing all sides agreed upon is that the Prop. 63 money is ultra-important to the county's mental health system. Patients, counselors, agencies and others have said for years that San Diego County's system is a poorly funded patchwork of disconnected services that are hard to find and use.
Two years ago, the county slashed the budget of its children's mental health department by a third, or about $10 million. This year, over the objections of their own Mental Health Advisory Board, supervisors agreed to turn management of North County's mental health clinics to private companies in order to cut costs.
Aguirre, meanwhile, said the $40 million a year Prop. 63 would provide ---- $25 million for new services and $15 million for capital improvements and early prevention programs ---- would represent a roughly 20 percent increase for the county's mental health budget.
Aguirre said his department still plans to incorporate assistance from all experts in the mental health field.
He said the county plans to hold a special forum after the work groups vote for their preferences. And, he said, the ousted advocates can still attend work group meetings. They just can't vote.
But Cumming, Luton and others have said that is not enough.
"Being a member of the public with a comment at the beginning or at the end of a meeting just isn't the same," Cumming said. "This is terrible."
To see more of the North County Times, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.nctimes.com.
Copyright (c) 2005, North County Times, Escondido, Calif.
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.
For information on republishing this content, contact us at (800) 661-2511 (U.S.), (213) 237-4914 (worldwide), fax (213) 237-6515, or e-mail email@example.com.
COPYRIGHT 2005 North County Times
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The Warning Signs Of An Impending Bipolar Disorder Manic Episode
Bipolar disorder - as the name implies - involves two distinct set of symptoms. One set throws the individual down into the depths of a massive depression. The other places the individual who suffers with bipolar disorder at the top of a peak manic episode.
Most everyone can eventually recognize the warning signs of an impending depressive episode related to bipolar disorder. More likely than not, individuals with bipolar disorder try very hard to avoid it.
However, for many individuals with bipolar disorder, it's more difficult to recognize the signs of an impending manic episode. After all, a manic episode of bipolar disorder can be mistaken in some cases - especially in the very early formation -- for the lifting of the corresponding mood swing of the depression.
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