My Debate With My Congressperson In the Letters to Editor

Here is my most recent letter, published by the Eugene Weekly, November 3, 2016. Below that is Rep. Peter DeFazio’s note about my concerns, published by the Eugene Weekly on October 20. Below that is my original letter published by EW October 6.

As part of a tour, “Keep Eugene Weirdest,” I will visit the office of Rep. Peter DeFazio tomorrow, Friday, November 4, 2016. For more info, and to join us, click here.

MENTAL HEALTH BILL

Rep. Pete DeFazio looks a bit grumpy.

Rep. Pete DeFazio, a progressive who has represented us in Eugene, Oregon since 1987. I have supported him, even when he has been grumpy. Now I am a write-in candidate to replace him.

In Eugene Weekly, Rep. Pete DeFazio (D-OR) and I have been debating a bill he is co-sponsoring, H.R. 2646. This complex proposal, more than 100 pages, is misnamed “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2016.” It should be called “The Mental Health Consumer Dis-empowerment Act.”

The worst part: It gives federal money to support Involuntary Outpatient Commitment (IOC). The euphemism for IOC is Assisted Outpatient Commitment (AOC). The heart of IOC, which I’ve fought in many states for decades, is mainly to require Americans living at home in the community to take powerful psychiatric drugs against their will.

Incredibly, Rep. DeFazio falsely reassures us that his bill would not emphasize forced drugs. He points out that state IOC law does not “include forced medication.” Of course not. Judges pride themselves in saying, “I’m not a doctor; I don’t prescribe.” Judges provide the coercion. Doctors prescribe.

The drug-based approach has undue influence in mental health. We don’t have space here to explore the pros and cons of psychiatric drugs. It can be common sense to choose a non-drug alternative, but Rep. DeFazio’s bill would make this decision more difficult, or impossible, for many Americans living at home.

David Oaks, Eugene

Rep. Peter DeFazio’s letter to the Eugene Weekly, published October 20:

MENTAL HEALTH PROGRESS

In the Oct. 6 edition of EW, local activist David Oaks claimed that legislation that I co-sponsored, along with 207 other members of the U.S. House of Representatives, would force “Americans living peacefully in their own homes” to take psychiatric drugs under court order. This is simply not factually accurate. The bill, H.R. 2646, includes language that supports assisted outpatient therapy (AOT) programs for those within the community who are found to be mentally unstable and unwilling to seek voluntarily treatment, posing a serious threat to themselves and others. AOT is usually in the form of case management and personal therapy programs and does not necessarily require medical intervention. As I hope Mr. Oaks is aware, Oregon law already authorized AOT and Oregon’s statute is clear: AOT does not include forced medication. H.R. 2646 passed the House with a bi-partisan vote of 422-2. This common sense legislation was a huge step forward in improving our mental health system, and I’m proud to be a co-sponsor.

Peter DeFazio, 4th Congressional District Candidate, Eugene

My original letter in the Eugene Weekly, published October 6:

MENTAL HEALTH LAWS 

Rep. Pete DeFazio sadly co-sponsored the worst piece of mental health legislation I have seen in 42 years of human rights activism. HR 2646 is more than 100 pages long, so mainly lobbyists seem to know the details. The worst part is that this bill extends federal financial support for involuntary outpatient psychiatric treatment.

In other words, Americans living peacefully in their own homes could be court-ordered to take psychiatric drugs against their will. I call this approach the “Bill Cosby School of Mental Health.”

I have supported Pete for decades and interacted with Pete personally several times. He’s always been kind of grouchy. That is OK; everyone has a different style. But if Pete legislates for involuntary psychiatry despite many constituents trying to explain why this is horrifying, then we have the right to ask, “Has Pete ever had a mental health check-up himself?” If not, will he?

Those of us with psychiatric labels appear to be one of the last groups that get thrown under the bus, by both Democrats and Republicans. I hope the Senate stops the bill.

Following the revolutionary Micah White’s strategy, I have decided to place my name as a write-in candidate for Congress.

David Oaks, Eugene

Resource links:

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Presidential Primary & Forced Outpatient Psych Drugs

Presidential Primary & Forced Outpatient Psych Drugs

This month, May 2016, the candidates for USA President compete in our usually-missed State of Oregon, so this is a very good time to ask the following question:

“How do you stand on the controversy of forced outpatient mental health drugs?”

This is my 40th year working as an advocate for people labeled “disabled,” and I know that the topic of involuntary psychiatry can be a little complicated for people. After all, if one of our beloved family members becomes irrationally self-destructive, we can become desperate for help. However, this is such an important topic that we need to go deeper than just a bumper-sticker answer.

So, let us find out where the candidates for President stand: Are you listening Hillary, Bernie, Donald, Ted, and John?

The past few years I have been working a bunch in disability advocacy, one of the biggest social change movements in human history. How we treat the most vulnerable people in a group can be very revealing.

Let me explain a little background in brief:

For many decades, almost all USA States have been quietly passing laws that allow court-ordered involuntary mental health care, that is, of people living out of institutions in the community, often in their own homes or group homes.

Sponsors of these “involuntary outpatient commitment” laws use a more euphemistic phrase: “assisted outpatient treatment” laws. “Assisted?” Sure, the way Donald Trump is “assisting” Muslims by seeking to ban them in a bigoted way. The way bigots in Bangladesh recently “assisted” a gay rights activist by killing him.   

To put it very simply: This is court-ordered coerced drugging, using a variety of methods for enforcement, sometimes even a daily visit to the person’s home.

There is a Congressperson, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), who for years has been pushing a huge bill that has a section for national, federal incentives for more of this involuntary outpatient care. This Murphy Bill, HR 2646, is enormous, weighing in at 173 pages, but the worst part would be a national program for more forced outpatient psychiatry. If his bill — which he calls “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act” — passes then thousands of more American citizens would have court-ordered psychiatric drugs administered to them, even though they are living out in the community, many even in their own homes!

Last year I asked one of the bill co-sponsors how many Americans they want to forcibly treat? After all, some of these zealots claim that 11 million Americans need but are not getting psychiatric care. Are you one of these 11 million? Unfortunately, the co-sponsor has stayed silent about how many citizens they are going after.

Every Person Ought to Oppose the Murphy Bill!

As far as I know, every group in the USA speaking for mental health consumers opposes increasing coerced care out in the community. There are far better ways to help people.

This Murphy bill is the worst I have seen in my 40 years of mental health advocacy. Many of us in this field are terrified and working hard for years to stop this type of care!

So where do the people running for Democratic and Republican nomination for President stand about this issue?

Note that a Republican congressperson is pushing this bill, even though Rep. Murphy claims he is for “small government.” A surprising number of congresspeople have co-sponsored this bill, even some who are considered progressive, such as my own Democratic congressperson, Rep. Peter Defazio.

Bernie and Friends: Where Do You Stand?

For more than a month, one of the main psychiatrists to publicly back Bernie Sanders for President has been asking one of the Bernie campaigners, Nick Carter, about Bernie’s position. You see, Bernie opposes certain regulations of firearms because Vermont, his home state, is so pro-gun. The National Rifle Association opposes gun regulation partly by claiming that better mental health care is the solution. So asking Bernie for his position is reasonable. Unfortunately, Bernie and Mr. Carter have apparently stayed silent.

The silence about this important topic is deafening. We need to insist on an answer from everyone. A few years ago, I saw something similar happen with Ralph Nader, who was referring mental health questions to his friend, Doctor Sidney M. Wolfe, who I know from personal experience has a terrible position about forced psychiatry. Let us stop throwing our folks under the bus, whether that is a Republican bus or a Democratic bus.

To show you how bad this can get, incredibly a few years ago when I directed the nonprofit MindFreedom International, we surfaced two people who received court-ordered involuntary outpatient ELECTROSHOCK. I would not blame you if you did not believe me. To provide evidence for this, you can google these phrases:

ray sandford electroshock

elizabeth ellis electroshock

When courts order forced drugging this can be very racist, because white doctors and white judges tend to disproportionately target African Americans and other minorities. You can read more about this here:

http://138.68.254.83/blacklivesmatter-race-mental-health

After exchanging one e-mail with Rep. Defazio, he has gone totally silent with me. I tried to email his health person on this, Brittany Lundberg, but she has not responded to me. Readers of this blog can try to reach her in a civil way by emailing to: brittany.lundberg@mail.house.gov

Many of us wonder why our society is not showing more passion and more creativity in the face of climate crisis. Centuries of targeting our people may be one of the reasons that the population is so conformist right now, when we should have a revolution.

———-

For more information:

A Facebook group about stopping the Murphy bill:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/StopMurphyBill/

Promotion of the bill by Rep. Tim Murphy:

https://murphy.house.gov/helpingfamiliesinmentalhealthcrisisact114

A website dedicated to stopping this bill:

http://www.westernmassrlc.org/stop-the-murphy-bill

A moveon.org petition you can sign for free online against the Murphy Bill:

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/stop-the-murphy-bill

A change.org online petition against the Murphy Bill:

https://www.change.org/p/u-s-house-of-representatives-vote-against-the-helping-families-in-mental-health-crisis-act-h-r-2646

A psychiatrist explains opposition to the Murphy Bill in this MadInAmerica Blog entry:

http://www.madinamerica.com/2015/12/a-psychiatrist-opposes-h-r-2646-heres-why/

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