The reality of CT’s mental health system, past and present
by Anthony DyousAugust 31, 2022
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Whiting Forensic Services at Connecticut Valley Hospital (CVH) is transitioning to its own standalone hospital, separate from CVH. MACKENZIE RIGG / CTMIRROR.ORG
At one point, Connecticut’s three state mental health asylums held around 2,000 clients each. Many more people were held in other facilities that functioned under the hand of the Connecticut Department of Mental Health.
Connecticut Valley Hospital is over 100 years old, and is still active today. The Whiting Forensic Division was recently separated by the governor amid abuse allegations.
Dr. Steven Madonick, in his CT Viewpoints article “We Can Do Better For Those With Mental Illness,” seems to want a return to that time of 6,000 people inside the state asylums. The fact that he does not mention any negative aspects in these asylums indicates he has never been a consumer of these facilities.
Asylum = 1. A shelter from danger or hardship 2. A hospital for mentally incompetent or unbalanced persons.
Interchanged words depend on your relative perspective to the subject.
Some examples in so-called mental health: 1. Asylum – Hospital – Facility – Prison.
2. Patient – Resident – Consumer – Prisoner.
Mental health treatment is not an exact science. The first expectation in mental health facilities is the first one that you as a patient must ignore.
Connecticut Patients’ Bill of Rights:
1. Be treated in a humane and dignified manner at all times, with full respect for your personal dignity and privacy and to participate in developing your specialized treatment and discharge plan and receive reasonable notice of an impending discharge.
2. If you become a patient housed in Connecticut’s mental health system, you must completely ignore the above right or face horrible consequences.
Another reality in today’s world is the separation of mental hospitals from regular medical hospitals, which leaves plenty of room for discrimination. An example of this is that the social norms are either limited or completely banished. The only privacy that I have had for the last 26 years is in the men’s room or the shower stall. So where’s this right to privacy?
You as a client are expected to be truthful at all times, when your evaluators constantly exaggerate the lack of insight and judgment you possess. You are automatically clueless if you have a belief system that implies an invisible living creator. On paper you must be listed as dangerous to self and others, even when you are helpful and respectful of others.
Connecticut Valley, Norwich State, and Fairfield Hills Hospitals all had beautiful campus property. To a visitor, it seems those inside are being helped to recover. The reality in most cases past and present is that they are being warehoused. In other words, they are kept out of sight and out of mind. That is the true reason for mental health incarceration.
Whiting Forensic Division in Middletown. YEHYUN KIM / CTMIRROR.ORG
Shock treatments, lobotomies, cold water wraps, restraints, and powerful drugs with major side effects are elements in mental health systems. The respect and dignity found in most medical hospitals is not at the same level in the mental health system.
Dr. Madonick wrote “We in psychiatry have known, without exception and for decades, how to promote the recovery of our patients with serious mental illness.” This implies that they are perfect at getting people to recover. The reality both in the past and present is they need to warehouse and isolate a population to ensure employment and retirement at six-figure levels.
In a 2007 Department of Justice report on Connecticut mental health facilities, it was concluded “there is no step by step movement toward discharge.”
This lack of movement is still true 15 years later. Discharge is rarely mentioned if someone has committed a crime. For that person, the average stay as a patient here in our state is 22 years. That’s a long stretch from five-day stays.
Anthony Dyous has spent the last 38 years committed to Connecticut’s mental health system. He is a patient at Whiting Forensic Hospital.
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