Illinois lawmakers overwhelmingly sent a measure to the governor about two weeks ago that asks him to dilute the standards that must be met before a mentally ill person is involuntarily treated. Experts say the proposal is a knee-jerk reaction to the rampage at Virginia Tech earlier this year.
Mental health advocates say the bill could force more patients unnecessarily into involuntary treatment – a cash-strapped treatment system already straining to help the state’s mentally ill.
Under the current law, being physically dangerous to oneself or others is grounds for being subjected to treatment; the new law would change that requirement so that a person must simply be in danger of deteriorating into a dangerous state, as decided by a mental health professional.
A spokesman for Gov. Rod Blagojevich said the governor was still reviewing the bill.
National Council on Disability member Cynthia Wainscott pointed out Wednesday that 95 percent of mentally ill patients are not violent, accusing lawmakers of “capitalizing on fear.”
“This [legislation] would not have stopped that shooting,” she said, highlighting the fact that Cho had already demonstrated he was dangerous to himself and others before going on his rampage.
Illinois Disability Services Advisory Committee member Lucy Sajdak added that enforcing the bill would mean depending on a counselor or psychiatrist’s opinion on whether a person might descend further into illness, an area of medicine that is notoriously subjective and murky.
“I am a mental health professional, and my colleagues are mental health professionals. I don’t know a single mental health professional that supported this,” Sajdak said. “Because it’s not good medicine.”
The NCD vows to fight the bill, which is just one example of the state passing lip-service laws instead of tackling the underlying issues that plague the mentally ill, they said.
They could put that money to better use; provide therapy, housing and supported work, which is what would be done if we truly cared about preventing people from deteriorating. Crazy is people who think we can coerce law abiding citizens into snakepit psych wards without creating rage where there was no rage, not to mention a vindictive chip on the shoulder, and lifelong pledge from that day forward to avoid mental health intervention at any cost. They don’t consider that reasonable outcome because in their eyes people with labels are simply not thinking feeling reacting beings with normal human nature.