End ServiceNet Forced Drugging!

Submitted by admin on Mon, 10/27/2003 - 00:14



Posted on Oct 27, 03

James Bower is a 25 year old ServiceNet residence client forced to take psychiatric medication against his will, following a court-directed "Rogers Order." Every month he is told he must take a hypodermic injection of the powerful tranquilizer Haldol; when he refuses, the police are called and he is detained at Cooley Dickinson hospital, where he is forced to take the shot.

Haldol (haloperidol) is an old 1960s-era drug similar to Thorazine that leaves James with debilitating side effects such as lethargy, sleeplessness, agitation, the inability to think, and the risk of brain-damaging tardive dyskinesia. According to Amnesty International's 1976 book "Prisoners of Conscience in the USSR," Haldol was routinely used to torture dissidents in Soviet psychiatric prisons.

"This medication is awful and I want off it," James said. "I told them ServiceNet was ruining my life because they were putting me on this medication, and they said I was paranoid." Just days after we protested to ServiceNet on his behalf, James was again forced to take another Haldol shot. He came to our Freedom Center meeting stiff and withdrawn, visibly blunted by the drug.

James Bower is courageous for taking the risk to speak out openly; most people on Rogers' Orders the Freedom Center works with are too oppressed, disempowered, frightened of retaliation, and drugged to protest their forced medication. James' emotional problems -- which involved a conflict with his family -- are not a crime. And there can never be a justification for putting a mental health client in a chemical straitjacket.

As the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS) said in their Position on Outpatient Commitment:

"When all is said and done, we know what works and what doesn't work. Force doesn't work. Force is violence that encourages helplessness, kills self-esteem and chases away hope for recovery. Force, in one fashion or another, has been the hallmark of traditional mental health services since their beginnings. Force doesn't lead to healing...to recovery...or even to well- being. Force is based on fear which is based on stigma false ideas of what mental illness is and who becomes psychiatrically disabled."

ServiceNet CEO Susan Stubbs recently tried to disavow the agency's responsibility for its own clients, saying that forced medication is the decision of the court. However, if it wanted to ServiceNet could commit its resources and influence to help end forced medication -- instead of continuing to use powerful tranquilizers to render people docile and easy to control.

Because ServiceNet is funded by state Department of Mental Health (DMH) contracts, it is accountable to the DMH for its actions and vulnerable to DMH pressure. We're asking everyone to telephone DMH Western Regional Director Elizabeth Sullivan: ask her to press ServiceNet to commit necessary resources to free James Bower and end the chemical straitjacketing of clients. People can also call or email CEO Susan Stubbs. Going off medication should be done carefully and with adequate alternative supports in place, including consideration of withdrawal effects.

We are not content with promises of further meetings, procedures, and discussions. We want a clear and unequivocal commitment from ServiceNet management that forced medication is wrong and they will act to stop it, and that DMH will act to ensure that this happens.

Call DMH Regional Director Elizabeth Sullivan at (413) 587-6200 or email Liz.Sullivan@dmh.state.ma.us Call ServiceNet CEO Susan Stubbs at 413) 582-9501 or email sstubbs@servicenetinc.org. Be polite, but do not be deterred by bureaucratic evasiveness. Ask for a clear commitment to free James Bower and end forced medication.

More info on why everyone should oppose forced treatment:

NYAPRS excellent full statement
Robert Whitaker's Boston Globe article
Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law's position
Vikki Fox Wieseltheir and Michael Allen's Washington Post essay

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