Fwd: S. 103; VCDR Update; House Judiciary passes out bill 8-3

Morgan Brown (morganbrown@hotmail.com)
Wed, 11 Feb 1998 12:24:17 PST


Hello,

Below is a forward of item 2, regarding S.103, from the most recent 
VCDR (Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights) Information Update 
which I am sending F.Y.I. and in case you know of others who may be 
interested to pass it on to.

If you or others would like to learn more about VCDR and/or would care 
to request e-mail or hard copy versions of the VCDR Update, contact 
Peter & Sheila at:

vcdr@plainfield.bypass.com

or call: (802) 223-6140

or write to: VDCR; 73 main st. room 402;Montpelier VT 05602 

Morgan <morganbrown@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown; Montpelier Vermont
For more information on S. 103, visit my home page at:
Norsehorse's Home Turf: http://members.tripod.com/~Norsehorse/


-------------Forwarded message-------------

2)      FORCED DRUGGING BILL, S.103, SUPPORTED BY HOUSE           
JUDICIARY COMMITTEE, HEADED FOR HOUSE INSTITUTIONS COMMITTEE                 

On an 8-3 vote, the House Judiciary Committee approved a revised draft 
of S. 103, a bill which proposes to expand involuntary medication out 
into the community.  The bill has already passed the Senate, and been 
approved by the House Health and Welfare Committee.

At the same time, the Vermont Department of Corrections is proposing a
completely different standard and process for involuntarily injecting
inmates.  This proposal is currently in the administrative rule-making
process.
        
A number of House Judiciary Committee members, and other House members
feel strongly that there should be a single standard for involuntary
medication.  Since the Institutions Committee has jurisdiction over
Vermont's prisons, the bill will have to go there before heading to 
the House floor.
        
The Judiciary Committee has heard testimony over two weeks, including 
a public hearing.  Their version expands involuntary medication into 
the community; expands the number of Vermonters subject to it; and 
reduces the current standard under a legal consent decree (known as 
J.L.), from  being a "substituted judgment" standard to a "best 
interests" standard, among other changes.
        
In a purported "compromise," the operative section of the bill would
recognize a duly executed Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
document, but only for 45 days.  This would diminish the legal 
standing of such a document for an entire class of people - those with 
mental illness labels.  Current Vermont law does not differentiate 
between physical and mental conditions for Durable Power of Attorney 
documents.  

In a DPOA, executed when you are competent, you state what treatment 
you desire or don't desire when you might find yourself not able to 
participate in your health care decision-making.
        
In this new version, your wishes would only be honored for 45 days, 
then others would decide for you what is in your "best interest."  The
Department of Developmental and Mental Health Services has asserted 
that DPOA's become invalid when someone goes into DDMHS custody.  The 
law does not state this, and the issue is currently being litigated.
        
Why is this being touted as a compromise?  Because earlier versions of 
the bill refused to recognize DPOA's at all.
        
The bill has other provisions, such as setting a one year limit in 
statute for orders of non-hospitalization, and moving the process for 
obtaining an involuntary medication order from an administrative 
hearing to family court.  It also sets up some reporting requirements.
        
The fact remains, however, that these drugs are extremely powerful, 
and can have serious side effects, causing disabling conditions, and 
even death.  Testimony given throughout the legislative process shows 
that forced drugging is carried out on about twenty people per year, 
and that the Department wins virtually all hearings.  So, what is the 
problem that they are trying to solve?  Testimony was also given that 
this bill might double that number to around forty per year, although 
potentially about 125 people would be potentially "eligible."  

Although legally true, virtually all individuals with mental illness 
labels would feel it could happen to them.  This brings a coercive 
element to the mental health system.  Some people will refuse to seek 
treatment for fear of being treated involuntarily.  And concerns 
remain about those given these long-acting drugs and the ability of 
the community mental health system to adequately monitor those who, 
under the bill, will be injected and released.  VCDR asks, "What's the 
hurry?"

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