Friday, December 21, 2012

Whose rights were they worried about?

Connecticut has some of the toughest gun control laws in the county but conversely it also has the weakest laws for dealing with those suffering from mental illness.  There was a push in the legislature earlier this year that would force the mentally ill to take prescribed medications. Some version of this bill is the law in forty-five states.  Needless to say, the proposal generated a GREAT deal of opposition:

"One of Hartford Probate Judge Robert K. Killian Jr.'s frequent "customers" is an elderly woman whose mental illness gives her delusions that there are dangerous people living in her cellar. When she's not taking her medication, she calls police, who come and reassure her. Every few times, they take her to be examined, and she ends up getting committed to a hospital.

Killian worries she'll end up losing her home.

It's a cycle that the judge says he sees too often: people with severe mental illnesses not taking their medications when they're at home, leading to behavior that lands them in the hospital involuntarily, or in jail. While there, they don't receive disability benefits and fall behind on their rent, eventually getting evicted and becoming homeless, losing one of the keys to stability in the community....

Killian wants Connecticut to follow the lead of the majority of other states by allowing for people with psychiatric disabilities to be medicated, even if they object, while they're in the community, if remaining unmedicated would leave them or others at risk of harm. He believes the proposal, which would allow for up to 120 days of forcible medication, would offer a chance for people to become stabilized and potentially choose to take the medications, making them more likely to avoid the cycle that brings them back to the hospital.

The concept, part of a bill pending before the legislature's Judiciary Committee, is vehemently opposed by advocates for people with mental illness, who say it could undermine efforts to engage people in treatment and would go against the state's efforts over the past decade to create a behavioral health system that emphasizes clients' choices and participation in their own treatment.

Even Killian acknowledged that it's "a reach by Connecticut standards."

"Would you do that with somebody who refused to take their diabetes or their heart medication?" asked Daniela Giordano, public policy director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Connecticut. "Are you going to mandate that? No, you wouldn't. There would be a huge civil liberties outcry." (
KF note: They aren't a threat to someone else or society if they don't take their medications and they are mentally competent if they don't take them.)

"If this went through, I think this would be a significant step backward for the state," said Patricia Rehmer, the state's commissioner of mental health and addiction services.

Rehmer said she understands Killian's perspective. It might seem that if the people he sees repeatedly could be medicated, they would stay out of the hospital. But she worries that would backfire, breaking down the opportunity for a respectful relationship and leading to more difficulty engaging them.

A better way, Rehmer said, is through supportive housing, making sure people have a stable place to live, then trying to engage them in services and trying to get them to comply with treatment....

Critics of the proposal call the concept "outpatient commitment," a term Killian disputes. A public hearing on the bill drew a crowd of opponents to the state Capitol complex Thursday.

Pamela Spiro Wagner of Wethersfield told lawmakers that involuntary treatment is "the worst possible thing you can do to a person with a chronic psychiatric condition," making that person even more likely to stop taking the medications later on, particularly if they bring problematic side-effects.

She spoke from experience. Spiro Wagner, who has schizophrenia, described being hospitalized and taken off her regular medications three years ago. A hospital psychiatrist wanted her to take a different medication, but she refused because she knew it would make her miserable. Ultimately, she said, the hospital's security staff subdued her, stripped off her clothes, restrained her and injected her with another drug.

Allowing people to be medicated against their will in the community won't work, she said.

"In my opinion it is just coercion and cruelty masquerading as treatment, but it won't help anyone," she said. "It will only drive the would-be consumer as far away from so-called 'treatment' as they can get."

Other critics of the proposal said allowing people to be forcibly medicated could undermine their relationship with those providing treatment, which could hurt their chances of recovery.
..." Article

The bill failed.  This particular law would not have protected those kids at Sandy Hook BUT I am posting this to show you how tough passing even simple measures to protect society from the mentally deranged (not to be confused with mentally ill) such as this bill is in Connecticut. 


ophelia jane said...

I instinctively recoil from the idea of "force-feeding" meds to anyone, but I admit that this proposal has merit.

While I would not want to be coerced into a round of chemo or made to swallow a bunch of pills, if I decided that I'd prefer to let my disease take its course, and die in due time---I would hope that if a psychotropic pill would curb my zany misfiring basal ganglia (or whatever goes awry with the mentally ill) that someone in authority would shove it down my throat. Not for my own sake, but for those whom I might harm when the voices started!

Anonymous said...

Amen, Ophelia.

Anonymous said... exactly is that law enforced?
Once the mentally ill are released from mental hospitals, who exactly is going to make them take their meds daily?
We have a revolving door here thanks to deinstitutionalization.
A better law would be that release is dependent on a guardian willing to take responsibility for daily supervision.

Shadowfax said...

What's the point of pronouncing sentencing on the guardian?

ShadowBanAssaultWeapons said...


Anonymous said...

Agree 409. Is there a like button to push?

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