Friday, April 17, 2020

Cancelled staffings: plantations crumbling

The psychiatric plantation system in Illinois is regulated in substantial part by 730 ILCS 5/5-2-4, a complex section within the Unified Code of Corrections of the compiled statutes of this state. The legislature frequently tinkers with this law, trying to make it more practical for the state to own and employ certain criminals as slaves under a guise of medical “treatment of mental illness” while supposedly “protecting the community” against violence, and the slaves against self-harm. To better establish such a favored guise, this section refers to and incorporates most aspects of the Illinois Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code, 405 ILCS 5/5-100, et seq.

Needless to say, these statutes were not written and do not adequately consider the circumstances we currently find ourselves in, of a global pandemic. Courts are closed, public access and visitation are cancelled, clinical units are locked down, competent medical staff (and even so-called “mental health professionals” who are far less than competent doctors) are not reporting to work while quarantined. Everybody is afraid of the virus, and the normal business of the plantations is grinding to a halt.

One statutory and well-established ritual is the monthly staffing, or the treatment plan review. This is where each individual slave has a conference with members of his/her “treatment” team (usually including a psychiatrist, a social worker, and perhaps several other clinicians who may see the person on a regular or daily basis), to go over recent progress, any recommended changes in the plan and/or any incidents of concern.

The monthly staffings are critical to maintaining the public pretense of rational, scientific and beneficently medical “mental health care,” and to disguising the gruesome truth and injustice of psychiatric slavery. I have attended these rituals at six different Illinois plantations since about 2002, advocating for individuals who want to refuse psychiatry (especially the drugs), but don’t believe they will be allowed to do so.

During the COVID19 pandemic, those who wish I could disappear from the scene have had a ready-made reason to discourage me from showing up: the plantation is quarantined, nobody’s allowed into the facilities. I have had to remind them that Section 2-102(a) of the Mental Health Code [405 ILCS 5/2-102(a)] stipulates the right of any recipient of mental health services to have any individual of his or her choice involved in the formulation and periodic review of his or her treatment plan. That’s just the law. If a psychiatric slave wants me there for their monthly treatment plan review, the plantation has to arrange some way for me to attend. Otherwise it’s not a real staffing or treatment plan review as prescribed by the law.

The first reaction from the plantations was to call what they may have thought was my bluff. But I did show up at Elgin a week or so ago, had my temperature taken at the door and so on, and attended a staffing in person during the pandemic. Then arrangements were supposedly made to conduct future staffings via teleconference. Several such were scheduled. So far, only one has actually occurred, that being for Marci Webber at Chicago Read MHC. Two or three other staffings by teleconference were canceled or postponed, for “patients” (slaves) at Elgin MHC.

I have told everyone I represent that they may choose to not attend a monthly staffing at all, until their right to have me present is accommodated one way or another. I don’t necessarily think it’s in anyone’s specific interest to neglect or undermine this central ritual of the plantation. I have always encouraged slaves to stay in communication with masters and overseers. Live and honest communication is precisely what undermines the system most effectively, because it tends to demonstrate that everyone is the same kind of human. It tends to prove that psychiatrists do not know better than patients what is in patients’ best interests; they have no clue why crazy people are crazy and no hope of “curing” anyone’s mental illness with medicine. The more communication, the better for abolition.

This morning at the last minute, I received a call from Stephanie Maszczyk, a social worker on Hartman Unit at Elgin MHC, cancelling or postponing another scheduled teleconference staffing. Ms. Maszczyk stated that the reason for the schedule change was that an investigation of possible COVID19 cases on the unit had to be conducted.

I just watched a press conference by Governor Pritzker, in which he was asked a question about COVID19 hotspots, including (by name) Chester Mental Health Center. His answer was evasive or incoherent.

Bodies are being put on the gears, and on the wheels, and on the levers, and on all the apparatus of the machine. I think they might make it stop.

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