April 30, 2005
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triumphs over bipolar disorder Kidder will share her story ...
disorder expensive to treat
Why the Disabilities Act E.phperates Entrepreneurs: They support the law's aims but find it vaguely written and hard to comply with.
FSB; 5/1/2005; Martin, Justin
A young man with cerebral palsy went out for breakfast at the Blue Plate Cafe in Memphis. He arrived in a wheelchair, accompanied by a service dog to help him with tasks such as opening doors. The restaurant was crowded, so owner Mike Richmond says he made a decision: Because eight people came with the man and were available to help him, the dog would not be allowed into the dining area. The party then left. Not long afterward, in June 2004, Richmond was served with a lawsuit under the federal Americans With Disabilities Act. To head off a legal battle, he quickly settled. He agreed to pay $3,500 in damages to the man, as well as legal fees and a $1,000 fine. "I was shocked," says Richmond. "But with some of these ADA lawsuits, you don't even know the rules until you get hit."
Dave Mock was hit too--and harder. The owner of Mock Bros., a saddle maker in Yucca Valley, Calif., was sued for several alleged ADA violations, including a counter that was too high to be accessible for disabled customers. When lawyers' fees hit $27,000, Mock settled and paid $4,000 in damages. But that wasn't the end of it. To address his ADA violations, he would have to make at least another $20,000 in renovations. Instead he shut down his store this past December and sold the property. The great irony: Mock Bros. was founded in 1941 by Archie Mock, Dave's uncle, a paraplegic who is now deceased. Closing the family business, Dave says quietly, "was just devastating."
The ADA, which turns 15 this year, has literally broken down barriers for Americans with disabilities. Most small-business owners say they want to comply. But many also believe that the law's requirements are growing vaguer and more onerous. The two primary federal agencies that oversee the law--the U.S. Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission--don't do any policing. This might seem like good news to those who hate government regulation, but there's a downside. With no inspectors making the rounds of small businesses to issue warnings to those that aren't complying, it's up to entrepreneurs to stay abreast of how the broadly written statute is interpreted in courts around the country.
Those who don't keep up risk getting sued--and even if they win in court, they often lose time and legal fees and suffer damage to their reputation. While the ADA is quite specific on some requirements, there are a lot of gray areas. The law contains many detailed rules related to access to public spaces such as stores and restaurants. For instance, doorways must have openings at least 32 inches wide. Such guidelines apply even to businesses operated by one person. But the rules about access are less stringent for older buildings than for those built after 1992. How much less stringent is a matter of interpretation.
The ADA also covers discrimination against employees with disabilities, an equally fraught issue for employers. If a small business fails to hire a qualified job applicant who is deaf or copes with diabetes, it faces a potential lawsuit. The same goes for a company that fires or downgrades the job duties of a disabled person. But this part of the law differs from the one governing access because it applies to any company with 15 or more workers.
Small businesses are supposedly held to lower standards than large corporations and are required only to comply with the ADA in ways that are "readily achievable." But that term is defined on a case-by-case basis. "It's really difficult for a small business to keep up with all the rules and regulations" and court decisions, says William Anthony, a Florida State University management professor and expert on the ADA.
The law even extends to psychiatric conditions. Fire a poor performer who happens to be depressed, and that employee may be able to sue, arguing that his condition is a disability. For such a case to hold up, the plaintiff needs to have a diagnosed condition and an employer must know about it. But ADA lawsuits stemming from psychiatric conditions are notoriously murky.
Consider the case of Audrey Jacques, an employee with bipolar disorder who worked for DiMarzio, a maker of electric-guitar components based in New York City. DiMarzio alleged that Jacques was extremely confrontational with co-workers and supervisors. Though Jacques denied that allegation, DiMarzio fired her. Because she had a diagnosed condition and said her employer was aware of it, Jacques was able to sue. She won in federal district court. DiMarzio was ordered to pay $50,000 in damages for emotional distress and $140,000 in back pay. When DiMarzio appealed, the decision was reversed. Both parties dropped the case in February.
Such legal flip-flopping highlights the complexity of psychiatric disability cases under the ADA. Was Jacques merely a bad employee? Was her condition to blame? What obligation did DiMarzio have to keep employing her if she caused disruption? Such questions continue to play out in the courts.
Meanwhile, the number of ADA suits--over physical and mental disability, handicapped access, etc.--continues to rise, although that isn't obvious from looking at the federal statistics. The EEOC received 15,376 ADA complaints in 2004. That's nearly identical to the 2003 number: 15,377. But according to legal experts, an increasing number of cases are being filed in state courts.
All the states have their own statutes, so-called mini-ADAs. A small business must keep track of both federal and state laws, which don't always agree. State laws are often stricter, particularly in places such as Illinois that have a history of heavy workplace regulation. Many states also lack caps for certain types of damages. In federal employment-discrimination cases, the cap on compensatory and punitive damages is $50,000 for a firm with fewer than 100 employees. But the limits are higher, even nonexistent, in states such as New Jersey and Massachusetts.
Of particular concern for small businesses are so-called frequent filers--disabled customers who go from establishment to establishment, uncovering alleged ADA violations and filing suits. Sometimes the motive is to attract publicity for the needs of the disabled. But some frequent filers are just looking to make a quick buck, say critics. Because it's so expensive to pursue a court battle, many small businesses simply settle.
George Leage owns three restaurants in Morro Bay, Calif., which were sued in rapid succession by frequent filer Jarek Molski. Leage says he has credit card slips that show that Molski visited his Harbor Hut restaurant at 4:20 p.m. on June 16, 2003, then dropped by the Great American Fish Company at 6:27 p.m. Two weeks later Molski went to Leage's other eatery, the Outrigger. Molski, who uses a wheelchair, filed suits against all three restaurants, citing ADA violations in their bathrooms. He alleged that he injured himself--not once, but in each of the three bathrooms.
It turns out that Molski, 34, is notorious for filing hundreds of ADA suits throughout California. A federal judge recently deemed him a "vexatious litigant" responsible for a "scheme of systematic extortion." Molski was slapped with an order that--if upheld on appeal--will prevent him from filing in federal court without first getting the approval of a judge. But Leage will still have to face Molski in state court. The case against the Outrigger recently settled for $18,000; a court battle would have rung up thousands in lawyers' fees. "I'm willing to do whatever I can to abide by the law," says Leage, "but this is nothing but a moneymaking scam." (Molski and his attorney did not respond to telegrams seeking comment.) Congressman Mark Foley (R-Florida) is sponsoring a law to slow down frequent filers. It would give a business 90 days to rectify an ADA complaint before a lawsuit could proceed. Foley plans to reintroduce the six-year-old proposal later this year.
For many small-business owners, the most troublesome part of the ADA is the "readily achievable" standard. What that means is anyone's guess. Say a small business can't easily afford a wheelchair-accessible desk for an employee. Instead, a standard-issue desk is put up on blocks. If such an accommodation satisfies the employee, it means no problem, no lawsuit. Meanwhile, there are stories of frequent filers, armed with measuring tapes, going from business to business, filing lawsuits whenever a handgrip is an inch too high, a parking space an inch too narrow. "It's very situational. If someone wants to sue you under the ADA, there's often a way to be found," says Karen Harned, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business Legal Foundation.
But if there is one clear rule about the ADA, it is this: Doing something trumps doing nothing. If a small business gets sued, any steps it took to accommodate the disabled can weigh heavily with jurors. Potential litigants are also less likely to sue a business that makes an effort, however simple and inexpensive. A retailer might advertise that its website is available to take orders from disabled shoppers. Or a worker who is groggy in the morning from medication might be allowed to arrive later and stay later.
A few years ago, a wave of ADA lawsuits were filed in the historic South Side district of Pittsburgh. Yet City Theatre has avoided trouble by taking such actions as printing programs in Braille. "There are many small steps you can take that send a message to the disabled community that you are open to change," says Diane Nutting, City Theatre's education director. That's a good message, and given that disabled Americans spend an estimated $796 billion a year, it's also good business. -- JUSTIN MARTIN, WITH REPORTING BY MATTHEW PHAN
HIGHEST % OF DISABLED BY CITY Paterson, N.J. 29.8% Miami 29.4% Newark 29% Detroit 28.3% Birmingham 27.6%
SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau
ADAPTIVE ARCHITECTURE is owned by architect Todd Rosenblum, who designed his first fully accessible home in 1991 in Spring Valley, N.Y. Word of mouth has kept him busy ever since. He expects to build about five accessible houses this year, such as this two-story Cape Cod style in Wyantskill, N.Y.
COPYRIGHT 2005 Time, Inc.
Write What You Know: A diver's struggle with schizophrenia inspires a thriving magazine. William MacPhee/Schizophrenia Digest, Buffalo.
FSB; 5/1/2005; Touryalai, Halah
He worked as a commercial diver, retrieving cement samples for Seatec International hundreds of feet beneath the often turbulent South China Sea. It was a risky job, but the pay was good, and "it was an adventure for me at 19," William MacPhee recalls. He figured that if anything bad happened to him, it would come underwater. Instead, disaster struck from within. At age 24, MacPhee--by then employed on dry land in a printing plant--began feeling paranoid and delusional, and was hearing voices no one else heard. At one point he was found by police wandering in the street, unaware of what he was doing.
Diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1987, MacPhee was hospitalized six times and once attempted suicide. But in lucid moments, he kept searching for a way to regain the confidence and purpose he once felt--and he began to find it at his local library, in a book that helped him start his own business.
Once his doctors prescribed the right medication for his condition, MacPhee began taking entrepreneurial classes at Niagara College in Ontario, and developed a business plan for a magazine called Schizophrenia Digest. It appears to have been the first magazine of its kind to focus on a single mental illness. In 1994, after persuading his father to co-sign a bank loan for $45,000, he introduced the publication to Canada, editing it from his father's home in Ontario. The magazine's goal was to act as a "support group on paper" for readers with schizophrenia and their families, offering news on the latest medical research, success stories of schizophrenics, and advice.
When the publication he had started in his father's basement reached a circulation of 25,000, it motivated MacPhee to expand his audience. In 2003, from a new base in Buffalo, he teamed up with business partner Joanne Garvey to launch an edition with for the U.S., where 1.5 million people--less than 1% of the population--have been diagnosed with the illness, according to the National Mental Health Information Center, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. With a circulation of 50,000, the U.S. edition of Schizophrenia Digest brought in $500,000 in 2004 from subscriptions and ad sales, earning 94% of its ad revenue from pharmaceutical companies. The Canadian edition, which has a circulation of 25,000, brought in additional sales. Garvey says the next goal is to attract advertisements from national brands that are mainstream advertisers in other industries to help escape the "stigma surrounding schizophrenia."
Inspired by the success of Schizophrenia Digest, MacPhee and Garvey launched bp Magazine last fall. The quarterly publication, which addresses topics similar to those in Schizophrenia Digest, is aimed at patients with bipolar illness and their families. It broke even on its first issue and boasts a circulation of 50,000. "Bill has taken a risk by doing something in an area that hasn't been ventured into," says Eric Hufnagel, president and CEO of the National Schizophrenia Foundation in Lansing, Mich. "His accomplishments allow people to see what people with schizophrenia are capable of."
MacPhee, now 42 and a married father of three, agrees. "Having meaningful work is important," he says. "You have to find that spark." --HALAH TOURYALAI
TOP TWO CAUSES OF DISABILITY[*] 1. ARTHRITIS/RHEUMATISM 2. BACK/SPINE PROBLEMS
[*] Among U.S. adults. SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control
COPYRIGHT 2005 Time, Inc.
New Investigational Procedure to Treat Major Depression Being Tested in Global University Medical and Clinical Research Centers; Twenty Sites Conduct Clinical Research Trials On Investigational, Non- Medication Approach to Treat Depression.
PR Newswire; 4/27/2005
MALVERN, Pa., April 27 /PRNewswire/ -- Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), an investigational noninvasive technique that uses repeated short bursts of magnetic energy to stimulate nerve cells in the brain, has been studied in numerous small clinical research trials. The results from these trials have encouraged researchers that TMS may produce an antidepressant effect. TMS is now being tested at 20 university medical centers and clinical research centers as a potential future treatment for patients with major depression.
"The ongoing clinical trial will include approximately 300 individuals at 20 centers," said Bruce Shook, president of Neuronetics, Inc., the company that developed the TMS device. "More than half of the required study participants have now been enrolled. The study is moving along rapidly and will be completed this year."
Typical ways of treating depression include antidepressants and other medications; electroconvulsive therapy (ECT); and psychotherapy. This study focuses on people who either have failed to benefit from antidepressant medications or have been unable to tolerate the adverse effects of antidepressant medications.
Regulatory Clearance Sought
The clinical trial currently underway is a large, rigorous, controlled trial designed to provide data in support of a regulatory application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for marketing clearance of the Neuronetics TMS System for the treatment of depression.
"If it is proven effective, TMS would be an innovative and non-invasive therapeutic option, especially for people who haven't benefited from other therapies," said Shook. "We anticipate seeking FDA approval in 2006."
Trial sites currently enrolling study participants are located in Dallas and Houston, TX; St. Louis, MO; Chicago, IL; Durham and Winston Salem, NC; Ann Arbor, MI; Philadelphia, PA; Palo Alto and San Diego, CA and Charlottesville, VA. Individuals in these areas who believe they may qualify for the study can visit the Neuronetics website, http://www.neuronetics.com/ or call 800-345-8707 for more information, Shook said.
Researchers believe the left prefrontal cortex is one of the critical components of the brain circuitry involved in regulating mood. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) produces pulses of magnetic energy that are directly targeted at this part of the brain with the goal of improving the function of these key brain pathways.
The TMS technology creates a high intensity magnetic field with characteristics similar to those produced by standard MRI machines. However, instead of helping doctors look inside the body to diagnose disease, the pulses of magnetic energy produce a stimulus in the brain that researchers believe causes positive changes in mood. The amount of energy delivered to the brain is very small and very focused. Study participants remain fully awake during the 45-minute outpatient procedure and can go about their normal activity before and after the procedure. TMS is performed without anesthesia or sedation, and it does not cause memory loss, as can occur with ECT, or the side effects common with oral antidepressants.
Major Depression - An Unmet Medical Need
The National Institute of Mental Health reports that depression affects more than 18 million adults every year. Even with recent advances in antidepressant medications, a significant percentage of patients experience treatment-resistant or recurrent episodes of depression. Some patients cannot tolerate medications.
This nationwide research study is a pivotal trial. If the results of the study are positive and if the U.S. FDA clears the TMS technology for marketing, an entirely new treatment option for patients suffering from depression would be available for the future.
Who Is Eligible?
Individuals who believe they may qualify for the study are urged to visit the Neuronetics website, http://www.neuronetics.com/, or call 800-345-8707 to locate a research center near their home. To qualify, patients must:
-- Be between 18 and 70 years old.
Patients who have been diagnosed with bipolar illness (manic depression) or obsessive-compulsive disorder are not eligible to participate in the trial.
Trial sponsor: Neuronetics, Inc., is a medical device company that is focused on developing non-invasive therapies for psychiatric and neurological disorders using pulsed magnetic fields. For more information on Neuronetics: http://www.neuronetics.com/; email@example.com; 610-640-4202, ext. 1015.
CONTACT: Melissa Nichols, +1-610-640-4528, firstname.lastname@example.org, for Neuronetics; or Bruce Shook, Neuronetics, +1-610-640-4202, ext. 1001
Web site: http://www.neuronetics.com/
COPYRIGHT 2005 PR Newswire Association LLC
Volunteering cures many ills for Bill Higgins.
Sarasota Herald Tribune; 4/27/2005
Byline: HELEN ROSEN CORRESPONDENT
Volunteering is a panacea for all sorts of physical and mental problems, said William "Bill" Higgins, and he urges anyone with free time to join him at the Cultural Center of Charlotte County.
"I was the only volunteer for all departments after Charley struck," said Higgins. "When the Center finally reopened three weeks later, we couldn't use the cash registers and made change from a box.
"People were coming in with Red Cross vouchers and so many needed clothing and we gave them away to the needy," he said with satisfaction.
The slim, 60-year-old Higgins has been working in the Center's Trash and Treasure -- the used furniture and clothing department -- since February 2004.
He trains the department's cashiers and manages its inventory. He enjoys his job so much that he spends five days a week at it.
Now that he has found a new apartment across the street from the center, he has had to cut his time back from six days in order to take care of his own chores.
Born in Atlanta, Ga., Higgins grew up playing baseball enthusiastically and when he was collecting stamps. "My grandmother worked for the Internal Revenue Service and would bring me interesting stamps."
Higgins enrolled in the last graduating class of the University of Chattanooga as a private institution. "It's now the University of Tennessee," he said.
With plans of becoming a social worker, he graduated with a double major, a B.S. degree in psychology and accounting. For six years he was employed by Georgia's Fulton County Department of Children and Families as a social worker, but followed that with several accounting positions. In 1976 he moved to Tampa and worked in a psychiatric hospital's business department until he was offered an accounting position by the state of Florida in Tallahassee.
"It was about that time that my medical problems began and I became disabled. I suffer from a bipolar disorder and heart disease. I have both a defibrillator and a pacemaker implanted in me. In 2002 I learned that I have early-onset Alzheimer's and I must take medication for it," Higgins said. He is now on Social Security disability and Medicare.
In 2003 he moved to Port Charlotte where he knew no one. He lived for a time in a small assisted-living facility run by Adela and Joe Peters. "I was their first patient," he said. "It's a warm, friendly place and family-oriented. I developed tremors and couldn't feed myself but they found me a new doctor who told me the tremors were medication-induced. I was urged to get out and exercise my mind by volunteering and that's when I came to the Cultural Center," Higgins said.
"It's been terrific for me and gave me an opportunity to meet people," he said. "I've made many new friends among the volunteers and our customers who tell me about their children, their problems and bring cookies and Christmas presents. It's really gotten me out of my shell," he said "and I'm happy with my life. Summertime is a good time to join us. Call Volunteer Director Judy Ventrella at 625-4175, Ext. 209, and I can show you how to cashier. If I can do it, anyone can."
Bill Higgins volunteers at the Cultural Center of Charlotte County.
COPYRIGHT 2005 Sarasota Herald-Tribune