Category Archives: NYS laws mental health

U.S. Said to Seek Records of New York Anticorruption Panel


From the NYT, this gem of a quote from our distinguished NY State governor, referring to the commission, as he was addressing (reassuring) our ‘honest’ corporate gurus:

“It’s my commission. I can’t ‘interfere’ with it, because it is mine. It is controlled by me,” he said last month, according to Crain’s New York Business.”

elephant

This was part of my comment in 2013 when the ‘commission’ was obliterated:

“Well, the shelf-life of morality keeps getting shorter.”

NYS OMH’s Multicultural Advisory Committee (MAC) meeting


I participated, together with other members of The Citywide Mental Health Project (Bert Coffman was wearing his many hats), in the MAC meeting (via phone conference) this last Tuesday. What follows is my personal take on the meeting discussions. These are the headings:

Who attended the meeting?

Where are the consumers?

Topics discussed

SH, crime in SH and licensing

Changes to the SH Guidelines = No CAB (consumer advisory boards)?

Who attended the meeting?

Ms. Moira Tashjian, Director of OMH’s Housing Development department attended the meeting by invitation of the committee, although I have the distinctive feeling that OMH wants her to be in this cultural committee, even though housing per se is not a ‘cultural’ issue directly. If I understood correctly, she will be attending the monthly MAC’s phone conferences. I welcome her participation and consider it a plus for us to be able to ask questions directly to officers of the OMH.

There were three (?) providers of supported housing (SH) services from different NY regions: Mr. Huygen from the NYC area, I didn’t get the names of the others, sorry.

Where are the consumers?

Apart from me and my group (Bert Coffman was wearing his many hats), there were no other recipients of services or their representatives. This is a salient point given that this ‘advisory’ committee, as all State and citywide mental health ‘consumers advisory boards’, are for the purpose of ‘giving recipients a voice in our mental health-policy-making system’. I’m sure you can guess why I put those words in curly marks. Read my document The elephant in the NY State mental health system if you can’t guess it.

The lack of consumers (I will call them ‘recipients’ from now on because ‘consumers’ does not describe what we are in this system) participation, in my view, make these boards de facto tools for the providers. Do they need these policy tools when they already have trade organizations and high paid lobbyers, and when they DIRECTLY help write many of the rules that affect us?

I know that Mrs. Frances PriesterMoss (coordinator) is trying to increase recipient’s participation in the committee. I have some ideas that would guarantee participation, but it requires for Ms. Tashjian to help us with the CABs in the programs. More on this below.

Topics discussed

SH, crime in SH and licensing

Ms. Tashjian informed us about all the new projects for housing for the mental health community. I believe her report will be made available soon for public information. She also went over what I call OMH’s SH ‘licensing’ scheme. As some of you know, I have asked her to explain to the public why more than three-quarters of housing are being privatized by un-licensing them, and to tell them that unlicensed means not regulated and no legal rights for the ‘tenants’ in it.

I didn’t get the answer I was awaiting from her. Actually, the whole enchilada about SH and unlicensed housing got more entangled when she discussed the issue of what level of ‘functioning’ is required for each category of housing.

Some of the providers brought the issue of recipients with history of violence been referred for SH. Ms. Tashjian alleges that a history of violence and low functioning are not impediment for acceptance into SH. I claim she is in the wrong there.

OMH is as explicit about levels of functioning requirement for each housing modality as its contradictory actual practice is. Just go online and read OMH’s RFP (request for proposal), each requests spells what type of ‘population’ a particular SH project is made for. This issue of housing people with severe mental health problems in SH, which is for people more ‘stabilized’ and able to function in the community with less supervision (that’s why OMH makes them ‘unlicensed’)  has been discussed in court many times, the last time was in the DAI v. NYS OMH case.

I didn’t want to raise the issue due to not enough time, but I did mention that this policy of housing people with violent history makes the CABs in the programs a necessity so that we can help the providers develop ways to cope with the situation.

I asked her if she was aware of the May incident where a recipient of SH in Brooklyn was murdered INSIDE the building by the woman’s also SH recipient lover. She said she ‘heard’ about it. Did anyone blink? Was the incident reported, as mandated,  to her for investigation on quality of services (could it have been prevented, etc.)?

Look, there is not enough housing to comply with OLMSTEAD, so OMH has been ‘dumping’ (excuse the expression) everybody everywhere. Just as it did when the people demanded to close the chambers-of-torture called psych hospitals of the 1970s; the state dumped the patients to the street. Now, they dump everybody in the few housing. OMH doesn’t care about the ‘unintended’ consequences of its policies. The courts tend to protect them.

There is not enough housing (money goes to ‘stupid wars’), it’s a policy issue. We NEED to discuss this policy as a community.

 Changes to the SH Guidelines = No CAB?

The SH Guidelines will be “updated”, according to Ms. Tashjian, (shall we say) ‘modernized’ to live up to the new millennium (my words). Are the current ‘guidelines’ that state that providers of SH must allow for consumers to participate, this is a direct quote, “in the policy making of the program” to be eliminated?

Ms. Moira brought this information about the changes when I asked her if she could help us to make providers comply with that guideline. She said that she needed to do more “research” about these CABs. I asked her directly to tell me if she was intending to eliminate that particular guideline; her answer was that she couldn’t answer at this point until she reads the guidelines.

When I asked her if she is mandated to inform the recipients about these changes or call for public comments before making the changes, she said that “the providers will be informed”. The context of the answer is that the “SH Guidelines” is for the providers. Whatever changes made will affect you without your consent or knowledge.

I think I also told her that I would consider eliminating the CAB provision to be a BETRAYAL to us recipients of mental health services. I may have used the word “BACKSTABBING”, I don’t remember which one I used. I was just blown away when she mentioned the changes to the guidelines. You can imagine.

None of the providers took a stands to protect the CABs.  I hope they were as blown away as I was and will stand with us if OMH tries to eliminate the CABs provision.

But, more than anything, I hope that Ms. Tashjian has the presence of mind to NOT take a step that will be construed as an attack on our right to have a voice in the programs.

In a time when we are been blamed for the violence in our society, we need to INCREASE our voice, NOT TO HAVE IT SILENCED.

The CABs inside the programs would allow us to reach out for the recipients that OMH supposedly wants to be integrated in the policy decision-making system; it would allow us also to spread information to them. With the problem of lack of housing and having to mix recipients with differing ‘functioning levels’ CABs make more sense as a tool to help maintain quality of services. Working with the providers, the CABs could save $$ to the state by using the rich human power energy and experience currently going to waste and untapped in these programs. Voluntarism can be organized through CABs to improve quality of services.

The only reason I can see for OMH to eliminate the CABs is if they are afraid that we will bring to light all the issues of abuse, disrespect and neglect in the SH programs of all types.

Should they do it, it will confirm my claims that our mental health system functions within a culture of abuse.

Let’s work together to stop the stigmatization and abuse of people with mental disabilities.

Testimony at NYC Council Public hearing on DoITT Open Data


Note: The NY City Council held a hearing to get comments from the public on the first anniversary of the new Local 11, 2012 Open Data law, a law ‘championed’ by Mayor Bloomberg to have a centralized website for all city agencies to publish their activities, rules etc.  The purpose is “transparency” in NY city government. Well, if you believe that Mr. Bloomberg and our city agencies are interested in “transparency”, good for you.

From something which probably was conceived to create profit,  something very positive can be achieved. To create ‘jobs’ (a benefit of this ‘initiative’  claimed by the mayor) somebody has to get a contract to do the IT of this law, in other words, somebody is getting a huge profit from the city, which is the essence of ‘doing business as usual with the City’. Without implying impropriety, the mayor’s business is precisely information technology   and media, so he knows what it takes for doing business here.

But the “people” can turn this around and make this law a power tool for the regular citizens of this city.

That’s what those who testified yesterday are doing. It was an impressive hearing. My salute to Council members Mrs. Brewer and Mr. Cabrera for helping steering this ‘initiative’ the right (shall I say ‘progressive’) way. And to all those (young!) experts on digital, computing and information technology for the outstanding, let me repeat it, OUTSTANDING work they are doing to turn this fictional ‘transparency’ effort into a real transparency tool.

Information is power, go get it boys and girls.

As usual, I was  the one testifying with the least experience or knowledge  about the issue. What follows was my testimony.

Testimony presented by Lourdes Cintron for The Citywide Mental Health Project

New York City Council

                            Public Hearing on Oversight:

DoITT’s Administration of New York City’s Open Data

                                             November 20, 2013

Good afternoon. My name is Lourdes Cintron, the founder of The Citywide Mental Health Project, a grassroots group of recipients of mental health services, their friends and relatives striving to empower consumers to learn to monitor the quality of services they receive in their community mental health programs, among other goals.

We appreciate this opportunity you grant us to contribute our feedback on the topic of the NY City’s Open Data ‘initiative’. There is no data on mental health issues.

 

Technical aspects:

The website is confusing and, in my view, (as it is now) useless for the purpose stated in the law. For example:

a)       The icons for selecting data-format presentation are not ‘user friendly’, meaning they are ‘not enjoyable’. It requires high levels of computer and research skills to figure out which one to select, and once selected, the format is still confusing. I could not use it, even though I do have computer skills.

b)       As it is now, most of the members in my group do not have the skills to navigate this website’s graphical user interfaces if they needed to access the information supposedly available.  This website was designed for researchers, not for the general public.

Transparency issues:

Searching in the “Data catalog” box for mental health data is an exercise in futility. The search for either “mental health’ or “department of health and mental hygiene” gives you, both of them, “NYC’s famous Baby names” and “food vendors without permit”

Also, a search on “311” shows not a single call requesting information about mental health services or a single incident related to it. Almost all 311 reports since 2010 are related to vermin and rats. A researcher could easily conclude that rat infestation has no impact in the city’s mental health. This could matter for policy and budget purposes.

Finally, how is transparency achieved by publishing the names and addresses of citizens who committed minor infractions, e.g. names street vendors without permit, but neglecting to publish the names of big companies CEOs who have defrauded the city in the millions of dollars, like Mark Mazer’s of City Times, for example?

If ‘transparency’ is going to be dependent on reported meaningless data, and if (quoting from the law) “the city does not warrant” the “completeness, accuracy, content or fitness for any particular purpose” of the data published, then this new law is nothing but a…let me just call it a mistake.

Let’s be realistic: there has been not a single government agency in this nation history which welcomes ‘transparency’, especially since 9/11. This website, as it is now, is the latest addition to that historical fact.

Thank you for your attention.

Respectfully,

Lourdes Cintron

Citywide Mental Health Project

Email: citywidementalhealthproject@live.com

Phone: 718-561-8415

Address: 480 East 188th Street, Apt. 7M

Bronx, New York 10458

Psychiatric Profiling as Blood Libel | Mad In America


This is Tina Minkowitz’ post at Mad in America. It presents interesting questions to our mental health advocacy community about what is to be done with the current political state of our nation’s mental health system and the prejudism against mentally ill people. Please, take a look at it. Thanks.

Psychiatric Profiling as Blood Libel | Mad In America.

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.

 

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.

Take the rabbit, leave the mentally ill.


This Washington Post article (Watch him pull a USDA-mandated rabbit out of his hat) about how a children’s magician with a rabbit has been harassed by the federal government over a license required for the RABBIT, not for practicing magic tricks, shows what I have been trying to show to my fellow ‘consumers’ of mental health services: The administrative agencies, federal and states, are the centers that ENACT the oppression the people are feeling. I’ll explain in a moment.

Take the rabbit, leave the “doofus”. That was the WaPo calling that sweet-looking man a “doofus”. ts ts ts ts

About the magician, they DEMAND that the poor man concoct a 20 plus pages EMERGENCY escape PLAN for the RABBIT, you know, in case the rabbit is caught in the middle of a man-made terrorist act or a nature-made terrorist act. (Now, it is POSSIBLE, given the insanity of our federal and states bureaucrats, that they are awakening to the realization that MOTHER NATURE is…gulp…a TERRORIST. We NEED our bureaucrats to protect us from HER. I would love to see them arresting her for down-pouring on a summer Sunday, interrupting our family plans. Well, they are coming close. except that they started with a human:  Oregon Resident, Sentenced To Jail For Stockpiling Rainwater !!! CAN ANYONE GIVE THESE PEOPLE SOME THORAZINE!?)

 

The WaPo article analyses the insanity of the bureaucrats attitude and says this is about how the laws are enacted in this nation:

The story behind it illustrates the reality of how American laws get made. First Congress passes a bill, laying out the broad strokes. Then bureaucrats write regulations to execute those intentions.

And then, often, they keep on writing them. And writing them.

“Regulations are issued and enforced by the Agency.”

That’s the peril of the administrative agencies, that they are given DISCRETIONARY powers to INTERPRET the law handed down to them and apply it at will, and then they become the monkey on our backs.

The NY State Office of Mental Health (OMH) is MASTERFUL at interpreting the laws to HURT THE MENTALLY ILL. That agency does not pass a law that protects the people they are supposed to care for unless the courts or the legislators pass a law to CORRECT the abusive rulings of the agency. Then OMH claims that they are doing a good work because, well, the people are NOT aware of how the courts chastise the agency, in many occasions. They protect the PROVIDERS, including the abusive ones.

For examples of what I have just said, see some of my posts in the OMH category:

magician

Side-by-side: SAFE ACT and ‘illegal’ OMH Guidelines enacting the ACT

NY Safe Act: gun law gives Office of Mental Health power to see the future [wink]

When is ‘minimum’ the same as ‘high’? When NYS OMH says so. Part 3

Our community needs to awaken to the realization that the actions and rules of the OMH show that there is no reason for us to trust that the agency is looking for our interests. We need to participate in the policy-making process of this agency, we can’t leave it to them to distort the laws meant to protect us.

That’s my personal feeling about this agency.

Side-by-side: SAFE ACT and ‘illegal’ OMH Guidelines enacting the ACT


How OMH violates the SAFE ACT and threatens our civil rights in the process:

SAFE ACT:

OMH [ILLEGAL] GUIDELINES:

Section 9.46 – Report of names made by mental health professionals:

·         “Information can ONLY BE USED to determine whether a gun license should be revoked or to deny a request for a gun license.”

Subdivision (j) of section 7.09 of the MHL:

·         Information can only be used for background check of person attempting to purchase a firearm.

 

NOTE: All names in report go to FBI.

OMH:

·         “will also review each 9.46 report to determine whether to direct an emergency “removal” and transport to a hospital for a psychiatric examination and possible admission.”

 

Meaning: OMH will pick up ALL and EACH person in the report, which can only be used for background check, to involuntarily committing them to psych hospital.

The Act states who is allowed to report a person and when:

·         Only physicians, psychologists, registered nurses, and licensed clinical social workers allowed to make reports during the course of their direct and current treatmentto the person.”

OMH allows “designated” clerk or IT technician to report a person:

·         if he/shehas reason to believe that the patient is subject to SAFE Act reporting requirements”.

Meaning: Any report made by these unauthorized reporters constitutes FALSE reporting, penalized by the SAFE ACT.

Gov. Cuomo stated that the purpose of the law is to check the background of people who are trying to buy a gun:

·         ” The SAFE Act stops criminals and the dangerously mentally ill from buying a gun by requiring universal background checks”.

Based on reports to NYS Senate, OMH directs psych hospital directors to automatically report ALL adults and children on admission or discharge. As a consequence:

·         the names of 6K psych patients, including 11 years old children, who are not applying for gun permit, are now in the report for background check.

FYI: 11 years old children cannot buy guns, especially if hospitalized. Hello!

Note: Once your name has incorrectly or illegally reported to the system, you are stuck. There are NO mechanism for a person to get the name out. Just as with the ‘no-fly list’, where you can’t get the government to delete the name of a child incorrectly put in the list.

The ONLY protections are for the PROVIDERS. They are EXEMPT from the consequences to a person of incorrectly, illegally, intentional reporting his/her name.

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.


BASTILLE DAY: OMH on the guillotine, metaphorically speaking.


The Citywide Mental Health Project is pleased to announce our support for this activity. We encourage other consumers to participate and attend the activities. See you there.

Please, pass along to friends.

bastille

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 17, 2013
Mental Patients Liberation Alliance (The Alliance)
George Ebert 1-800-654-7227
georgeebert@yahoo.com
______________________________________________________________________________
The Mental Patients Liberation Alliance (The Alliance) will host its 33rd Annual Bastille Day event to celebrate the human spirit and break the silence about psychiatric oppression on July 12, 13, 14 and 15 (Friday through Monday noon) in Albany.

A peaceful educational vigil will begin at the New York State Office of Mental Health, 44 Holland Avenue, Albany, at noon on Friday. A focus will be on the mental illness industries’ devastating “medical modelthat exclusively relies on – solely allows and most often forces – invasive dehumanizing, disabling, and potentially deadly drugs and Electro-Convulsive (ECT- Shock) treatments to address what are termed “mental illness” and “mental health issues” – on countless children, young people, and adults.

Kristin Woodlock, Acting Commissioner of the New York State Office of Mental Health, will publish the Regional Centers of Excellence Plan on July 8, 2013, that will “strategically position the mental health system for the future”. The position of we, the people, who have been stigmatized, treated, and dehumanized will be a focus of the 2013 Bastille Day. The Highlander Statement of Concern and Call to Action (March 2000) states, in part: “We call upon all people committed to human rights to work together to build a mental health system that is based upon the principle of self-determination, on a belief in our ability to recover, and on our right to define what recovery is and how best to achieve it”. In the spirit of The Highlander, the Centers of Excellence Plan will be one focal point of Bastille Day 2013.

A general members’ meeting will be held on Sunday, July 15 at 11:00 a.m. during the vigil on Holland Avenue. All meetings are open to the public.
The Alliance – established in 1972 – is a self help, mutual support, and human rights organization of, by, and for people labeled as “mentally ill”. Alliance members, their supporters, and concerned community members are connected to an international liberation movement. The Alliance can be contacted at http://www.TheAlliance.org or toll free at 1-800-654-7227.
….

NY Safe Act: gun law gives Office of Mental Health power to see the future [wink]


Children 11 years old automatically placed in the gun registry, all people admitted to inpatient psych hospitals and all people DISCHARGED from psych hospitals, all their names in the registry AUTOMATICALLY…sorry but it is NOT in fascist Germany. Is it the Office of Mental Health (OMH)? We must act against this outrage, but keep reading.

According to testimony of a Mr. Wolkenbreit, counsel to the New York State Conference of Local Mental Hygiene Directors, Inc. and other mental health providers and civil libertarians at a state Assembly committee hearing  about the mental health provisions of the NY SAFE Act (watch the video at the end of this post):

1) Everybody already admitted, even before the passing of the Safe Act, and everybody admitted to a psych hospital after its passing have been placed in the gun registry, AND at DISCHARGE TOO:

“the state took the position that ALL persons admitted to a state psychiatric hospital met the criteria of 9.46 simply by virtue of their admission...”

“based on POTENTIAL risk standards, hospital administration or counsel have RECOMMENDED or REQUIRED that ALL persons admitted with mental illness diagnosis  be reported…”

“because of amount of reports [received], DCJS is forced to accept them as VALID.”

“OMH wants reporting on discharge and admission…[this is] beyond the scope or reasonable or useful”. Mr. Stein

2) names of  all CHILDREN 11 YEARS OLD and up are been put in the registry automatically, and the absurd reason to include their names:

“OMH is requiring ALL mental health hospitals to report admissions of ALL 11 years old children or older…”

because it is possible that a 16 years old be admitted to the military with parental consent and be discharged at 16 years old and apply for a gun permit

Based on that ‘reasoning’, it is impossible not to sense  paranoia in the attitude of OMH’s administrators who ordered these procedures. They are now engaged in predicting the future: let’s ‘convict’ 11 years old kids NOW since surely they (boys and girls) will be enrolled in the army and surely will come out as  ‘terrorists’. Geez!

3) I mentioned in this blog, when the gun law was passed, that the gun law is NOT  a mandate to gun sellers to do a background check. A Mr. Stein (lawyer, I think) came to a similar conclusion during the hearing:

” Safe Act looks like a mandate but it isn’t…it is not an ‘authorization’ nor a ‘mandate’…[because it doesn’t have] mandate language like 33.13″

“it is NOT a mandate because it doesn’t have a ‘must’, [there are] no penalties.”

3) And, as I have been saying ALL along in this blog, Ms. Haroules of the NY Civil Liberties Union said that these laws:

“protect the providers, not the recipients.”

She also said, paraphrasing, that the way in which this gun law was passed, without input from consumers, made a mockery of the legislative process and the system. I said that too before.

That is in a nut shell what transpired in that hearing. In my view, this ought to be in the mainstream media. OMH has, once again, betrayed the people it is mandated to protect.

The political consequences of all this hanky panky with the gun law is hard to ignore. It is like a virus running across the US: dossiers being made of every citizen, classified in this or that category, all by a nation gripped by paranoia.

I have left out comments about stigma and repression and other problems, mostly because I’m focusing here on the political aspect of the issue: the power of the government to control our lives and the police state. I have mentioned all this in other posts. So…

We shall overcome, it will take time, but we shall overcome.

The only way to bring OMH to ‘task’ is by consumers regaining their collective voice and marching in front of OMH with their denunciations: CLEAN THAT REGISTRY! TAKE ALL THOSE NAME OUT!

That’s what the Citywide Mental Health Project is planning to do.The Tea Party and gun lovers had their rally this past weekend in Albany against this registry and law. Over a thousand people attended. WHAT ABOUT US?!

If you are interested in helping us organize a rally in front of OMH, contact us at:

citywidementalhealthproject@live.com

Links:

[2] http://www.nysenate.gov/committee/mental-health-and-developmental-disabilities

[4] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSae–ouoGE

Madness at OMH: Thousands of mentally ill New Yorkers listed [illegally] in SAFE Act registry


Wow! This is ‘snafu’ in all its glory.

One thing at play here: The seemingly ‘purposely’ releasing of private information about, apparently, ALL people committed voluntarily or not in our psych hospitals. I expect that there will be an investigation into this seemingly wide-spread contagion of forgetfulness about patients privacy rights. This is serious, though.

RELEASING THE LIST OF PSYCHIATRIC IN-PATIENTS

If this doesn’t have ‘conspiracy’ written all over it, its definition must be reviewed.

a) “More than nine out of ten reports so far have come from hospitals or state psychiatric centers — including hundreds [how many hundreds?]of reports filed in a single day in late April by state psychiatric hospitals. [“hundreds’ “in a single day” is too much for it to be a ‘mistake’.]

b) “Yet some reports, testified Wolkenbreit, are being filed by someone other than the mental health provider seeing the patient, and many appear to be computer generated, based on existing patient files.[If only mental health providers can file, who violated the rule and why?]

c) “Benjamin Rosen, a spokesperson for the state Office of Mental Health, acknowledged in an email statement that this spring many [how many is “many”?] psychiatric patients [not in-patients included?] were automatically referred [by who?]to county officials.” 

d) “From March 16, 2013 to May 6, 2013, while OMH was building a reporting portal for state psychiatric hospitals [hmm], reports were initiated [from where and by whom?] based on admissions to state psychiatric hospitals [all people admitted from March 16 to May 6? From All psych hospitals?], although mental health professionals had the ability to prevent reports from being forwarded for those persons who did not meet NY SAFE Act criteria,” said Rosen,…[who are they who did not prevent the reports from being forwarded?]

e) “In many cases [again, how many?] mental health providers listed on the documents, when contacted by community services directors for review, either said that they had not filed the reports… according to Wolkenbreit.” 

So, WHO filed the reports and why? Is the DCS or OMH investigating these ‘false’ reports of people “who did not meet the Safe Act criteria”? Did the psych hospitals receive orders from anyone, in the hospitals or by someone in OMH, to file the reports en mass? What are the chances that all those people working at state psych hospitals could have, at unison almost, made the same mistake of breaking a privacy law they ought to know by heart? How come other institutions, private, did not commit the ‘mistake’?

Did the Department of Community Services forwarded ALL of the names in the report to the NYPD?

“Of the 6,000 reports that have been filed, 11 have been acted upon,” testified Jed Wolkenbreit, counsel to the New York State Conference of Local Mental Hygiene Directors, Inc., citing figures from the state Office of Mental Health.

What does “acted upon” means? That 11 were forwarded to the NYPD or to the Department of Criminal Justice? How many, if any, were sent to the NYPD or to the DCJ?

This is a debacle. This is beyond stigma and violations to HIPPA. Evidently HIPPA is there to protect privacy. It’s PRIVACY and rights that are at stake here.

I’m sure that the NYPD is happy if this ‘error’ provided them with info about who is in mental treatment. The surveillance state has being feverish at work trying to compile a data base of EVERYBODY officially diagnosed as mentally ill. Sure, it’s to ‘protect’ you from yourself and others.

With stigma or without it, our police wants to have a dossier of everyone whom it considers a threat to the establishment, a ‘potential terrorist’. It’s our collective liberty what is at stake here. We, as people with disabilities, are just ONE of the many groups being labeled for ‘security’ purposes.

Everyone ought to stand by us in this debacle. It will happen to you next.

Comment by Lourdes C.

Source: http://www.thenewyorkworld.com/2013/06/03/safe-act-registry/#comment-327403

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!

On Failed gun-control laws and ‘ROBBANRA’: it could have been worse.


Look people, you should appreciate and thank our sold-out ‘law makers’ for NOT passing the law.

First, it should be clear by now that the description ‘law makers‘ applied to our Congress is an anachronism. Keep up with the times, people! Congress should be known as ‘ROBBANRA‘, the Congressional ROBBANRA. Yeap, that’s more like it.

And…what was that? What is ROBBANRA?. Oh, I forgot to ‘splain’. It means the ‘Rubber-stampers of bankers, billionaires and the NRA’.

As I was saying, be thankful. Congress could had, after all, PASSED a  bill more appropriately named THE BILL OF LIES ABOUT GUN-CONTROL. Like our NY State Gun Control Law.

It would have been filled, like ours, with, not only loopholes, but with concessions and fictional ‘mandates’. And with provisions to control YOU, mental health consumers, or even users of the banking industry instead of the gun industry because, as we know, many bills passed by ROBBANRA (and many states also) are an opportunity to slide-in controls on issues un-related to the bill been discussed.

Like ours here in NY, where the gun bill was used to amend the Assisted Out Patient Treatment (AOT) law, extending the time a person can be held involuntarily and giving psychiatrists and RN nurses (for they now can commit people without approval of a psychiatrist) the power to guess when a person will flip and then commit him or her. AOT was not part of the gun-control discussion.

But that was not the only misrepresentation of the bill.

BIG ‘NY STATE GUN CONTROL BILL’ LIE

Our Congress could have passed a law with all the goodies for the NRA and then tell you that YOU WON. Like in NY State, because one thing is what they TELL you, another is what the new law says.

In NY State,  people were told that the new gun law mandates gun sellers to do background checks before selling guns. A LIE.

The bill’s Art 39, Section 898, sub 2  it clearly says that doing a criminal background check  is a CHOICE, not a mandate for the seller :

2. Before any sale, exchange or disposal pursuant to this article, a national instant criminal background check must be completed by a dealer WHO CONSENTS TO CONDUCT SUCH A CHECK, (caps by me)

I couldn’t find other ways to highlight that qualifier. That’s the masterful art of writing laws: use ‘must’ to give the impression that a mandate was stated, but then add the loophole ‘consent’ which is actually the only thing that matters in that line. ‘If you CONSENT to do it, you MUST do it right’ or else don’t do it.

I have to laugh.

You see. By Congress not passing the gun control bill, you were spared lies, fictional mandates and loopholes…but then, you would have go on living happily thinking that something positive was done.

Oh, well. Don’t worry, our Congressional ROBBANRA will give you more peace of mind with bills like the Homeland Security Law.

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

the Protection and Advocacy redesignation public hearings: our testimony


What follows is the statement I read yesterday at the state’s video-conference  on the proposed re-designation of the P&A system.

Our group were the only ones there speaking up for our community and representing the metro area.

This my  first experience for I have never been to these ‘video-conferences’ given that I’m ‘new’ to doing activism within the mental health system. It was quite an experience.

For one, we were amazed at the third-world level of the system! WOW. I’m sure in Nicaragua there would have been less problems in televising the thing. You could not see the people making the presentations, the audio went on and off…disgraceful. The workers tried the best they could with the equipment they get from yard-sales and the extra slow internet speed we have in the US, as compared to Europe’s.

As for the statements:

Look, our community is AWARE that the government IS part of the problem when it comes to abuses. Consumers from other areas of the state made direct comments about that.

Personally, I got from the conference that consumers don’t have  much hope in that the new P&A system will make a difference in protecting us. GOOD! Now we take the BULL BY THE HORNS.

I’m inviting anyone reading this in our community (consumers) to attend our group’s meeting on Friday April 26 to help us plan a meeting to call for the creation of a coalition to deal exclusively with the problem of physical and psychological abuses of consumers in the NY mental health system.

Please, read the testimony I presented yesterday at the video conference. Comments are more than welcome. There’s Word doc copy at the Our Documents tab.

Testimony of The Citywide Mental Health Project at thePublic Hearing on the proposed redesignation of the New York Protection and Advocacy(P&A) System and Client Assistance Program (CAP) for people with disabilities.

April 9, 2013.

Every 10-15 years, since Willowbrook, a new form of P&A is created as a result of reports about how the state ignores or is part of the culture of abuse of people with all types of disabilities in its system.

Today’s P&A ‘redesignation’, and the new Justice Center, is the continuation in the new millennium of this 10-15 years pattern.

It is the response, not to consumers’ denunciations, but to the Federal ADM of Developmental Disability’ scorching 2011 report based on the NY Times investigation of abuses in the state’s mental health system.

It concluded that the state’s CQCA[Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy]  had failed (to put it mildly) to protect the disabled, that consumers were excluded from its P&A board, and that the commission had violated the DD Act [Developmental Disability Act]. The system was part of the problem, it had to be torn down and rebuild once again.

And yet, these mental health agencies always report that over 90% of consumers rate quality of care as excellent, even people in places where reports of abuses are rampant. That’s because it is taboo to discuss abuses in our system.

As a response to the report, Section 2 of the Protection of people with special needs Act repealed Art 45 CQCAPD. But it designated these same agencies and the JC as official oversight agencies keeping the same licensed and unlicensed rules that give legal cover to abusive providers, and leaving us still mute in the system.

And this notice of redesignation does not acknowledge nor mentions how the new P&A will correct the violations relating to the exclusion of consumers from the board, which led to the redesignation in the first place.

The definition of insanity is doing the same old things and expecting different results.

As long as the system continues to deny us a voice, as long as there is no official mechanism for us to bring from the programs in which we are up to the agencies our reports of quality of services, as long as token consumer councils continue rubber- stamping policies giving the impression that our community consent to them while we are actually been left out, this redesignation and the JC will continue the culture of ignoring our cries for help.

The Citywide Mental Health Project is calling on our peers to form a coalition of consumers to deal exclusively with this issue of abuses, which moved to our community when state’s institutions were forced to close, so that we can be heard loud and clear about the meaningful policies we want to see enacted.

We cannot continue hoping that good willed professionals will change this system, and wait for the next round of 10-15 years pattern of reports about abuses in the NY Times.

Thank you.

Lourdes Cintron

Founder of The Citywide Mental Health Project

(718)561-8415

Email: citywidementalhealthproject@live.com

Address: 480 East 188th St. Apt. 7M

Bronx, NY 10458

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)

Pay for Success: A ponzi scheme?


This is a follow up to my post Unmasking Pay for Success . Here, I think I have succeeded on showing that this  is nothing but a Ponzi Scheme. It’s based on how pay-for-success has been applied in the UK. It’s dry material and, as usual, long. But if you bumped into this post and don’t read it, don’t say later that you weren’t warned about the truth behind ‘pay for success’.

I still have another part on this next week. It’s about how Pay for success is being applied here in the USA. I hope you find this interesting and informative. Links are at the bottom.

“PAY-FOR-SUCCESS”: ANATOMY OF A PONZI SCHEME

“UK building integrated impact investment marketplace”

Over there they call it “outcomes-based financing”.

“These contracts allow the government to outsource the provision of a service [privatize the functions of government] to impact businesses or other private-sector contenders and only pay for that service once a defined set of outcomes is delivered.”

Now, who in its right mind would want to get into that type of business: you get paid only if you deliver, for example, a sober alcoholic? Sure, it started with services for the unemployed and released prisoners, but it is moving to ALL social services, including mental disabilities and children and alcoholism services. Social services and human behavior cannot be shaped into ‘asset instruments’. Somehow, though, Wall Street will find a way to do it.

“Changing government procurement practices: Outcomes-based financing”

[I had to look it up: procurement = acquisition of good and services from an external source. Very complicated topic too.]

Payment-by-results contracts

 The suppliers – those companies that will be commissioned to find employment for the target populations – are paid on a staggered basis, reflecting achieved outcomes: there is an upfront fee, a job outcome fee once the individual is employed, and a sustainment fee once the individual has maintained the employment for a given period.”

The “upfront fee” is an issue for me. How much is it? How about the “sustainment fee”?

“Importantly, the sustainment fee is meant to make up a “substantial” portion [quote provided by JP] of the total amount the government will pay5, and the government will not pay anything should the outcomes not be delivered.”

There’s another scheme, more ‘attractive’ than that one:

Social Impact Bond

Creating the social malady and then profiting from the pain?

Creating the social malady and then profiting from the pain?

“raising GBP 5mm in a bond whose payout is linked to the government savings achieved by reducing recidivism at Peterborough Prison. Notably, unlike traditional bonds, investors stand to lose their full principal should there be no reduction in recidivism6 since, similar to the Work Programme contract, the government will not make any payment if the defined outcomes are not achieved.

Wait! Don’t run yet to Wall Street to buy these bonds. A bond is a bond. It means that the government is BORROWING. Bonds are DEBT the government owes. Caught in a lie once again. Our government says that ‘pay for success’ is a ‘win-win’ situation because it takes care of social services without engaging in debt. Yeah, right.

But let’s see how JP gets out of this unattractive risky bond business where you are bound to lose everything if you play with them

Risk transfer.

.

“Understanding the risk transfer inherent in outcomes-based financing”

You can bet on it: there’s INHERENT risk in ‘pay for success’. And it gets “transferred” to somebody by somebody. To whom down the pyramid do you think the transfer is more likely to be passed on? Think, then read.

“Transferring risk to the right recipient”

“The Social Impact Bond transfers the impact delivery risk (and hence the risk of financial return) from the government to third-party investors who provide capital to the service providers and take the risk that outcomes may not be achieved.

Did you get that? The big financial institutions who provide the capital is the one [gulp] who stand to lose their money in the bond scheme. What are the chances that JP will want a piece of that losing action? Of course not. JP compares this bond thing with the other scheme:

“By contrast, the Work Programme’s payment-by-results contracts transfer the impact delivery risk from the government to the service provider.”

Uhm, “the provider”? Does that means YOU, Community Access? Aren’t you laughing yet? Let’s see what JP says is necessary before signing the dotted line for these contracts, given these risks:

Both working capital and risk capital are required to win these contracts

“…delivering on these contracts requires working capital to cover operating costs until payments are received, and risk capital to cover the risk that outcomes are unsuccessful (and no program payments are received).”

THE PONZI SCHEME

And from where do you, my little small- business -entrepreneur -non-for-profit get that money?

“each procurement contract is meant to engage a Social Investment Partnership comprising a financial sponsor (or consortium of sponsors) who will then engage one or more service provider8. This arrangement enables the impact business to transfer the risk to investors,

Follow King Midas.

as in the case of the Social Impact Bond. The next natural question is: how much risk are investors willing to take on these new

THE NATURAL QUESTION??! HELLO! No wonder Bloomberg said that he and his billionaire pals HAVE to infringe on our freedom! PLEASE DO! Don’t let me INVEST THERE! We don’t know what we are doing!…………….Ok, enough banter.

So, at the end, the risk was passed on to the low-level investor, not the ‘senior’ investor. Does Ponzi scheme come to mind? It should.

But no, it doesn’t end there. Keep reading.

OF PONZI SCHEME DREAMS YET TO BE REALIZED

“Finding the right risk and return profile”

[This is the part where the cookie crumbles.]

“Some market participants have anecdotally provided feedback that the pricing does not sufficiently capture the additional cost of the hardest to reach outcomes [IT’S NOT PAYING!], and some fear this will lead service providers to focus rather on the easiest to employ populations. In both instruments, the upside is capped while the downside is not, and the probabilities of realizing the impact are yet to be determined.

Broken dreams.

Broken dreams.

It’s not working. No ‘social impact’ = no meaningful jobs created and recidivism not reduced = no payment to small investors = no money saved: a loss-loss situation.

And what do you think the big financiers will ask the government to do with this losing ‘initiative’?

“More risk-sharing with the government could reduce the downside exposure,”

This “pay for success” will end up with ALL  the risks being passed on to the government, the small level investors and the service provider, and of course, to what is left of  the middle class. The government is there to serve and protect the financial market. This is the JP evidence:

“Engage cornerstone investors, like Big Society Capital”

“With the aim of growing the impact investment sector more generally, the government established Big Society Capital (“BSC”) in July 201112. Backed by a projected GBP 600mm in capital, this organization is designed to provide financing directly into impact investments and also to invest in infrastructure and initiatives that would encourage faster market growth.”

When a government ‘invests’ 600 million bucks to help ‘big capital’ (the ‘society’ in between Big and Capital is there to cover ‘big capital’), you know it is doing EVERYTHING and ANYTHING for them. The government will buckle down and take the risk and put no controls, as they do today when privatization comes with no monitoring.

ON WALL STREET BUILDING YOUR BUSINESS…WITH GOVERNMENT $$

Now, all of this business is supposed to save “tax payer” money by asking businesses to take on the functions of government and to be willing to be paid if and when the service delivers the outcome. No money ahead, supposedly. Well, take a look at how the government will have the responsibility of building a business, from the ground up, take loans for this business, take the risks eventually and let the profits go to the big capitals. If no profits, we lose, financial markets will be protected by the government.

“Ensuring impact businesses are ready to compete

“While the prospect of capital [provided by the government] will help to ensure that impact businesses can financially manage payment-by-results contracts, for example, they also need to be “investment ready” in order to access that finance.”

Basically, the government will put billions of dollars in the seed money, hire big corporations to “teach” the little ones (paid by the government)t and “de-risk” (JP’s term)  these adventurous capitalists by providing the money that will pay JP when the whole Ponzi scheme collapses.

I invite you to read that document. It’s lots of fun…not, but it IS interesting to see the calculating mentality of the greedy billionaires planning their next attack on the people.

This post may be revised later.

Links:

Goldman to invest in NYC jail program

The JP Morgan document:

Counter(Imp)acting Austerity: The global trend of government support for impact investment

The Citywide Mental Health Project’s presentation at the NY City Council hearings on budget cuts to Mental Health services.


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.