Dear Reader, I am reaching out to you in the hope that you will get this message in time to act! Even if you only have time to read the first two sentences of this blog, please click here for instructions on how you can win the hearts and minds of our federal legislators and help them understand why HR 2646 – proposed by Rep. Tim Murphy and called the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act – is a bad bill
As we speak, the Energy & Commerce Committee is in session to mark up the bill. (Depending on when you read this, the link to the live stream may not work.) So there is no time to waste!
There is so much that is wrong with this bill that I hardly know where to begin. Defeating the bill is particularly important to me because I have been locked up a couple of times on a psych ward and hope never to repeat the experience. HR 2646 promotes forced treatment by promoting involuntary outpatient commitment (euphemistically known as assisted outpatient treatment, or AOT). Under an “AOT” order, someone with a psychiatric diagnosis who is living in the community would be required to accept outpatient mental health treatment (usually involving medication), and might be picked up and held for evaluation for commitment to a psychiatric hospital.
“This may sound innocuous to some people, but it’s not,” Tammy Seltzer, at the time a staff attorney at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, told The Key, a publication of the National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse;
“In Michigan, for example, a gentleman who refused on three occasions to make himself available to the ACT [Assertive Community Treatment] team was subjected to police breaking into his apartment, spraying him with pepper spray, handcuffing him, and transporting him to the hospital, where he was forcibly injected with Haldol. The man was released within days because he did not meet the criteria for inpatient commitment; but the experience was traumatic.”
On Oct. 23, 19 members of Congress signed a letter to the chair and the ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee to explain the many things that are wrong with HR 2646. The letter makes for compelling reading. Whether it persuaded the ranking member, Rep. Frank Pallone, or whether he came to the same conclusion by himself, he is opposing the bill.
I would like to write more, but all the information you need is available at the links above. If you are a constituent of anyone on the Energy & Commerce Committee, it is especially important that you reach out to your representative. But even if you aren’t a constituent, reach out anyway! Act now!
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.