Community Fights the Psychiatric
Refusing to take psychiatric drugs could mean a quick trip to a mental
hospital, thanks to a new California law that has African-American community leaders
up in arms
by Nancy Beckley
Nicole McNeil was a successful network television executive assistant in Los Angeles. With no history of mental illness, her future was bright — until disgruntled family members, with eyes on her savings account, banded together in an apparent attempt to relieve her of those assets by getting her committed to a mental institution.
“My son died while being drugged against his will,” Rita Rangel (above right) told a rally in Sacramento against forced drugging. (1) Ted Hayes of Justiceville-Homeless U.S.A. spoke of the civil liberties violations of human rights from forced drugging in his community. (2) Former television network executive, Nicole McNeil, tells of her ordeal: “If this could happen to me it could happen to anyone.” (3) Rangel with Marilyn Gill (right), mother of another forced drugging victim. (4) Southland youth have joined protesting parents to call an end to psychiatric abuses.
As anyone might do in such an incredible situation, Nicole fought back the moment she caught on to the scheme. But she never imagined the outcome of digging her heels in the ground: her resistance was used against her to prove she was in “denial” and “resistive” to treatment, and she found herself being forcibly incarcerated in a mental hospital and treated with powerful, mind-altering psychiatric drugs.
Nicole’s ordeal began in February 2002 when her older brother died suddenly of a heroin overdose. The emotional shock of his death followed her breakup of a long-term romantic relationship and shortly afterward, she became physically ill and mentally exhausted.
Asserting they were concerned for her health, family members convinced Nicole to check herself into a local hospital emergency room for treatment, she told the Los Angeles Sentinel. Medical tests at the time of her admission showed she was suffering from anemia and an acute bladder infection.
Nicole told the Sentinel that, instead of being given medical treatment, she was placed on 72-hour psychiatric hold. Unknown to her at the time, family members had convinced the psychiatrist on duty that she was a danger to herself. She was labeled psychotic, injected with powerful psychiatric drugs and put into involuntary detention. She stated that family members took over her home, looted her bank accounts and even tried to seize control of more than $600,000 in assets that Nicole was managing for her great aunt, telling the aunt that Nicole was mentally ill. Complaints filed with the Department of Health Services and the State Medical Board repeat these charges.
Incredibly, such injustices are all too commonplace in an uncaring psychiatric system that relies on unscientific diagnostic references and invented mental disorders. Scarred and debilitated by her enforced “treatment” and branded for life as “mentally ill,” Nicole was released later that year. She hoped that she would be allowed to get on with her life — what was left of it.
However, those hopes and the hopes and dreams of thousands like her are now in grave jeopardy because, under the provisions of a new California law, which forces former patients to continue taking psychiatric drugs as “treatment” for a “mental illness” that may never have existed in the first place. And her experience could soon be shared by many more, especially within the African-American community, where as statistics show, minorities are increasingly a target for the mental health system.
Assembly Bill (AB) 1421, which was signed into law in September 2002 and went into effect in LA County on July 1, 2003, is a forced drugging/ involuntary outpatient commitment edict for people who have at one time been labeled mentally ill. A person put into AB 1421's mandated “Assisted Outpatient Treatment” (AOT) program is subjected to forced drugging with potent, mind-altering psychiatric drugs up to four times a day in their own home. Now being instituted in Los Angeles County, its measures could also force “recalcitrant” patients back into a mental hospital at a moment's notice.
For Nicole the law means that, because she has already been arbitrarily branded “mentally ill”, she could be forced, into psychiatric custody because she doesn’t hide the fact that she has no intention of taking further medication. A devout Muslim who prides herself on being drug-and-alcohol free, she is subjectively aware that mind-numbing psychiatric drugs can cause a person to become violent, depressed and even suicidal.
Yet under the provisions of AB 1421, her personal or religious convictions notwithstanding, she could be forced to take drugs or risk being involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital for 72 hours or more.
When Los Angeles County put the law into effect in July, it set into motion the Assisted Outpatient Treatment program to effectively force those labeled mentally ill to submit to psychiatric drug treatment. If necessary, teams of enforcers can visit the homes of those so labeled to ensure they take their “meds.”
A person can also become a candidate for AOT if he has been hospitalized in a psychiatric facility twice within three years, or committed or threatened a violent act twice within the last four years. One can be forced onto the program based on the diagnosis of a psychiatrist or as a result of being sentenced within the justice system.
The procedure, as set up in LA County, can go like this: First, someone who has been labeled mentally ill is arrested for a misdemeanor and arraigned. If the court then decides the person is unable to understand the proceedings, he or she is sent to Mental Health Court for evaluation. If the person is declared incompetent, the judge will either assign him to involuntary psychiatric detention or offer Assisted Outpatient Treatment as an alternative. Accept the AOT, and charges are dismissed.
“The whole process torpedoes constitutional rights,” said Cassandra Auerbach, Executive Director of the Los Angeles chapter of Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), a human rights organization founded by the Church of Scientology to eradicate psychiatric abuse. “The person either chooses to be sent to a mental institution for the criminally insane or agrees to take mind-altering psychiatric drugs that are nothing more than chemical straightjackets. These drugs never cured anyone and they are addictive, mind-numbing chemicals with potent, permanent nerve-damaging side effects.”
Auerbach then posed this question: “Tell me, what's the difference between psychiatric detention and a chemical tether for life?”
Auerbach points out that, behind this program is a profit-driven intent to procure mental health customers for life. “The real thrust here is to ensure that, once a person has been labeled mentally ill, he or she is forced to continue taking these drugs, creating a life-term patient for the psychiatric industry. For the individual so labeled with a mental illness, it means he will forevermore be on mind-altering chemicals with no chance of parole. Behind that concept stand legions of psychiatrists lining up in support of the multi-billion dollar psychiatric drug industry that creates such life-term patients.
“It's a brave new world where the solution to every so-called mental ill is to take a pill,” says Auerbach.