portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reposts united states

health | human & civil rights | social services

ALERT: Stop Forced Outpatient Psych. Drugs - International Action

James Bower is a 25 year old ServiceNet
residence client forced to take psychiatric
medication against his will, following a
court-directed "Rogers Order." Every month
he is told he must take a hypodermic
injection of the powerful tranquilizer
Haldol; when he refuses, the police are
called and he is detained at Cooley
Dickinson hospital, where he is forced to
take the shot.
ALERT: Your Mind & Freedom - 7 Nov. 2003
 http://www.MindFreedom.org - please forward


Freedom Center & MindFreedom Unite
to Issue International Alert.

A Human Rights Action to STOP Forced
Psychiatric Drugs *Out* in the Community.

James Bower, 25, of Massachusetts, Resists
His Forced Outpatient Drugs: "I told them they
are ruining my life. They said I was paranoid."

ACTION: How *you* can e-mail authorities
to protest forced outpatient psychiatric drugs.

by David Oaks, Director, MindFreedom

This one I take personally. Twenty seven
years ago, it was me getting forced injections
of the powerful psychiatric drug, Haldol,
when I lived in Massachusetts, USA.

When you do not want Haldol, a forced
injection is torture, plain and simple.


Today, the forced drugging common inside of
institutions has climbed over the walls and
is now out in our communities. Citizens in the
USA & parts of the world, living peacefully at home,
are now court ordered to take powerful psychiatric
drugs against their will. Typically these are
"neuroleptic drugs" that can cause structural
brain damage and even kill.

In the short run, torture works. But in the
long run, the human spirit can wake up, unite,
speak out, and -- sometimes -- make history.

That's what is happening in Massachusetts.
And YOU can be part of taking action, together.

Freedom Center is a group in western Mass.
run by psychiatric survivors. They are a sponsor
group in MindFreedom. Freedom Center has
investigated forced outpatient drugging there,
which is done using the perversely named
"Rogers Order" (named after a brave psychiatric
inmate, Ruby, who resisted forced drugging in court).

To start off, Freedom Center is supporting the
human rights of one particular individual who
is under a "Rogers Order," by the name of
James Bower, 25 years old. You may read
his story in the Freedom Center alert BELOW.

Forced outpatient drugging is being done
internationally, more and more. But here is a
situation where a grassroots group is
uniting, investigating, organizing and calling
upon *you* to assist an international action.

Please take a moment to read the BELOW
alert from the Freedom Center, and take
the action they suggest.

At the least, please e-mail a civil note to
these two decision-makers about your
concern regarding forced outpatient
psychiatric drugging, and James Bower:


Please also FORWARD this alert
far and wide, on and off the Internet.

You may copy your e-mail and direct
any questions to: < will@freedom-center.org>.

THE RESISTANCE to forced outpatient
psychiatric drugging is building. Be part of it.

HERE is the alert from the Freedom Center.


Date: Fri, 07 Nov 2003 10:36:32 -0500
From: will hall < will@freedom-center.org>


Mindfreedom and Freedom Center
Human Rights Action Alert

James Bower is a 25 year old ServiceNet
residence client forced to take psychiatric
medication against his will, following a
court-directed "Rogers Order." Every month
he is told he must take a hypodermic
injection of the powerful tranquilizer
Haldol; when he refuses, the police are
called and he is detained at Cooley
Dickinson hospital, where he is forced to
take the shot.

Haldol (haloperidol) is an old 1960s-era
drug similar to Thorazine that leaves James
with debilitating side effects such as
lethargy, sleeplessness, agitation, the
inability to think, and the risk of brain-
damaging tardive dyskinesia. According to
Amnesty International's 1976 book "Prisoners
of Conscience in the USSR," Haldol was
routinely used to torture dissidents in
Soviet psychiatric prisons.

"This medication is awful and I want off
it," James said. "I told them ServiceNet was
ruining my life because they were putting me
on this medication, and they said I was
paranoid." Just days after we protested to
ServiceNet on his behalf, James was again
forced to take another Haldol shot. He came
to our Freedom Center meeting stiff and
withdrawn, visibly blunted by the drug.

James Bower is courageous for taking the
risk to speak out openly; most people on
Rogers' Orders the Freedom Center works with
are too oppressed, disempowered, frightened
of retaliation, and drugged to protest their
forced medication. James' emotional problems
-- which involved a conflict with his family
-- are not a crime. And there can never be a
justification for putting a mental health
client in a chemical straitjacket.

As the New York Association of Psychiatric
Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS) said in
their Position on Outpatient Commitment:

"When all is said and done, we know what
works and what doesn't work. Force doesn't
work. Force is violence that encourages
helplessness, kills self- esteem and chases
away hope for recovery. Force, in one
fashion or another, has been the hallmark of
traditional mental health services since
their beginnings. Force doesn't lead to
healing...to recovery...or even to well-
being. Force is based on fear which is based
on stigma false ideas of what mental illness
is and who becomes psychiatrically disabled."

ServiceNet CEO Susan Stubbs recently tried
to disavow the agency's responsibility for
its own clients, saying that forced
medication is the decision of the court.
However, if it wanted to ServiceNet could
commit its resources and influence to help
end forced medication -- instead of
continuing to use powerful tranquilizers to
render people docile and easy to control.

Because ServiceNet is funded by state
Department of Mental Health (DMH) contracts,
it is accountable to the DMH for its actions
and vulnerable to DMH pressure. We're asking
everyone to telephone DMH Western Regional
Director Elizabeth Sullivan: ask her to
press ServiceNet to commit necessary
resources to free James Bower and end the
chemical straitjacketing of clients. People
can also call or email CEO Susan Stubbs.
Going off medication should be done
carefully and with adequate alternative
supports in place, including consideration
of withdrawal effects.

We are not content with promises of further
meetings, procedures, and discussions. We
want a clear and unequivocal commitment from
ServiceNet management that forced medication
is wrong and they will act to stop it, and
that DMH will act to ensure that this



DMH Regional Director Elizabeth Sullivan

PHONE (413) 587-6200 x 76295 or
E-MAIL  Liz.Sullivan@dmh.state.ma.us.

ServiceNet CEO Susan Stubbs

PHONE (413) 582-9501 or
(413) 585-1300 x 0 or
E-MAIL  sstubbs@servicenetinc.org.

Be polite, but do not be deterred by
bureaucratic evasiveness. Ask for a clear
commitment to free James Bower and end
forced medication.

More info on why everyone should oppose
forced treatment:

Robert Whitaker's Boston Globe essay:

Bazelon Mental Health Law Center's position:

Washington Post essay:

NYAPRS position:

Contact: Freedom Center email

phone (413) 582-9948

website  http://www.freedom-center.org

More info on Freedom Center's ServiceNet



Freedom Center

P.O. Box 623

Northampton, MA 01061

(413) 582-9948

Freedom Center works for human rights, true
informed consent, and holistic alternatives.
We are pro-choice, not anti-drug.

email  info@freedom-center.org

website  http://www.freedom-center.org

email discussion list
www.topica.com/lists/massfreedomcenter or
email  massfreedomcenter-subscribe@topica.com


Forwarded by
MindFreedom Support Coalition International --
Uniting 100 grassroots groups for human rights.


Join/donate to MindFreedom click here:

David Oaks, Executive Director
MindFreedom Support Coalition International
454 Willamette, Suite 216 - POB 11284
Eugene, OR 97440-3484 USA

email:  oaks@mindfreedom.org fax: (541) 345-3737
phone: (541) 345-9106 toll free in USA: 1-877-MAD-PRIDE

MindFreedom Support Coalition International is an
independent non-profit uniting 100 sponsor groups
to win human rights & alternatives in mental health.
Accredited by the United Nations as a
Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) with
Consultative Roster Status.

First they ignore you,

then they laugh at you,

then they fight you,

then you win.

Mohandas Gandhi (1941)


send a blank email to

homepage: homepage: http://www.mindfreedom.org

James Bower & Forced Drugging 04.Dec.2003 15:53

Gerald danica2828@yahoo.com

I just thought it might be worth adding that I live in Western Massachusetts and am familiar with this very situation. It's interesting that you say that the Freedom Center has 'investigated' this supposed forced drugging, as they have all the facts wrong. Mr. Bower and anyone else in his position is only sent to the hospital at the point at which he becomes a danger to himself or others, regardless of whether or not he takes his medications. Though he and others may have a Roger's Order, failure to take medications while in a community residence absolutely does not lead to the calling of police, and the hauling off of an individual to the hospital. This doesn't occur in this case or any other that I'm aware of. Just thought you might like to know that.

Denying responsibility is ServiceNet spin control 05.Dec.2003 21:59

Will Hall, Freedom Center Co-founder will@freedom-center.org

The previous poster Gerald  danica2828@yahoo.com is just reiterating what ServiceNet, the mental health agency that runs James Bower's residential home, is saying to take the heat off themselves.

James Bower lives under the constant threat of police intervention if he does not cooperate with the staff at his house. He has been told that he "has to take his medication" because he is on a Roger's Order, he has been told they will force him to take it, and he has been forced to take medication against his will that he does not want again and again while a ServiceNet client. Do the math. The ambiguities and arcane bureaucratic tangle involved still comes down to forced drugging, though they give mental health professionals (of which I suspect Gerald danica2828 might be one) all sorts of mental Double Think ways to obscure things and evade responsibility. Staff use the court ruling to pressure James into compliance. When he refuses to take his medication the residence staff will use whatever pretext they can to call the police who take him to the hospital. At the hospital under threat of physical violence he takes his medication. As James has explained repeatedly to advocates and the press, it comes down to he is forced to take drugs he does not want to take.

ServiceNet CEO Susan Stubbs recently said to the local press that "ServiceNet does not force medicate." Well sure, they don't do it themselves -- they call the police who haul James (and others) off to Cooley Dickinson hospital who do the forced injections for them. Double Think.

ServiceNet remains responsible. With their backing James could get support to go off the Haldol that he hates and challenge his court status.That has been Freedom Center's basic demand -- that ServiceNet do its job and help James recover-- which means first of all listening to him when he says he wants to stop taking Haldol, a very nasty psych med that I strongly suspect Gerald danica2828 has not himself sampled. ServiceNet can help James recover by stopping calling the police on him to haul him away to the hospital, and they can help James recover by helping him get his court status challenged and his freedoms restored.

After Freedom Center and Mindfreedom initiated our campaign and the area press picked up on it, James has not taken the Haldol and has not been hauled off by the police. You can be sure that without our campaign they would have found some reason to call the police and force him to take the drugs -- because that is what has happened in the past. And we are going to continue our campaign to help the other ServiceNet clients forced to take drugs to also get free and get some real support. Regardless of people like Sue Stubbs and Gerald danica2828 claiming that this problem even exists.

'Danger to himself or others' is no excuse for denying someone of basic freedoms where no crime has been committed. "Danger to himself or others' is a blank check for the mental health system to run over people's rights and abuse people. "Danger to himself and others" is wildly subjective and based on whatever mental health professionals decide it is based on. If people do not have a mental illness label, then noone is going to force them to do anything. As soon as you have a label and are in the system, you lose the basic right of freedom of thought, and someone can decide you are a 'danger to yourself or others' based on all kinds of things -- and then instead of trying to help you out with compassion, add to your problems by inflicting violence and forced drugging on you.

Alternatives that are VOLUNTARY can and must be found. There is growing research and studies showing that forced treatment does not work, that voluntary alternatives do exist. As the Freedom Center's alert indicates, there are many other ways to deal with people in emotional pain and suffering other than deny them basic civil rights and use violence to force them to take mind altering drugs. Calling the police because a client is hard to deal with then having them drugged into a docile and cooperative state is a grotesque failure of compassion and creativity. People like James who need help deserve better treatment than coercive chemical restraint.

It is high time for ServiceNet and people like Gerald danica2828 to get a clue and realize that force and violence are not the solution.

Feel free to email me directly about this if you like, Gerald danica2828, or give me a call.

-- will hall, freedom center co-founder

NYAPRS position:

Robert Whitaker's Boston Globe essay:

Bazelon Mental Health Law Center's position:

Washington Post essay:

What are your sources? 06.Dec.2003 06:17

Gerald danica2828@yahoo.com

Would you be willing to share your sources of information? I do wonder how you can be so sure of what has happened at Mr. Bower's residence. And, btw, while I'm absolutely certain the 'danger to self and/or others' clause has been abused at some point, it is remarkably difficult at *this* point in Mr. Bower's community to get someone sectioned to the hospital. There are quite strict guidelines for determining when someone is a danger. It takes far more than a simple call from a residence asking that someone be 'hauled' off. You can continue to say otherwise, but again, I'd ask you for your sources.


Outpartient Committment vs. Roger's Orders 06.Dec.2003 06:37

Gerald danica2828@yahoo.com

Ooops... Forgot to add this:

While I have mixed feelings about the Roger's Orders, I do agree with you that Outpatient Commitment can be a frightening, dangerous, and demeaning policy. However, I think it's a mistake to mix the two up. Most (if not all) of the links that you have posted at the end of your commentary, Will, refer to Outpatient Commitment which *does* allow for someone to be 'hauled' off if they do not comply with certain aspects of their recommended treatment. Though this sort of policy *does* exist in places like New York State, it doesn't exist in Massachusetts. I am concerned that people will read what you have to say and confuse the Roger's Order with Outpatient Commitment which would be a misrepresentation of the Roger's Order in a rather dramatic way.

A Roger's Order is *meant* to be a substituted judgement (i.e., would this person take medications if he/she were competent enough to evaluate the costs and benefits for him/herself - though I do think that this piece sometimes gets lost in the shuffle and that the process is sometimes faulty) policy, as opposed to the decision by someone else that a certain person would benefit from medications. And, as such, it really simply works in most cases as a 'judgement' rather than an enforceable ruling. That is to say that the police and others involved can not simply haul someone off for refusing to acknowledge that the courts have said that he/she is not competent to make a decision, that if he/she were competent he/she would likely take the medications, and that he/she should take the meidcations his/her doctors order for him/her.

I'd also ask that you not assume that I do or do not support the use of Haldol or any other medication, as all I am objecting to at this point is your assertion of facts that simply aren't true.


Ever taken Haldol? 10.Dec.2003 19:45

Will Hall will@freedom-center.org

We've spent a lot of time with James Bower talking about how he is forced
to take Haldol and wants to get off of it. We launched a campaign to get
ServiceNet to support him getting off Haldol instead of enforcing him to
stay on it. The campaign has so far been successful because James has been
able to refuse his Haldol injection appointments without being picked up by
the police and taken to Cooley Dickinson hospital.

I'm well aware that laws on forced drugging, outpatient commitment,
condtions of probation, Rogers' Orders, guardianships, incompetency
rulings, involuntary holds, etc are all distinct and different from state
to state, all arcane and complex. The principle of force or not force is at
issue here -- and the trauma it causes. The point is that all procedures
that coerce psych patients in the name of helping them are wrong on
principle for the simple reason that alternative approaches are possible,
alternatives that do not violate and traumatize.

All of your hair splitting and legalese are a strong expression of how the
point of view of mental health professionals is extremely distant from the
point of view of mental patients. You are out of touch with peoples' basic
traumatic experience around forced psychiatric treatment. It is very sad to
me that someone who is presumably working to care for mental patients
cannot seem to understand, validate, and support the basic reality of this

A man is being forced to take medication that he does not want to take. It
took volunteer advocates stepping in to stop this situation. Now the agency
responsible for his care is doing public relations work to get themselves
out of hot water.

Don't you realize that if you would validate this experience instead of
discounting it you could work with the patient advocates like Freedom
Center, instead of being at odds with us? We'd have a starting point for
understanding, instead of having to resort to pressure tactics because you
clearly don't get the URGENCY of a situation where someone is taking Haldol
against their will.

I also find it disturbing that you downplay the importance of Haldol itself
in this discussion. I really doubt if you have ever been on any of the
older neuroleptics like Haldol. I don't think you would be taking such a
cold, bureaucratic, heartless stance in this discussion if you had.

I have been on Trilafon, Mellaril, and Navane. My experience with these
Haldol-like drugs was that they were an extreme form of violence to me on a
very personal level. Not only did I experience excruciating "side effects,"
but the *intended*, so-called 'therapeutic' effects were horrific. I lost
my ability to think, to remember who I was. I lost my personality, my
emotional expressiveness, my contact with my inner self. I was turned into
a numbed-out vegetable in a chemical straitjacket. The akithesia / agitation from these drugs itself
drove me to suicidal desperation. And today I have small tremors and jerks
in my body sometimes that may indicate long term neurological damage from
taking the drugs. As Robert Whitaker shows in _Mad In America_, psychosis
can itself be worsened by taking these drugs, and I have to wonder whether
my ongoing emotional problems were not in some way made worse. I know my
emotional trauma was. The experience of being on these drugs was traumatic
violence done to me by the psychiatric profession, the scars from which I
will carry my whole life.

That's why I'm working to help James and other people forced to take these
drugs against their will.

And if ServiceNet were doing its job, we wouldn't have to pressure
them, because ServiceNet would have responded immediately to their
client's wishes to not take Haldol.

Anyone taking Haldol at ServiceNet should immediately be helped to get off
of it -- not wrapped in bureaucratic red tape and warehoused. That drug
should be banned. It was used to torture dissidents in the Soviet Union and
is notorious for its painful and debilitating effects. Even most people in
the psychiatric profession itself say that the 'newer' drugs are "better,"
and many, many clients tell me how horrible Haldol is. Why ServiceNet would
tolerate having clients on Haldol is beyond my understanding -- it is
morally bankrupt. I can only explain this incredible cruelty by reminding
myself that the people making decisions at ServiceNet have never taken
these horrible drugs, or else they would know better.

And that's the basic problem here: we need people labeled with mental
illness themselves, who have been through the system, leading the agencies
and services. People like Gerald are so out of touch with the basic
realities of clients thet they get busy defending agency policies around
procedures and technicalities instead of validating and understanding the
people they are paid to care for.

He should be posting a response of concern about a client forced to take
Haldol, acknowledging how horrible that is, and supporting the efforts of
advocates to help that client, but instead Gerald spends his time basically trying to
get ServiceNet off the hook by making semantic and bureaucratic

Oi. I hope that if anyone else is reading this exchange, they see what I see... 11.Dec.2003 16:46

Gerald danica2828@yahoo.com


A few things. Well, maybe several.

1. You've made a lot of assumptions about who I am and what my life experience has been. I will tell you this: I have not been diagnosed with Schizophrenia, Shiczoaffective Disorder, and so on. However, I have been diagnosed with Major Depression and anxiety disorders, as well as bulimia, am a 'cutter/burner' and am considered to have borderline personality disorder traits. I have taken several different medications, and, while I'm sure you're probably right that they don't compare with something like Haldol, I have experienced extremely painful symptoms of being on and withdrawing from certain medications, and I do believe that some of them can be dangerous, and at the very least, can make day-to-day life very uncomfortable. I have also been 'locked up' and held in a psychiatric facility against my will, and experienced the pain and degredation that can accompany that experience. Furthermore, I have made clear decisions to stop taking a lot of medications because of the effects they have on me, and am well aware that the freedom to make that choice has been precious to me. And, no, I haven't lost touch with all that. It's been quite a while since I have been hospitalized, but I still suffer from significant anxiety and depressive symptoms, suicidal and parasuicidal inclinations, and the aforementioned borderline traits, am still bulimic.

2. Given all that, and the general freedom you have taken in twisting my words and making assertions about my positions that simply aren't true, I resent much of what you have to say. I resent that I'm being accused of supporting medications like Haldol, or 'forced drugging' as opposed to having one simple point recognized: That James Bower has ever been hauled off by the police to the ER to be forcibly medicated simply because he refused to take said medication just isn't true. I'm sure that you are right that it is no longer happening, but not due to some victory of your organization, but rather because it never did happen in the first place. This is something I know for a fact. And, if you wish to have open communication with anyone involved, to accuse them of such things, well... what do you expect.

Are you inclined to want to work collaboratively with the individual who stated that certain individuals who have been influenced by your center to stop their meds have committed suicide? I know little about whether or not there is any truth to this assertion, but from what I understand, the Freedom Center strongly believes it isn't true. So, seriously, when being accused of disturbing thigns that aren't true, does it make you feel warmly, sympathetically, interested in working with the accusor?

3. I find it a little bit frightening that you would imply that the differences between something like outpatient commitment and a Roger's Order are 'splitting hairs,' etc. The differences are *huge*!!!!!!!

Roger's Order: The Roger's Order simply makes a statement about an individual's competence to analyze the costs and benefits of taking medications, and to recognize and understand the possible risks and treatment implications. The Roger's Order does *NOT* allow for an individual to be hospitalized or arrested for failure to follow the order. That would be *ILLEGAL*. The Roger's Order is meant (though as I've said before, I do think it fails in this capacity) to recognize what the court truly believes (based on some evidence) the individual would do if they *were* competent and *NOT* just what treatment providers *THINK* they should be able to do.

Outpatient Commitment: The Outpatient commitment *DOES* allow for the involuntary hospitalization of an individual who fails to take his/her medications or fails to follow through with anything else that may be a part of that order. The Outpatient commitment does *NOT* take into consideration what that individual would do if he/she were competent to make a decision. It is simply based on what others think would be best.

I have mixed feelings about the Roger's Order. For the person who is known to do very well when on a certain medication, and who has expressed recognition of doing/feeling well while on that medication, and who has stated that he/she clearly feels he/she benefits from being on that medication, and who, when off that medication, loses his/her job, apartment, ability to live independently, becomes legally involved, a danger to him/herself in some significant way..... I don't know. Maybe it's not the worst thing in the world? Maybe it is. I don't know. But it's something worth thinking about. Especially since it's simply a recognition by the court of this phenomenon, and not, in any way a measure to force someone to do something they don't want to do as a member of the community. I also think it may act as some form of protection for certain individuals who are not at a point where they are not able to understand the possible costs and benefits and yet *WILL* take *ANYTHING* prescribed, because the Roger's order requires that psychiatrists only prescribe meds that are on the Roger's Order, and require them to go through a process before a medication is added and can be prescribed.

The partial commitment, however, is scary. I'm glad it doesn't exist in this state. I do not agree with decisions being made for an individual because they are 'mentally ill' when those decisions are based on what the provider's goals and priorities are.... And the feeling of being locked away simply because you're not doing what someone else thinks you should be doing is incredibly destructive. You wont get any disagreement from me there. But how can you compare these two types of laws?

4. Overall, no one is perfect. Everyone from every point of view has the ability and liklihood of, at some point, losing the ability to see from the perspective of the other side(s), and of becoming less sensitive to certain issues than they should be. ServiceNet can improve. Of course they can. Who can't? Couldn't you and the Freedom Center stand to improve your methods and sensitivity as well? Are you *really* finding the kind of success that you want for longterm change and improvement with methods that make the other side(s) feel attacked, wronged, lied about, and entirely unrecognized for the positive that they do?


No disrespect intended, but... 11.Dec.2003 19:39

Will Hall will@freedom-center.org

when someone makes an anonymous post as you have, it is provocative and one-sided. When someone is not up front about a financial relationship they may or may not have with the mental health system under scrutiny here, it is provocative. When you seem to be indifferent to the fact that a client is taking Haldol against his will, it is provocative.

This issue is very heated and intense, so I apologize for impatience and insensitivity on my part. I've offered my email and phone -- everyone who knows me knows that I have a deep and longtime commitment to nonviolence in how I conduct myself as an activist and advocate. I apologize for any disrespect, but please understand that peoples' lives are ruined by these drugs, people's rights are routinely denied, people's experiences are dismissed and people are crushed by the mental health bureaucracy. Your posts sound like more of the same dismissal.

As for your view that Rogers orders and outpatient commitment are completely different, let me quote a letter Freedom Center just received from Karen O. Talley, Staff Attorney for the Disability Law Center, which is the Protection and Advocacy agency in Massachusetts:

"We have no outpatient commitment law. Instead we have what are called Rogers orders....In fact, our former Commissioner of Mental Health was able to fight off legislative efforts to pass an outpatient commitment law in part by arguing that we already have the Probate Rogers orders."

And regarding our choice to use confrontational nonviolent direct action techniques in our ServiceNet campaign, please recall that more than a year ago we sent a letter to the ServiceNet Board with our concerns. Without public pressure, media attention, and a movement behind us, there were small "cover our asses" kinds of changes, but the letter was basically dismissed and conditions imposed on us that made any discussion impossible. ServiceNet essentially hoped we would just die down and go away. They had no idea we were going to become well organized and effective, and it wasn't until our public protesting began that things started to move forward. People in power are going to get upset -- very upset -- when nonviolent movements rise to challenge them. That is the beginning of a shift in power.

The entire mental health system needs a transformation away from force, paternalism, toxic pills and ineffective treatments to choice, real social supports, and holistic alternatives. While we have always affirmed (on our protest flyer, in press interviews, on our website, and at meetings) that many people do get good treatment through ServiceNet, that fact is trumpeted far and wide. We are trying to sound the alert that doesn't get heard -- that many people don't receive good treatment.

ServiceNet like other agencies is still stuck in the old approach towards severe 'mental illness,' and that approach needs to change. Getting rid of Haldol would be a good start.

The Mental Health System, Freedom Center, & Change 12.Dec.2003 12:39

Gerald danica2828@yahoo.com

Will -

You said: when someone makes an anonymous post as you have, it is provocative and one-sided. When someone is not up front about a financial relationship they may or may not have with the mental health system under scrutiny here, it is provocative. When you seem to be indifferent to the fact that a client is taking Haldol against his will, it is provocative.

I say: I think that the approach that the Freedom Center has recently taken has made it more difficult to have 'open' non-'anonymous' conversations, even dangerous for some, I'd imagine. And, aside from that, I do not wish to represent any population here... not ServiceNet. Not the so-called mentally ill. I only wanted to say 'Wow. Here's a story that's gotten all the way out to Portland, Oregon about someone I actually care about quite a bit, and it's just not true. How's that going to help improve things?'

You said: I've offered my email and phone --

I say: I've e-mailed you twice at your e-mail address. I haven't gotten a response. Is it not reaching you?

Y ou said: As for your view that Rogers orders and outpatient commitment are completely different, let me quote a letter Freedom Center just received from Karen O. Talley, Staff Attorney for the Disability Law Center, which is the Protection and Advocacy agency in Massachusetts:

"We have no outpatient commitment law. Instead we have what are called Rogers orders....In fact, our former Commissioner of Mental Health was able to fight off legislative efforts to pass an outpatient commitment law in part by arguing that we already have the Probate Rogers orders."

I say: While that is interesting, I'm not sure the point you're trying to convey here. I guess I just don't see how this statement is any evidence that the outpatient commitment and Roger's Order are in any way similar. I'm not and never have said that Roger's Order is perfect, not in need of revision, and maybe even reveocation. For me, however, looking at all sides, I think there is an argument to be made for both sides *BECAUSE* it is so very different from the outpatient commitment law. Part of my impression and feelings about the law are based on research I did a few years back that also involved talking to lawyers who did inform me that, from the perspective of the law, the Roger's Order is indeed a 'toothless' policy that allows for no particular action by the legal system against a member in the community.

You said: please recall that more than a year ago we sent a letter to the ServiceNet Board with our concerns

I say: I'm not at all surprised that that wasn't effective either. How about, instead, *before* you make everyone angry or scared to talk to you for fear of being misquoted in some very public place (which is the unfortunate effect of putting information in papers that isn't true), etc., sending material to all the programs about Haldol, or proposing a sensitivity training of some sort (with more content and worth than a lot of the more superficial 'sensitivity trainings' out there at the moment) that is designed to really hit home around some of the issues that are most important to you, or sending out an open house invitation to Program Directors and other staff to attend some sort of informational meeting about what you are and what you want to do...

I don't blame you for wanting to see movement, or wanting to make noise. But you're alienating yourself from the people you want to effect most.

You said: The entire mental health system needs a transformation away from force, paternalism, toxic pills and ineffective treatments to choice, real social supports, and holistic alternatives.

I say: I don't disagree with that, but the answer isn't simple or black and white. It's not just the mental health system that needs to change, but the overall healthcare sytem so that holistic methods are more accessible. And the overall American mentality that a pill is what it takes to fix everything from a headache on up doesn't help either. And, on another note, I think that 'peer supports' are probably far more effective than 'staff support.' Isolation, craving social connections and support, etc. in the absence of said connections and support not only lead individuals in the mental health system down negative roads such as substance abuse, but they also make it more likely that individuals will stay in the system rather than graduate out into their own personal support system of friends and other community members.

But what good are you doing if the image you convey makes programs uncomfortable encouraging those they serve to visit your center and take advantage of all that peer support? Forget about the board members and the CEO. I think most staff in that community (and I mean the ones that actually work directly with the people you want to support) hadn't even heard of the Freedom Center until things got nasty, and that makes all the great things you offer seem inaccessible.

- Gerald

a view from both sides 01.Mar.2004 06:13

melvin jones

What would be helpful here is a more balanced view. There are so many perspectives to this issue that a balanced view is difficult, therefore I will state my position and then my opinion, clearly labeled.
My position: In other words, my biases, assumptions and personal experiences, which are not representative of anything other than me:
1. I believe that drugs SHOULD NOT BE the first choice in managing mental health symptoms. As someone who has been psychotic and suicidal and engaged in acts of self harm, I believe that the medications recommended to me and in some cases forced on me were NOT HELPFUL. This is because I was misdiagnosed. I believe this happens a lot. It is often a judgement call to figure out what will help someone in crisis.
2. I do believe that when someone is at risk (a clearly identified risk), DRASTIC MEASURES should be taken - including sedative medications (I am ambivalent about Haldol because there are less invasive medications that work well). Someone who is out there swinging a stick at people because he is psychotic and believes they are trying to kill him should not be allowed to continue, nor should he be the subject of arrest.
3. I believe the system does not work well enough to guarantee that everyone who should have drastic measures has them, and that people who do not need them don't get them. THE SYSTEM WORKS, BUT NOT WELL ENOUGH.
MY OPINION: These issues need to be examined on a case by case basis. The argument for not medicating Mr. Bower would be much more powerful and potent if it could be demonstrated that in spite of years of high functioning and lack of dangerous behavior, he remains the subject of a Rogers order. When I was committed to a psychiatric facility, it was because my therapist was afraid - not because I was. She asked me to lie and say that I was suicidal. I refused and was committed anyway. I refused the medication offered me, especially when I found out that it was experimental. I managed to get released before they could go to court to force me to take it. The point is, a lot of medication happens because providers of mental health services are afraid - not because they have determined that a significant risk exists. This is a powerful and important argument to use WHEN IT CAN BE SUPPORTED. It would be better to make the point that mental health consumers are heavily scrutinized and far more stringent criteria are used to determine whether they are functioning. Case in point: housekeeping. Many consumers are subjected to standards of cleanliness that others could never attain. They have frequent inspections and if they are not keeping up, they are considered to be decompensating. If I don't bathe for a week, someone will take me aside and say, uh, Mel, you stink. The mental health consumer is likely to be offered a crisis evaluation. I do take psychiatric medication. It helps. If I am ambivalent and decide that I should alter my diet as a means of controlling my symptoms, my therapist will say, uh, Mel, do you think that's wise? BUT she'll allow me to do it. Finally, if I am so pissed off that I say, I'm going to kill him, people will say, don't be so mad. If an identified mental health consumer left his or her house messy, didn't bathe for a week, refused to take his or her meds and said they would kill someone, regardless of the circumstances, alarms would go off. THIS IS A GOOD THING. What is not good is that when the alarms go off, the consumer is likely to not be allowed to be having a bad week.