Other cities are encouraged to follow the lead of the City Council of the City of Eugene. On 26 October 2009 they unanimously passed a resolution on affirming the city’s commitment to human rights, self-determination and choice in mental health care. The resolution No. 4989 says “special emphasis should be placed on providing diverse alternatives in treatments, including non-drug alternatives, whenever possible.”
Ron Unger thanks Eugene’s City Council for passing resolution for choice and human rights in mental health. (Click photo for full size.)
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After a five-year process of public forums and committee meetings, the City Council of Eugene, Oregon, USA unanimously voted for a resolution on 26 October 2009 to affirm the human right of citizens to have more empowering choices in the mental health system, including more non-drug alternatives, for complete recovery.
The resolution takes effect immediately (see text at bottom).
Psychiatric survivor advocate TC Dumas spoke in front of the Eugene City Council to thank them for the vote. TC, who survived forced electroshock as a teenager and went on to win her PhD, said, “I’ve been in the mental health system for 35 years. Many people are not offered choices. I just want to say ‘thank you,’ especially to you Mayor Piercy, who wanted to see this resolution happen.”
The Mayor of Eugene, Kitty Piercy, has offered her personal encouragement to mental health consumers and psychiatricsurvivors during several meetings on human rights and mental health.
Ron Unger, coordinator of MindFreedom Lane County, did a lot of the background work for the resolution. He told the City Council [see photo above], “I am a mental health counselor. One size does not fit all. Especially to reach young people, the mental health system needs to be much more positive and helpful. Thank you for passing this resolution.”
Other Cities Encouraged to Pass Resolution: The Story of City of Eugene Resolution 4989
Resolutions by city councils throughout the world are fairly common on other topics such as peace and the environment.
However, the MindFreedom International office seldom learns of resolutions for changing the mental health system with rare exceptions. For instance, the City of Toronto has declared “Mad Pride Week.”
The Eugene resolution emerged from a process that began in 2004 when the City of Eugene Human Rights Commission voted to adopt the issue of human rights in mental health as one of their priorities, because of leadership by psychiatric survivor Hugh Massengill, who was then a commissioner.
A special subcommittee on mental health and human rights headed by human rights advocate Carmen Urbina held two public forums and a major conference. MindFreedom Lane County members participated with many others, aided by City of Eugene staff person Francisca E. Johnson.
Said David W. Oaks, Director of MindFreedom International, who participated in the subcommittee, “We hope that other cities will pass this or similar resolutions. Offering citizens in crisis only one choice – prescription drugs – really is no choice at all. The denial of empowering, humane alternatives is one of the most common human rights violations in mental health care today.”
The lengthy City dialogue led to other victories, too.
The momentum led to the launch of an “Opal Network” in May 2007. Named after a famous Oregon author, Opal Whiteley, who ended up in a psychiatric institution, the quarterly meetings in the public library bring together all people and agencies who support the voice of mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors. The local cross-disability organization, LILA, especially staff person Bjo Ashwill, have especially been helpful in providing leadership for this innovative approach.
The Opal Network now offers workshops nationally about using this model of mobilizing allies, especially in the cross-disability community, to support consumer/survivor empowerment. For more info on Opal Network, click here: http://www.mindfreedom.org/opal
Out of this grassroots process, involving hundreds of people’s input, the resolution emerged, but did not reach the City Council. Holly LeMasurier, a Human Rights Analyst for the City of Eugene’s “Equity and Human Rights Center” took up the job of coordinating committee editing, and the City Council vote was finally held on 26 October 2009.
Said Holly, “Resolutions like this can go by without comment by the City Council, but in this case, the resolution was pulled to allow Councilors a chance to provide comment. At first I was concerned a critical dialogue would ensue. But each person who spoke strongly supported the resolution and commended the background work of the committee. One councilor noted that diverse perspectives were carefully included. The City Council was unanimous in supporting the resolution.”
Here is the text:
City of Eugene • City Council
RESOLUTION NO. 4989
A RESOLUTION AFFIRMING THE CITY’S COMMITMENT TO HUMAN RIGHTS AND MENTAL HEALTH CARE.
The City Council of the City of Eugene finds that:
A. The City Council of the City of Eugene recognizes that the diversity of our population is vital to our community’s character, and that we have a long tradition of protecting and expanding human rights and civil liberties protections for all of our residents, including persons with all types of disabilities.
B. U.S. Courts have affirmed a number of rights for people diagnosed with mental disabilities. At the national level, the right to choose to live in the least restrictive environment that is reasonably available has been affirmed. At the state level, a number of courts have affirmed a person’s right to refuse psychotropic medications, even when the state has a “compelling interest” in providing treatment, if less intrusive, effective treatment alternatives exist. These decisions are consistent with the principle that all people have the right to lives free of unnecessary restrictions and intrusions.
C. Many people determine that psychiatric medications are quite helpful for their mental and emotional conditions, and are grateful to have the opportunity to take them. Others find medications to be harmful to their health, unhelpful and/or excessively intrusive and problematic. When people seek treatment and are offered medication as the only treatment option, they may feel coerced into choosing that option. Many of the medications currently provided are typically associated with significant medical risk, are often experienced as subjectively harmful, and their long-term effectiveness remains controversial. Furthermore, there are widely researched psychosocial alternative treatments likely to be at least as effective for many, with fewer harmful effects.
D. Many mental health problems are caused by trauma and human rights violations, such as child abuse, war, racism, lack of housing and economic opportunities, domestic violence, and others. A key element in any kind of trauma is the denial of choice. When people who have been traumatized are denied choices in recovery, an effect may be retraumatization.
E. Serious psychiatric disorder is often thought of as inevitably a permanent condition requiring a lifetime of medication, however research shows that a substantial fraction of those with even the most serious diagnoses do fully recover, eventually not requiring treatment. Treatment choices, designed to foster rehabilitation and recovery, which include working, living, and participating in the life of the community, have been shown to increase such recovery.
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF EUGENE, a Municipal Corporation of the State of Oregon, as follows:
Section 1. All mental health service providers within the City of Eugene are encouraged to incorporate self determination and consumer choice as much as possible, with accurate information provided to consumers and to families about those choices. Special emphasis should be placed on providing diverse alternatives in treatments, including non-drug alternatives, whenever possible
Section 2. All mental health service providers within the City of Eugene are urged to offer a full range of choices designed to assist in complete recovery.
Section 3. This Resolution shall become effective immediately upon its adoption.
The foregoing Resolution adopted the 26 day of October, 2009.
[signed] Acting City Recorder
– end –
Action * Action * Action
To show there is widespread support you are encouraged to thank the City of Eugene by using their web contact form. Under “request,” pull down “General Comment.” Those outside Eugene can use to the “Eugene” pull down to select “web site visitor.”
To Read a Guest Column Op-Ed by David W. Oaks, MindFreedom International Director, about the Resolution, published in The Register-Guard, click here.
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