Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Rep. Tim Murphy On The Rights of the Mentally Ill

Congressman Tim Murphy (PA-18) gave an amazing speech on (Tue. 7/29) 

Text of speech on House Floor

“Mr. Speaker, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act reforms our broken and harmful mental health system. Here are some reasons why we need it.

For some who are experiencing the most serious mental illnesses, like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, they don’t think their hallucinations are real; they know they are real. Their illness affects their brains in such a way that they are certain, beyond all doubt, their delusions are real. It is not an attitude or denial. It is a very real brain condition.

With that understanding, we are left with a series of questions: Do these individuals have a right to be sick, or do they have a right to treatment? Do they have a right to live as victims on the streets, or do they have a right to get better? Do they have a right to be disabled and unemployed, or do they have a right to recover and get back to work? I believe these individuals and their families have the right to heal and lead healthy lives.

But they are sometimes blinded by a symptom called anosognosia, a neurological condition of the frontal lobe which renders the individual incapable of understanding that they are ill.

Every single day, millions of families struggle to help a loved one with serious mental illness who won’t seek treatment. Many knew that Aaron Alexis, James Holmes, Jared Loughner, Adam Lanza, and Elliot Rodgers needed help.

Their families tried, but the individual’s illness caused them to believe nothing was wrong, and they fought against the help. These families watch their brother, their son, or their parent spiral downward in a system that, by design, only responds after crisis, not before or during. The loved one is more likely to end up in prison or living on the streets, where they suffer violence and victimization, or cycle in and out of the emergency room or commit suicide.

In a recent New York Times article about Rikers Island prison, they report that over an 11-month period last year, 129 inmates suffered injuries so serious that doctors at the jail’s clinics were unable to treat them; 77 percent of those inmates had been previously diagnosed with mental illness.

Rikers now has as many people with mental illness as all 24 psychiatric hospitals in New York State combined, and they make up nearly 40 percent of the jail population, up from about 20 percent 8 years 

Inmates with mental illnesses commit two-thirds of the infractions in the jail, and they commit an overwhelming majority of assaults on jail staff members. Yet, by law, they cannot be medicated involuntarily at the jail, and hospitals often refuse to accept them unless they harm themselves or others.

Is that humane? Shouldn’t we have acted before they committed a crime to compel them to get help?

According to the article, correctional facilities now hold 95 percent of all institutionalized people with mental illness. That is wrong. Yet with all we know about mental illness and the treatments to help those experiencing it, there are still organizations, federally funded with taxpayer dollars, that believe individuals who are too sick to seek treatment will be better off left alone than in inpatient or outpatient treatment. It is insensitive. It is callous. It is misguided. It is unethical. It is immoral. And Congress should not stand by as these organizations continue their abusive malpractice against the mentally ill.

The misguided ones are more comfortable allowing the mentally ill to live under bridges or behind dumpsters than getting the emergency help that they need in a psychiatric hospital or an outpatient clinic because they cling to their fears of the old asylums, as if medical science and the understanding of the brain has not advanced over the last 60 years.

We would never deny treatment to a stroke victim or a senior with Alzheimer’s disease simply because he or she is unable to ask for care. Yet, in cases of serious brain disorders, like schizophrenia, this cruel conundrum prevents us from acting even when we know we must because the laws say we can’t. We must change those misguided and harmful laws.

The system is the most difficult for those who have the greatest difficulty. Why are some more comfortable with prison or homelessness or unemployment, poverty, and a 25-year shorter life span?

I tell my colleagues: Do not turn a blind eye to those that need our help. The mentally ill can and will get better if Congress takes the right action.

Tomorrow, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas and I will hold a briefing at 3 p.m. on the rights of the seriously mentally ill to get treatment. I hope my colleagues will attend and understand that we have to take mental illness out of the shadows by passing the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, H.R. 3717, because where there is no help, there is no hope.”

Nothing about us without ALL of us! Treatment Before Tragedy is the Civil Rights Movement of our day, a Right to Treatment and a right to Treatment Before Tragedy. Please help us reach members of Congress by going to our page and sending an email through PopVOXIt's just a few clicks! We appreciate your help and it is one way you can send a message to congress that you support HR 3717 that would stop wasteful spending of your tax dollars!  

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