Fwd:Massachusetts "Bill of *Rights*" for persons with mental

Morgan Brown (morganbrown@hotmail.com)
Mon, 01 Dec 1997 09:34:55 PST


This is a forward of the bill passed by the Mass. legislature and just 
signed by the acting Governor on November 25, 1997. It was H. 5122 and 
upon signing became chapter 166 of the acts of 1997 of the Massachusetts 
I haven't had a chance to read it over yet as this just recently got put 
up and I just pulled it down, so I know probaly less about than some of 
you-especially those in the Bay State & in Bean Town.

Morgan <morganbrown@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown Montpelier Vermont USA

-------from the Massachusetts legislative home page------------------
(Chapter 166 of the Acts of 1997):


Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General 
Court assembled, and
by the authority of the same, as follows: 

SECTION 1. Section 23 of chapter 123 of the General Laws, as appearing 
in the 1996 Official
Edition, is hereby amended by striking out the first two paragraphs and 
inserting in place thereof
the following five paragraphs:- 

This section sets forth the statutory rights of all persons regardless 
of age receiving services from
any program or facility, or part thereof, operated by, licensed by or 
contracting with the
department of mental health, including persons who are in state 
hospitals or community mental
health centers or who are in residential programs or inpatient 
facilities operated by, licensed by or
contracting with said department. Such persons may exercise the rights 
described in this section
without harassment or reprisal, including reprisal in the form of denial 
of appropriate, available
treatment. The rights contained herein shall be in addition to and not 
in derogation of any other
statutory or constitutional rights accorded such persons. 

Any such person shall have the following rights: 

(a) reasonable access to a telephone to make and receive confidential 
telephone calls and to
assistance when desired and necessary to implement such right; provided, 
that such calls do not
constitute a criminal act or represent an unreasonable infringement of 
another person's right to
make and receive telephone calls; 

(b) to send and receive sealed, unopened, uncensored mail; provided, 
however, that the
superintendent or director or designee of an inpatient facility may 
direct, for good cause and with
documentation of specific facts in such person's record, that a 
particular person's mail be opened
and inspected in front of such person, without it being read by staff, 
for the sole purpose of
preventing the transmission of contraband. Writing materials and postage 
stamps in reasonable
quantities shall be made available for use by such person. Reasonable 
assistance shall be
provided to such person in writing, addressing and posting letters and 
other documents upon

(c) to receive visitors of such person's own choosing daily and in 
private, at reasonable times.
Hours during which visitors may be received may be limited only to 
protect the privacy of other
persons and to avoid serious disruptions in the normal functioning of 
the facility or program and
shall be sufficiently flexible as to accommodate individual needs and 
desires of such person and
the visitors of such person. 

(d) to a humane psychological and physical environment. Each such person 
shall be provided
living quarters and accommodations which afford privacy and security in 
resting, sleeping,
dressing, bathing and personal hygiene, reading and writing and in 
toileting. Nothing in this section
shall be construed to require individual sleeping quarters. 

(e) to receive at any reasonable time as defined in department 
regulations, or refuse to receive,
visits and telephone calls from a client's attorney or legal advocate, 
physician, psychologist, clergy
member or social worker, even if not during normal visiting hours and 
regardless of whether such
person initiated or requested the visit or telephone call. An attorney 
or legal advocate working
under an attorney's supervision and who represents a client shall have 
access to the client and,
with such client's consent, the client's record, the hospital staff 
responsible for the client's care and
treatment and any meetings concerning treatment planning or discharge 
planning where the client
would be or has the right to be present. Any program or facility, or 
part thereof, operated by,
licensed by or contracting with the department shall ensure reasonable 
access by attorneys and
legal advocates of the Massachusetts Mental Health Protection and 
Advocacy Project, the
Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee, the committee for public counsel 
services and any
other legal service agencies funded by the Massachusetts Legal 
Assistance Corporation under the
provisions of chapter 221A, to provide free legal services. Upon 
admission, and upon request at
any time thereafter, persons shall be provided with the name, address 
and telephone number of
such organizations and shall be provided with reasonable assistance in 
contacting and receiving
visits or telephone calls from attorneys or legal advocates from such 
organizations; provided,
however, that the facility shall designate reasonable times for 
unsolicited visits and for the
dissemination of educational materials to persons by such attorneys or 
legal advocates. The
department shall promulgate rules and regulations further defining such 
access. Nothing in this
paragraph shall be construed to limit the ability of attorneys or legal 
advocates to access clients
records or staff as provided by any other state or federal law. 

Any dispute or disagreement concerning the exercise of the 
aforementioned rights in clauses (a)
to (e), inclusive, and the reasons therefor shall be documented with 
specific facts in the client's
record and subject to timely appeal. 

Any right set forth in clauses (a) and (c) may be temporarily suspended, 
but only for a person in
an inpatient facility and only by the superintendent, director, acting 
superintendent or acting
director of such facility upon such person; concluding, pursuant to 
standards and procedures set
forth in department regulations that, based on experience of such 
person's exercise of such right,
further such exercise of it in the immediate future would present a 
substantial risk of serious harm
to such person or others and that less restrictive alternatives have 
either been tried and failed or
would be futile to attempt. The suspension shall last no longer than the 
time necessary to prevent
the harm and its imposition shall be documented with specific facts in 
such person's record. 

A notice of the rights provided in this section shall be posted in 
appropriate and conspicuous
places in the program or facility and shall be available to any such 
person upon request. The
notice shall be in language understandable by such persons and 
translated for any such person
who cannot read or understand English. 

The department, after notice and public hearing pursuant to section 2 of 
chapter 30A, shall
promulgate regulations to implement the provisions of this section. 

SECTION 2. Said section 23 of said chapter 123, as so appearing, is 
hereby further amended
by striking out, in lines 21 and 22, the words ", reasonable access to 
telephones to make and
receive confidential calls". 

                        Approved November 25, 1997. 

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