Front Pageshield

Updated 5/18/2022


Update for David Italiano

Though it has been several months since MindFreedom International (MFI) in conjunction with Roads to Freedom Center for Independent Living (RTFCIL) issued a Shield update on behalf of David Italiano, we are not giving up – not by a long shot! See our Call To Action below.

Work on behalf of David Italiano has been progressing behind the scenes and we have a lot to share.

Below is an update of Shield developments and actions you can take to help us find and free David. Helping David will help us all!

Our joy at finding David in January turned quickly to disappointment, when to the best of our knowledge, David was moved from the Shirley House, his last known placement. David was moved presumably because his supporters located him and were briefly able to visit with him privately.

Before his supporters were asked to leave, they were able to confirm, once again, David’s wish to move back to his home.

1) Two weeks ago, Pennsylvania Council for Independent Living (PCIL), with six other interested parties filed an Amicus Brief to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, with help from David Ferleger and other civil rights attorneys, challenging the denial of David’s appeal. As you may recall, David’s attorney fought unsuccessfully to appeal David’s plenary guardianship. A copy of our latest effort to find and free David -the Amicus Brief- can be viewed as a Word document HERE and as a PDF HERE.

2) A copy of the press release sent out by PCIL announcing the filing of the Amicus Brief can be viewed HERE.

3) Local press coverage of this development can be viewed HERE.

4) MFI, with help from RTFCIL, formed a workgroup that meets weekly. The work-group includes MFI, RTFCIL, PCIL, disability and civil rights attorneys, activists from Pennsylvania ADAPT, Center for Estate Administration Reform (CEAR), and Kasem Cares. If you wish to be involved in this workgroup, please email MFI at We could really use help with a volunteer who is adept at social media!

5) Last month, MFI hosted a public meeting on the topic of Supported Decision Making during our regular educational series: ‘Judi’s Room’, named after Judi Chamberlin, a well-known disability rights activist. Judi’s Room is free and open to the public and takes place on the first Wednesday of every month. If you wish to receive invitations to Judi’s Room, send an email to with ‘Add me to Judi’s Room’ in the subject heading.

In ‘Supported Decision Making’ guest presenter attorney Jonathan Martinis Esq., informed us that out of fifty states, only fourteen formally recognize supportive decision making as an alternative to guardianship/conservatorship. The American Bar Association and many national organizations on aging have called for sweeping reforms to the system of guardianship/conservatorship. MFI aspires to promote supported decision making as a viable alternative not only to abusive guardianships but also to forced psychiatry!

We have much work to do and to succeed, we are building a coalition which we hope will not only provide justice for David Italiano in Pennsylvania, but for every person whose dignity and freedoms are comprised as a result of a disability. As a first step, please take the following action today to find and free David Italiano!

Call to Action

If you are among the 1,300+ individuals who signed our petition for David, thank you! If not, please help us reach 1,500 signatures, by June 15 by signing and sharing our petition.

Send Letters and Emails to Lawmakers! (post copies of your letters on MFI’s website HERE)


Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania

See a Sample Letter to Governor Wolf from MFI’s Executive Director.

Contact Gov. Wolf via website HERE.

Office of the Governor
508 Main Capitol Building
HarrisburgPA 1712
Pennsylvania State Representatives

HERE is an example of a simple email. Please note that due to the date of the letter, it does not mention the Amicus Brief. Please feel free to add that info!

Jamie Maggs (for Jeff Wheeland PA 84th District):

Rep. Kurt Masser (PA 107th District):

Contact Melissa Blair at

Rep. Kerry Benninghoff (PA 171st):

Mark Long:

Sen. Jake Corman:

Contact Diane Acri at

Rep. Linda Culver (PA 108th):

Contact Dawn Becher at

Rep Dan Frankel (PA 23rd District):

Contact Erika Fricke at

Rep. Scott Conklin (PA 77th District): and/or contact Michael McCartney at

Rep. Clint Owlett (PA 68th District):

Rep. Fred Keller (PA 85th District):

Huntingdon County Commissioners Contacts

Contact the Huntingdon County Commissioners and tell them that an agency that they govern (Huntingdon/Bedford/Fulton Area Agency on Aging) is abusing one of their constituents by denying him basic liberties that are protected under the Olmstead Ruling of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Jeff Thomas:

Send Letters to Would-Be Lawmakers!

Send a letter to prospective US Senator from Pennsylvania, Conor Lamb here.

Send a letter to prospective US Senator from Pennsylvania, John Fetterman here.

If you are new to the Shield you can familiarize yourself with the Shield on MFI’s website HERE or read a brief summary of what happened to David prior to the launch of his Shield  HERE . If you received this from an independent source and you would like to directly receive Shield alerts in the future, you can sign up by emailing putting ‘Add me to Shield List’ in the subject heading. If you would like to enroll in Shield view the online application HERE.

Advocating for someone like David who is prohibited from receiving visitors and making private phone calls, has not only been extremely challenging, it is very disturbing!

For this reason, MFI is forming a ‘cross-disabilities’ alliance with other organizations. Our vision for David’s Shield campaign is to unite Centers for Independent Living with other social justice organizations. Centers for Independent Living are federally mandated to assist people with disabilities to live as independently as possible in their own communities. MFI members know from experience that people with psycho-social disabilities are routinely institutionalized, restrained, drugged/shocked by force, and put under abusive guardianships. We are not alone. This problem also impacts the elderly and people with physical, intellectual, or developmental disabilities. This is why urge people with lived experiences of the mental health system must to unite with people with disabilities and their allies everywhere!

Post & Tweet your support for David Italiano!

#ShieldAlert #DavidItaliano #StopForcedPsychiatry

Share this link HERE on your Facebook

Updated 3/4/22


David Italiano was found at last! He still urgently needs our support!

Staff members at Roads to Freedom Center for Independent Living (RTFCIL) after learning of David’s whereabouts, made an unannounced visit to David’s facility by entering through a side door and were able to have a private conversation with him. Sadly, this contact may be short-lived. When RTFCIL staff later called David to follow up, they were told by staff that “David is no longer living here.”

We all know from personal experience how disempowering it is to be isolated in an institution, cut off from everything one holds dear. Let’s write letters and send cards to David.

David Italiano

Shirley Home for the Aged

17050 Country View Lane

Shirleysburg, PA 17260.

Note: Be sure to include a stamped, self addressed envelope when you write!

More importantly, let’s take action today to free David!

David has essentially been disappeared by a government agency that has complete control of every aspect of his life. He cannot visit with whomever he chooses or enjoy a private phone call. What is happening to David is an outrage. Even more alarming is the shortage of checks and balances in the guardianship system in Pennsylvania. What is happening to David can  happen to any of us.

MFI is most concerned about the following reports:

1)  Staff members at the Shirley House threatened David with psychiatric care in another institution if he doesn’t cooperate. As many of you know, the fraudulent use of psychiatric labeling/tranquilizing drug administration is a well documented form of abuse in nursing homes  HERE and HERE and HERE

2) David’s brother sent him a Christmas card over the Holidays. The card was returned to the sender with a note from staff saying that David was ‘deceased.’

3) David still wishes to receive services to help him transition back to his own home but his court appointed guardian (see below) continues to block any visitors or phone calls. Without unfettered communication, David cannot receive federally mandated transitional services that RTFCIL can provide.

David’s legal guardian is a government funded agency called the Hungtingdon County Area Agency on Aging (AAA)  The judge who appointed this guardian used to work for that agency.

To MFI’s disappointment, The Protection and Advocacy (P and A) in David’s region – the people whose job it is to protect the rights of vulnerable people – have made it clear to MFI and RTFCIL that they do not intend to take any legal actions/advocate for David.

Please help us turn up the heat and take the following actions today!

Contact Connie Brode, the Executive Director of the AAA for Huntingdon/Bedford/Fulton Counties

Conne Brode

Area Agency on Aging


HERE  is an example of a simple email

Demand that David Italiano be allowed to receive services to help him transition back to the community and that he be allowed visitors and use of a private phone.

Contact the Huntingdon County Commissioners and tell them that an agency that they govern (Huntington/Bedford/Futon Area Agency on Aging) is abusing one of their constituents by denying him basic liberties that are protected under the Olmstead Ruling of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Heather Fellman

Mark Sather

Jeff Thomas

Scott Walls

Tracey Rhodes


A few minutes of your time can make a difference! 

As always, please cc your email to or post on the comments on our website HERE A simple email with a few talking points is sufficient. For an example, read this brief but excellent.

Updated January 28, 2022

Karen Koch is one of one of the last people to have spoken to David before he was disappeared., Karen Koch is an Advocacy Coordinator for Roads to Freedom Center for Independent Living (RTFCIL) who was helping David transition from the nursing home back to his own home, when his state appointment guardian cut him off from all contact with the outside world. Karen discusses the urgency of finding and freeing David Italiano, and the need for greater checks in Pennsylvania’s dangerous guardianship system

Listen to a recording of the Interview HERE

Updated January 13, 2022

MFI Executive Director, Ron Bassman, has sent out an additional update to the Shield campaign for David Italiano click HERE


Updated January 7, 2022

To read the latest update in the Shield campaign for David Italiano click HERE


Updated December 30, 2021

MindFreedom launched a Shield campaign to find and free David Italiano in October, 2021 in conjunction with David’s chosen advocate, RTFCIL. You can read the original Shield by scrolling down to October. We encourage you to pay particular attention to our letter writing campaign aimed at elected officials in Pennsylvania (listed below)

To date, our Shield campaign for David has not resulted in the outcome we desire.

That is where you come in.

We are about to turn up the heat and we need your help.

Please sign the following petition to help us find and free David today!


It has been a whole year since we knew the whereabouts of David in order to communicate with him and establish his well being. It has been three months since we launched a Shield campaign for David. This petition is important because David’s situation is urgent.

Many of you will receive multiple requests to sign petitions this year for a variety of worthy causes. Very few of them involve abusive guardianships, however. Please treat this petition as if your very life depended on it. What is happening to David can happen to anyone of us.

The motto of MFI’s Shield is ‘One for all and all for one!”

Please take the time not only to sign the petition. Please also publicly share why you are signing on or on our website HERE by scrolling down to the comments below. Take another five minutes to read the petition carefully on and view the options for sharing on the platform.

You can bypass requests to make a donation to No donation is required to ensure that your signature is counted. The organizers at state that by reaching a milestone of 100 signatures, our petition’s visibility will increase. We can easily reach 100 signatures by day’s end (December 31, 2021)

To reach 1,000 signatures, however is going to require that at least half of you signers are also willing to go the extra mile and share this petition with your friends.

To optimize our chances of having our petition go viral, a significant number of you will not only have to share or email this petition to as many of your friends as possible, but do so in a thoughtful and meaningful way by describing, in your own words, why this petition is important to you and why it is important for your friends and colleagues to share. It takes time to convince friends. I hope you will take the time for a person’s life, for David Italiano.

Some of you have blogs and websites. Some of you manage newsletters and large lists. Some of you belong to groups and book clubs, gyms, and places of worship. Please do whatever is within your power to share this as widely as possible.

You can post a link to the petition on your Facebook page or instragram account. You can do it directly from the platform or simply cut and paste the link to the petition HERE Downloadable, specially, sized graphics for social media are posted below.

You can also plop the link to the petition HERE on your Facebook ‘status update’

We have asked some of our members who were active in ‘Free Britney’ to circulate this to Free Britney activists. Perhaps, with your/their help, Britney Spears may view/share this Petition herself!


Again, here is the link to the Petition HERE

Here is a downloadable graphic you can use for Instagram

Here is downloadable graphic you can use for Facebook

Thank you for helping us turn up the Heat for David!


Updated November 24, 2021


We still do not know where David is and we are doubling down on our efforts to find and free him. See this press release HERE Please help David! To view the original alert scroll down to 10/19/2021

Today’s recommended action is

1) File a complaint against Judge Zanic (see below)

2) Continue to write to Huntingdon County Commissioners. For instructions and an example, scroll down.

Other grass-roots organizations are starting to join MFI and RTFCIL by demanding that lawmakers find and free David Italiano.

A special thanks to ‘Put People First’ members in Pennsylvania for contacting Huntingdon County Commissioners last week.

Another special thanks to Lily for alerting National Association to End Guardianship Abuse which posted David’s Shield alert on their website HERE and agreeing to conduct a radio interview with Karen Koch of RTFCIL.

Have you written to the Commissioners yet? If not, please do so today. 

A few minutes of your time can make a difference. The commissioners email addresses are listed below. HERE is an example of a simple email.

As always, please cc your email to or post on the comments on our website HERE A simple email with a few talking points is sufficient. For an example, read this brief but excellent.




Heather Fellman

Mark Sather

Jeff Thomas

Scott Walls

Tracey Rhodes


If you already wrote to the commissions, please report Judge Zanic who ignored evidence presented by a mental health professional at a hearing declaring that David Italiano to be competent. He appointed a guardian who continues to ignore David’s wishes, hides him and prevents him from having contact with the outside world.

File a complaint against Judge Zanic for ruling on the case of David Italiano, despite having a conflict of interest.

  1. Judge Zanic, was formerly employed as the legal counsel for Huntingdon County AAA before being elected as the President Judge of Huntingdon County.
  2. Over Mr. Italiano’s objections, Judge Zanic appointed, Huntingdon County AAA, his former client to be David Italiano’s permanent guardianship even though an expert witness declared David Italiano to be mentally competent.


File a complaint with the Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania HERE




Updated November 12, 2021


It has been nearly a year since David Italiano was disappeared in Pennsylvania’s broken guardianship system, a black hole which many elderly people, psychiatric survivors, and people with disabilities fall into, often with lethal consequences.

It has been over three weeks since MindFreedom International issued an official Shield alert for David Italiano. MFI learned of his plight from Roads to Freedom Center for Independent Living (RTF) earlier in the year after RTF staff tried to help David move from a congregate facility back into his own home before he was disappeared in retaliation.

The goal of the alert is to find him, confirm his safety, and make sure that he is respected and treated like a human being as opposed to being locked up in a nursing home and forced to wear an ankle bracelet, as he was when RTF staff last were able to communicate with him.

What is happening to him could happen to any of us. We must protect David Italiano and in doing so, send a clear message to lawmakers and people who work for any oppressive system: psychiatric facilities, geriatric facilities, group homes, etc. that we will not tolerate human rights abuses, especially as it concerns the care of people with psycho social disabilities.

Remember, David Italiano does not have a psychiatric diagnosis. He is not in a psychiatric facility. This alert is a joint effort between MFI and RTFCIL. This Shield alert illustrates the overlapping problems faced by both psychiatric survivors and people with disabilities.

If you have not contacted Senator Toomey, Governor Wolf. and the other lawmakers listed in previous alerts (archived below) please contact them today! If you have already contacted those lawmakers, please contact the Huntingdon County commissioners, the focus of today’s Shield update..

The Huntingdon County Commissioners hold the purse strings of the agency that is hiding David Italiano.

Read the many, eloquent letters, especially the one by Meaghan Graef (scroll down to comments section below) for inspiration or the talking points in earlier updates below when comprising your email.




Call or write an email alerting Huntingdon County Commissioners to the treatment and disappearance of David Italiano in Pennsylvania’s broken guardian system and send the email to every Huntingdon County commissioner listed below. Be sure to cc or post your email on the comments section below. Be sure to tell the Commissioners that the Huntingdon County AAA has assumed guardianship of David Italiano against David’s wishes and that they will not disclose his whereabouts of  confirm his safety or allow him to have contact with his chosen advocate Roads to Freedom Center for Independent Living, in accordance with Pennsylvania’s guardianship statutes and in accordance with David’s civil liberties under the Olmstead Ruling. You can find talking points below.





Heather Fellman

Mark Sather

Jeff Thomas

Scott Walls

Tracey Rhodes



Updated November 9 2021

Thanks to a Shield volunteer (not sure if I can out her by name) we now possess a very important court document which will greatly help the Shield campaign for David Italiano. Please visit  this page soon for new important actions you can take to find and free David based on this new finding.


If you haven’t written yet to Sen Casey, Rep Irvin, Sen. Toobey, or Governor Wolf yet, please do so today!

Ron Bassman, Executive Director of MFI, submitted this letter to the Governor HERE



Updated November 5, 2021

Please continue to help David Italiano!. It is critical that Shield members continue to take action. His situation is urgent. If you haven’t written to Pennsylvania lawmakers below, please do so today by scrolling down to letter writing resources posted below on 10/19/21 and 10/27/21

Today’s Action

If you already written to lawmakers in Pennsylvania, please contact the media!

  1. Write a letter to the editor of the Huntingdon County Daily News HERE

  2. Write an opinion piece to Pennsylvania Capital Star HERE

  3. Write a letter to the editor of the Pennsylvania Inquirer HEREand select ‘Letter to the Editor’

  4. Contact WPCN radio station in Huntingdon County HERE

  5. Call WPCN Phone: 216-916-6100/Toll Free: 877-399-3307

The following press release distributed by MFI is provided for informational purposes.


The Alert updated on 10/29/21

For original alert (and actions) scroll down to 10/19/2021

If you have already the actions listed in the original alert dated 10/19/21 Thank you! The situation involving David is considered urgent until we find David and communicate with him once again!  Please continue to take action today. We will post a different action each week. The action we recommend this week is to call or write to Senator Toomey.


Senator Toomey

320 Market Street

Suite 475E

Harrisburg, PA 17108

(717) 782-3951

Letter Template in PDF HERE

(more formats coming soon)

Contact Senator Toomey using the contact form on his website:




“Don’t Murder Me!” reads an excerpt from the journal of David Italiano, a disabled individual who was ‘Disappeared’ in Pennsylvania’s Broken Guardianship System. Take Action Today! Help Us Find David and Restore His Rights!


MindFreedom International (MFI) in conjunction with Roads to Freedom Center for Independent Living (RTFCIL), is launching a Shield Alert to locate and establish the well-being of David Italiano, an elderly person in Pennsylvania who has been ‘disappeared’ by a government funded agency called the Huntingdon County Area Agency  (AAA) in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania.

Please help us find David Italiano and confirm his well being. Help David exercise his right to receive appropriate services to help him to live independently in his own home!

A complete history of David’s story can be found in our website HERE. A brief summary follows and below that, recommended actions for Shield members to take.

Last year, after complaining of spousal abuse, David was placed under a temporary guardianship and moved to a congregate facility 120+ miles from where he lives. At David’s request, RTFCIL consented to help David put together his own care plan. One of David’s goals was to petition the court for a termination or change of guardianship. Another goal was to move back home.

Later in the year, his spouse died and no longer posed a threat to David. A neuropsychiatric evaluation determined that David was competent and no longer in need of protection, yet a judge in Huntingdon County placed David under permanent guardianship.

The Huntingdon County AAA forbid RTFCIL from communicating with David, even though RTFCIL has determined that David is eligible for services to help him live independently, services which David has requested. His guardian even instructed the staff at the nursing home to monitor David’s personal calls and confiscated his personal cell phone. Before being ‘disappeared’ David shared this poignant letter describing the despair having every facet of one’s life dictated by someone else. HERE

David was secretly moved to another location on February 20 to prevent him from having contact with RTFCIL. The Huntingdon County AAA refuses to communicate with RTFCIL on behalf of David and will not reveal his location.

David’s story reveals that our guardianship system is broken. Supported decision making is not practiced in the current system and it easy to abuse and exploit people with disabilities who are under guardianship.

Please take action today! Inform public officials that you will not not sit back and allow the state to take away David Italiano’s right to live in the least restrictive setting of his choosing. This right was guaranteed under the American Disabilities Act (ADA) according to the Supreme Court, in Olmstead v.s. LC

Please join MFI to demand the following of public officials:

  • Compel Huntingdon County AAA to disclose David Italiano’s location.
  • Allow David Italiano to communicate freely with whoever he chooses.
  • Force nursing home staff to return David’s private phone.
  • Compel agencies to use supported decision making with all of their disabled clients, including those under guardianship!

For a list of recommended actions and people you should contact see below.

Please circulate this alert to your colleagues and friends. Let us know what actions you take by cc’ing




Every week, we will post a new action. For today’s action, we urge you to write letters or email to the following public officials. If you choose to use email (Governor Wolf is the only official below who does not post his email address) you can combine recipients. Be sure to cc or post your email/letter in comments below.

Letter templates are provided below each public official’s contact information but please note, that they should only serve as guidelines. It is better to use your own words to the greatest extent possible. Letter templates are provided in two formats to make it easier. If you can use the MS Word software, you can open and overwrite on the templates, saving only the words you want to replicate. If your browser will only open text files, you can find additional formats on the website of our partner PsychRights HERE

Contact Governor Wolf’s Office

Call Governor Wolf


Person in the Governor’s Office Who is Tasked with Disability Issue

Write to Governor Wolf

Use the contact form:


Send Ground Letters to Governor Wolf:

Office of the Governor
508 Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120



*Additional format available on the website of PsychRights HERE

Contact Rich Irvin, State Representive, District 81 (David’s Home community)

Hon. Rich Irvin
612 Pennsylvania Avenue
Huntingdon, PA 16652
(814) 644-2996
Fax: (814) 644-2999




Contact Senator Casey

Chairman of Special Committee on Aging

CALL Senator Casey

Disability Policy Director

Office of Sen. Bob Casey

Write to Sen. Casey at his Philadelphia office

2000 Market Street
Suite 610
Philadelphia, PA 19103







  1. I just sent this email to the Huntingdon County Commisions:

    To: Heather Fellman, Mark Sather, Jeff Thomas, Scott Walls, Tracey Rhodes

    It has come to my attention through the joint efforts of two strong and respected advocacy groups, Roads to Freedom Center for Independent Living and Mind Freedom International, that a citizen from your county, David Italiano, has undergone egregious violations of his basic human and civil rights. The Huntingdon County AAA has assumed guardianship of David against his wishes and they will not disclose his whereabouts or confirm his safety or allow him to have contact with his chosen advocate, Roads to Freedom Center for Independent Living, in accordance with Pennsylvania’s guardianship statutes and in accordance with David’s civil liberties under the Olmstead Ruling.

    This is something that hopefully none of us would tolerate for ourselves or our loved ones.

    I implore you to look into this matter immediately. Help us find David and restore his rights!

    Thank you,

    Russell Stence
    (585) 694-5565

    I also called their office, 814-643-3091, and left a voicemail with essentially the same message. I plan to call back Monday morning so I can speak with someone in that office.

  2. I sent a letter to Rep Irvin from Huntingdon County in hopes Action is taken to find him & he lived Independently again.

    • Ria, Thank you!! Could you explain a little bit about this list, how you got it and any recommendations you may have for using it based on your experience?

  3. After searching through court documents I found the most recent court docket dated 11/1/2021. I hope and pray this leads to his finding.

    • Vladimir, I went to your FB page to see if I could friend you and share your email (I don’t have a lot of followers on my personal page, so I thought I may get more traction by sharing your post) but you appear to have more than two FB pages, one is public and the other is private?

    • I removed the shield alert about David Italiano from both of my Facebook pages on November 9 and instead started (from November 8) to post that shield alert on Philadelphia Inquirer’s Facebook page (because that page definitely has more visitors than my page). Every day I post the shield alert on two different posts on Philadelphia Inquirer’s Facebook page and delete the shield alerts that I posted the previous day (because Philadelphia Inquirer posts many posts, I doubt that anybody reads the posts that are one day old).
      Maybe later I will start posting the shield alert on Facebook pages of various Pennsylvania government officials.
      By the way, for some mysterious reason, on November 8 Facebook hid my comment (about the shield alert) on Philadelphia Inquirer’s Facebook page on one post (but not on the second post, even though my comment was identical on both of those posts).

    • Thanks Vladimir What a great idea to use the FB pages of media outlets! As you say, those pages tend to have a lot of followers. Do the settings on those FB pages allow you to include links?

  4. Sent letters to Rich Irvin and Bob Casey. I’d like to use the form on the Huntingdon County Daily News, but it only allows 150 characters. Anyone come up with a short and sweet version of this for these types of contact forms? I’m too long winded!

    • Pat, Thank you for sending letters to both lawmakers. I am glad you alerted me to the 150 character limit on the Daily News Wow. That is short. Between you and me you are the better editor but here is my first stab “The guardianship system in PA is broken, Huntingdon Co. labeled David Italiano incompetent, ‘disappeared’ him in a nursing home, & may seize his assets! Find and free David Italiano!” That is five characters too long. Anyone?

    • Perfect! Thank you for bringing this home. I will make a mental note to include this in this week’s new action! Thank you for making it easier for people to post with that news agency!

  5. Sent to Toomey. There’s no reason Congress should not take up these issues–what with all the recent publicity garnered from Britney Spears, Elijah McClain, etc.

    • Of course. But, consider how our Congressmen are “funded.” They don’t want to take on anything “controversial,” kind of like Climate Change. They want their constituents to think that there are simple “solutions,” to their problems, (like Mr. Italiano’s disappearance, for example). I had a friend, who I believe is no longer among the living, though I can’t locate her. As far as I know, her last post on FB was in 2018, and she posted everyday. Also a psych survivor. She just “disappeared.” I’ve seen and experienced things, that should make some people alarmed, but apparently, they aren’t.

  6. Letter sent! <3

    Dear Senator Toomey,

    I’m writing to request your help on behalf of David Italiano, a disabled man who made the mistake of reporting his wife’s abusive behavior and was consequently stripped of his rights, removed from his home, placed into Pennsylvania’s guardianship system, and cut off from contact with the outside world. Unfortunately, in systems of coercive “care” such as guardianships, such horrors are inevitable and even incentivized; as a survivor of Arizona’s psychiatric system, I can personally attest to the legalized harms committed against people labeled with mental and cognitive disabilities. I’d like to share my perspective with you in hopes that you’ll be moved to locate and free David Italiano, and promote legislative change to restore the human rights of people diagnosed (or perhaps misdiagnosed) with mental disabilities in your state.

    The problematic nature of nonconsensual mental disability services starts with the diagnostic process. Despite decades of searching, science has failed to find a biological marker for any mental illness, which is why NIMH stopped using DSM labels: they lack validity. The medical model of human distress is a theory unsupported by scientific facts, and mental disabilities are therefore diagnosed via interviews rather than any quantitative scientific test. Hence, the primary determinants of whether someone is diagnosed with a mental disability are the interviewer’s biases and conflicts of interest; providers get paid (either directly or via government grant quotas) to force people into the system and keep them there, not to uphold or restore their rights. This inherent conflict of interest is just one of many reasons the system is broken.

    Furthermore, providers are not required to keep honest and accurate records since they are always believed over the patient – although such standards exist, they are not enforceable. Unsurprisingly, members of the psychiatric guild tend to support each other rather than the patient, leading to the perpetuation of labels like “anosognosia” and “lack of insight” for patients who disagree with their diagnosis and/or treatment, despite mounting evidence that misdiagnosis is common and state-sponsored nonconsensual treatment takes an average of 25 years off the patient’s life (on top of the unmeasured suffering they experience under the treatment regime). I’d like to encourage you to seriously question the use of such diagnoses to justify locking up, forcibly drugging or shocking, or otherwise revoking the rights of innocent individuals, such as the rights to live in their own homes and access their own money.

    Perhaps the scariest part of nonconsensual care is the selection bias in staffing. All staff of locked facilities and court-ordered treatment clinics are willing to violate the human rights of others. Many staff enjoy working in an environment where they know they can do whatever they want to patients and the patients will not be believed; staff members can always call patients “delusional” or claim they “did it to themselves.” While some people have suggested psychiatric screening during the hiring process to mitigate these issues, the only true solution is to end the use of coercion and force against disabled people, because the presence of coercion will always attract employees who don’t mind (or even actively enjoy) disenfranchising others.

    David Italiano’s story is a bit like mine: his placement into unwanted disability services was based on an assessment of his capacity that he knew was either incorrect or a based on a temporary state of distress (which I think is quite understandable in a spousal abuse situation!). While trapped in a congregate living facility, Mr. Italiano engaged Roads to Freedom Center for Independent Living (RTFCIL) to try to win his rights back and return to his own home. RTFCIL helped Mr. Italiano get reevaluated by a neuropsychiatric expert, who found he was both competent and no longer in need of protection following the death of his wife. However, despite these findings (and arguably in violation of Olmstead vs. LC), a judge in Huntingdon County sentenced Mr. Italiano to permanent guardianship. The guardianship agency (Huntingdon County AAA, which receives government funds) then forbade Mr. Italiano from contacting RTFCIL, instructing nursing home staff to monitor Mr. Italiano’s calls and confiscating his personal cell phone. Finally, Huntingdon County AAA had him secretly moved to another location, and the agencies trying to help him haven’t heard from him since.

    For the sake of Mr. Italiano’s wellbeing, happiness, freedom, and dignity, please consider taking the following actions:
    1. Compel Huntingdon County AAA to disclose the location of David Italiano
    2. Allow David Italiano to communicate freely with whomever he chooses
    3. Force nursing home staff to return Mr. Italiano’s phone
    4. Support legislation requiring agencies to use supported decision making with all their disabled clients, including those under guardianship

    Additionally, for the sake of all of us, please consider taking more actions:
    1. Replace the DSM with the Power Threat Meaning Framework
    2. Ban the administration of neuroleptics and shock without informed consent
    3. Replace locked facilities with respite houses and community living
    4. Defund and revoke the licenses of facilities that violate the Olmstead ruling
    5. Roll back any state laws that enable nonconsensual treatment of persons who fall outside the “threat to self or others” criteria established by the Supreme Court
    6. Replace guardianships with programs that help disabled people hire and retain a care team of their choosing via supported decision making
    7. Reform legislation so it becomes faster and easier to restore patients’ rights than it is to take them away
    8. Establish standards for state-funded care programs that hold such programs accountable for patient satisfaction and outcomes, and institute data collection practices to monitor whether standards are met

    I’m hopeful that with your support, Pennsylvania can become a leader in disability rights and Mr. Italiano can return to his home. If you share my Christian faith, I’d like to encourage you with the words of Jesus: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”


    Meaghan Graef
    Psychiatric Survivor
    Phoenix, AZ

    • Thank you Maeghan! I am not sure if David Italiano has a mental health diagnosis but your letter is very detailed and thorough!

    • Well stated Meaghan, but in my experience, likely falling on “deaf ears.” There is no “marker,” as you stated for “mental illness,” thank goodness I discovered that as well, or I’d be as dead as well, a door nail. Science has nothing to do with psychiatry, “I say your “mentally ill,” and I’m a doctor see?” Of course there are 3 dead corpses lying in the hallway on stretchers, that speak much louder in my case. Have a great day! Psss… don’t tell anyone, they may think I’m a paranoid schizo… Btw, I tried to report what I had witnessed… no one needs to take you seriously, death is part of this, and they do it everyday.

    • I just read your letter, Meaghan. What an articulate, passionate letter of advocacy! I’m sorry for what you had to endure, but it’s great to see you came through it and are speaking up for someone who is being so oppressed, ironically, by the very systems that are supposed to be there for protection!

    • Meaghan’s wrote a powerful letter. Our voices are important and together we are more powerful than if we remain silenced and in isolation. My hat goes off to anybody who uses their negative experience in the mental health system to teach those in power how urgently change is needed.

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