Dear Mr. Popke,
Unlike many of my friends, I am a recent Save Mart convertee having made the switch from Von’s after their store closed in my neighborhood. But I am finding my $700/month grocery allotment being spent at Walmart rather than Save Mart due to Save Mart’s decision to shelve the 51 Fifty energy drink product line.
As indicated on the back of the can of their flagship flavor, “51 Fifty defined: 51 Fifty (5150) is the California Legal Code for someone who is a danger to themselves or to others.” This is only partially correct. 5150 (pronounced fifty-one fifty) is the legal code which empowers police officers and other designated personnel to place an individual on an involuntary psychiatric hold when they are a danger to themselves, a danger to others or are gravely disabled.
I am a board member on a local affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the largest grassroots organization supporting individuals who have a mental health diagnosis and their families and loved ones. I am also the affiliate’s NAMIWalks Walk Manager, responsible for executing the annual fundraising walk that brings close to 1,000 people out for a day of stigma busting.
As a person living with Bipolar Disorder who has achieved seven years of symptom-free recovery, I have been seated on panels providing Crisis Intervention Training to over 250 California Highway Patrol officers, Clovis police officers, and local paramedics so that they can de-escalate a call involving a person in a mental health crisis. I have also been accepted to law school and will start this fall.
But my life hasn’t always gone so well. I have been subject to 5150 holds over a dozen times.
The CEO of 51 Fifty (Carlos Vieira), with whom I have had a very unproductive meeting, uses 51 Fifty to promote an edgy lifestyle. The product’s slogan, “Live the Madness” in bold letters on the front of all of its product line is highly offensive.
A real 5150 is not edgy or slick marketing. For me, it has meant:
Ø being handcuffed in the back of a police car and being transferred to an acute inpatient psychiatric center.
Ø having a psychiatric technician subdue me by squeezing my breast so hard that it left bruises.
Ø being assaulted by another patient at a state-run hospital so that I showed up at to a court hearing about my capacity with a black eye.
Ø listening to voices that told me to strip naked and stand in an open front doorway, finally comprehending reality when I was in an emergency room, catheter in place, being force fed a charcoal shake because the staff believed I had overdosed on my medication.
Ø being unable to be served a restraining order that a judge issued on behalf of my mother because my whereabouts were so erratic that a process server could not find me. My mother died before I could fully repair the relationship that had once again been damaged by my mental illness.
Mr. Vieira likes to offset the negative publicity his company’s branding has faced with promotion of the good works of his company through the Carlos Vieira Foundation. I have over ten years in finance management at high-profile, international non-profits and am uniquely positioned to convey the inefficiency of the foundation’s fundraising and giving efforts. Close to $.60 of every fundraising dollar raised goes to fundraising expenses. By comparison, NAMI Fresno, where I am a board member, typically has $.12 of every dollar raised allocated to fundraising expenses. The Carlos Vieira Foundation has had fundraising events that cost more to host than money received.
The foundation and Mr. Vieira uses “Race for Autism” on beverage cans, its race car, in advertising, and other promotional media even though they are in receipt of a cease and desist letter from the trademark’s holder, the National Foundation for Autism Research.
Because of 51 Fifty’s offensive branding and insensitivity to those who suffer from severe disabilities and the families and friends who love them, I ask that this product be removed from Save Mart shelves.
Rhonda Jane Wirzberger-Thornton