Monday, August 06, 2007

Guest Blog: Pennsylvania’s Advocacy Effort to Change Treatment Laws

Written by Jeanette Castello, Co-Chair of the Pennsylvania Treatment Law Steering Committee
According to Pennsylvania’s treatment laws the crisis worker who told Marjorie Miller that she was not able to take Kenneth Miller to be admitted to a hospital was just following the law.

Members of an advocacy effort to change our treatments laws are currently working to see Pennsylvania
Senate Bill 226 passed so individuals with severe mental illness and a history of hospitalizations, homelessness, and/or time spent in jail or prison will be able to receive the timely, compassionate treatment they need. SB 226 is modeled after the proven successful Kendra’s Law. This law helps the small minority of people - who are often non-compliant with prescribed medications - to remain in treatment and possibly avoid the tragedies of violence and victimization that too often occur.

Although violent incidents are the ones the media often report on, my personal involvement with this advocacy effort is due to the unbearably heartbreaking time when my daughter suffered from lack of insight into her illness, also know as
anosognosia. During this period of time, my daughter was hospitalized 15 times, each time meant a wait for her to reach the “clear and present danger to self or others” required by law. My concern during those sleepless, stress-filled days and nights was the worry that she would be hurt while wandering, sometimes in the middle of the night, following the voices that told her to leave the house.

Opponents of changing our treatment laws say we’re trying to infringe on their rights. Which makes more sense to you? 1) allowing our loved ones to put themselves or others in dangerous situations such as happened to the Miller family or 2) requiring compassionate and timely outpatient treatment for six months (the initial period of time stated in Kendra’s Law and SB 226). As a society, we need to decide what makes the most sense.

- Jeanette M. Castello
Co-Chair, PA Treatment Law Steering Committee
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The opinions expressed by guest bloggers are their own and not necessarily that of the Treatment Advocacy Center.

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