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.