Wednesday, 23 September 2020

RLC Articles

The RLC produces a newsletter each and every month that offers monthly calendars, announcements and articles. Although old newsletters are archived on the website, the articles - often on important advocacy-related issues - run the risk of being buried and difficult to find. In an attempt to make that information more accessible, we still also list RLC-published articles from the newsletter (and other relevant sources) here for your ease and perusal.


National Certification is Bad for Peer Specialists

Mental Health America (MHA) just released the first ever national certification for Peer
Specialists, and we want you to understand why that is terrible news.
First, although Mental Health America bills themselves as an advocacy organization, they do not speak for, nor are they run by individuals who have first hand experience receiving services in the psychiatric system. Their president, Paul Gionfriddo, is a parent who has supported forced treatment laws. He is also known for the development of the ‘4 Stages of Mental Illness’ model that equates ‘Stage 4 mental illness’ with (basically) Stage 4 cancer (a concept that is misleading and insulting to many of us). Additionally, MHA is known for taking extraordinary amounts of funding from pharmaceutical companies.
Other issues include, but are certainly not limited to:
  • Training peer supporters to not "get in the way"
  • A peer supporter refusing contact on these sorts of bases would be a violation of the very nature of peer-to-peer relationships.
  • This training is being offered online. Peer support is centered around human connection and relationships. It does not fit with the impersonal nature of a computer screen.
While MHA claims to have consulted with a select few that have psychiatric histories, this is not the same as the process having been led by a peer-run organization or group. When questioned on this point, Patrick Hendry (Vice President of MHA’s Peer Advocacy, Support and Services) essentially said that MHA took it on because no peer-run group had already done so.
This is not sufficient justification.
We hope that you will join us in boycotting this certification and asking others to do the same.
It is costly both in dollars and to our integrity.
For details on the training itself: www.mentalhealthamerica.net/center-peer-support

Read more: National Certification is Bad for Peer Specialists

Why Diagnosing Donald Trump is Harmful to Us All

Trump Diagnosis HeadlineThere has been a recent trend of attempting to diagnose Donald Trump as ‘severely mentally ill’. Some are using it as an opportunity to make fun of him. For example, Andy Borowitz published a ‘satirical’ piece in the New Yorker about Trump hearing voices: "Trump Accuses Media of Not Reporting Voices He Hears in Head". Although meant to be funny, the piece pokes fun at Trump at the expense of people who do actually hear voices, and reinforces negative stereotypes.

But most articles about diagnosing Trump aren’t meant to be funny, including a petition started by a psychologist and demanding his removal from office on that basis. Why is all of this a problem? There are several reasons including (but certainly not limited to):

The suggestion that psychiatric diagnosis means one is unfit to be president is discriminatory. There are many people who’ve been diagnosed, hospitalized, and so on, who are extremely smart, reliable, gifted, loyal people working in jobs where they have a great deal of responsibility and much positive impact.

The suggestion that we need to diagnose someone to see their actions as good or bad is harmful. People are perfectly able to look at what Trump is doing, and decide how they feel about it or evaluate his actions against the law and ethical standards without a diagnosis.

Pointing the finger at a supposed ‘mental illness’ does nothing but further harm already marginalized groups in this country. The people this will ultimately harm the most will not be people with lots of power and money, like Donald Trump, but the rest of us who’ve also been diagnosed and are mostly just trying to survive in this world. For more on this topic see the following two articles:

Trump and the Diagnosis Free-for-All ~ by Sera Davidow.

The Truth about Trump & Psychiatric Diagnosis ~ by Paula J Caplan

and to read the entire article, choose "read more" below

Read more: Why Diagnosing Donald Trump is Harmful to Us All

The Murphy Bill: Take 2

On Thursday, June 4, 2015 the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act was re-introduced by Representative Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania. It is also known as H.R. 2646 or, perhaps most commonly, as the ‘Murphy Bill.’ Although it is claimed that the second version of this Bill contains several compromises, it seems just as bad as the first.

In fact, it may actually be worse, and here’s why: The second version of this bill uses toned down language and seems like it’s let go of some of it’s original (and more controversial) priorities. However, most of the ‘toning down’ seems superficial in nature, and so what this actually means is that the Bill is all the more likely to get passed while still essentially allowing for the same setbacks, invasiveness and rights violations to those receiving (or targeted as needing) services in the mental health system.

Ultimately, as with the first time this bill was introduced (2013), it suggests many changes to existing laws and programs that pose a serious risk to our work and movement. Some of the most notable points include:

  • Increased Forced ‘Treatment’: The Murphy Bill seeks to loosen restrictions on when force can be used and ties certain types of federal funding to state implementation of Involuntary Outpatient Commitment (IOC) laws (also known as Assisted Outpatient Treatment or ‘AOT’). Although the Bill no longer requires a block on federal funds to a state that does not employ IOC, it still incentivizes it by giving more to states that do. IOC is a particular form of forced ‘treatment’ that allows for forced medication and a number of other requirements and limitations regarding how someone lives their life, sometimes for reasons as simple as the system feeling that that person has been hospitalized too frequently. (For more on IOC, see this article: www.westernmassrlc.org/rlc-articles/214-outpatient-commitment-laws-a-massachusetts)
  • It Guts the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): SAMHSA has and continues to provide funding that many feel is important and highly impactful both for people who   struggle with addictions and substance abuse and those who struggle with emotional or mental distress, trauma and psychiatric diagnosis. For example, they provided the initial funding for Second Story Peer Respite in California. They are also responsible for funding peer-to-peer technical assistance centers like the National Empowerment Center in Massachusetts and Peerlink in Oregon, as well as for the funding that helped the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community develop the Handbook on Peer Roles (available here: www.psresources.info). Whatever complaints their may be about SAMHSA, gutting them and moving funds under the control of the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment would inevitably lead to the loss of many supports, particularly in the peer-to-peer realm.
  • It Severely Limits How Advocates Can Support People Whose Rights are Being Violated: In the first version of the bill, Murphy sought to gut the budget of the ‘Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness’ (PAIMI) programs (i.e., operating under the Disability Law Centers). This version shifts its tactic from budget reduction to placing limits directly on the authority of such advocates to act on complaints. In the end, the result is the same: Less support and advocacy to people whose rights are being violated.
  • It Loosens Restrictions on HIPAA: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is what requires medical and mental health professionals to go to great lengths to keep your information private. In this second version of the Bill, Murphy has pretended that he is compromising by no longer okaying the release of psychotherapy notes. However, his new Bill still allows for the release of diagnosis, treatment plans, medication plans, and so on to family and caregivers even when against the person’s will.
  • Murphy Pretends to Support Peer-to-Peer Support as a Method to Control and Limit It: In the first version of the Murphy Bill, funding for peer roles was not supported. In what is being marked by some as a ‘concession’ by Rep. Murphy, the new bill encourages funding for peer support. However, the funding comes with a strict definition of what people in peer roles are able to do along with a requirement that they be supervised by mental health clinicians. Should this come to pass, it would devastate the concept of independent peer-run efforts and severely limit some of the most impactful peer supports currently available.


There’s a great deal more to this Bill and if you’re interested in reading it for yourself, you can do so here:  http://docs.house.gov/meetings/IF/IF14/20150616/103615/BILLS-1142646ih.pdf

A hearing on the Bill was also held on Tuesday, June 16 and should be available for viewing on the Energy & Commerce Committee’s website here:  http://energycommerce.house.gov/hearing/examining-hr-2646-helping-families-mental-health-crisis-act#video

You may also be interested in reading Harvey Rosenthal’s written testimony for the June 16 hearing below.

Harvey is the Executive Director for the New York Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association Services (NYAPRS) as is a longtime outspoken advocate against Involuntary Outpatient Commitment.


Also of note, Doris Matsui has proposed an alternate Bill, ‘The Including Families in Mental Health Recovery Act.’ While many feel this Bill does not go nearly far enough, others are choosing to support it as a much preferred alternative over the Murphy Bill. You can view this alternate Bill here:



Call your state Representatives and Senators and tell them you oppose the Murphy Bill (HR 2646) and are asking them to do the same!!!!!

You can find out who your State Representative is here: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

You can find out who your State Senator is here: http://www.senate.gov/

The life of a Bill is unpredictable and so it’s not clear how long the Murphy Bill might take to pass or be dismissed, but we hope that you’ll join us in staying on top of what’s happening and what we can do to stop the Murphy Bill. In an effort to support that, we will be launching a ‘Stop the Murphy Bill’ webpage on our website by mid-July to help everyone stay up-to-date. Stay tuned for more!

Outpatient Forced Commitment: An Update on ‘Forced Treatment’ in Massachusetts

Massachusetts is one of the last states (alongside our neighbors in Connecticut) to not have a formal ‘outpatient commitment’ law (often referred to as ‘AOT’ or Assisted Outpatient Treatment in the media). These laws can be extremely far reaching in how they applied.

For example, a person can be ‘sentenced’ to this kind of forced treatment when they get in legal trouble or simply because others feel they’ve been hospitalized too frequently. As a part of this kind of forced treatment, they can be required to do anything from taking particular psychiatric drugs to attending therapy and/or day programs to living in a particular area and so on. And, when they fail to comply, that can be grounds for them to immediately be picked up and incarcerated in a hospital (even if they are doing well overall in the community and simply based on the theory that something might go wrong for them because they are not complying with the order).

Overall, Massachusetts has resisted Outpatient Forced Commitment laws in spite of ongoing pushes from legislators like Senator Ken Donnelly and Representative Kay Khan along with the national Treatment Advocacy Center. However, in the last year, proponents of this kind of forced treatment were successful in pushing through a $250,000 pilot program. The pilot program is currently underway at Eliot Human Services based in Lexington.  This pilot is dangerous even if Eliot finds a 'nicer' and more 'progressive' way of implementing it (which could, more than anything, lead to a dangerous blending of force and choice-oriented approaches that ultimately only serves to distort the concept of 'person-centered' and 'self-determination').

This pilot program is extremely problematic for a number of reasons including:

  • It’s a slippery slope: Although the door is not fully open to widespread Outpatient Forced Commitment in the state, this pilot is like a ‘foot in the door.’ The longer it is allowed to continue, the more likely it becomes that this sort of forced treatment will shift into a full Outpatient Forced Commitment law.
  • Eliot is employing people in peer roles in this program: Peer-to-peer support is absolutely inconsistent with the use of force. Employing someone working in a peer role as a primary team member of a program built around the concept of Outpatient Forced Commitment is an abuse of the peer role. Some are even calling for the individual working in that peer role to have to give up their certification as a ‘Peer Specialist’ because this represents a violation of the Certified Peer Specialist Code of Ethics. To allow this to continue will do a great deal of damage, including to the integrity of the peer role itself.
  • Eliot is using Pat Deegan’s Commonground as a part of this program: Commonground is a computer program that supports informed choice and full participation for people when they are meeting with their psychiatrists. It is based on the concept of person-centered and person-driven care and the wisdom that comes from living your own life and knowing what is right for you. It is dishonest and disingenuous to employ this tool in an environment that is based on the concept of Outpatient Forced Commitment. It was also put in place as a component of this program without the knowledge of Pat Deegan (who herself was once diagnosed with schizophrenia and has gone on to build a full life, including the development of this program).

This program must be stopped. Unfortunately, the Senate Ways & Means Committee just earmarked $250,000 for the pilot program to continue. However, before the budget becomes final, the Senate and House must form a joint council to review the differences in their budget recommendations and come up with a joint plan to submit to the Governor.

TAKE ACTION: You can help stop this effort by contacting own Senators and Reps (wheredoivotema.com) along with leadership of the Ways & Means Committee today. Consider saying something like, “Forced Outpatient Commitment (also known as AOT) is harmful. It has been proven ineffective and a waste of resources by a number of studies (for details: ncmhr.org/downloads/NCMHR-Fact-Sheet-on-Involuntary-Outpatient-Commitment-4.3.14.pdf). Please oppose the earmark for the continuation of the AOT Pilot in Massachusetts.”

To find the contact information for members of the Ways & Means: malegislature.gov/Committees/Joint/J39

Not Just a Peer Movement

People who have experienced psychiatric diagnosis, been hospitalized, or overcome other major life challenges and who now work or are connected to peer support communities often see themselves as a part of a movement. We’ve heard that movement be called everything from a ‘peer movement,’ to a ‘recovery movement’ to a ‘consumer’ or ‘c/s/x movement.’ (c/s/x stands for ‘consumer/survivor/ex-patient.’) However, all of these frames fall a little bit short.

Our work is a part of something bigger than all that. Yes, our work is about personal healing and moving toward a better life as individuals. 

But it is also about oppression, choice, rights and the interconnectedness of all of our human spirits. It is difficult to imagine personal healing without consideration of how others are being treated, or hurt or supported (or not) to have full lives. In fact, much healing has happened in our community precisely by being connected in that way and calling on each other to stop hurting one another and raise each other up.

In truth, our movement is a human rights movement.

What does this mean? It means we not only stand with others who have experienced psychiatric diagnosis, trauma and so on, but also with people who have been wounded and oppressed because of the color of their skin, their gender expression, their sexuality, income, physical abilities and so on. It means our movement seeks to move toward healing and wholeness for anyone who has struggled or been hurt for any reason, not just those who have been challenged by emotional and/or mental distress and/or received services within the mental health system. This is true whether we ourselves have felt good or bad about our experiences (or a mix thereof) in the system, and whether we see our problems as coming from within or outside of our bodies.

It means that when juries failed to indict Darren Wilson or Daniel Pantaleo for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, we all were wounded in some way. It means that, on November 20th—the national Transgender Day of Remembrance in recognition of all those who have been killed as a result of transphobia—we all were called upon to stand together. These are just two examples of the many.Michael Brown Sketch

Our voices are loudest when we join them.
We are strongest together.
How can we cross our self-imposed lines and stand together more often?
In Memory of Michael Brown
May 20, 1996– August 9, 2014
In memory of Eric Garner
September 15, 1970—July 17, 2014

10 things you might not have known about SSI/SSDI, Rep-Payeeships and more!

1. You don’t need to go to a Social Security office to get income verification information: Social Security offices are busy and have less staff than in the past. As a result, they WANT you to have other ways to get the information you need. Here’s the easiest way to get your info: Go to www.ssa.gov and set up an account (look for ‘My Account’ on the front page)! You’ll need your name (as it appears on your social security card), your social security information and the answers to a few questions to verify your identity, but from there you should be able to access information and print out income verification as needed. (Note: It is not okay for anyone to set up an account in your name (including rep-payees) even with your permission.

2. There isa way to keep receiving your full SSI benefit amount while hospitalized:   Typically, when someone becomes hospitalized, their benefit amount is automatically reduced to $72.80. This is based on the belief that most of their basic needs (food, shelter, etc.) are being taken care of within that hospital and is an effort to   prevent having the government pay for those needs twice. HOWEVER, if a doctor is able to certify to Social Security that the person hospitalized is likely to be discharged within 90 days and they need the full SSI amount to maintain their community living quarters so that they have a place to go when they are released, they are able to keep receiving the full amount. The same goes for public hospitals where the SSI amount would be reduced to $0.

3. Young people who have been in DCF custody can re-apply for Masshealth when they are about to age out of DCF, and—REGARDLESS OF INCOME—they will automatically be eligible for Masshealth until they are 26.  Here’s a good resource to learn more about healthcare options and resources: https://www.hcfama.org/

4. If you have a representative payee (someone who manages funds received from social security on your behalf), they are NOT allowed to withhold your funds as punishment or ‘incentive’ to get you to do (or not do) certain things.: In other words, it is not okay for a representative payee to withhold your spending money if you do not take your psychiatric medications. Nor is it okay for them to ‘reward’ you with your own funds if you do all your assigned chores, take your meds, clean your room, etc. (This doesn’t mean that rep-payees can’t limit amounts given for       spending money for other reason, such as a belief that you won’t reasonably be able to manage spending it.)

5. Even if you have a representative payee, you are still personally responsible for reporting your own income: Having a Representative Payee means that Social Security has deemed that you need support to use your Social Security funds in a way that is sure to meet your basic needs. However, you still have responsibilities. Even if your Representative Payee fails to report income you make from other sources (a job, etc.), you will still be held responsible.

6. Even if you have a Representative Payee, you still have a right to see all notices from Social Security. Just because someone else is receiving Social Security funds on your behalf, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t required to be kept fully informed. All notices should be getting sent to you (unless you have a guardian) AND the rep-payee.

7. Rep-payeeship ONLY applies to social security funds (SSDI or SSI), NOT to food stamps, work income or any other money or benefit. You are NOT required to turn over your food stamps, money earned at work or any other   income to a representative payee. Their only authority is over your Social Security funds.

8. If you are seeking to end a rep-payeeship and be in charge of your own money, a doctor is NOT the only one who can help you make that happen. Often people are told that the only way to end having a representative payee is to get a doctor to write a letter to Social Security stating that you are now able to   manage your funds. In truth, letters can come from anyone. While letters that come from people in professional roles will be seen as holding more weight, those people can be social workers, therapists, and so on. Remember, the most important piece is likely to be highlighting what has changed since a rep-payee was assigned.

9. If you have a rep-payee, they MUST keep your funds separate from their own at all times. In other words, a separate bank account should be maintained specifically for your social security funds. Your funds may never be deposited and held in another person’s bank account.

10. The most important thing for you to do is open Social Security notices as you get them and to KEEP everything you receive! Often, notices come with time limits to appeal decisions. Also, if you need to seek help from someone else to understand what’s happened, having all your notices on hand can make ALL the difference!

Check out the Program Operations Manual System (POMS) for all you could ever want to know about Social Security:




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