Only people with power believe that the human rights of vulnerable people are not worthy of protection. Only people with power would have us believe that the protection of those rights prevents them from the lawful and appropriate use of their power. Only people with power would have us believe that those who would protect those rights are more dangerous and more trouble than those who would threaten those rights. Only those with power would have us believe that the role of government is to get out of their way and not be concerned with how they would treat vulnerable people. Only those with power would have us believe that they need to be protected from the people who would protect the vulnerable from them.
PAIMI (Protection and advocacy for individuals with mental illness) is the governmental program set up to protect the rights of those labeled “mentally ill.” Representative Timothy Murphy, author of the Murphy Bill, at one point last year dismissed the operations of PAIMI as “reprehensible” and his bill as written would make sure that PAIMI no longer plays a major role in efforts to insure the safety of anyone receiving services within the mental health system. It would say the human rights of any person with mental health needs is incidental or irrelevant to the quality of their lives. It would say that those who would demand the human rights of those within the mental health system actually cripple the ability of that system to provide the services essential to the welfare of the most vulnerable people it serves.
The Bill would tell us to do other than what they suggest will threaten the ability of psychiatrists to exercise their legitimate authority. It would tell us that psychiatrists can and should be trusted with this authority, that they have knowledge and skills that others don’t have and to limit their authority would compromise the effective use of that knowledge and skills.
All of this is nonsense on many levels. No psychiatric diagnosis makes a person less a person and makes him any less deserving of the rights we would accord any other person. The reality of the possibility of manipulation, hurt, and injury that anyone with a psychiatric diagnosis faces from those who would control him “for his own good” is well documented and clear to anyone who makes any effort at all to open their eyes to the reality of what mental health treatment can be. Furthermore it is a slander to thousands and thousands of professionals who don’t feel their professional role should give them license to disregard the rights of others and that furthermore such disregard is neither helpful or essential to the quality of care any individual receives.
If you don’t know what PAIMI has meant to your state you need to find out and then you need to make sure you share that knowledge with both your Senator and your Representative. The mental health bill in the Senate does not include the attack on PAIMI that the House Murphy Bill does and there seems to be little support to change that. Let your Senator know you support him in this. The PAIMI provision is a major source of conflict still in the House. Let your Representative know you consider this a poison pill and ask him not to support any Bill that includes this. It is especially important to let the House leadership know this. Despite Rep Murphy’s pr theatrics there is some evidence to suggest they are less than sold on pushing this Bill forward. Tell them that human rights is not a partisan political issue and that treating those rights as a therapeutic irritant is not one of those evidence based practices Rep. Murphy is so fond of talking about.
PAIMI has played a major role in Tennessee. They not only helped to identify major problems in the adult group home system but were a major part of the attempt to resolve many of those issues. In partnership with the Depth of Mental Health they are a major part of trying to insure that everyone treated within the system is afforded the same protections available to any other citizens.
There is every reason to believe that we can keep the PAIMI provisions of the Murphy Bill from seeing the light of day but the issue is not settled. Your voice matters. Speak loudly…. Speak now. Please.