An apparent lone nut, Bart Ross, left a suicide note claiming responsibility for the murder of two family members of Chicago federal Judge Joan Lefkow before blowing his own brains out, throwing suspicion off the white supremacist World Church of the Creator (see our last blog post on the case). Already, the press is using this—compounded by the recent slaying of a Georgia judge by another lone nut—to raise demands for forced treatment of recalcitrant psychiatric patients (see Chicago Daily Herald, March 13). So expect an expansion of the power of the therapeutic state and more legislation like New York's sinister Kendra's Law, which Gov. George Pataki now wants to make permanent (Newsday, March 8)
Kendra’s Law Hearings in NYC THURSDAY 3/24
Mental Health Advocates Laud Assemblyman Peter Rivera‘s
‘Very Principled and Courageous Position‘ on Kendra’s Law
March 10, 2005 NYAPRS News Release
In the following news release, Chairman Rivera urges policy makers to take the time to carefully examine all of the input and concerns this highly controversial measure has raised.
Mr Rivera goes on to details a number of such concerns, questioning whether the real solutions lie in addresseing what many believe are the real problems: the lack of adequate housing and well-coordinated community services and supports.
He also pointed out the many counties have used their increased resources and responsibilities to offer improved services, rather than relying on coercive alternatives.
In demonstration of his determination to take a very careful look at Kendra’s Law and its authorization for forced outpatient treatment, Chairman Rivera and the Assembly Mental Health Committee will be conducting public hearings, starting with one on New York City on March 24. A number of NYAPRS members will be offering testimony at the hearing.
"It is very heartening to find one public leader who is willing to dig beneath the surface and take a long and honest look at the real ills of New York’s mental health system and to examine whether the strategy of forced treatment is the right one ethically and the best one practically," said Harvey Rosenthal, executive director of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, a statewide coalition of New Yorkers with psychiatric disabilities and the mental health professionals who support them in over 160 settings across New York.
"We are very grateful to Mr Rivera for the thoughtful opportunity he is providing for public input and are confident that such a hearing will produce many concerns about the use of forced treatment, and many more preferable and effective alternatives," Rosenthal continued.
Rosenthal pointed to one particular concern that he hopes will be examined during the hearings.
"We need better research to judge whether the forced treatment program is a success. We know that people do better with better services; research that only looks at outcomes from better services and court orders and that fails to compare that with outcomes from better services alone cannot really tell us that it’s the court orders that are behind better results," Rosenthal said.
Assemblman Peter M. Rivera call Governor’s proposal a rush to approve a law that needs more public input and definite restructuring
March 9, 2005 New Release
Assemblyman Peter M. Rivera, chair of the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, is releasing the following statement with regards to Governor Pataki’s proposed legislation to make Kendra’s Law permanent.
"Once again, Governor Pataki has not done his homework when it comes to issues of mental health. He has now rushed to introduce legislation that will make Kendra’s Law permanent without bothering to gather public input on this issue. If he had, the Governor would have realized that there are serious problems that need to be addressed if Kendra’s law is to be extended," stated Rivera.
He added, "We have individuals languishing in hospitals, at a tremendous expense to taxpayers, because a court order to find them appropriate housing can not be met by local mental health agencies. The system does not have adequate capacity to address the problems of the mentally ill in New York."
"Our mental hygiene system is fragmented, does not adequately address the needs of its target population and is tremendously inefficient. These problems are evident by examining the data we collected on this issue," Rivera declared. "We have counties that have not sought a Kendra’s Law proceeding but have managed to provide the needed treatment. On the other hand, the vast majority of court orders are being sought in a geographic location that entails Westchester County out to Suffolk County. What does this say about the selective use of a law that many mental health advocates have called coercive?"
Rivera continued, "Representatives of the court-supervised Mental Health Legal Services have called the present system a huge waste of money that drains time from the court system due to the lack of services that are absent from many communities. It is my hope Governor Pataki will find time from his busy interstate and international travel to be able to negotiate the changes Kendra’s Law needs if it is to be extended.
According to Rivera, "The Assembly will be holding state wide hearings on this issue starting later this month."
Contact: Guillermo A. Martinex 518-455-5102