S. 103; VLA/MHLP's position on its "non-position"

Thomas Cagle (nh-adapt@juno.com)
Fri, 12 Dec 1997 20:00:08 -0500

--------- Begin forwarded message ----------
From: "Morgan Brown"
Below is a forward of the text of a speech given by  Jack McCullough, 
the Director of the Mental Health Law Project (MHLP) of Vermont Legal 
Aid (VLA), regarding MHLP's postion on its "non-position" concerning S. 
103-Vermont's forced drugging legislation that is pending before the 
Vermont Legislature. Anyone who wants to comment to Jack about this can 
e-mail or phone him via the contact information listed below. Those 
e-mailing comments to Jack may also c.c. to me if you are comfortable 
doing so-it is not required.

 Good morning All,

 I have the feeling I walked into the middle of a discussion. Some of the
E-ddress'  included in the header of this message I know. Some are new to
me. I guess much of what I'm going to say is based on what my
understanding is of New Hampshire MHC procedure is. That said, everything
I have to say could make for a wonderful old Saturday Night Live skit. (I
could well be responding to the wrong things with far from complete

 Know too, part of my background is within that mental health system as
an aide.

  *sigh* There are some parallel's as i see it from here between the PAS
(Physician Assisted Suicide) movement, and the forced medication CTC
(commitment-to-community) movement. Lest I be misunderstood, I do not
translate one as a deadly deal equivalent with the other. Yet.

 In my opinion both have a minor case in their favor, neither really deal
with the issues of the population's they are going to impact. PAS can
make a minor argument that there must be somewhere someone so disabled,
and terminally ill, and in pain, that only assistance can help that
person end their suffering. The population this is going to impact is not
that one-in-a-million, but rather the millions of people with chronic
disabilities,. Who the insurance industry, and the insurer of last resort
(medicaid-medicare) would rather let die.

 The same sort of profile can be made for CTC. In New Hampshire because
of my long relationship I know some of the folks that this makes some
very limited sense for. The folks I am pointing to have (commonly) also
developmental disabilities as well as a diagnosis of mental illness.
Where there truly is 'diminished capacity'. This list would make here in
NH perhaps a couple dozen. Damned near every one of them gets the
supports they need through other probate, or superior court

  Call me paranoid, call me what you will, I saw the effects of
deinstitutionalisation. I see very little new in this CTC movement. The
net effect in my opinion is going to be to simply herd MI populations
from state to state. This is particularly true if there is also NOT a
parallel investment in infrastructure. i.e. housing, staffing, and
self-help supports. My short take is: Hey! these guys are expensive to
care for, lets push 'em over the state line, then they'll be somebody
else's problem". Where are these guys supposed to get these medications
at anyways? the local state police barracks?

 Yes, there are still some street people who are flagrantly, and
thoroughly crazy. If they don't make the minimum of danger to self or
others, and the state hasn't seen it's way clear to provide housing for
them. How's CTC (Commit To Community) gonna do a thing for these folks
other'n send 'em packing? I mean here in NH we have sat on our hands on
this issue for like 20 years. 

 The state's patent failure to house, support, or commit these folks is
hardly an argument to hound them from state to state. It is an argument
for a person with a chronic illness (like me) to view their treatment
with some alarm. These existing laws are already on the books. If the
average cop on the street can't figure out how to get a prayer &
complaint from a JP (for an involuntary emergency admission), He's sure
to be a knock-down winner of a combined nurse-social worker.

  My short take is: so,  who is gonna check for compliance on this? What
training have they got? What do they do if the person is compliant but
failing from other health concerns? The nut down on the corner is going
to pack up his bindle and beat-feet. Auntie so-and-so  who has been in
the back bedroom will also be equally as poorly served, for there is not
the depth of staff with-in the current MH system now to take up her case
load as she or her equivalent are slowly prossessed through the MH
system. Take this or else, isn't a treatment plan... It's extortion. 

 All ya' gotta do is remove the "danger to self or others" portion of
mental health-probate law and you can criminalize this whole disability.
I find that frightening.

 Like I said, I am getting this in the middle of the story, I am willing
to get brought up to speed by all the concerned parties. My interest
begins and ends at the greatest level of independence for disabled
people, that they can handle.

Free our people!
Tom Cagle