NYAPRS Note: Great thanks are due to the 700 NYAPRS members who got up very early last Tuesday and came from all sections of the state to raise their voices and advocate for a broad array of issues of concern to our community, including support for state hospital downsizing/community reinvestment; more community housing, employment and peer support; Medicaid beneficiary education and rights protections in the move to managed care; open access to psychiatric medications; and support for a variety of effective, voluntary supports for distressed individuals and families.
The group’s spirit was particularly forceful in our message to ‘Don’t Criminalize My Community,’ given recent horrific media coverage and policies that erode patient privacy and increase coercion (see photo).
Special thanks are due to all of those individuals and agencies who sponsored and supported our ardent orange-capped armies to bring our message to Albany.
Look for Legislative Day materials, photos and coverage on our website by week’s end at www.nyaprs.org.
Mental Health Community Says 'New York Is Not Rising For Us'
By Jessica String Legislative Gazette February 4, 2013
Tired of the stigma perpetuated from the public and media in recent months, the New York Association for Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services rallied for the rights of people living with mental illness last week at the Capitol.
"I am offended by the unfounded linkage [of mental illness] with violence," Harvey Rosenthal, executive director of the advocacy group, said to the hundreds of supporters at its annual legislative day in the Empire State Plaza.
After the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newton, Conn. and incidents of people pushed onto subway tracks in New York City, the mental health community said recent media coverage, public opinion and some state legislators are citing mental illness as a predictor of violence.
Though many have come out publicly and emphasized that people with mental illness are in no way more violent than the general public, Rosenthal noticed certain headlines such as "Here Come the Crazies" and "Psychotics on the Streets" as incriminating.
"That violence card is completely unfounded," said Rosenthal.
Among the issues addressed at the group's lobby day was the new registry system for gun owners and the provision that states if a gun owner is considered to be mentally ill or a threat to themselves or others, their doctor must report it to the authorities.
"Now you're in a big computer if you say (something wrong) or even have been in a hospital involuntarily," said Rosenthal.
New York Association for Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services supporters also noted that they felt stigmatized by the expansion of Kendra's Law which requires court-ordered Assisted Outpatient Treatments for patients with mental illness who are deemed a threat to themselves and others.
Eva Dech, a community organizer for the Mental Health Empowerment Project, was a recipient of forced treatment and feels that it is not as effective as lawmakers believe it is.
"I've seen different levels of forced treatment," said Dech. "and seen the harm it has done to people and [it] really sets people back instead of moving them forward."
Dech said what people with mental illness need is more peer support and options for assistance programs and medications.
The legislative event also addressed the Executive Budget's proposals and how they will affect the mental health community. Though housing programs will be given additional funding and no cuts will be made to mental health programs, advocates say that, compared to past years, funding levels are not enough.
"We have been receiving cuts every year for the past five years," said Ray Schwartz, chair of the Public Policy Committee at New York Association for Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services. "We appreciate what the governor has done, but it's not enough."