Finally, Something to Celebrate! New Mexico’s Senate adjourned without passing an involuntary outpatient commitment law.

16 Feb. 2006

The law would have made New Mexico the 43rd USA state to allow courts to order peaceful citizens living out in the community in their own homes to take powerful psychiatric drugs against their will, even though the drugs can cause brain damage.

Hundreds of New Mexico’s citizens united to resist this bill, vastly outnumbering proponents.

Congratulations to Ken Collins and Al Galves, two of the MindFreedom members who participated in this historic cross-disability rights victory.

BELOW is a statement from a mental health advocacy group, NYAPRS, that flew their director Harvey Rosenthal down to New Mexico to fight the bill.

AT BOTTOM is a public statement from MindFreedom about how the psychiatric drugs that are typically given forcibly may cause frontal lobe brain shrinkage visible under brain scan.

Thank you New Mexico for showing us all: If we unite, we can win human rights!


Kendra’s Law Stalls in New Mexico Senate

NYAPRS Issues Statement Urging New Focus on True System Reform

The New Mexico state legislature adjourned at noon today without taking final action on their version of Kendra’s Law and its reliance on forced outpatient treatment as a false solution to real, comprehensive mental health reforms.

In doing so, they give New Mexicans the time to avoid rushed, headline driven policy and to get down to the business of crafting real solutions that will truly improve social conditions and services for New Mexicans with psychiatric disabilities and their families.

Absent of a special session, the New Mexico legislature is not scheduled to meet until next year. While the measure ultimately passed the House despite a number of committee meetings that heard powerful testimony from opponents, its movement slowed down in the Senate in consideration of several amendments and eventually, the clock ran out.

Under Governor Bill Richardson, New Mexico has assembled a 15 state agency Behavioral Health Collaborative that, with input from all stakeholders, can effectively overcome the problems in access, adequacy, quality and capacity of what hopefully will be a recovery and person-centered public mental health system that saves lives and advances the wellness and community integration of New Mexicans in need.

The movement against involuntary outpatient commitment and for recovery reforms in New Mexico has been a truly unprecedented and inspirational one. In most other states, political leaders have succumbed to a juggernaut of pressure to pass IOC initiatives or to be targeted as ‘soft on crime’ or turning their backs on the suffering of those with psychiatric disabilities and their families.

The rights and rehabilitation movement in New Mexico, peopled by hundreds of advocates from the consumer, provider, family and disability rights communities, rose up and passionately revealed their personal stories and their personal conviction in the power of recovery and the great potential of progressive mental health system reform to effectively engage even the most distressed and/or isolated individuals.

If there is any victor today, it is them. In doing so, they have given hope to true system reformers and proponents of recovery, rehabilitation and rights across the nation.

It is now time for mental health advocates to stop diverting precious time and resources to fighting over forced treatment and instead to come together to craft true mental health system reform.

This ‘Mental Health E-News’ posting is a service of the New York Ass’n of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, a statewide coalition of people who use and/or provide community mental health services dedicated to improving services and social conditions for people with psychiatric disabilities by promoting their recovery, rehabilitation and rights.


STATEMENT from MindFreedom International about the psychiatric drugs typically used during involuntary outpatient commitment:


New Mexico’s legislature was moving quickly toward passing a law to allow its citizens to be court ordered to take psychiatric drugs while living peacefully in their own homes out in the community.

There are many issues involved, but one issue received inadequate attention by New Mexican legislators and the media:

Medical studies over the past few years show that the drugs typically given forcibly are now known to cause structural brain damage when given long-term in high dosages.

Please note that MindFreedom is pro-choice about health care decisions. Many of our members choose to take these drugs despite known risks.

But how can a society debate the pro’s and con’s of force drugging, without knowledge of the true risks of the drugs? This is like debating nuclear power with the word “radiation” never coming up!

Forced outpatient commitment is essentially about forced neuroleptics. Yes, there are other drugs that are forced. Yes, sometimes non-drug services are court ordered.

But Kendra’s Law is mainly about forcing neuroleptics.

The grand daddy was Thorazine, and drugs like Haldol, etc. Now the drugs are far more expensive (though not necessarily “better” according to recent studies) such as Risperdal and Zyprexa.


Please note that the neuroleptic-induced structural brain change is now beyond debate WITHIN the medical community. There are plenty of brain scan and autopsy studies showing that these drugs can cause changes so severe that, for example, frontal lobe brain shrinkage can be seen in long-term CT studies.

But the public, decision-makers, legislators, family members, media and clients are usually not told about this evidence available to the medical community.

Instead, proponents of psychiatric forced drugging try to put up a smokescreen on the issue by arguing that “mental illness would involve brain change anyway.”

But the fact is that neuroleptic-induced structural brain change can be replicated in ANIMAL STUDIES, so this is beyond whatever underlying problem the person may have.

Don’t our legislators, our society, our media, and clients have a RIGHT TO KNOW about neuroleptic-induced brain injury, especially during debates like this, especially when we’re talking about FORCED neuroleptics OUT in the community, when alternatives exist?

MindFreedom International unites 100 grassroots groups and thousands of members.

See below links to just some of the citations:

Note that the MAIN GROUP promoting forced outpatient psychiatric drugging — led by E. Fuller Torrey — has a page on their own web site admitting that neuroleptics can induce structural brain change. Of course, Torrey argues that maybe brain shrinkage is good for you — but our point is: Don’t those who own those frontal lobes, and don’t politicians debating the fate of those frontal lobes, have a right to KNOW about this extremely important information?

Here is the web page of TREATMENT ADVOCACY CENTER (directed by E. Fuller Torrey) admitting that neuroleptics can alter the brain’s structure: