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Wednesday, 13 December 2017

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.

 

Update to the Five Fundamental Rights Bill: Fresh Air Bill Passed!

Handcuffs and ButterflyIn Massachusetts, there is a law called the ‘Five Fundamental Rights'. This law was implemented in 1998 as an amendment to the existing Massachusetts mental health laws. These rights are applicable to all residences and facilities that are operated, licensed or contracted by the Department of Mental Health (all psychiatric hospitals and residential programs, etc.).

For the last several years, advocates have also been pushing for a sixth fundamental right, often called the ‘Fresh Air’ bill. This bill has circled through the legislative process multiple times, but was finally signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick in January of 2015, just before he left office. This bill, and related advocacy, have focused on the importance of access to the outside and fresh air, even while hospitalized in an inpatient setting. The text of the amendment adding in the sixth fundamental right reads:

“Reasonable daily access to the outdoors as weather conditions reasonably permit at inpatient facilities in a manner consistent with such person’s clinical condition and safety as determined by the treating clinician, and with the ability of such facilities to safely provide access and regulations implementing sufficient precautions to ensure the safety of staff members charged with accompanying patients outdoors.”
 
Although this law is written in a way that leaves many loopholes to continue to deny people access to fresh air, it is seen as a victory by most people who have been fighting to see it implemented. Legislation to put ‘teeth’ into the ‘Fundamental Rights’ (i.e., put in place real consequences for hospitals and other facilities when they violate them) has been re-introduced in the new legislative session.
 
to read the full article, please click below and scroll down:

Read more: Update to the Five Fundamental Rights Bill: Fresh Air Bill Passed!

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

The Murphy Bill, Take Two

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’
  • It Guts the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
  • It Severely Limits How Advocates Can Support People Whose Rights are Being Violated
  • It Loosens Restrictions on HIPAA
  • Murphy Pretends to Support Peer-to-Peer Support as a Method to Control and Limit It
Please read the whole article (click below) for more valuable information,
and to learn about things you can do!

Read more: The Murphy Bill, Take Two

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:

https://secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/home!readform

Talking About Suicide

Talking About Suicide
by RLC Advocate, Currie Murphy
Appeared originally in the Greenfield Recorder, 8/29/14
 
For me, it's hard to believe that people can't sit with the word "suicide", and I often find myself asking them why it is so hard? Usually I am met with resistance and anger or a befuddled look on their faces. After a few minutes of explaining why I like to ask this question to as many people as possible, we get into a place of real conversation. One that is frowned on in everyday society. From a young age, people are told the word "suicide" is taboo and never to be uttered unless to someone trained to handle suicidal people. Are we creating a society of children who are taught to fear the word suicide? Is it our own fear that is creating this culture of silence? How do we change the fear response to the word "suicide."?
 
This conversation is happening in western Massachusetts communities. The Alternatives to Suicide Peer Support Groups are places where people can come together and support each other around suicide without fear of judgment, or being locked up, or drugged against their will. Traditionally, if a person is feeling suicidal and seeks medical help they would be told these feelings are not OK or "normal" and we must do whatever it takes to stop them. We are a group of people trying to change the way society looks at and approaches someone who has thoughts of suicide. Instead of making them feel ashamed or alone, we give the space for people to express the thoughts and feelings to empathic ears. And if want, we share our own lived experience with suicide and how we moved through the difficult times.
 
Where to Find Local Alternatives to Suicide Peer Support Groups:
Mondays, 6:30– 8pm @ Friend’s Meeting House, 43 Center Street, Northampton
Tuesdays, 5– 6:30pm @ RLC’s Greenfield Center, 74 Federal Street, Greenfield
Fridays, 2:30-4pm @ RLC’s Springfield (Bowen) Center, 340 Main Street, Springfield
For more information, call 413.539.5941 x 318 or
e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

What's Mine is Mine: Your Right to Your Own Belongings

Do people staying in Department of Mental Health (DMH) programs (residential programs, DMH beds in respite, etc.) have a right to their personal belongings?The short answer is, ‘Yes.’No I Say When2

Nonetheless, we’ve heard multiple stories of people losing access (or having access substantially limited) to their personal belongings in the last week alone. When we hear these sorts of complaints, the two most frequent justifications that programs have offered include:

  • House-wide behavioral plans that people reportedly agree to when they move in    
  • General health concerns (e.g., someone drinks “too much soda,” etc.)
To many of us, it seems obvious that adults have a right to their own personal property, even when others feel they have ‘misbehaved’ in some way or are doing something that does not represent the best judgment. Fortunately, that perspective is also supported on paper and in law, too.
 
In the Department of Mental Health Human Rights Handbook, it clearly states the following:
 
“Every client has the right to his/her own possessions, barring a threat to client safety.
Massachusetts law affords clients the right to keep and use their own personal possessions, including toilet articles, and to have access to client storage spaces for private use.”

That statement in the DMH handbook is footnoted as having been drawn from Massachusetts General Law Chapter 123, Section 23 which reads:

“… a mentally ill person in the care of the department shall have the following legal and civil rights: to wear his own clothes, to keep and use his own personal possessions including toilet articles, to keep and be allowed to spend a reasonable sum of his own money for canteen expenses and small purchases, to have access to individual storage space for his private use, to refuse shock treatment, to refuse lobotomy, and any other rights specified in the regulations of the department; provided, however, that any of these rights may be denied for good cause by the superintendent or his designee and a statement of the reasons for any such denial entered in the treatment record of such person.” (www.malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleXVII/Chapter123/Section23 )

to read the rest of this article, click "read more" below

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