Former Washington Post reporter and author of Crazy to keynote mental health conference

Former Washington Post reporter and author of Crazy to keynote St. Thomas conference on 'Transforming the Mental Health System'

Former Washington Post reporter and author Pete Earley, whose recent book Crazy (Putnam, 2006) tells the story of his son’s bipolar disorder as well as investigates the criminalization of people with mental illness, will give the keynote address at a University of St. Thomas conference on mental health care this month.

Earley will deliver the 2007 Jean Harris Lecture at the public policy conference "Transforming the Mental Health System" on Friday, March 30, in the Great Room (Room 201) of Opus Hall on the university’s downtown Minneapolis campus, 10th Street and LaSalle Avenue. The conference will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Earley’s speech is scheduled at 12:30 p.m.

Earley, whose book is subtitled A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness, began the project after trying to help get help for his college-age son. He found that, because of his son’s age, an "array of incompatible laws about patient rights stood in my way, like a line of trees. … A major shift had occurred in our country. The mentally ill, who used to be treated in state mental hospitals, were now being arrested. Our nation’s jails and prisons were our new asylums."

In what became a yearlong investigation in the Miami-Dade County jail, Earley studied what happens when mentally ill people commit crimes. He observed inmates and patients and talked with corrections, police, judicial and health care professionals. He consulted historians, legislators and lawyers. And he heard from parents, siblings and spouses of people who, like his son, had committed crimes as a result of mental illness. The resulting book is a vivid piece of investigative journalism as well as a poignant memoir.

In his conference keynote, Earley will explain why his family’s personal story has grown into advocacy for the transformation of the mental health care system.

Among other speakers and panelists at the conference will be representatives from: the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the Mayo Clinic, the Minnesota Department of Human Services’ Mental Health Division, the Minneapolis Police Department, African American Family Services, the Minnesota Disability Law Center, and other agencies and organizations. U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad (R.-Minn.) and state Sen. John Marty (DFL-Roseville) also will speak at the conference.

“Transforming the Mental Health System” is sponsored by the Department of Leadership, Policy and Administration in the St. Thomas School of Education and is open to the public. Registration is $25. For online registration and more information, visit  or call (651) 962-4431.