Dr. Jerry Schrader was by Bill Schneider and Karen Brewster on April 19, 2010 at his home in Salem, Oregon about his career as a provider of mental health services in Alaska. He was Director of Alaska's Mental Health Division from 1973-1978, was a private psychiatrist in Alaska and Oregon, and was medical director for the State of California Department of Mental Health programs in the San Francisco area. He was also president of the Alaska Mental Health Association for about ten years. He retired from private practice in Salem, Oregon around 2000. In this interview, Jerry talks about becoming a psychiatrist, working as the director of Mental Health for the State of Alaska, establishing community-based mental health clinics in Alaska, and his role in instigating the Mental Health Trust lawsuit.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Alaska Mental Health Trust History
Date of Interview: Apr 19, 2010
Narrator(s): Dr. Jerry Schrader
Interviewer(s): Bill Schneider, Karen Brewster
Transcriber: Carol McCue
After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.
Section 1: Personal background, education, and how he got interested in psychiatry.
Section 2: Medical school training.
Section 3: Psychiatric residency, working at the Oregon State Hospital, and learning about the influence of the workplace on patient behavior.
Section 4: Being in private psychiatric practice and becoming interested in the concept of community mental health.
Section 5: Working as Director of the State of Alaska, Mental Health Division.
Section 6: His role in improving mental health care for patients at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute and getting a salary increase for psychiatrists.
Section 7: Improving mental health services for people convicted of crimes.
Section 8: The care of mentally retarded patients at Harborview Hospital in Valdez, and the cost of caring for the mentally retarded.
Section 9: Community based mental health clinics around Alaska and working with the Alaska Mental Health Association on the development of services and improved care.
Section 10: Definitions of mental illness and working with the legislature to change Alaska’s commitment statute.
Section 11: Learning about the Alaska Mental Health Trust lands.
Section 12: Concerns about mismanagement of the Alaska Mental Health Trust lands, need for a lawsuit, and inability to sue as a state employee.
Section 13: Concerns about private gain from mismanagement of Alaska Mental Health Trust lands, and quitting his job and moving to California.
Section 14: Switching from a career as a psychiatrist to being a commercial fisherman.
Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.
After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.
Section 1: BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay. Today is April 19th, 2010, and Karen Brewster and I, Bill Schneider, have the pleasure today of talking with Dr. Jerry Schrader. And here at his home in Salem, Oregon.
So really appreciate you taking the time to ‑‑ to do this interview with us. And I'd like to start with a little bit about your background and how you got interested in psychiatry.
JERRY SCHRADER: I grew up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and I ran around with a ‑‑ there were sort of a pack of us, about six people, and we had a wide range of interests. And things like psychoanalysis and Sigmund Freud and all of those things were part of it. But the way I ‑‑ you know, when medical school ‑‑ or when high school ended, I realized that I had to do something.
And I'd had a lot of different jobs and I didn't think I wanted to pursue any of those, and I was thinking about going to college. And I talked to this ‑‑ this school vocational counselor, and he did some tests, and one of the questions he asked me was, you know, did I ‑‑ had I seen anybody doing some work that they would ‑‑ that I would be interested in.
And it turned out that my Jewish girlfriend and I had seen a counselor. The counselor happened to be a minister, but I was interested in, you know, what he did with us. And ‑‑ but I told this vocational counselor I didn't want to be a minister, and he said, well, I didn't have to, I could be a psychiatrist. And that's how I started down that path.
You know, in high school, I was really more interested in duck hunting than I was the academics. But I was blessed with a good brain, so usually if I just went to class, I could get good grades.
And, you know, it was ‑‑ that was a great help. We had a six‑week system in my high school, and I actually managed one ‑‑ hunting season I actually managed to skip 14 days out of six weeks.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Oh, jeez.
JERRY SCHRADER: And I was taking a typing class, and one time we got back to school having been up all night, and I fell asleep typing. And I ‑‑ I regret to this day that I didn't save that piece of paper because it was a beautiful piece of work, you know like , F, F, F, F.
And the poor woman who taught the typing class was a former WAC. And I truly believed that, if the law had allowed it, she would have killed me, but she showed great restraint. And I got a decent grade even in typing, so...
But anyway, I went on to college and I ‑‑ interestingly enough, I graduated in '57, and in 2007, I was made a distinguished alumnus. And the friends of mine from college who promoted that were people who visited me when I was the Director of Mental Health in Alaska and they knew something about my work in Alaska.
So I got rewarded for what I did in Alaska. And it was nice. I got to have my own table.
BILL SCHNEIDER: But you ‑‑ what was the college you went to?
JERRY SCHRADER: Park College. It's now Park University. It was an interesting, very small college. It had a student population of about 350, liberal arts.
It was on the ‑‑ it was just north of Kansas City in a little town of Parkville. And it was on the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River. And it was Presbyterian affiliated. We had certain duties to attend church, except, of course, when I was the supervisor to the janitor force, I had a little more liberal opportunity to miss things.
My best friend at Park College became a minister, and ‑‑ and at the time, you know, even when he was there, that's what his goal in life was. He was a very sharp fellow.
But it was a college where everybody worked at least 12 hours a week.
So all of the waitresses, all of the help in the kitchen, all of the janitors were students. And we had a dean of work. You know. An academic dean. A dean of religious life and a dean of work. Someone I told that to recently told me, after all, we were Presbyterians.
Section 2: JERRY SCHRADER: So anyway, from there, I graduated and I went to the University of Kansas Medical School, and so I continued in the Kansas City area. And then after medical school, I did a rotating internship and I started out in Puerto Rico in a small district hospital.
And I delivered 360 some babies in 10 weeks. My big day was 14. I delivered a woman's 17th baby. So having babies was kind of a big thing in Puerto Rico, I think.
And it was ‑‑ it was a good experience because it was sort of Third World medicine. I learned to do something that probably no other intern of my age learned, and that was how to do drip‑ether anesthesia, which is something, you know, you only see in old cowboy movies, or something.
But you know, it was like the ‑‑ I didn't realize when I went there that I would be causing a disturbance in the force. Because even though I ‑‑ I got my internship just like everybody else through the matching program, through the AMA, my yearbook, there's a blank, you know. All this list of my classmates, all their internships, and mine's blank.
I didn't realize that until, you know, after it was all over with and printed, and what have you. And that was the first clue that I might have done something out of the ordinary.
And then after I went to Puerto Rico, I had been there about two months, two or three months, and the AMA sent the physician down to investigate and audit the program. And they concluded that it was out of compliance.
And I concluded that my Spanish either had to get a lot better quickly or I should probably get serious about the next step in my life, which was my residency in psychiatry.
So I called up a hospital in Seattle, the Doctors Hospital, and they needed an internship, and they were happy to send me an airplane ticket. And the Agua Dia Hospital was ‑‑ they wrote me a very nice letter, but I'm sure they were glad to get rid of me, too. They didn't need the attention.
But as you can imagine, virtually everybody there was a foreign medical graduate. Many of them spoke good English. They were from Spain and they were from places in South America and Mexico and what have you. And their ambition was to somehow get into the United States. And so, you know, a favorite pastime was looking through the advertisements of the New England Journal and others to try to find a place to go.
But you know, it was ‑‑ when you put this into modern perspective, it's like Puerto Rico, they were already practicing the drive‑by birth delivery. We ‑‑ we virtually sent everybody home the next day. And the women who had hemoglobins, you know, like 3 and a half, where, like, 12 or 15 is normal, we would give them a transfusion and send them home.
So anyway, that was medicine. I sometimes used to be kidded when we would go on rounds, they'd say okay, Tom Dooley, what do you think, in reference to me. But ‑‑ so it was a good experience.
Section 3: JERRY SCHRADER: Then I came to ‑‑ I was in the Doctors Hospital in Seattle, and so I was interested in a residency in psychiatry, and I was drawn to the Oregon State Hospital because the director of education there was Maxwell Jones, who had sort of promoted the idea that was a little different in psychiatry.
And he ‑‑ his focus was on milieu therapy. He believed that ‑‑ that a lot of the difficulties that arise with patients acting out and so forth within the hospital are, in a way, indirectly related to what's going on with the staff.
And so we ‑‑ we spent quite a bit of time processing our feelings about each other, our disagreements about treatment approaches, all these kinds of things. And trying to provide a milieu that was therapeutic for the patients.
And at that time, the Oregon State Hospital was a place where, you know, international people came and visited because Max was there, he was, you know, associated with the World Health Organization, and did a lot of consulting, what have you. And it was a great place.
It has, unfortunately, deteriorated over the years to a point where it is ‑‑ well, a Federal Judge could have been running it. They negotiated a deal not to do that, but it's in the newspaper, you know, every few months with another grim report. So ‑‑ but at the time I was there, it was a very good place to train.
And one of the things about training in a hospital like that, a state hospital, is that, you know, you're seeing sort of the most severe patients, the most chronic patients, it gives you a perspective. You know, it's kind of like examining a barrel starting at the bottom and working your way up to the top where the ripe apples are. So ‑‑ but I thought it was a good experience.
Section 4: JERRY SCHRADER: And then I went from being a resident to private practice with a couple of older psychiatrists here in town. One of whom ‑‑
BILL SCHNEIDER: Where is "here in town"?
JERRY SCHRADER: Salem, Oregon.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Salem.
JERRY SCHRADER: Uh‑hum.
And before I actually was in my office, one of those psychiatrists who ‑‑ both of these people had been teachers at the state hospital for us. One of them became the Director of Mental Health in the State of Oregon.
And so then one of ‑‑ the fellow that I had gone to medical school with that ended up at the state hospital became involved in the administration of the mental health program here in Oregon.
And we had many, many conversations about that.
And after a few years, you know, I was making a living, first time in my life, really, that I could afford me.
And things were going along swimmingly, and I was a consultant at Willamette University, and one of the young students came in to see me, and I had this nice little office, paneled, what have you, and he sat down and he looked around and he said, “Don't you hate this little brown room?”
And I thought, no. But maybe I would, you know, after another five years or something.
So I began to think about what I wanted to do besides make a living, and there were two possibilities. I ‑‑ I had done a lot of work and had been associated with the medical school teaching in the postgraduate program, psychiatry for nonpsychiatric physicians.
And we had a convention at least once a year, and you know, three days of learning, and this was continuing education.
And the person who was running that was a very creative general practitioner down at Lebanon, Oregon, and, you know, it's like so these ‑‑ these big meetings were like no other medical meeting I ever went to.
For example, everything was done theater in the round. So when we had an interview, they were in the middle of the room, you know.
And you know, like when we did a conference on death and dying, one of the inputs was a play, whose name slips me right now, but it was about dying, you know.
And ‑‑ or you know, we would interview somebody, a man and his wife, the man had a terminal illness, and that was interesting because it was, like, they ‑‑ once they found out he was terminal, they thought about what they'd like to do, and they ended up remodeling the kitchen, which is what they had been planning to do anyway.
And he ‑‑ you know, he said, well, couldn't put very much time on it, but you know, it was very satisfying.
So anyway, one of the ‑‑ I thought about doing workshop kind of work. And you know, sensitivity training was a big thing then.
But my other interest was administration, and the National Institute of Mental Health had a grant where I could go for a year to Harvard to a place called the Laboratory of Community Psychiatry.
And Gerald Kaplan, who was kind of one of the sort of authors of the idea of community mental health ran it.
And so that's where I ended up going. And I liked the brochure because it said that they would ‑‑ they would teach me how to operate in the corridors of power. And I think they may have contributed quite a bit to my ability in that area.
And you know, like there were ‑‑ I was a fellow at that program, and two or three of people there had actually ‑‑ I mean, they were ‑‑ they had ties to the Kennedys, and they had gone to Washington, D.C. and sat in a motel and wrote Title 19. Which I was impressed that people could do that.
And one of the people, Hal Demone, his field had been alcohol and drug, but he had a seminar about a wide range of things, and you know, there was no textbook for this. There was a collection of papers that had been published by various people, which we would read.
And his seminar, I used to call it everything you wanted to know about the government and didn't know who to ask. Because very wide ranging. So that's what really, my spending a year there.
And then the last part of my year, I came out to Oregon and I ‑‑ I did a paper and a sort of a survey for Jake Tanzer who was the Commissioner of Human Resources in the State of Oregon.
And I was looking at the pattern of integration amongst the various agencies within human resources, which included employment, mental health, corrections, what have you. And so that helped me have a sort of an oversight of the real world.
Section 5: JERRY SCHRADER: And then I was, you know, looking for a job. And the ‑‑ I don't know how I heard about it but Alaska was looking for a Director of Mental Health. And so I interviewed and was accepted for that job.
BILL SCHNEIDER: What was appealing about that?
JERRY SCHRADER: On my part? Well, I was enthusiastic about it for a number of reasons. I ‑‑ I was married at the time and my wife and I went up there, and I could see that this was a place where I could have a boat. Very practically. You know. And so that was an attraction.
And I ‑‑ what I'd learned about the system was encouraging in the sense that it seemed like there was nowhere to go but up. And it was a very challenging system in many ways. You know, it's like in Oregon, if you're going to develop a community mental health program, you do it through the counties.
Well, there are no counties in Alaska. Just figuring out how you could organize at a local level to have community mental health resources was a challenge.
The ‑‑ how shall I put it. There was ‑‑ I mean, Alaska was a very new state. A very turbulent state.
You know, I realized that when I took the job that I had had five predecessors. All together, they lasted three and a half years. One man stayed a month and left. And so I was the Director of Mental Health in Alaska for five years.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Was this starting in 1973?
JERRY SCHRADER: Yes, it was. Uh‑hum. And you know, it's like, in some sense, my imprint is still there. You know. Because just because of having been there that long. My ‑‑ I don't know this for sure, but I doubt that anybody else has been there five years in that position. And I'm not even sure that position exists today.
Section 6: But the ‑‑ you know, I was ‑‑ I was looking ‑‑ I had sort of realized that a lot of people who were fellows at Harvard were looking for some fabulous program that, you know, they could go and be the director of. And I thought to myself that it ‑‑ it might be even more interesting, you know, to move into a program that was in a lot of trouble and turn it around.
And that's the way Alaska was.
For example, the Alaska Psychiatric Institute, I think, had six positions, medical positions, five for psychiatrists and a superintendent. They had one psychiatrist.
And when you got to looking at the reason for that, well, and here was the other thing.
It was like I remember discussing this with Governor Egan who had little or no interest in mental health. The admissions to the API, the Alaska Psychiatric Institute, had been running at about, you know, I don't remember the figures exactly, but something like 350 a year, and in the last year or so, it had dropped way down to, like, 150.
And lots of the mentally ill were in jail waiting for the possibility of getting into API.
And the ‑‑ the psychiatrist who was there realized that any time he discharged somebody, he was going to get a new patient. And the ‑‑ the real problem was that the salary scale was totally unrealistic.
It was on a par, you know, for a position of a psychiatrist at the state hospital, the salary was equivalent to what you could make if you went to Hawaii. Well, Hawaii was the only state that could do that because everybody wanted to retire in Hawaii. People didn't retire in Alaska. That wasn't ‑‑ people went there for adventure.
I remember testifying about this in some committee, and one of the legislators said don't you tell them about how great the hunting and fishing is? And I told them that lots of them had first come to Alaska because of the hunting and fishing, but they also knew that if you were a Federal employee, you had a 25 percent increase in your salary.
And they didn't see themselves working for the kind of money that was being offered.
So when I was hired, the salary was unattractive. So what they did was they ‑‑ they took all of the money that would be wrapped up in a salary, like some sick leave time and retirement and days off and all kinds of things, and they hired me on a contract.
So I was under a contract for the first two years I was in Alaska. And ‑‑ but after two years, through the legislative process and help with the House Finance Committee, we were able to raise the salary of psychiatrists in Alaska.
And a bill went through and it specifically created a ‑‑ a level in the salary scales, you know, like five steps above blah, blah, blah for petroleum engineers and psychiatrists. So I was in a classic group.
Section 7: BILL SCHNEIDER: What were some of the problems that you were addressing when you took on that job?
JERRY SCHRADER: What sort of?
BILL SCHNEIDER: Problems were you addressing?
JERRY SCHRADER: Well, the ‑‑ a major one was getting the state hospital so that it was up and running, the Alaska Psychiatric Institute.
BILL SCHNEIDER: API?
JERRY SCHRADER: Yeah. So that we could have people admitted. And finding a superintendent who could do the job was a challenge. Finally got a fellow whose name was Mason Robinson, a psychiatrist, and he was great. And he ‑‑ he stayed on for a few years after I left.
But there were ‑‑ there's a long list of problems. And they had sometimes some of the solutions in some ‑‑ in some senses led to even more difficulties that were, in a way, beyond our control.
For example, we didn't have any capacity within the framework of state mental health services to do evaluations of people who had committed crimes and whether or not they were mentally incapacitated. So the lawyers and some of the psychiatrists teamed up and they just found everybody not guilty by reason of insanity.
That's some of the ‑‑ some of the stories.
I mean, one guy went into this bar and he saw his girlfriend there, he came out and, you know, he decided he was going to shoot her, so he got a pistol out of the glove compartment, but then he decided it was only a .22, he really needed something bigger, so then he opened the trunk and got his .357, you know, and he loaded that, then he marched back in and blazes away, and he didn't kill anybody but he hit two or three. You know.
Now does that sound like schizophrenia?
BILL SCHNEIDER: Sounds like an Alaska story.
JERRY SCHRADER: No delusion told him to do that. He was a drunk and he was mad. So ‑‑ so we inherited a bunch of people who had been farmed out. And some of them were at the Oregon State Hospital.
And ‑‑ and since my personal friend by then was the Director of Mental Health of the State of Oregon, he was a little surprised to learn that embedded in his system were my ‑‑ some of my Alaska criminally insane people. Anyway ‑‑ and they were somewhere else, too. I can't remember, I think it was in New Mexico or someplace.
But one of the goals needed to be for us to develop the capacity to evaluate people around the issue of mental illness, whether or not they would ‑‑ could be considered not guilty by reason of insanity.
And I'd had a lot of training in that and I'd done a lot of that at the Oregon State Hospital because all the time we were there we rotated people who came into that unit. And so eventually, we were able to develop a unit at Alaska Psychiatric Institute, that was devoted to evaluating and treating people who had committed crimes. Now, I don't know what the current status of that is. My suspicion is it's changed a lot.
Section 8: Another problem we had was that, you know, we had a mental retardation facility in Valdez. And the reason it was there was that that was Governor Egan's hometown. And he thought they needed to have some jobs. But it is probably the most unlikely place that you would put a facility for the mentally retarded. Because they have a lot of special healthcare needs.
And we did have a doctor there at the facility when I came who had had a drinking problem and sometimes had seizures, and the head nurse actually ran the institution and did a good job. And ‑‑ but for example, she wouldn't let him do any surgery, she just locked that part of the facility.
And when the facility had been built, a wing of it was a very nice medical facility with examining room, operating room, you know, what have you. And the facility was well staffed and so was the API, except for the psychiatrists in terms of nursing staff and aides and so forth.
But the ‑‑ we had something like 50 empty beds at the facility in Valdez. And we had about 35 mentally retarded people, patients, living in Salem, Oregon, in a private facility. And it was ‑‑ it turned out that one of the problems, I mean, there were a number of people who preferred to have, you know, their mentally retarded child or young adult in Oregon.
And one of the problems was that the law said that the state basically could charge the family for the expenses of this care. But it was based on a sliding scale. Of course, no one had ever created a sliding scale.
Well, that was one of the things that we did. We created a sliding scale. And it was ‑‑ you know, it was an amendment, I think, went through the legislature. And you know, it was like the usual sliding scale that we had in a lot of facilities in Oregon and elsewhere in the country.
But the legislature decided that, whatever the sliding scale said, nobody could ever be charged more than $50 a month.
So eventually, we started bringing the mentally retarded back from Oregon.
And because from the point of view of the economics of it, it cost us money to have 50 beds sitting empty in Valdez because we had to staff for them, et cetera. And we were paying, you know, for the care of these people in Oregon also. So it was pretty inefficient from a standpoint of economics.
Section 9: BILL SCHNEIDER: I have to ask a silly question at this point. Where did Morningside fit into this? That was earlier?
JERRY SCHRADER: Morningside, by the time I arrived, was out of the picture.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay.
JERRY SCHRADER: Uh‑hum.
BILL SCHNEIDER: But we've ‑‑ Alaska was still sending patients Outside?
JERRY SCHRADER: Well, mentally retarded patients. And patients were with ‑‑ there was a question of being not guilty by reason of insanity. Yes. Those two groups, especially. Uh‑hum.
And then I think there was a lot of ‑‑ a lot of kids were being sent Outside for behavioral problems in addition. And over the years, as you probably have some awareness of, there came some sort of movement, you know, to have services, to create capacity in Alaska. And that was one of our goals.
You know, we had a ward at API for mentally retarded children when I went to Alaska. And we eventually were able, the way we got a security unit was we were able to work with community people associated with the families of the mentally retarded to develop a program in the community so that these children didn't have to be institutionalized.
And we could use that unit to have a security unit, which we did. It had to be rebuilt a bit, but...
And then, you know, it was like we had ‑‑ we had a mental health clinic in Anchorage which was pretty dysfunctional. We had a mental health clinic in Juneau which was pretty dysfunctional.
And we had one in Fairbanks which was pretty functional, but it was, like, the ‑‑ the clinic in Fairbanks covered an area about the size of Texas, you know. And the Anchorage one, you know, covered a large area.
And there were ‑‑ there was some mental health services through the Indian Health Service in places like Bethel and, you know, what have you, but fortunately, in 1973, the Bush Caucus was a pretty powerful group within the legislature and they wanted mental health services.
And so, you know, it was, like, now that I look back on it, I have ‑‑ I have some insight into why this was true, but most everything that we tried to do got done.
You know, we worked closely with the Alaska Mental Health Association, and the person who was the executive director of that at that time was Joyce Munson. She still lives in Anchorage. She's someone you might want to put down. I have her phone number and her address. And she ‑‑ that was in '73.
In '79, she became a legislator. And so one of the things we did ‑‑ see, it was, like, within the framework of our relationship with the Federal Government, because we've had two federally funded community mental health clinics, Ketchikan and Kodiak. We had a responsibility to provide public education.
And one of the ways we did that before I came and after I was there was we funded the Mental Health Association. And they were, you know, provided community forums about mental health and a lot of others things. And they had a magazine called Coping, which they published, and which I sometimes wrote articles for and what have you.
Section 10: Anyway, the ‑‑ we wrote ‑‑ we had a ‑‑ we created a committee with the Mental Health Association to write, and I provided some staff, and we wrote a law to create enabling legislation to create a community mental health program. That was one of the first things we did.
Later, we also did the same sort of thing to rewrite the commitment statute. And that came about because I think about the second year I was there, somewhere along that line, a young lawyer from the AG's office came by and said that she was assigned to Health and Social Services and did we have any concerns and we were supposed to contact her and so forth.
And we were pretty sure that the commitment statute in Alaska was unconstitutional, so we asked her if it was. And she said, yeah, it wasn't constitutional, probably on three grounds, one of which was due process.
Because at that time, I think the commitment statute was such that you could go to the doctor and ‑‑ and tell him that your wife was crazy, and he'd sign a slip and you could take her out to the institution. And without an evaluation, you know, nothing. So we wrote the commitment statute.
And which, of course, then had to be ‑‑ we had the experience of having this really good commitment statute, and a lot of this language is still there.
And then the last committee, which was shared by a Libertarian, tightened it so that, in fact, it turned out people couldn't figure out how to use it.
It changed the criteria for commitment from likely to cause serious harm to himself or others, to imminent danger of causing serious harm. And it was like imminent danger. What's imminent? They have to actually have the gun?
You know, it's like, you know, this one psychiatrist said, how do I tell what's imminent. It's like I'm ‑‑ if I feel that they are going to attack me right away, is that imminent?
But they ‑‑ the psychiatrists liked it in a way because they said, well, nobody will ever be able to sue me for not admitting somebody to the state hospital. And it led to a lot of confusion. And it took a few years to correct it.
It didn't ‑‑ it didn't get corrected until a man who, through habeas corpus, was released from the state hospital, API, and decided that the religious leaders of America and ‑‑ and the world needed to know that there were an invasion of aliens, he could tell by this gray triangle on their forehead.
And so he went out to the airport and he wanted somebody to fly him somewhere where he could talk to some sort of the Rush Limbaugh of religion, I don't know who it was at that time, on the TV.
Anyway, then they discovered that airplane people were going to do that because he had a suitcase full of money.
Then they realized that he was armed, and so they wouldn't fly him, and he wouldn't get off the plane, and so at ‑‑ we had this huge scene at the airport for hours.
And the poor man finally killed himself because, although he was capable of flying a four‑engine aircraft, this was a jet, and you can't start them without shore power. The batteries won't turn the engines over. So he was stuck.
And everybody felt bad about that. And the ‑‑ the judge actually was quoted in the newspaper as saying that when he released him, he didn't feel good about it because by any ordinary standard, the man was mentally ill and was a danger to himself or others.
BILL SCHNEIDER: But he wasn't ‑‑ it was a question of imminent?
JERRY SCHRADER: Yeah. And so with that, we were able to change things.
The ‑‑ a lot of ‑‑ I mean, I always found it very interesting to work in the ‑‑ the ‑‑ how shall I put it, not the political arena because when I went to Alaska, I intentionally registered as an independent.
And I did not see my job as being one that would, you know, promote the interests of Democrats or Republicans. And I was hired by Egan, a Democrat, and I was one of the few directors who was kept on when the next governor came in, who was a Republican, Hammond, who, interestingly enough, had more sympathy for the mentally ill because he had had to transport some of them in his little airplane.
Section 11: But anyway, the ‑‑ the way I discovered the mental health lands is kind of fun. I was in the office and they told me that this man Bill Zufeldt wanted to see me. He was a forester. And so he said, well, I'm doing a ‑‑ a Forest Service plan for Southeast Alaska, and I wanted to talk to somebody who owned all the land.
And so he showed me some maps. And it was, like, Juneau was surrounded by a doughnut of mental health land. I mean, if you stand in the middle of Juneau and look, you're looking at mental health land. And Iron Mountain up by Haines, and you know, it just went on and on and on.
And that was the first time I realized that ‑‑ what was going on with the Division of Lands. You know, the campus, the University of Alaska campus at Auke Bay ‑‑ not on Auke Bay, Auke Lake, that's mental health land. They took possession of that land on something that was created by the Division of Lands called an interagency land management agreement.
They were managing that land for us. Of course, mental health's got nothing out of it except maybe the place where people come go get an education.
I mean, it's like I think colleges are good for people's mental health, but I didn't see that as a reasonable way to treat Mental Health Trust land.
And I knew enough about the law to know that Mental Health Trust land, the designation of trust involves a whole lot of legal requirements. And so that was the first time I'd really heard about that.
And we had many conversations about that through the years because while, you know, I worked at the pleasure of the Governor, I couldn't very well go pound on the table and demand justice, but I would bring it up from time to time.
And I know that this person I mentioned, Joyce Munson, had even discussed this with Governor Egan. I mean, she flew down from Anchorage specifically to discuss this issue with Governor Egan. And that was probably when I was first there or maybe before I was there. And he basically told her that that wasn't open for discussion. Period.
Section 12: And over the years, as there were various discussions, I sort of got to know more about the mental health lands, but I also got to know more about the fact that nobody in the legislature and nobody in the Governor's office wanted to do anything different about mental health lands.
They were totally uniformly united in the approach that they had taken.
What I did not know was that, by the time I arrived in Alaska, something like 70 percent of the mental health lands had been frittered away anyway.
And ‑‑ but the ‑‑ it was ‑‑ it just was an issue that I felt strongly about.
I ‑‑ I used to tell my staff that I didn't want to go down in history like the Indians who sold Manhattan island for five strings of beads, you know.
It was, like, it seemed to me that a part of my job entailed trying to do something constructive about the mental health lands. And ‑‑ but, you know, in the ‑‑ the situation I was in, I couldn't very well be an advocate for suing the state at that time.
But it ‑‑ over the years, it became increasingly apparent to me that there was absolutely no motivation to do anything about it except through a lawsuit. And so at ‑‑ at some point, Frank Williamson became the Commissioner of Human Resources under Hammond, that's when that happened.
And he and I got along. And at some point, he decided to get married, and we had this ‑‑ he was married at his house, and the ‑‑ I ended up sitting on the couch with the Attorney General. And we were smoking some kind of funny cigarettes and talking about a wide range of things.
And I told him, I said, you know, what can they do about this? I mean, obviously, I can't get an opinion from the Attorney General because I'd been in meetings with him and the Governor and other people where they told me they weren't going to make me a land czar. And so I said, what should I do? And he said, you should sue me.
And that was the point at which I felt like my notion was confirmed. The Attorney General of the state of Alaska tells me I should sue him? Maybe I'd better. You know. And ‑‑
BILL SCHNEIDER: And he was still in office at that point?
JERRY SCHRADER: Yeah. Yeah.
And, of course, I still knew that that wasn't a very good position to try to do a suit. But it strengthened my resolve.
Section 13: JERRY SCHRADER: So for reasons that had to do with my family, I left Alaska after five years in 1978, and I spent two years in California. And I knew the Commissioner of Mental Health down there ‑‑
BILL SCHNEIDER: Before we get into that phase ‑‑
JERRY SCHRADER: Right.
BILL SCHNEIDER: ‑‑ in 1978 ‑‑
JERRY SCHRADER: Right.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Was there anything else that influenced you to leave the job?
JERRY SCHRADER: No. Let me think. They ‑‑ see, part of what we thought in the group that I associated with at Harvard was that when you took a job like this, you shouldn't probably plan to be hanging around long enough to retire.
You know. This was something that you did for a few years. So that maybe influenced me some.
The ‑‑ the ‑‑ the fact that I think in 1978, although, see, I left probably in June of '78, I don't think it was until later in that year that they redesignated and disposed of all the mental health land.
BILL SCHNEIDER: That's what I was wondering about. You think that occurred after you left?
JERRY SCHRADER: I think it did. Uh‑hum.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay.
JERRY SCHRADER: It wasn't a ‑‑ I mean, you know, it was not a great surprise in a way, although that they would be so creative was a little bit surprising. And so stupid. You know.
Because the ‑‑ I think that the ‑‑ the Feds ‑‑ see, one of the things that was in the back of our mind as ‑‑ as we thought about a lawsuit was should this be in the Federal Court or the State Court? And I'll come to how we made that decision later, but I knew that the Feds took a pretty serious attitude about trust lands, whether they were school or other public purposes being used for private gain.
And ‑‑ and there was a lot of private gain going on, you know.
Like at one point, the Commissioner of Commerce invited me to go on a trip with him, he was going to look at some land over in Sitka, which was mental health land. And ‑‑ and in our conversation on the way over, he described how he was leasing mental health land up around Anchorage, and then subleasing it and making a nice profit.
And then I've since heard that, you know, one of the ‑‑ one of the big real estate developers, probably others, Joyce Munson talked about this, you know, had made a pile buying at less than market price, mental health land, and then converting it. And, you know, much of, you know, like Fritz Cove Road, that was mental health land in the beginning. Now, it's upscale residential area.
So none of that would, you know, was, how shall I put it, really in accordance with the federal's idea of what these land grants were for. And the fact that they not only did away with our land grant, but they did away with the university's, was pretty remarkable, so I guess I couldn't think of it as discrimination, you know.
So ‑‑ but my ‑‑ my leaving the state, you know, was ‑‑ I mean, I ‑‑ it was apparent that I could have stayed on there for some more years, but it wasn't ever going to allow me to sue the State of Alaska, so I went to California.
And I was the medical director for the Department of Mental Health for the Bay Area. And so I went from oversight of maybe $15 million dollars worth of programming to $140 million dollars worth. Kind of a huge step. But I learned a lot of things from that, and we can talk about that at some point.
Section 14: JERRY SCHRADER: But then I had also decided at that point that I wanted to do something really Alaskan, so I bought a commercial fishing boat. And so I resigned my position at the Division of Mental Health and I went commercial fishing for the summer. In this boat I bought. I was a troller. I bought a trolling permit.
And then in the fall, went down to Berkeley. And then I actually managed the next summer, I got a leave of absence from the Department of Mental Health in California to go fishing again. I managed to put together five years of being a commercial fisherman.
And I still own my boat. The Good News. I could show you a picture of that. Anyway, it was, you know, a great change from being a shrink. I mean, psychiatry is not your most active work.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Uh‑hum.
JERRY SCHRADER: You know. That's why I have a rocking chair, you know. And so, you know, to get out and do something different was really a treat. And the ‑‑ so that may have influenced me some, you know, but the other fact was that the person I was living with at that point wanted to get a masters degree, and that was in Berkeley.
And so if I was going to do that, I couldn't be the Director of Mental Health, you know.
Shall we go on? Yeah.
BILL SCHNEIDER: I think so. We'll make ‑‑ we'll have a break here in a minute.
JERRY SCHRADER: Okay. It was ‑‑ you know, it's, like, being a commercial fisherman is ‑‑ it's not really that dangerous if you're a troller. If you're, you know, fishing for crab in the Bering Sea in the dead of winter, it's a bit more exciting. But it was wonderful to be out on the ocean.
BILL SCHNEIDER: I bet.
JERRY SCHRADER: Yeah. And the hours were long.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Right.
JERRY SCHRADER: Some of the fishermen used to say they could never go back to the old 9:00 to 5:00. And I would ‑‑ and I would think, but this is the 5:00 to 9:00.