"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

- United States Declaration of Independence

Monday, December 5, 2011

Coming Soon...

Greetings friends and supporters of this cause...

I am proud to announce that after a (too long) hiatus, this blog is back...with a vengeance!

After a successful bill hearing, we are still waiting for our rights legislation to be reported OUT of Committee in the Massachusetts Legislature. (Things move glacially slow). I'm afraid the advance word is that the bill will be compromised in some way, but I remain optimistic.

Anyway, it is clear to me that without grass-roots activism and a more confrontative (but ALWAYS nonviolent) approach is necessary. The hospital industry is stronger than ever, and using its clout to deny a whole population their basic dignity and humanity. It may be very difficult to oppose them, but I and many others know that we must try...

Anyway, I will soon be adding some detailed information that correlates to the recent "Bipolar Nation" radio program I was honored to be a guest on a few weeks ago. Here's a link to that program:
(The show is archived and can be heard for FREE, as well as downloaded as an MP3).

Monday, May 2, 2011

State Watch:

The Pines in Virginia, a youth behavioral health program, is infamous for systemic rights violations. The following is a recent account of problems at the Pines, which is owned by the hospital conglomerate Universal Health Services, Inc., which runs over 200 facilities across the country, and has a truly dismal reputation nationwide.

Va suspends admissions at youth home
DENA POTTER, Associated Press

Monday, April 25, 2011

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The state has suspended admissions and downgraded the license of a Norfolk-based owner of treatment centers for troubled youth after a series of violations that included the mishandling of a sexual abuse complaint, authorities announced Monday.

The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services on Monday issued a provisional license for the three homes operated by The Pines Residential Treatment Center, agency spokeswoman Meghan McGuire said. The department gave the company six months to address staffing, reporting and other concerns.

A message left with The Pines' administrative office was not immediately returned.

The downgrade is a step toward removing a company's license. While it doesn't preclude the company from receiving state Medicaid funding, "a provisional license is a red flag" for private payers or other states that may house children there, McGuire said.

North Carolina officials said last week they were considering pulling 113 residents from the centers after finding the owner did not report a boy's claims that he was inappropriately touched by two residents at one of the centers. An investigation by Virginia department officials determined the center had failed to properly document the incident or to notify the state or the child's parents.

According to the investigation report, the boy claims he was inappropriately touched by two different residents and flashed by a roommate at the Norfolk center. The boy was admitted to the center on Nov. 2. His parents removed him from the home on Jan. 31, days after they were notified.

Renee McCoy, a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, said Monday the agency was evaluating a number of options, including finding alternative placement for the children. It has suspended sending new youth to the homes.

McGuire said that incident was not the cause for Monday's action, but "the result of ongoing performance issues that must be corrected to ensure safety and effective treatment for the troubled children there."

"Over the past several years, (the department) has encountered significant problems at the Pines' facilities that have required tremendous monitoring time by our licensing and human rights staff," she said. "The licensing office has had continuous concerns surrounding treatment planning, training of staff, and supervision at the Pines."

Since 2006, there have been 152 investigations among the three centers ranging from minor complaints like staff not returning phone calls in a timely manner to more complicated matters such as the North Carolina sexual assault allegation, McGuire said.

The state is freezing admissions to the company's three Hampton Roads-area facilities "until there is evidence of improvement surrounding" the outlined concerns. Those include:

—Making sure there are adequate programs and staffing, especially for juveniles who come to the centers from the courts.

—Hiring qualified staff and getting them required training.

—Reducing staff overtime.

—Adjusting staff ratios to have one staff person for every four residents, or one for every three residents in units that require more intense supervision.

—Clarifying who is in charge of each unit and ensure nurses are available.

—Implementing a plan that ensures all therapists meet licensing qualifications and are supervised, and making sure there is one therapist for every 10 residents.

—Improving the treatment planning process, including better documenting progress.

—Reporting all incidents, including a monthly analysis of incidents.

McGuire said department officials met with the executive team at The Pines on Friday and advised them of what would happen. She said they were cooperative and agreed "without objection" to work on the issues.

"Because residential placement options for troubled children are limited, we want to see this plan succeed and result in an improved environment and better care for children at The Pines," McGuire said, adding that the department will continue "intensely monitoring" the centers.

According to its website, The Pines opened in 1986 to "provide focused intermediate and long-term care" to youth with mental, emotional and behavioral problems. It is licensed to provide care for 424 youth at its three centers in Norfolk and Portsmouth.

Read more: http://www.greenwichtime.com/news/article/APNewsBreak-Va-suspends-admissions-at-youth-home-1351477.php#ixzz1LE3ar72k

And, prison inmates are given fresh air under law...but not psych inpatients!

With the coming of Spring, having grown weary of the cold and staying inside, we reawaken to the benefits of nature. But hundreds of peers in Massachusetts are still forcibly kept indoors, in sterile hospital units and residences. They can only look outside and yearn for fresh air - at thirty hospitals, and at group homes.

In addition to restraint, lack of informed consent and widespread violation of basic rights, denial of the essential healing gift of fresh air is another collective insult we face.

My last mass email on the subject featured a Federal law that guarantees fresh air to livestock.

Now, here are some State regulations regarding prisons:

Commonwealth of Massachusetts – Department of Correction
Regulation 103 DOC 472

Section 472.02: Inmate Access to Recreational Programs and Leisure Activities

1. General - It is the department's policy to provide inmates within its custody equal access to recreational and leisure time opportunities and equipment, including, when weather permits, outdoor exercise.

3. Program Access for Inmates in a Department Disciplinary or Special Management Unit [i.e., Maximum/Supermax settings] - All inmates in such units shall receive a minimum of one hour per day, five days per week of exercise outside their cells.

So – organic livestock and prison inmates are protected the law. Peers are protected by neither…

PLEASE NOTE: I am not, in any way, suggesting that animals and prison inmates shouldn’t enjoy basic civil rights. Additionally, I regret any possible (but erroneous) implication that prison inmates are in any way ‘animals’ or ‘animalistic.’ Rather, I am illustrating the fact that while animals are seen as ‘less worthy’ of rights - and prison inmates are jailed for “corrective” purposes, they still have MORE rights than us. This begs the question: what does this say about how society sees us? It sends a message that we are seen as “less than,” and less deserving of rights than those society deems worthy of harsh punishment for their actions!

Also, the ‘purpose’ of psychiatric hospitalization is intended to be therapeutic, even despite the reality that it usually isn’t. Neither farms nor prisons are designed with that same intention. So why is a ‘therapeutic’ environment actually becoming more restrictive than ANY other? And what heals better, with no side effects and very little cost, than nature?

As we enjoy the blossoms and fragrances of Spring, let’s think of our peers who are needlessly kept from it, and continue working hard to put an end to this practice!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Organic Livestock regulations protect livestock, but humans?

Damning proof that peers’ human rights are not considered important at many psych. hospitals.

As you read this, keep in mind that, in Massachusetts alone, AT LEAST 800 people at over 30 hospitals, INCLUDING CHILDREN, are not allowed fresh air or outdoor access on inpatient psych. units in Massachusetts.

What have you seen in your state or country?

United States Code of Federal Regulations
Subpart C—Organic Production and Handling Requirements

§ 205.239 Livestock living conditions.

(a) The producer of an organic livestock operation must establish and maintain year-round livestock living conditions which accommodate the health and natural behavior of animals, including:

(1) Year-round access for all animals to the outdoors, shade, shelter, exercise areas, fresh air, clean water for drinking, and direct sunlight, suitable to the species, its stage of life, the climate, and the environment…Yards, feeding pads, and feedlots shall be large enough to allow all ruminant livestock occupying the yard, feeding pad, or feedlot to feed simultaneously without crowding… Continuous total confinement of any animal indoors is prohibited.

(4) Shelter designed to allow for:

(i) Natural maintenance, comfort behaviors, and opportunity to exercise.

Jonathan Dosick

Thursday, March 31, 2011

From the Mass. State House

Words from last week's State House event, Boston
Greetings readers, I am returning to actively posting on this site. My apologies for a rather silent period - it follows a busy post-bill filing season and adjusting to a new job. But our effort here in Massachusetts is moving ahead! This is a speech I gave, addressing the current civil rights legislation, at a Lobby Day event at the MA State House in Boston a week ago. It's probably the most concise summary of what we are seeking and why. (As you may already know, brevity isn't my strongest suit, but things are getting better!) As always, YOUR voices and YOUR feedback are most welcome, as we move along toward a Spring and Summer of justice. (As soon as Spring starts - snowstorm here tomorrow!)


Today, we’re talking a lot about recovery.

Let’s consider a question: Where and how does recovery start? What kind of environment promotes it?

The seeds of recovery must be planted in soil that is rich with humanity and dignity. For many of us, recovery begins in institutional settings – hospital units and/or group homes.

However, the atmosphere in many of these settings sends messages that hinder recovery.

Right now, the only law in Massachusetts protecting our dignity and our humanity at such places is the Five Fundamental Rights law. But it’s not enforced. This law is broken every single day. And what message does that send? That we’re second-class citizens. We don’t deserve civil rights, even if the law says so, and it’s just too expensive to treat us with dignity.

EVERYONE at psychiatric hospitals and group homes must, under law, be allowed these five rights:

1.) The right to make and receive telephone calls, in private;
2.) The right to send and receive unopened and unread mail;
3.) The right to receive visitors of one’s own choosing, in private;
4.) The right to a humane physical and psychological environment, including privacy and dignity in sleeping, reading, bathing and toileting; and
5.) The right to contact an attorney, outpatient therapist, psychiatrist, doctor or clergy member.

But the reality is much different.

Phones are located in hallways or at nurses’ stations, and often shut off for hours. Mail is opened and censored, and visits are restricted to very short periods of time. Visits happen in common areas, people aren’t allowed to contact lawyers, and bathing and toileting activities are observed, sometimes by members of the opposite sex. How can these conditions promote healing of ANY kind?

House Bill 1430/Senate Bill 986 creates a way for rights complaints to be heard by a neutral third party. NOT hospital employees who may lose their jobs for speaking up, and NOT the chronically-understaffed DMH investigations unit. The bill FINALLY gives us due process – a cornerstone of democracy and fairness.

Likewise with the second part of the bill – the right to experience the essential comforts of fresh air and the outdoors. Mental health facilities are the ONLY places where people can legally be locked inside for long periods of time. We are being robbed of quite possibly the best short-term remedy that exists – the healing power of nature. This is a critical part of recovery for so many people, but at more than 30 hospitals in Massachusetts, it’s not even possible.

The administrators and lobbyists who fiercely oppose this bill believe that providing civil rights costs too much money. They don’t see that people treated with dignity will avoid repeated hospital admissions and treatment interventions – in other words, reducing costs and the incredible strain on the system.

Cost-effective. Ironic, isn’t it? Providing human rights can SAVE money. Why is it opposed so strongly?

Of course, ultimately, it’s not about the money, but something much, much more valuable: the promise of recovery. When the seeds of recovery are sown, hope and freedom flourishes. Please urge your legislators to support this bill, House 1430/Senate 986, an essential part of our ongoing civil rights movement.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Rights Around the World

Announcing: Rights Watch, Around the States and the World

Still in the formative stages: hoping to publish information on rights situations at psych. facilities in other places besides Massachusetts. Please keep me informed of what is happening where you are!

There are some recent actions and events, with news coverage, happening in the District of Columbia, Missouri, and Virginia, and that will be posted soon.

Thanks to all for reading the blog, and keep checking it out!!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Hospital Story

I'm pleased to present an eloquent account of life on a psych. hospital unit, written by a friend of mine who also lives in Massachusetts...

My Bad Hospitalization Story
by D. Millman

I’ve been in the psych ward of a hospital a few times to date, and hopefully won’t be going again. I’ve had good and bad experiences. Right now, I’d like to discuss the bad experiences.

I never knew that there were any real rights for patients in the psych ward of a hospital – other than privacy laws and such. I’d never heard of the Five Fundamental Rights, as well as the sixth one that’s currently being worked on. I believe in all of them, and of my experiences in the psych ward of my local hospital.

For a little background, I’ve only been in the psych ward of one hospital, but I’ve heard it’s common at other hospitals. All that I can tell you is about my different experiences within the same hospital.

One thing that I noticed right off the bat, during my first hospitalization there was that patients in the psych ward are treated completely different than the other wards that I’ve been in within that same hospital. I found it dehumanizing. The first thing I notice is that only some of the rooms have hospital beds. The majority of them have what I call slabs. They’re wooden and have a slab of something that’s supposed to be a mattress. It reminds me of the gym mats that we used back in elementary school, but thicker. These slabs are not very conducive to people with back problems. In order to get a real hospital bed, you need doctor’s approval, which is almost impossible to get. I’m sure there are beds in prison that are more comfortable.

Also, regarding the beds, no one changes the sheets for you like they do in the rest of the hospital. If you want them changed, you have to change them yourself, which is not exactly high on the priority list of people in the psych ward. Talk about feeling like the “low man on the totem pole” so to speak. Why do we get treated with such low standards? Why are we seen as “less than” all of the other patients? If it weren’t for us, the people working on that unit wouldn’t have a job. Hello people!

Something else that I noticed right away is food ordering. On the rest of the units, you order your lunch for today any time before, say, 10:00 AM. On the psych ward, however, you have to order tomorrow’s food today. If you want food today, you must have ordered it yesterday. If you forget to order, one of the staff has to call down to the kitchen, which they despise doing, and get you the “house” meal – which is whatever they decide to throw on a plate and call a meal. I’m sorry, but if you’re in the psych ward, you’re probably already confused enough, and to have this thrown on there too, well, it’s just very absurd.

The phone is another issue. We don’t get phones in our rooms, so there is no privacy. There are two pay phones on the unit where you can get or make calls. There is only one non-pay phone on the unit, and it’s near the nurse’s station, where there is no privacy. You have to limit your calls to 3-5 minutes, and then it’s someone else’s turn. We’re supposed to keep track of who’s next in line. Yep, that’s another one of our duties. Also, if you answer the pay phone and you need to locate the individual, you do so by running around the whole ward yelling for them. Also, if you can’t locate them, you’re required to take a message, or ask the person to call back at another time. Great, now they made me a receptionist. Hello people!

Showers are not much fun. There are two on the unit, which sometimes has 20-30 people on it. Don’t know whose brilliant idea that was. Oh, there is another one, but there’s a bath there too, and they only use it when they have to bathe people who can’t bathe themselves – since it can be deemed a suicide risk. I’ve never seen it get used. Oops, there is another one, but it’s down in the locked, isolation section, and no one is allowed down there, unless they’re staying in that section of the unit. One stay I did get “privileges” for that shower, because I was having falling down/black-out episodes, and I didn’t want to feel rushed in the shower. Of course, I had to request it numerous times before someone finally agreed that it might be a good idea.

One thing that I’ve found very helpful in my hospitalizations is getting “grounds” privileges. This is where you’re allowed to leave the unit, escorted by staff of course. Sometimes it’s just to go to the gift shop or a walk around the building. Most of the time, if the weather permits, we get to go outside and walk. It’s one of the best parts of being in the psych ward. You get to be outside, smelling the fresh air, which is very good for health – I’ve heard that there are numerous studies that have proven that fresh air is good for your health. It’s the one time you actually get to feel “free”. Most prisoners are allowed to get one hour of fresh air, so should people on the psyche ward. These are the things that many people take for granted, but have it taken away from you, is just horrible.

The psych ward is so dreary, with bland paint jobs that definitely don’t help those of us who are there for depression-related issues. Being outside, sun or not, is just what the doctor ordered. If my hospital, that does all of the horrible things I’ve previously mentioned, can offer this to us, why can’t all of them? I totally agree with the fresh air rights that we should all be allowed.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Results of Blog Poll

Thanks to everyone who took part in the blog poll, which asked people to rate the top 1-5 problems they have noticed in inpatient psychiatric environments.

I set up the poll to be time-limited, so we would have a tangible result. However, your ideas and observations are not only welcome, they are necessary! Please feel free to keep the comments coming, and if you have any ideas for future polls, please let me know.

And now, the results:


(Total of 37 people voting)

1.) Staff attitudes, 81% (30 votes)

2.) Boredom/dreary atmosphere, 70% (26 votes)

3.) No access to fresh air, 62% (23 votes)

4.) [Five-way tie for #4] Poor physical environment, 54% (20 votes)

4.) Miscommunication, 54% (20 votes)

4.) Overmedication, 54% (20 votes)

4.) Over-reliance on medication, 54% (20 votes)

4.) Forced treatment, 54% (20 votes)

5.) [Two-way tie for #5] Communication with outside, 45% (17 votes)

5.) Lack of discharge/aftercare plan, 45% (17 votes)

6.) Understaffing, 43% (16 votes)

7.) [Two-way tie for #7] Restraint/seclusion, 40% (15 votes)

7.) Misdiagnosis/medication errors, 40% (15 votes)

8.) Staff inexperienced, 32% (12 votes)