• Focus on what works
    September 26,2013

    By Morgan W. Brown

    By calling for the process of obtaining court orders for non-emergency forced psychiatric drugging to be expedited and made easier, Governor Peter Shumlin would have the State of Vermont further deprive what few rights citizens subject to these orders might actually have.

    Depending upon who one listens to as well as believes, accounts about forced psychiatric treatment experienced within Vermont can vary rather drastically.

    The evolving rhetoric from some over the years in these regards has continued to make the mental health system overall, and forced treatment as practiced more specifically, sound much better than has truly been the case.

    Ironically, this is easily done under the shroud of confidentiality functioning as a protective shield on behalf of the system more than it does in protecting those on the receiving end of what is, in truth, dehumanizing forced psychiatric treatment.

    Even more ironic, the use of force and coercion in these regards is referred to as a treatment failure by those working within this very system, yet is still heavily depended upon, nonetheless.

    Go figure.

    By going down this particular route, one which is in the wrong direction, it means what is being built to replace the Vermont State Hospital (VSH) will merely be a new version of the same old thing.

    The problem with VSH was not only about the decrepit conditions of the buildings and related problems, but rather were due to the failures of an old treatment model that had remained in practice in one form or another over the years.

    Contrary to what is often reported by those in positions of authority and power as well as media accounts usually parroting such self-serving disinformation, the problem is not necessarily the fault of persons being held against their will and being forcibly treated within facilities meant to replace VSH type of beds. The problems arising are the result of the same old treatment model or variations of it still being put into practice.

    When the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital now under construction in Berlin is built and opened, it appears obvious about how the same old VSH treatment model (or variations of it) will be put in place and practiced there as well.

    Although the expectations some might have about it call for there being different results this time around, one cannot only foresee the same type of results as has been the case up to now, but these will once again be blamed on those the system keeps failing.

    Why Gov. Shumlin and some within the state legislature continue to insist on rewarding failure after failure is beyond me.

    When a person is treated in a fashion that no longer dehumanizes and humiliates them into submission, nor are they deprived of what little dignity and self-respect they might still retain; then and only then, might different results be brought about and realized.

    What should be focused on and rewarded instead is what truly works, not what doesn’t.

    Although it can sometimes take time, and plenty of it, as well as lots of patience and understanding to bring about, including to (re)build trust and sorely needed relationships, and among other things being put into place along these lines, what has proven to work is Open Dialogue.

    Open Dialogue is a holistic process that includes the person in various levels of need, serving as a key player of a team that works with them.

    No matter how great or dire a person’s needs might prove to be, if people are provided opportunities to do different as well as better, and they are worked with in a vastly different manner to help bring such about, they will be aided in achieving improved outcomes, as well as a better quality of life. We all will be better served as a result.

    Morgan W. Brown resides in Montpelier.

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