Emergency Room Abuse Testimony for Legislation

Submitted by admin on Thu, 06/21/2007 - 19:13

from Cathy Levin of MPOWER:


We wish to collect horror stories about abusive treatment in emergency rooms to convince lawmakers to pass 2 pieces of legislation through the state house. We had 6 people who are interested in telling their stories to the Boston Globe. We had collected 13 interviews with people who have been
abused. The Mental Health Legal Advisor Committee (MHLAC) helped with some of these. The stories are for testimony at the state house hearings on the ER Rights bills.

People can contact me and I will interview them over the phone or they can write their own stores and send them to me at cathy.levin@comcast.net and to one of the attorneys, who is helping us get people's testimony ready, Susan Fendell at sfendell@mhlac.org. Susan can advise people how to make their testimony powerful as possible.

People who don't wish to testify in person at the state house can submit written testimony. I understand it is Ok to use only first names, although it is more powerful and convincing to use full names and town where you live. Hearings for H 1891, see below, are set for November 2007 and hearings for H2042 are not set yet, but may be this month, June, or July.

Attached to this email is are two form letters to committees on Mental Health & Substance Abuse and also Public Health. Please fill out as many of these as you can--fax them around to other programs, please--and mail them
back to me at Cathy A Levin, 98 Magazine St, Roxbury, MA 02119.

Also, to help the bills through the legislature, it is very important to call the state house to encourage your legislator to support the bills. We have contacted everyone in this are we can, but we are advised we are preaching to the converted and should contact law makers who might not know about the bills and be interested unless they hear about it from you.

We are working on a phone script. It needs work. Perhaps people from Central Mass would like to help work on it. The phone script needs to be tested out before sending it out. Your help is needed with this.

Also, letters to your legislators are very convincing. They are often impressed someone took the time to write. Write from the heart. People's stories are outrageous and convincing that things are really bad and we need change.

Best wishes,
Cathy A. Levin

PS A key, convincing point is that humane and compassionate treatment in emergency rooms, which are the gatekeepers of the mental health system, would save people from needing more costly mental health care later on.

Below is info about the 2 ER Rights bills.

House bill 2042 "An Act to protect the mentally ill in emergency room"
  a.. Chief sponsor Chairperson Ruth B Balser of the committee on Mental
Health & Substance Abuse
  b.. This bill requires stakeholders, including M-POWER, have input into
amending existing regulations concerning behavior health patients in ERs.
Right now the only regulations concerning ERs are from the Center for
Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). These regulations offer inadequate
  c.. Hearings on this bill are set for November 2007 in front of the Public
Health Committee.
House bill 1891 "An Act relative to the treatment of mentally ill patients
in emergency room facilities"
  a.. Chief sponsor Chairman Peter J Koutoujian of the committee on Public
  b.. Right now emergency mental health areas in medical hospitals are
licensed by the department of public health. DPH licensed the whole hospital
including everything in the ER. This bill will move licensing authority of
designated psych emergency areas to the department of mental health. DMH has
fewer barriers to filing complaints and has a better track record of taking
complaints of people with mental illness seriously. DMH has better rules on
restraint & seclusion, forcing people to take their clothes off and put on a
johnnie, informed consent and use of force by hospital security/police and
generally uniformed guards getting involved in psychiatric crisis. DMH is
better on these issues. M-POWER is mentioned in the bill, too, as a
stakeholder give input.
  c.. This bill will be heard in front of the Mental Health & Substance
Abuse Committee. A hearing date has not been set.