Category Archives: licensing and regulation of mental health services

New York State Lags on Firing Workers Who Abuse Disabled Patients


In this NY Times article, Mr. Hakim seems to have understood that there is no point in arguing against the mental health system, or OMH/OPWDD. He threw the proverbial towel on them and is now focusing on the unions. The state came with a new law (Justice Center) that is more of the same loopholes to protect everybody but leave us VOICELESS. It’s a SCAM is what it is. The unions are the tip of the iceberg of the culture of abuse in the NYS mental health system.

Let’s be fair: the mentally ill is food for the big and small sharks equally.

Look, in ALL of the mental health system’s rules, old and new, the MANAGEMENT and PROVIDERS are off the hook from responsibility for abuses on the recipients of services. Abuses happen in their watch. Some of them are directly responsible for abuses, and most of them ENABLE the abuses. It’s what I call ‘the culture of abuse in the mental health system’.

Under those conditions, I too would want the union to stand for me if the supervisor, who knows what I do and laughs at it, is going Scot free.

The Justice Center was intended to stop the NY Times ‘complains’ AND to avoid the federal government from doing an investigation on the state’s practices. That explains why the Justice Center is WORSE than what we had before: now people THINK that SOMETHING was done with the issue of abuse when in actuality it’s worse.

Nothing was done. It just made it MORE DIFFICULT for us to report, and it provides MORE protection to the ‘providers’ and workers. There is LESS transparency.  See my comments to the Justice Center law in this blog.

OMH privatization of the mental health system, Cuomo’s surrendering the functions of government to the private sector, THAT’s where the problem is, politically speaking.

A policy system per logic has to put the responsibilities of failure of the policy on those who write and enact them. In this case, the NYS OMH/OPWDD system. Privatizing, reducing the mental health workforce and reducing their salary and benefits is a recipe for disaster. You can’t write ‘moral codes’ (as Justice Center pretends will do)  for those workers you hire  because, them been the lowest of the lowest, you know they are the cheapest.

I think Mr. Hakim should take a closer look at how the system protects the providers and managers. They are the one who must respond for their ENABLING abuses.

 

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Cuomo Agrees to Plan for Housing Mentally Ill, Ending Legal Battle


This is breaking news in the NY Times. Cuomo Agrees to Plan for Housing Mentally Ill, Ending Legal Battle

This is an agreement to ´right´the wrongs committed by many NYS adult homes providers and that NYS judge that made that appalling decision in the case DIA v NYS-OMH etc in April last year. This agreement is a step forwards towards moving the people in those ‘homes’ of horrors to the community.

Am I personally happy and satisfied with this? I don’t go jumping with joy without first taking a quick glance to the text of the so-call ‘agreements’ and new laws to ‘protect’ people with disabilities of all kind. Why? Because one thing are the sound bites we get in the media about how great a new law is, another is the TEXT and the IMPLEMENTATION.

Now, with this agreement, everybody relaxes and forget about it. Just like with the Justice Center, we will assume that the government is looking to protect us. Nothing happens unless you threaten the government. Not even this agreement, the result of years of court battle with the state.

OK. I will NOT sour your joy. IT IS A STEP in the right direction.

I will tell you where we must put caution in this agreement.  You can read the agreement on your own here courtesy of Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health.

Suffice it say that the agreement WARNS those Adult Homes providers previously caught abusing the mentally ill that they should not interfere with their residents in this process of moving them out, or they ‘will be punished’. Adult Homes are going to lose $$ and they want to keep their houses of horror filled. That there is a NEED for a warning to them should tell you a LOT. (See page 8, part 4 in the agreement.)

First quick notes:

From “definitions” (pages 4 and 5):

1. You have to be 65 years old or under to qualify for the benefit of the agreement.

2. The agreement MAY take 4 or 5 years to be completed. If you are 62 now and you HAVEN’T been relocated within the next two years, you may not qualify anymore. Or at least the agreement doesn’t clarify that. This is a question that those of you in Adult Homes (AH) MUST ask the people involved in this agreement.

3. As usual, the agreement applies to AH that are LICENSED, per Social Services Law Article 7. If you are in an unlicensed one, you may have problem qualifying for the agreement. YOU MUST SEEK CLARIFICATION ABOUT THIS.

4.  AH with LESS than 80 beds do not qualify for the agreement. It (“transitional AH”) has to have 80+ beds AND  a “mental health census” of 25%. If you are in a small AH, you may want to confirm that it qualifies for the agreement.

5. “Impacted” AH are those in NYC with 120 beds or more AND a mental health “census” of 25%  of the population of the AH.

MENTAL HEALTH STATUS: Not so fast baby.

To qualify, a mental health evaluation to measure your level of functioning will be implemented. This is where the ENACTING may go astray, leaving people who are not dysfunctional ‘enough’.

1. Must have a mental diagnosis based on THE MOST RECENT DSM book.  I would say, tread with caution here.

  • ‘what if I my diagnosis is not in the book anymore? They removed some and added new ones.’ See my point?

2.  Excluded from the agreement are people with developmental disabilities, mental illness due to brain damage, and “SOCIAL CONDITION”. I’m as lost as you are on that last one. Looks like a loophole to keep people in. Must check the DSM bible for clarification.

3. “Must have a  SUBSTANTIAL FUNCTIONAL disability WITHIN the PREVIOUS 24 MONTHS before the date of the agreement.” Do you know what a “substantial”  functioning disability means? I suggest you look it up if you want to get out of there. Plus, it is ‘within’ the last 24 months of the agreement. Better check it out how that may affect you too.

4. Who will determine your disability, your substantial functional levels that will ALLOW them to put you in a supported housing?

  • a determination by SSA that you receive benefits due to mental illness will not be enough.
  • A “Health Home agency” AND a  MLTCP (managed long-term care Plan) will be in charge of the process of evaluating your qualification for the agreement. Even if SSA says you are disabled, these people may determine that you are not ‘substantially‘ dysfunctional and may disqualify you. See #5, subsections (b) i and ii on page 5.

So don’t assume that you automatically qualify to be relocated out of the AH just because you are there.

“PERSON-CENTERED PLAN”. Where have I heard that before??

Right, those of us in Supported Housing (SH) are struggling with “person centered support”. Welcome to our struggle. But, I will NOT deny that chances are that, if you make it to a SH, you may be better off than there. Just don’t come here thinking ‘wow, I made it. I’m out of danger’. Nope.

Now, I couldn’t find the dates for the agreement. If any of you find that info, please, forward it. It’s important to you, if you are in one of those homes,  because of the transition schedules. You don’t want to be left out.

My take about this:

1. This is a good step forward.

2. ALL THESE PEOPLE who are coming to the community are going to face the reality of what we have here: SH is over 80% unlicensed. This means, you have NO LEGAL PROTECTIONS there. People centered treatment does not exist. It’s a craps shoot.

3. the ‘culture of abuse’ that exists in those AH will relocate in the community, following our new ‘freed’ peers, with those workers who will get jobs from there to here.

4. TODAY MORE THAN EVER  we need to ORGANIZE our people. For ‘people centered ‘ services we NEED TO BUILD THOSE CABs.

5. Never has the state given ANYTHING without a fight. The NYS WILL BE crying ‘BROKE’ to avoid completing this agreement and creating housing for them. If you want to trust them 100% despite what history shows us, fine.

This is my first reaction to the agreement. Sorry if I sour your joy. I doubt it, though.

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE FORMER DIA.

GOOD WORK.

Welcome And good luck for those of you moving here to the community ‘with us’.

Like we used to say in the ’60s: the struggle continues.

Why we should stand against the SAFE ACT.


Why we stand against the SAFE ACT

We want our state and our nation to address the causes of the current nation-wide wave of violence effectively and with fair policies.

But, it is unfair to point at people with mental disabilities as the cause of all that violence and as a threat to ‘national security’. We are none of those. The statistics show that we are more likely to suffer the violence inherent in the prejudice against people with all types of disabilities, than to dish it out.

The SAFE Act was passed in 20 minutes late at night and right after the horrific Boston shooting last year. Clearly, it was intended as a quick placebo for a terrified society demanding action from politicians to control what it incorrectly perceives as the source of the wave of violence: guns and mental illness.

So, we must repudiate any policy that scapegoats us in the interest of political gains for our current elected officials of both parties at both the state and national levels.

The SAFE Act is not a law; it is a witch-hunt and ‘saves’ no one.

The SAFE Act is being used to limit the civil rights of, not only the ‘persistent and chronically mentally ill’, but of anyone who may seek mental health services for the first time. (See Side by side: SAFE Act and OMH.) The names reported per the SAFE Act mandate goes to the FBI, and from there they quietly seep up to Department of Homeland Security list of ‘possible terrorists’. In the ‘land of the free’, being in that list is terrifying in itself.

The causes of violence in a society are deep and complicated. But this much we can say: the government and its bureaucratic agencies inflict violence on the population in a form that passes as ‘lawful’ and ‘for your own good’, in the form of POLITICAL violence. Daily police brutality, violation to personal integrity by police searching your body  to protect you from the ‘terrorists’, 911 calls for the police to pick up an EDP (’emotionally disturbed person’) usually ends with the EDP being killed by the police…this is a system out of control.

See next how OMH is violating the SAFE ACT to grab power to limit our civil rights.


The IRS scandal: three degrees of separation from NYS Office of Mental Health


“An administrative agency does not have the power to change the plain meaning of the law and make a disaster happen and that’s what’s happened here.” Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton  on the IRS’ interpretation of the words “exclusively” and “primarily” in the statue. May 23, 2013

This is relevant to the issue of how NY State’s Office of Mental Health (OMH) and other mental health agencies have ‘interpreted’ the mandate given to them by both the state and federal governments to protect the mentally ill from abuses and bad quality of services.

I discussed this problem in my post When is ‘minimum’ the same as ‘high’? When NYS OMH says so. I wrote it in February this year. There, I exposed how OMH changed the words “high quality of services”  mandated by the state mental health law, to make the providers accountable only to ‘minimum’ levels of care.  Mrs. Norton has validated the point I made there.

DISCLAIMER:

I am NOT supporting ANY politician of ANY of the two parties nor supporting ANY position in favor or against this IRS ‘controversy’. I use this controversy in this post ONLY as an example to ILLUSTRATE problems of statutory law in OMH’s regulations. These are my opinions and do not represent the opinions of other people who are part of the grass-roots group called The Citywide Mental Health Project. End of disclaimer.

THE BACKGROUND: Statutory vs. Regulatory laws and powers

The big issue and controversy is this: statutory law vs. regulatory laws. It’s about the process of making laws and how administrative agencies enact those laws.

1. Law-makers, whether state or Congressional (senate included), pass a law about any issue, be it mental health or IRS etc. It is called STATUTORY law because it is created by elected officials, not by a court or judge.

2. The law-makers delegate the enacting of the law to the commissioner of the administrative agency in charge of the issue for which the law was passed.

3. They give a BLUE PRINT to the agency which tells the agency what GOALS   the REGULATIONS it creates must achieve. The statutory law is a MANDATE to the agency. The regulation is to enact the mandate but carries the force of law and the backing of the police powers to enforce the regulation.

discretionary4. The law-makers give the commissioner of the  agency  DISCRETIONARY POWERS to enact the mandate. This means that the law-makers don’t care what regulations the agency creates, only that the MANDATE is enacted LEGALLY. The agency can create ANY regulation with ANY language as long as the PURPOSE of the regulation is to achieve the MANDATE.

5. But the DISCRETIONARY powers are LIMITED. The commissioner of the agency can pass any regulation as long as it is LEGAL and doesn’t violate the ‘spirit of the mandate nor state or federal laws.

spirit

The ‘spirit of the law’ as seen by some law-makers.

6. This means that an administrative agency is a LAW-MAKING body: Because it MUST pass REGULATIONS to bring the MANDATE into life, an administrative agency is considered a ‘law making’ system.

7. But the COMMISSIONERS of  these administrative agencies with  ‘law-making’ functions are NOT elected. STATUTORY law makers (meaning those we elect to state senate and assemblies and Congress) are, supposedly, accountable to us. Commissioners ARE NOT accountable to us, they are so only to state and federal law-makers.

All of the above is what is called POLICY-MAKING SYSTEM. This is important because:

  • the commissioners of the administrative agencies are NOT ELECTED and not accountable to the public, and
  • Because they have DISCRETIONARY POWERS to create NEW LAWS to control the public’s behavior through these regulations.

Because of all of this, there is a thing called FEEDBACK  built into that policy decision-making  system. It is there so that we can INFLUENCE those COMMISSIONERS into enacting or correcting REGULATIONS that had the unintended outcome of HURTING the people who was supposed to be protected by the regulations.

WORDS HAVE MEANING AND ‘FEELINGS’

words

OK. That was the background. Now, Mrs. Norton did exactly what I did in my document about OMH”s Supported Housing rules: she put the mandate and the agency’s rules side by side to illustrate how the agency DISTORTED the meaning of the mandate. The following is from MSNBC (bold and link by me):

Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code which defines social welfare organizations for tax-exempt purposes defines them this way:  “Civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.”

Then, the IRS code does a magic trick and changes the meaning of the word exclusively:

“To be operated exclusively to promote social welfare, an organization must operate primarily to further the common good and general welfare of the people of the community.”

http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/05/23/exclusively-vs-primarily-irs-law-a-disaster-waiting-to-happen/

The distortion of words in the mandates by these agencies have the consequence of stripping the SPIRIT out of the law, the PURPOSE FOR WHICH the statutory MANDATE was created in the first place.

There is always a ‘context‘ behind every law. Judges refer to them in many cases, they look at the ‘history of the statute” because words without context have no importance nor usefulness. That’s why writing policy and statutes is an ‘art’: there are specific rules about how to write them.

lawsIt is an art to prevent that the meaning of  “exclusively” be INTERPRETED as “primarily”, two words with DIFFERENT meanings. One, ‘exclusively’, CLOSES the door to anything that is NOT contained in the ‘universe’ described in the law. The other, “primarily” has a TENTATIVE meaning, it leaves the door open for things not envisioned and even EXCLUDED in the original description. “Exclusively” says ‘no way Jose’ to anything outside the boundaries; the other, “primarily”, says ‘yeah right, whatever’. One says “men only club’, the other says ‘primarily men only club’. Go figure. Bad examples? I think they are grrreat!

I stand by my claim that OMH’s so-called licensing rules violate  state and federal mandates. The problem is that, once these agencies write their rules, it is as if they were written in stone.

Remember how difficult it was to remove the administrative  rule that ordered Black people and other minorities to seat in the back of the bus in the South?

Just because it is a law or rule or written in stone doesn’t make it right nor are we obligated to obey unjust rules.

The elephant in the NY State mental health system’s room.


elephant

At the invitation of Mr. Stephen Freeman, CEO of the YAI, I made a presentation at their YAI International Conference here in NYC on May 7. The topic I chose, of course, was what I call the ‘culture of abuse’ in the NY state mental health system. I thank Mr. Freeman for inviting our group to the conference. Personally, this was my first experience participating in an activity of this importance. It was a learning experience for me, and a pleasant one too.

What follows is the material I handed out (revised) in the presentation. It is also in word format in the ‘our documents’ tab on the top of the page.

THE CULTURE OF ABUSE 

INTRODUCTION

The Citywide Mental Health Project is a recently created New York City grassroots group of consumers of mental health services and their supporters. Our work is focused on:

a) stamping-out the culture of abuse and mistreatment that exists like a tattoo in the body of our state’s mental health system (MHS), and

b) Opening a public discussion about how this culture of abuse is enabled and legalized by the regulatory policies enacted by our state’s mental health agencies.

Why the focus on abuse and not on any other of the many problems in the system, like funding cuts?

1. Because, as we speak, the culture of abuse is inflicting, with impunity, horrific abuses, mistreatment and humiliation upon many of us, people with all types of disabilities, in some programs and residences where we go seeking mental health services, not abuse. People have actually been killed in the hands of callous providers of ‘mental health services’.

2. Because the mental health agencies have made it a taboo in our community the discussion of the problem of ‘institutionalized abuse’. This taboo denies credibility to the victims of these abuses and mistreatment who come forward to tell their experiences.

3. Because this public silence dis-empowers us, it denies us the right to self-advocate to protect our physical and mental integrity, our personal, civil and human rights, and literally for our lives. It still rings true what was said in the 1980s: “silence = death”.

Yes, services and funds are needed, but must we suffer harm and humiliation, or die in order to get them in the programs? Our community is doing an excellent work at addressing the other problems. The problem of the culture of abuse needs to become a priority too, exposed as part of a broken system that wants to hide the fact that it has killed people and continues to threaten our lives with its indifference to our pleas for fairness in treatment.

Are people with disabilities more vulnerable to abuses and mistreatment than other groups of people in our society?

Yes. Our own state legislature stated it clearly in the beginning of its new Protection of people with Special Needs Act passed last year:

they are vulnerable because of their reliance on professional caregivers

 to help them overcome physical, cognitive and other challenges.”[1]

The Citywide Mental Health Project believes to eliminate this culture of abuse we need to start by breaking the taboo.

Breaking the taboo: exposing the culture of abuse

Apart from The Citywide Mental Health Project speaking up about this, there is neither public conversation nor outrage in our community about the following outrageous facts:

Fact #1: For nearly ten years (2003-2012) the NY Times have been writing about abuses and corruption in our mental health system, culminating with their investigative series ‘Abused and Used’. Those abuses took place in both licensed and unlicensed facilities run for the state by both non-for-profit and for-profit providers. In other words, the abuses are embedded in the mental health system. We have found no reports or investigations by the NY state about those articles.

Fact #2:  In response to the articles, the Federal Commissioner of the Administration on Developmental Disabilities investigated and concluded in her December 2011 report[1] about the NY State’s protection and advocacy (P&A) system that:

  • People with developmental disabilities (pdd) and their families were excluded from the state’s P&A board.
  • That no efforts were made to reach out to them.
  • That the state has failed to protect its pdd from abuse and mistreatment.
  • That the state is in violation of the Developmental Disability Act.

Fact #3: The state agencies mandated to protect people with disabilities, ignored all those years theirs and their families pleas for help, even as the abuses were being made public. Yet, all agencies reported, and continue to report in their ‘evaluation’ of quality of services and other reports[2], that “90%” of consumers are ‘happy’ with services and with the “multiple layers of protection”[3], even in facilities where abuses are rampant.

Fact #4: State agencies like the Office of Mental Health (OMH) and the Department of Health (DOH)  appears frequently in court as co-defendant with abusive providers[4], or defending them.

Our governor confirmed indirectly that the culture of abuse has continued 40 years after Willowbrook by saying the following as he celebrated the creation (in response to the federal report) of the new NY State Protection of People with Special Needs Act:

New Yorkers with disabilities and special needs for too long have not had the protections and justice they deserve.”[5]

Who else but the state and the state’s courts could have denied them that protection and justice to which they have a right?


[5] http://www.governor.ny.gov/press/05072012-first-to-protect-special-needs

Explaining the taboo: money, but of course!

Taboo: a social custom that does not allow people to talk about matters that are considered embarrassing or offensive to others for fear of retaliation or punishment.

It is the state of NY who would be embarrassed if its citizens started to discuss publicly how it continues to abuse its people with disabilities years after Willowbrook.

Legally enabling abuse

The New York State’s constitution obligates the state to protect its people with disabilities, and the federal government also mandates it to do so as a condition to receive their funds. The state created its mental health agencies to carry out that obligation. But these agencies have failed miserably, decade after decade, to comply with their obligations.

In what could be considered a violation to the NYS mandate to license all providers of mental health services[1], the Office of Mental Health (OMH) have passed regulations to un-license (de-regulate) more than half of all the providers. It does it to relive the agency of its oversight and monitoring duties. OMH has also passed regulations reducing the providers’ accountability for their bad quality of services by legally eliminating the standards of care: from ‘high’, as mandated by the NYS mental health laws, to ‘minimum’ standards[2].

And here it is:

These agencies distribute the federal and state funds to all non-for-profit “care givers” as payment for their services. Who dares, at the risk of losing their funds or jobs, to speak up publicly to denounce these agencies as enablers of the abuse in which some callous providers engage, and sometimes as complicit with them? Mr. Jeffrey Monsour, for one, dares.[3]

“He was one of the people interviewed and featured in   a 2011 series of articles by The New York Times examining problems of abuse and corruption within the system.
Since then, the state has pursued a tenuous disciplinary case against Mr. Monsour, and it also tried to pressure the State Senate to disinvite him from a panel discussion. In an editorial last year, The Times Union of Albany criticized the state for its “muzzling” of Mr. Monsour. “

The taboo in our community to discuss the culture of abuse is the result of the fear of losing funds, jobs and prestige.

To be fair to many of our state legislators and some good judges in our courts, they cannot keep up trying to patch up the holes that these agencies continue to put in the intentions behind much good legislation. It is in the implementation by these agencies where the problems start.

[1] see on-omhs-unlicensed-policy https://thecitywidementalhealthproject.wordpress.com/our-documents/

[2] As above.

[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/22/nyregion/cuomo-administration-continues-to-pursue-case-against-jeffrey-monsour.html

Outcomes from the culture of abuse

“People with developmental disabilities [PDD] and their families were excluded from the state’s P&A board; no efforts were made to reach out to them.”Disempowerment through exclusion

Social exclusion is a process that leaves individuals or entire communities (like the disabilities community) systematically blocked from exercising their rights, from opportunities and from consistent access to resources. Healthcare, civic engagement, democratic participation and due process are considered ‘resources’. These are normally available to members of society and are the key to social integration.

For example, federal laws mandate that the board of the state’s protection and advocacy system be composed in its majority of people with disabilities and their families. This right gives these people the opportunity for ‘civic engagement’, to take part in the decision-making process about how the state is to protect them. But the state denied these people this opportunity when it purposely excluded them from the board, as we saw in the federal report, denying them the right to protect their interests.

The result of this exclusion from participating in our state’s mental health system is always disempowerment and alienation of the people with disabilities. Is the ADA and Olmstead still alive? If the answer is ‘yes’, then it seems as if the state has violated both. With the doors closed on them, the state escapes scrutiny and, as a domino effect, the whole system falls into lawlessness. But you don’t have to see it; it’s all behind the curtain of ‘lack of information’.

We, The Citywide Mental Health Project, believe that our ‘disabilities’ do not come from whatever illness we may have. They come from a mental health system that perpetuates with its own actions the stigma that people with physical or mental illnesses are inferior people who must be excluded from participation in the democratic process, denying them the right to protect their interests. This must change.

The opposite of ‘exclusion’ is ‘inclusion’: let’s get in!

The evidence that we are excluded from the system and its P&A is there. It shows that this exclusion is at the root of our two main problems: been abused and lack of voice in the system. We need to be included in order to change all of this. But included to do what and where?

We want to have a voice in the programs we attend so that we can protect ourselves from unprofessional practices passed as ‘quality of services’. We want to do the following in our programs through our Self-Advocates groups or Consumers Advisory Boards (CABs):

Policy-making in action

1. Give feedback about the quality of the services we are receiving from the program.

  • To identify persistent problems we and our peers are experiencing in accessing the services, and to present solutions
  • To identify what is working appropriately and to our satisfaction.
  • To discuss how the goal of person-oriented services is working.
  • To let the providers know how they are succeeding in achieving their stated mission and goals.

In organizing their own feedback process, the Self-Advocates will learn the real meaning of programmatic requirements such as “quality of services”, “compliance with regulations”, and other important terms.

2. Review an existing grievance procedure or develop one if none is in place in the program:

  • A grievance procedure must be meaningful, capable of addressing and resolving our complaints in a timely fashion.
  • It must guarantee that we can discuss problems about interactions with the staff or the administration without fears of being humiliated, ignored, or punish for coming forward with a complaint.

In reviewing the grievance procedures, the Self-Advocates will have the opportunity to learn important information about their rights and how to make them count.

All of the above describes exactly what ‘policy-making’ is all about. All of that and more is what the various laws invite us to do. The only barriers on the Self-Advocate’s path to learn to do this are: that people underestimate our capacity to learn how to be an active citizen, and that our mental health system does not want us to take part in this process. ‘Accountability’ is a term despised by the agencies and by some providers, but it is in our interest to learn to hold them up to it.

You CAN learn this and more. Your Self-Advocate group can prepare a plan to self-train each other on how to monitor and evaluate the services you receive. You will need to work with other groups and professional advocates who can help you prepare your self-training about policy and the feedback process.

Self-Advocates learn and keep updated by sharing information in their group, and at their own pace. But learn they do!

Gov. Cuomo’s new Protection and Advocacy System: Do we REALLY need to be protected??


I asked myself that question while I was at the state-wide video hearing last Friday about the Gov Cuomo’s proposal to create a  new P&A system. From the Metro area,  The Citywide Mental Health Project were the only ones there. More than shocked or upset, I was saddened by the lack of interest in our community and the public at large on the issue of abuses perpetrated on people with disabilities.

You would have thought that, after all the brouhaha about abuses and the gun control laws that promise to curtail the few rights we have left, after all those state reports about privatizing the functions of our government, which will make abuses a mere ‘collateral damage’ that comes with the imperative to make profit, you would have thought that after all that there would be a long line to get inside the conference room. Nope.

The situation I described was the same in other state counties: few brave souls showed up to speak up their minds. Many were able to articulate their lack of hope in the ability and willingness of this new system to protect people with disabilities. DIA was there, in another county; some people with developmental disabilities stood up to speak up  for themselves. The father of a son who was killed in one of this institutions was there. I wish I could speak to him; his comment was stripped of pleasantries and went to the root of the matter. His statements were very much what we at the Citywide have been saying about how the system is failing us.

Where is our community? It seems that our community and the society at large trust that the Governor, because he is a democrat, is doing everything right to help us.

Anyone who knows about politics knows that ‘trust’ in politicians is like trusting ice will keep your water cool for a long time. (Think about simile.)

Even if I grant good-will in the intentions behind this new P&A system, politicians make (GULP) mistakes. And one thing is the INTENTION behind the policy, another is the IMPLEMENTATION.

We are still here, the Citywide, trying to keep the issue in the open. The discussion of abuses is TABOO in our mental health system; we need to break that taboo.

Waiting for a miracle will not change things. We need to stand up and start speaking about this issue.

And if you are happy and have not experience abuses and mistreatment then, let those who have and want to denounce the abuses in the system do their work.

We can’t continue to cry ‘foul’ every time some story of abuse is published in our mainstream media and then go back to our state’s  ‘councils’ where nothing is done about anything without the consent of OMH or the city.

Organizing to secure funds for programs is a priority, but so is our lives and mental health.

We need to organize to make the system SAFE for us. It will not happen by magic.

Lourdes

Gov. Cuomo’s ‘Intent to redesignate the Protection and Advocacy Systems’ proposal


For those of you interested on this, there’s a copy of the proposal on  ‘Our documents’ tab up there for you to download.

The Citywide Mental Health Project will, hopefully, make a testimony on this proposal on April 9.

Happy readings.  (smile)