Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Forced Drugging - Is It Ever Justified?

Below is an excerpt of an invitation by Katherine Hine to the October 8th "Human Rights Demand" show, which regarded enforced drugging. She and other guests on that episode oppose enforced psychiatric treatment, whereas Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally Ill (AIMI) perceives enforced treatment, such as under AOT programs, as necessary for many people with acute mental illness to avoid homelessness, imprisonment, and avoidable deaths. Ms. Hine wrote, in part:

Katherine Hine and Sharon Cretsinger will be guests at 3 p.m. EDT, Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014, on Mary Neal’s daytime call-in broadcast, "Human Rights Demand." Speakers and guests should call to speak on air at (347) 857-3293 or listen by computer at We are talking about doing another show about forced confinement.

If anyone wants to make sure to have his or her voice heard, please call. Everyone is welcome to call in. Mental health treatment concerns us all either directly or indirectly.

Among the points that are expected to be made in the broadcast are 10 basic legal reasons why we feel forced drugging in Ohio is unlawful – particularly where forced drugging is ordered as a result of hearings in which no evidence is presented. Most of these grounds apply in other states. Sharon, who is a survivor of psychiatry as well as an MSW with many years of clinical experience within the mental illness system, will address the fact that many if not most people with psychiatric histories are capable of fully recovering without drugging, and that drugging itself can predispose a person to act violently.

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AIMI members believe that persons with acute mental illness should be hospital inpatients or outpatients as opposed to jail and prison inmates. Our welcome and mission statement from AIMI's Care2 group is published below.

Thank you for joining us in giving Assistance for the Incarcerated Mentally Ill ("AIMI"). Mental health care is a vast area. To be most effective, we will limit our advocacy on this group to issues related to incarcerated mentally ill persons in America and those likely to suffer imprisonment due to their mental disorders. You are already helping the incarcerated mentally ill merely by joining this group!

Most chronically mentally ill persons do not vote or engage in America's political process, yet our legislators determine the direction of their lives. Your participation in this group demonstrates that voters are concerned about mentally ill prisoners. We welcome everyone who is interested in decriminalizing mental illness.

We hope AIMI attracts diffable person who have suffered incarceration. First person accounts are very valuable! Families of mentally ill persons, please share your input. Too often, the family members of mental patients have little voice in policy decisions that impact their lives and the lives of their sick loved ones. Psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health care professionals, we welcome you. Law enforcement officers, attorneys, and others who work in the criminal justice system, thank you for joining us.

We will use this group to share our experiences, seek assistance on specific cases, offer and receive advice and encouragement, and to impact public policy by denouncing criminalizing mental illness. We will discuss treatment options and impediments thereto, along with a wide range of topics having to do with mental illness.

It is not necessary for all members of Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally Ill to agree on every topic of discussion, and neither is it likely. However, we will respect and value each other and the rights of each member to express differing views.

We believe prisons have become America's mental institutions in large part because of restrictions against enforced treatment and hospitalization of chronically mentally ill persons.  There is a serious lack of short-term inpatient care and community care for mental health crises that frequently lead to avoidable tragedies.  Long-term hospitalization is frequently needed for patients who require constant monitoring and treatment.  Imprisoning mentally ill Americans is financially wasteful, discriminatory, and inhumane.  No one can be punished into a state of mental health.

Most diffable people are capable of functioning well in society without enforced treatment or confinement. However, our advocacy in this group concentrates on providing humane options for the care of patients who are incarcerated precisely because they require either hospitalization or enforced treatment in their communities.  

In this group, we acknowledge that the decision to put chronically ill patients in charge of their own treatment options (to treat or not to treat) contributed to the criminalization of mental illness. Enforced psychiatric treatment is often necessary for acute mental patients’ safety. These patients are usually expected to make major health decisions while in a demented mental state. We believe someone other than the acute mental patient must be allowed to make their treatment decisions before any tragedy occurs, or mental patients face the likelihood of repeated arrests for crimes committed while in a mental crisis.

AIMI's goal is to gain release from prison for the estimated 1.25 million incarcerated mentally ill Americans in order that they may be treated in their communities or hospitals, depending on the severity of their crimes. AIMI seeks to reverse the trend to imprison rather than treat our mental patients. We believe the laws restricting enforced hospitalization and outpatient therapy often hinder chronically mentally ill persons from receiving needed treatment.

We acknowledge that chronically mentally ill prisoners have a higher rate of return to jail than other inmates precisely because of their tendency to discontinue therapy and lapse back into psychosis. We assert that prison release for the nonviolent offenders should include mandatory treatment, at least during their parole or probationary periods. Inmates who are incarcerated for violent acts should be hospitalized for the duration of their criminal sentences or until their psychiatrists recommend release. Such psychiatric recommendations should be reviewed by the sentencing court. 

If the court agrees with the psychiatrists’ recommendation for prison release, the court should then order the patients' continued psychiatric monitoring and care as outpatients for the duration of their parole or probationary period. Mental patients who are required to receive court-ordered treatment should be zealously sought and remanded to hospitals if they disobey the court and discontinue their treatment at any point while on probation or parole.

Decriminalizing mental illness will not occur unless and until sensible alternatives to prison are available for persons in crisis. We believe that mental hospitalization in extreme cases, and community care under enforced treatment will provide the alternatives that our most severely ill citizens need in order to regain and to retain their freedom from our nation’s correctional institutions.

Welcome to our quest for justice for the incarcerated mentally ill! Thank you for your involvement in this human rights effort.

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