Senate Bill 1945: The New Fraud – Getting into the “Mental Health Reform Act of 2015”

Today, Tuesday August 11, 2015 at 4 PM Eastern, Yvonne Smith and I are co-hosting a Special Call-in Radio Show about the Murphy Bills in 2015; a webinar hosted by MHASP.

On Thursday, August 13, 2015 at 9 PM Eastern, Yvonne Smith and I will be co-hosting a Follow-Up Special for further analysis of H.R. 2646, H.R. 2690 and S. 1945.

On August 4, 2015, Senator Bill Cassidy, M. D. (R-LA), on behalf of himself and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), announced the Mental Health Reform Act of 2015 (S. 1945). The Cassidy bill  has now been referred to the Senate, read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.  According to the Library of Congress, S. 1945’s purpose is “to make available needed psychiatric, psychological, and supportive services for individuals with mental illness and families in mental health crisis, and for other purposes.”1

As of August 7, 2015,  S. 1945 has 5 co-sponsors. Senators Susan M. Collins (ME),  Al Franken (MN), Chris Murphy (CT), Debbie Stabenow (MI) and David Vitter (LA).  The text of the bill is not even yet available. I do, however have a copy of the bill and have made it available through dropbox.2  You can also listen to the full bill, read by me, on demand (two hours and twenty minutes).3

If you do not know, there is also some immediate history here: Senators Murphy and Cassidy have recently gotten the Senate to “unanimously pass the budget for comprehensive mental health reform” (March 27, 2015).4  In other words, the Senate budget has already allotted money to pay for the Comprehensive Mental Health Reform Act of 2015 put forth by Senators Cassidy and Murphy.

This is a different bill from the Congress House of Representatives bill, H. R. 2646, or the Murphy-Johnson “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015.”5

I would tell Congressmen Murphy and Johnson that Senators Cassidy and Murphy plagiarized them, but I’m sure at that point the ghostwriters would all have no choice but to come out and demand credit for their work and the fraudulent way it perpetuates psychiatry’s presentation of itself as “safe and effective” when there is plenty of evidence for the lack of safety and efficacy within the practices, products, and procedures of psychiatry.

To be clear, there are some differences between H. R. 2646 and S. 1945.

  • Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) does not appear at all in S. 1945.
  • The only place where the word “lawyer” appears in S. 1945  is in relation to the development of  “(a) model program and materials” for lawyers concerning HIPAA (discussed later in this blog).
  • Under a twisted rendition of Advanced Directives, which I think is really far away from my 1990s understanding6 of Advanced Directives, S. 1945 refers to a grant funding agreement under Section 1911 that will “support States in providing accessible legal counsel to individuals diagnosed with serious mental illness.”
  • In S. 1945, the Minority Fellowship Program is left with a slightly greater annual appropriation (from $6,000,000 in H.R. 2646  to $10,000,000 in S. 1945.
  • In S. 1945, there is a provision, related to funding for Mental and Behavioral Health Education Training Grants, that “at least 4 of the grant recipients shall be historically black colleges or other minority serving institutions.” (Issues presented by the Minority Fellowship Program is part of a larger discussion that needs to be had, which I will write about in a future blog.)

My question now is this: Will the fight against such mental health legislation, now clad in a new dress, persist?  In this bill in the Senate,  many of the objectionable elements that had been cut from H.R. 2617,  due to protests raised against them, such  as PAIMI (“Protection and Advocacy for People with Mental Illness”) and the Minority Fellowship Program, have either not been mentioned, as is the case with PAIMI; or “preserved” and enhanced, as is the case with the Minority Fellowship Program.

The fight that was mounted against the Murphy bill needs to be continued.  S. 1945 also authorizes the entire re-organization of SAMHSA inside of the larger government through the creation of an “Assistant Secretary of Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders.” The Assistant Secretary position has to be occupied by someone with a doctoral degree (M.D., OD, PhD), but regardless of the degree the person who is Assistant Secretary (appointed by the President, with the “advice and consent of Senate” (p. 4),  must have “an understanding of biological, psychosocial, and pharmaceutical treatments of mental illness and substance use disorders.”

The important thing to know is that there is much in S. 1945 that is objectionable. S. 1945 needs to be protested and defeated. For example, the witch hunt to identify college students and veterans as candidates for court-ordered psychiatry can be found in this bill, even if the language for doing it is not as clearly apparent as it is in H.R. 2646.

For example, the language used in the Murphy-Johnson bill, H. R. 2646, includes:

“To engage persons with serious mental illness who are substantially unlikely to voluntarily seek treatment, in comprehensive services in order to avert relapse, repeated hospitalizations, arrest, incarceration, and suicide.” (p. 61)

The language is not as apparent in S. 1945. However,  “Assertive Outreach and Engagement Services” is included in S. 1945, and thus still provides for the “relentless outreach and engagement” in psychiatric services that people, at the H.R. 2646 hearings in June, protested.

In S. 1945, “Types of Assertive Outreach and Engagement Services” (include “services” such as “peer support programs” and the “Wellness Recovery Action Plan,” with no differentiation from other “services” in the category, such as “Assertive Community Treatment” and “Assisted Outpatient Treatment.” Certainly, there are differences between “peer support programs” and “assisted outpatient treatment,” but to just read the legislation, one does not see them.

Through “outreach and engagement” the hunt for candidates for forced involvement with psychiatry is chiseled into the framework of state-sponsored organized psychiatry. Administrators, legislators, and those involved in all matters psychiatric ought to know by now that “assisted outpatient treatment” in its practice is institutionally and structurally thick with discriminations of all types. They should know that forced psychiatry is seen as torture per the Convention Against Torture. Forced psychiatry in practice is thick with racist, classist, gendered, othering types of oppression, where one group is privileged and the other, subjected. People who have the audacity to put forth such sweeping national mandates should know about the psychological iatrogenic effects of psychiatric involvement, whether that involvement is voluntary, coerced, compelled, court-ordered, or without informed consent.

Yet, as a profession, there is reliance on and support of a method of “treatment” where a person is subjected to a psychiatric regimen via court order, over the person’s explicit objection. Sometimes this force is dressed up as benevolence, for the person’s own good, with the love – and high and mighty knowledge – of a persons’ family and friends. Most often, though, as presented to the public, forced treatment’s leverage is that it is cloaked in fear-mongering tactics. People are led to believe that people with psychiatric histories are the root of social problems and that they are now everywhere, and everywhere it is a danger. Not only do they convince the public it is acceptable to strip a person’s liberty with so little evidence, but they also convince the public to pay for it.

To those who say ‘hyperbole’; it is not hyperbole.

Another example: in S. 1945, one must be concerned about the suggested funding for “certain research.”  It includes supporting research into the supposed “violence” of people with psychiatric histories and the “brain initiative” with an appropriation of “$40,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2017 through 2021.”

All this to say, there is plenty to talk about in this bill and we ought to figure out how to get a clear, immutable voice of opposition in the public discussion. If this bill becomes law, for people involved with psychiatry via state power, another mechanism for violating human rights will be etched into the legal environment with which we must contend. Forced psychiatry, though, is not the only concern. The ethics of psychiatry continue to go unchallenged and the public will benefit from reading the challenges to psychiatry, and the psychiatric industry (Burstow, 20157; Caplan, 20158; Whitaker and Cosgrove, 20159). If this bill becomes law, more people (via screenings), and more specifically people at a younger age (with efforts in S. 1945 aiming at those who are 3-12 years of age) will be in more danger of falling prey to the psychiatric industry.

* * * * *

On Tuesday August 11, 2015 at 4 PM Eastern, Yvonne Smith and I will be co-hosting a special call-in radio show about the Murphy Bills in 2015; a webinar hosted by MHASP.

On Thursday, August 13, 2015 at 9 PM Eastern, Yvonne Smith and I will be co-hosting a Follow-Up Special for further analysis of H.R. 2646, H.R. 2690 and S. 1945.

Future blog posts on S.1945 and HR 2624 will cover the following topics: Extension and Financial Expansion of Involuntary Outpatient Commitment Grant Programs; What Every Peer Worker Ought to Know; HIPAA Clarification and the Stripping of Privacy Rights; re-organization of State-Sponsored Organized Psychiatric Industries at the Federal Level; and Children as the Target.

Footnotes:

1. The Library of Congress. S. 1945. (August 7, 2015).

2. Cassidy Murphy Mental Health Reform Act of 2015. Dropbox file.

3. Talk with Tenney: Special Reading of S. 1945.

4. Senator Murphy Press Release: Senate Unanimously Passes Murphy-Cassidy Budget Amendment Calling for Mental Health Reform (March 27, 2015).

5. HR 2646: The Murphy-Johnson Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015.

6. I will expand on this in a future entry.

7. Burstow, B. (2015). Psychiatry and the business of madness: An ethical and epistemological accountingPalgrave Macmillan.

8. Diagnosisgate: Conflict of interest at the Top of the Psychiatric Apparatus. Caplan, P. J. (2015).

 

13 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Lauren, great article and thanks for the scoop on the new version of the same Murphy bill. After glancing through it, I don’t think it mentions threshold for involuntary commitment. Am I right? If so, does that augur that Tim Murphy’s criteria will likely become the default in whatever final version they come up with?

    Why do you think AOT has drawn such criticism while this provision regarding commitment hasn’t? Every lawyer I know thinks it ‘can’t pass,’ because it would ‘eviscerate due process.’ And it’s related to AOT in that it’s involuntary. If the criteria are ‘in need of treatment’ instead of court-ordered outpatient programs there will just be more imprisonment without due process. I don’t get how this is being ignored by ‘the community.’

    Thanks for any insights.

    • I can confirm that S. 1945 does not mention anything about threshold for involuntary committal. I asked a legal aid and there is no clear prediction for what will become of Tim Murphy’s call for ‘in need of treatment’ as the new threshold in whatever final bill comes out of the two versions being lobbied for (Tim Murphy’s is in the House, Chris Murphy’s is in the Senate).

      I highly suspect that Tim Murphy’s insane (dare I use the word?) call to give the state the power to simply slap a label on someone and then imprison them and torture them without any limitations will pick up the slack for all the bodies the vampire will lose from the Chris Murphy’s dropping of AOT; instead of court-ordered treatment people will just be committed instead.

      I’m still shocked that so few have focused in on this element of Tim Murphy’s bill, as court-ordered treatment is not the same as being imprisoned *and* drugged.

  2. So you seem to be saying that the original language of the bill has been watered down, which is good even if not sufficient — but also saying that the current language is just as devious if you read between the lines? Thanks for presenting this info — could you at a later point present some more concrete examples of how this new more general language could in fact end up with one being “outpatient assisted” against one’s will?

  3. Lauren,
    Thanks for your activism trying to stop these horrific disease-model focused, coercion-centered “reforms” from moving forward.
    I was also wondering, what are other ways to join this fight? – perhaps writing to one’s representatives, voting against certain candidates, and filling out online petitions would be additional ways to put pressure on the people in power that are presently so ignorant and unaware from our perspective.

    • I doubt that anyone ever felt pressured by an online petition.

      I was going to ask however if it might help to focus our congressional lobbying against Murphy on Republicans. I know Murphy is a Republican, but lots of Repubs would also shudder at the thought of joining forces with the likes of Al Franken — maybe we could exploit that and help shatter the “bipartisan” coalition simply based on such longstanding pissing matches.

      • I think some of us need to get together and form a group that addresses the community at large, not just the ‘consumer’ or whatever one. We need to put things in terms the average person understands and can relate to, one of which is money. Chris Murphy’s bill is basically a stealth gun control one that’s designed to fuse with Tim Murphy’s vision of Gulag America; he wants bodies more than just guns.

        There are a lot of issues to draw out and expose that the average american of either party would be horrified by. If anyone wants to hook up with me to form a random citizens’ civil liberties opposition to Murphy that’s focused on its attacks against the freedoms of the general population please let me know and I’ll find a way to send contact info.

  4. oldhead –
    The “bipartisan” comes from both sides love of money from BIG PHARMA. Congressman DR. TIM MURPHY generates most of his campaign contributions from the Pharma industry. I’m sure if you look into Mr. Franken’s supporters you will find Big Pharma as well. Dr. Murphy is my Congressman and the district I live in is heavily Republican so Murphy always runs unopposed. Oh, and I don’t have the $1 million in support needed to run against him.

    I think Dem’s and Republicans will put their differences aside “for the good of the people” and pass the bills that will fill their own coffers!

    Doctor_X

    • Not shilling for Franken, believe me. But the rank & file detest him, I’m sure. Bipartisan as applied here of course means “two sides of the same coin.” So you’re totally correct about them all being bought off. I’m just trying to find a way to throw a wrench in the works.

      If you live in Murphy’s district you should at least give a try at getting a letter in your local paper opposing and exposing the bill, it could help put a dent in the image of constituent support.

  5. “It includes supporting research into the supposed “violence” of people with psychiatric histories”
    I guess they don’t mean the research in what motivates people charged with helping other to torture, dehumanize and sometimes kill them? Maybe because such research has already been done (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_prison_experiment). Or maybe because some people are so engaged in witch hunt because they want to divert the attention from the real problems in society, one they’ve helped to create.

  6. Thanks for this article. I heard about this bill when I received an email from NAMI asking me to support it. I don’t know how they got my email address, but I’ve learned not to trust them in the past. My suspicions were even more aroused when the email failed to outline even the most cursory description of what the bill said and did. I am a psychotherapist and have had the pleasure to read several articles from this site. Thanks for being a voice of reason.