I wrote a letter to my representative in Congress about the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. After I wrote to her, I read the bill in its entirety, and discovered it is a pretty good bill, but it has a couple of things that alarm me.
Changing the rules regarding HIPPA is a concern for me. I think allowing anyone access to another person’s medical information leaves too much room for abuse. In a previous post, I explained how my husband and I get around confidentiality in terms of my treatment by signing a waiver to allow my husband access to my medical information and the opinions of my doctors. We always arrange this as soon as we see a new doctor so that the doctor can keep the paperwork on file, in case anyone questions him/her about talking to my husband.
My other concern is a part of the bill that funds outpatient treatment. I’m not sure exactly how this would work but somehow “they” could force people to take their medications in order for the mentally ill person to live in the community. It is called Assisted Outpatient Treatment or AOT. In theory I agree with this because I know that frequently if people would comply with their medications they would function at a higher level, and be able to keep their housing and possibly avoid a crisis. I said I was concerned about this but I am by no means completely opposed to it. I just worry about how this would actually work when transferred from paper to the real world.
I want to see more psychiatric beds available across the country and I pointed this out to my representative. There simply aren’t enough (not even close) beds for those that need this level of treatment. I would like to see a big portion of the money go to inpatient treatment facilities.
I also wrote that it would be nice if mentally ill people were asked these questions and helped to draft these bills instead of always listening to families and advocates. I pointed out that many mentally ill people are capable of adding input and experiences about things that will ultimately impact their/our lives. I wrote this because I saw that the bill had the support of some advocacy groups that I find very offensive and questionable in terms of the rights of the mentally ill and in terms of how they present issues regarding the mentally ill. I can think of one advocacy group in particular that perpetuates the worst possible stigma surrounding severe mental illness almost daily in their social media.
I let my representative know that I am available to talk, e-mail, come to her office, etc. I have no idea if she would ever take me up on this, but it would be great if she did.
If you have a chance to read the bill, I encourage you to do so. You can find it online. If you love it, hate it, agree with parts of it, or disagree with the whole thing, I suggest you write your representative. Now is the time to be heard. Even if you don’t agree with me, your voice is important. All of our voices are important.
This is one of those times when we can be heard about the mental health system in this country. It is time to stop complaining about the broken system and take action to fix it. There is power in your words, experiences, and circumstances – use your power to make a difference.