Below is the statement I read at the NY City Council. I would say that the audience had a good response to this, most of them. There were some ‘uuuh’ at the part about the ASPCA, and a lot of laughter (intended) when I mentioned Dr. Evil at the end. The purpose of this presentation was actually to have the providers and their representatives there hear us and our message. I think they did.
Testimony presented by Lourdes Cintron for the Citywide Mental Health Project
At a Public Hearing on Thursday, March 21, 2013
14th Floor Committee Room
Presented to: New York City Council Mental Health Committee
Good afternoon. My name is Lourdes Cintron, the founder of The Citywide Mental Health Project, still a grassroots group of consumers of mental health services and their friends and relatives opening to public discussions the roots of our lack of voice in our mental health system and ideas on how to regain our voices in that system.
We, consumers, are grateful to you for trying to prevent more cuts in funding for programs, and to the highly professional service providers represented by these people here today for their efforts to keep these programs open.
But, after the money is allocated and everybody disperses to focus on the next threat to programs in the agenda, who keeps an eye on how are these funds been used in the programs?
Let’s be realistic: There is no meaningful follow up on accountability and what quality of services that money is buying. The CABs, [Consumer Advisory Board] the tool in place for us to partner with providers at the point of service to design policies that will deliver services effectively and without causing harm to us, are virtually nonexistent.
Unwittingly you continue to fund some providers who shouldn’t be in the business of social work, and your funds pay the salaries of some unprofessional directors and supervisors whom the ASPCA wouldn’t hire to service their dogs.
- At a time when the mentally ill is been blamed and penalized for the violence and degradation of the social network that comes with budget cuts
- when privatization and decentralization of the functions of our government is almost complete (see the governor’ SAGE report),
- when soon the quality and goals of our mental health services will be directly determined by how much profit they generate to Goldman Sachs and Wall Street in their new investment scheme called ‘pay for success’, in these times our role shouldn’t be limited to be consumers.
According to the SAGE report, the State spends 16 BILLIONS in contracts with NFP [not-for-profit] but there are few, and meaningless at that, CABs in those programs and no meaningful grievance procedures.
Instead we are given councils and advisory boards created by OMH and the DOHMH where we are forbidden to talk about the ‘A’ word: abuses.
They decide the agendas and do all the work; we just have to show up. So what happens when they decide to take the resources and change the structures of these boards?
The best illustration of the institutionalized mentality of disrespect and disempowerment of consumers is the so-called NYC “Federation” of Mental Health Consumer Advisory Board. I know because I was there and had to leave immediately to protect what is left of my sanity.
As you all know, the commissioner, without notifying or consulting the consumers who are there to ‘advice’ him, expelled the providers out from the old federation, kept the consumers because – well, you just can’t have a federally mandated consumer board without consumers – removed the resources from the MHC [Mental Health Committee] in the 5 boros [boroughs] and left the consumers with a shell of a ‘council’. He simply left us without a voice in the system.
That’s how OMH and the city have trained consumers to be helpless and disempowered.
In view of all these problems and realities, we are asking you to, as Dr. Evil said in Austin Powers, “throw me a freaking bone here”
We need MEANINGFUL CABs at the point of service, organized by consumers themselves to collect and bring to you our feedback about how the services you are paying for are been delivered.
That’s what the Citywide Mental Health Project is trying to do.
The least you can do for us is to help us organize a Town Hall meeting to listen to what the consumers at the point of service have to say about how they are receiving the services.
Maybe from there we can come up with more creative ideas to protect us other than building a whole bureaucratic structure around one phone call to report abuses.