Controversy as Deadline Approaches for New Jersey to Release People From Hospitals

Rob Wipond
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New Jersey must allow as many as 30% of its psychiatric patients out of incarceration in hospitals, because they do not need to be there and are being illegally detained, according to NJ.com. However, hospitals are balking and struggling to find lesser-restrictive accommodations.

The initiative resulted from a legal settlement in 2009 between the state government and a disability rights group, after it became clear that many people were being detained in hospitals who were not actually a danger to themselves or others. But the problems have continued and now the government has given hospitals a hard deadline to take action, reported NJ.com.

“By keeping individuals in the hospital when they no longer meet the commitment standard and there is an available housing option that has been assessed to meet their needs is a clear violation of their rights,” stated a government letter in February.

Mental health professionals claim there aren’t enough alternative places for the patients to go, and have described the plan as “irresponsible” and “reckless,” reported NJ.com.

Robert Davison of the Mental Health Association told NJ.com that, “This type of policy is more interested in the patients’ rights than their well-being, and that is fundamentally what is wrong with the system.”

N.J.’s deadline for releasing psych patients draws controversy (NJ.com, March 8, 2015)

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Rob Wipond
Rob Wipond is a Victoria, British Columbia-based freelance journalist who has been writing on mental health issues for fifteen years. His research has particularly focused on the interfaces between psychiatry, the justice system, and civil rights. His articles have been nominated for three Canadian National Magazine Awards, six Western Magazine Awards, and four Jack Webster Awards for journalism. He can be contacted through his website.

4 COMMENTS

  1. “However, hospitals are balking and struggling to find lesser-restrictive accommodations.”

    “By keeping individuals in the hospital when they no longer meet the commitment standard and there is an available housing option that has been assessed to meet their needs is a clear violation of their rights,”

    “Mental health professionals claim there aren’t enough alternative places for the patients to go, and have described the plan as “irresponsible” and “reckless,”

    Again – Guantanamo prison comes to mind. We know most of these people are innocent and held illegally without trial (and subjected to torture), we know many have been cleared for release and we won’t let them go because we don’t know where we should send them. The very same kind of excuse they give for not releasing the detainees from the “war on terror”. It’s despicable. Are these the same “mental health professionals” that would love to take part in MKUltra program or “experiments” in CIA black sites?

  2. The elephant in the room here is money. It’s total B.S. that the hospitals wont release them because of paternalism, but that’s the story the public is hearing. Take away half their funding and watch how quickly they let their former cash cow slaves go.

    • “A patient that spends a year at the psychiatric hospitals – Greystone Park in Parsippany, Ancora in Winslow and Trenton and Ann Klein Forensic Center in Ewing and Trenton — costs the state and federal government about $209,000 a year. ”

      Food and shelter wouldn’t run beyond 10,000 for sure. On the outside they only get 8,000 a year to live off of on SSI. Think of where 95% of those tax dollars are going to “care” for these people. 200k a year for a bed, drugs and some goons… amazing. It’s a welfare system that pays welfare payments to bottom-of-the-barrel doctors and healthcare workers to segregate the stigmatized. That’s the reality of it.

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