Eugene Weekly: Why I’m a Write-In Candidate to Replace Rep. Pete DeFazio (D-OR)

Eugene Weekly: Why I’m a Write-In Candidate to Replace Rep. Pete DeFazio (D-OR)
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 Pete.

Update 22 October 2016: At the bottom you will now find a rebuttal from Rep. DeFazio. 

The main alternative paper here in Eugene, Oregon ran my letter to the editor about why I am running (or rolling) as write-in candidate to replace Rep. Pete DeFazio.

Eugene Weekly, October 6, 2016:

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

Update News:

Your feedback, questions, support are encouraged via the public comment area at the end of this blog. Also, please use Rep. Pete DeFazio’s website to ask about this topic. Even though I hope much of mu blog is humorous, I do want to take the moral road about elections and mental health. Please ask Pete to do the same, because this bill will probably be back in some version or other.

By coincidence, today I was also on the teleconference for the National Counsel on Independent Living Mental Health Civil Rights Subcommittee. Thankfully, we heard a report that the US Senate has not acted to vote for this Murphy bill. The Senate has not taken pieces of the Murphy bill to become amendments in a new mental health bill, either.

Because of the election next month, Congress is highly unlikely to pass any big bill about mental health. Of course we should stay vigilant. But mainly we should be prepared for the new session in 2017.

I said on the teleconference that we need to move from a quiet, group-oriented, Washington D.C. beltway, Facebook-based campaign to a transparent, national, people-power approach. Remember our mantra: Nothing about us without us! We need to learn from past disability campaigns that we need thousands of folks all over the country to not only stop Murphy, but to also win ratification of the historic UN treaty for disability rights.

Here are more places to learn about some of these issues:

Resource links:

From my earlier blog entries

Other links

On October 20, Eugene Weekly published a response from Rep. DeFazio:

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

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Stop This Horrible Mental Health Bill by Contacting Your US Senators Now!

Stop This Horrible Mental Health Bill by Contacting Your US Senators Now!

Last month, 6 July 2016, the US House quietly and overwhelmingly (422 to 2) passed the worst piece of mental health legislation I have seen in my 42 years of human rights activism. HR 2646 is sponsored by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) and is mis-named the “Helping Families in Mental Crisis Act of 2016.”

This month of August, you can stop this frightening bill by contacting both of your US Senators. In fact, I would encourage you to also contact Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), because he has shown signs over the decades of supporting our revolution in mental health care. Of course, you may contact Bernie wherever you live in the world.

First, I will try to briefly explain this bill and the main reasons I oppose it. But you, dear reader, will I hope take action and contact US Senators, because we only have weeks to turn this around!

Why We Must All Act Now To Stop This Bill!

Rep. Tim Murphy is the only psychologist in Congress, today. His enormous and expensive bill is supposedly a response to mass shootings, but incredibly the Committee in the House that debated this legislation continued a multi-decade US Congressional ban on even studying or researching gun violence!

There are many bad parts to this bill, but just two that I would like to highlight are:

  1. It is disempowering! This bill would oppose the voice of mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors. The historic trend for the past few years has been to support the empowerment of mental health clients, but this bill, which is more than 100 pages long, excludes the perspective of the citizens directly impacted by mental health services.
  2. It supports forcibly drugging Americans in our own homes! The worst part of this bill, is that it would extend Federal grants for involuntary psychiatric treatment of American citizens directly in our own homes. Almost all USA States have passed such involuntary outpatient commitment laws, but these IOC laws are not used as much as fanatic tyrants would like, so this bill — supposedly by a “small government” Republican — gives taxpayer money to make sure Americans take our court-ordered psychiatric drugs while at home. This forced drugging is why I call this approach the “Bill Cosby School of Mental Health.” Seriously, this is chemical rape.
Oregon US Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.

Oregon US Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.

You Can Help Stop This Bill in The US Senate!

During the rest of this month of August, 2016, the disability movement is urgently asking you to contact US Senators to stop HR 2646 from contaminating a bill being considered by the Senate, S. 2680 “Mental Health Reform Act of 2016.” Some Congresspeople are trying to sneak in oppressive amendments from HR 2646 into S. 2680.

At the bottom you will find my letters to my USA Senators from Oregon, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley. Your own words would be best! For more information about this campaign you can also download this PDF fact sheet:

http://www.ncmhr.org/downloads/Coalition-for-Mental-Health-Reform-Concerns-with-H.R.2646-8.1.2016.pdf

Senator Ron Wyden Has a Personal Connection to Mental Health

It is not well known, but the only sibling of Ron — Jeff Wyden — at first had a promising start in Stanford University, but at the age of 21 was diagnosed as schizophrenic. Before his early death, Jeff Wyden was to experience three decades of intense mental health treatment, including involuntary drugging and even involuntary electroshock.

The parents of Ron and Jeff were remarkable. Mother Edith, born in Koenigsberg, Germany, fled the Nazis at the age of 16. Father Peter, born in Berlin, Germany, fled the Nazis at the age of 13. Both parents began their free lives here in the USA. Peter became a journalist, and one of the ways Peter addressed his profound feelings involving the mental health system, was writing a book that was published in 1998 about his son, Jeff. I read this book when it was published, and frankly there was a lot of it with which I disagreed. For example, the author seemed to know a little about our psychiatric survivor social change movement, but I did not perceive a level of deep curiosity about us, but instead I felt some unfair criticism.

However, I know that there are very deep things going on with the human mind, and everyone deals with these difficulties in a variety of ways. A few months after Peter published what was to become the last of his one dozen books, he died of a stroke and subdermal hematoma at the age of 74, possibly related to a head injury he received upon bumping his head when exiting his car, according to his family.

Peter’s son Jeff also died, soon after his father, in 2002 at the age of 51, after living in a halfway house in San Jose. The main article I found about the death of Jeff Wyden said the cause of his death was not yet determined at the time of publishing.

Of course everyone’s life is far too complex to sum up, however, as a psychiatric survivor myself, who was also first diagnosed schizophrenic as a young adult inside a psychiatric institution while attending a prestigious college, I know that the trauma experienced by Jeff must resonate to this day with the whole Wyden family.

Over the decades I have had a few chances to talk with Senator Wyden both in Eugene and at his Senate office. He started his career as an activist for senior citizens, so I have always had hopes that he would support the goals of our social change movement. For example, during our work on electroshock, his office helped to prevent the rubber-stamping of the device by the FDA.

I have checked with an attorney, and though this might not be believed by the average person, Rep. Tim Murphy’s awful bill can be used for not only forcibly drugging, but court-ordered involuntary outpatient electroshock. Yes, I realize that the vast majority of involuntary psychiatry is about drugs. But once in a while, involuntary outpatient commitment has involved electroshock. For real! To research how this monstrosity has happened on the state level, please direct your search engine to these phrases:

  • Ray Sandford electroshock
  • Elizabeth Ellis electroshock

Here is my letter to Senator Ron Wyden: 

Dear Ron and any staff work on disability or mental health:

Over the decades, Ron, we have met a few times, mainly here in Eugene and once in your in your Senate office. But you meet so many thousands of people, let me please sum up my 60 years:

I am a psychiatric survivor. I was diagnosed schizophrenic, locked up in a psychiatric institution several times, but recovered enough to spend my whole life working to improve the mental health system.

Ron, this is the most important letter I am writing to you!

You see, I feel that the US House has made a severe mistake a few weeks ago. Yes, they were well-meaning when they passed HR 2646, for mental health reform, but there are elements in there that make this among the very worst mental health bills I have ever seen! Please pass the Senate bill 2680 without the amendments from HR 2646, also known as the Murphy Bill.

Ron, the reason that I started this work about 40 years ago was that back then I was a working class kid from Chicago going to Harvard on scholarships. I ran into difficult times, and five times I was placed in psychiatric institutions, with diagnoses such as schizophrenia, clinical depression, and bipolar (then manic depression).

Thankfully, Harvard referred me in my senior year as an intern in the human rights social change movement led by other psychiatric survivors. I graduated with honors from Harvard in 1977, and I learned about community organizing and mental health. This became my career.

While I am retired now, I have spent my whole professional life as a human rights community organizer in mental health. Perhaps you might have remembered my work as co-founder of MindFreedom International, based here in Eugene. For 25 years I directed MindFreedom and it is one of the main independent human rights groups in mental health.

In 2012, I experienced a very bad fall which broke my neck. I am now a quad in a powerchair, with even better connections to the disability movement, as you might imagine.

The reason I am sending you and your staff this important, urgent message. It is important that you pass Senate Bill 2680, without the amendments from HR 2646. Specifically, since you are so busy, let me focus on two points:

  1. We in the disability movement have a unifying slogan: “Nothing about us without us!” Yet, HR 2646 silences the voices of people who have real-life experience with mental health issues. The trend in mental health, internationally, is for more empowerment. However, HR 2646 actually muzzles citizens with psychiatric disabilities from speaking up in our agencies!
  1. HR 2646 gives away precious taxpayer money through grant funding for what is mistakenly called “Assisted Outpatient Treatment.” This is actually forced psychiatry, usually forced drugging but sometimes even forced court-ordered electric shock. Can you imagine? There is no evidence that outpatient commitment is more effective than voluntary care.

Ron, of course I read your father’s book. Since this topic has impacted my whole family for some many decades I know this can be a controversial topic for many people.

As community organizers, we know that power can be used to silence or amplify people. Groups run by mental health consumers of course have many opinions. But there is unity when it comes to opposing HR 2646!

Please, oppose the amendments from HR 2646, and support S. 2680.

I look forward to your reply as soon as possible!

Sincerely,

David W. Oaks

Below is a copy of my letter sent yesterday by email to my other US Senator from Oregon, Jeff Merkley:

Dear Jeff and any staff work on disability or mental health:

Jeff, you have been a great voice for the powerless! This time, the group I am talking about is very powerless indeed. But we in Oregon lead the way to change how people in the mental health system are treated! Let me please sum up my 60 years:

I am a psychiatric survivor. I was diagnosed schizophrenic, locked up in a psychiatric institution several times, but recovered enough to spend my whole life working to improve the mental health system.

Jeff, this is the most important letter I am writing to you!

You see, I feel that the US House has made a severe mistake a few weeks ago. Yes, they were well-meaning when they passed HR 2646, for mental health reform, but there are elements in there that make this among the very worst mental health bills I have ever seen! Please pass the Senate bill 2680 without the amendments from HR 2646, also known as the Murphy Bill.

Jeff, the reason that I started this work about 40 years ago was that back then I was a working class kid from Chicago going to Harvard on scholarships. I ran into difficult times, and five times I was placed in psychiatric institutions, with diagnoses such as schizophrenia, clinical depression, and bipolar (then manic depression).

Thankfully, Harvard referred me in my senior year as an intern in the human rights social change movement led by other psychiatric survivors. I graduated with honors from Harvard in 1977, and I learned about community organizing and mental health. This became my career.

While I am retired now, I have spent my whole professional life as a human rights community organizer in mental health. I was a co-founder of MindFreedom International, based here in Eugene. For 25 years I directed MindFreedom and it is one of the main independent human rights groups in mental health.

In 2012, I experienced a very bad fall which broke my neck. I am now a quad in a powerchair, with even better connections to the disability movement, as you might imagine.

The reason I am sending you and your staff this important, urgent message. It is important that you pass Senate Bill 2680, without the amendments from HR 2646. Specifically, since you are so busy, let me focus on two points:

  1. We in the disability movement have a unifying slogan: “Nothing about us without us!” Yet, HR 2646 silences the voices of people who have real-life experience with mental health issues. The trend in mental health, internationally, is for more empowerment. However, HR 2646 actually muzzles citizens with psychiatric disabilities from speaking up in our agencies!
  1. HR 2646 gives away precious taxpayer money through grant funding for what is mistakenly called “Assisted Outpatient Treatment.” This is actually forced psychiatry, usually forced drugging but sometimes even forced court-ordered electric shock. Can you imagine? There is no evidence that outpatient commitment is more effective than voluntary care.

Jeff, since this topic has impacted my whole family for some many decades I know this can be a controversial topic for many people.

As community organizers, we know that power can be used to silence or amplify people. Groups run by mental health consumers of course have many opinions. But there is unity when it comes to opposing HR 2646!

Please, oppose the amendments from HR 2646, and support S. 2680.

I look forward to your reply as soon as possible!

Sincerely,

David W. Oaks

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