Last year, when I wrote Lessons from Soteria-Alaska, I reported that CHOICES, Inc. had lost its way. I wrote about how its Executive Director had no background in peer-driven services and did not understand CHOICES’ founding principles, and it was implementing an ACT team, which stands for Assertive Community Treatment. The “assertive” part usually means coercion, and ACT Teams around the country are mainly about enforcing medication compliance.
CHOICES’ board of directors felt I had been unfair and that its ACT team was not going to be coercive or insist that people take psych drugs. I was skeptical.
There is no doubt in my mind that CHOICES was on the wrong path, but since then it has had a number of changes in Executive Director and recently hired Alan Green to that position. Alan comes to CHOICES from Nebraska where he developed and implemented the only state-funded peer-run programs in Nebraska accredited by CARF, formerly known as the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, including two respite houses, supported employment services, prison reentry and crisis intervention programs. I have talked to Alan and he is committed to getting CHOICES back to a peer-run program.
Talk is one thing, but I recently had a positive experience with CHOICES. I was representing someone who was psychiatrically imprisoned and facing forced drugging. I contacted CHOICES to see if they would offer a less-restrictive/intrusive alternative (in The Illegality of Forced Drugging and Electroshock, I write about people’s right to less-restrictive/intrusive alternatives), and found the CHOICES ACT team lead to have exactly the right attitude.
My client is now out of the hospital, no longer subject to a forced drugging order and working with CHOICES. CHOICES’ ACT program is built around the “Housing First” concept. One of the things that Dr. Loren Mosher testified to in the Myers case was that it is pointless to try and help someone without stable housing. But I digress.
I have recently established a collaboration with Dr. Peter Gøtzsche, author of Deadly Psychiatry and Organised Denial, to testify electronically as an expert witness in forced drugging cases, and I plan to regularly propose CHOICES as a less-intrusive alternative in implementing A Three Pronged Approach to Mental Health System Change.
An expert witness and a less-restrictive/intrusive alternative are critical elements to challenge psychiatric imprisonment and forced drugging. It is my hope to mount a serious challenge to the current lock-them-up-and-drug-them approach in Alaska with these two resources.