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Landing Zone Committee Launched At MindFreedom Conference

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Announcing the Launch of the MindFreedom Landing Zone Committee - a new blog from Frank Blankenship (August 2014)

Landing Zone Committee Launched At MindFreedom Conference

Frank Blankenship

There has, at one time or another, been talk among psychiatric survivors, mental health consumers, and former mental patients about operating an Underground Railroad for people oppressed by psychiatry. As a part of this need, of more recent date, and related to it, this talk has revolved around the idea of creating safe places, Landing Zones, for people facing involuntary outpatient commitment orders. Involuntary outpatient commitment, often misleadingly referred to as assisted outpatient treatment, almost invariably means forced drugging.

As some psychiatric facilities are being downsized, and others are being shut down, involuntary outpatient commitment orders have become the government's way for dealing with non-compliant mental patients.  These commitment orders usually involve sentencing the person suspected of  "mental illness" to a drug-taking regimen. Sometimes this drug-taking regimen involves injections every other week with a long acting neuroleptic drug. These injections tend to be more potent, and hence more harmful, than the pills one might receive on a daily basis. Should a person under court order refuse to take psychiatric drugs, civil commitment proceedings are likely to result.

Psychiatric drugs are known to have many adverse effects. It is our feeling that nobody should be forced to take these  powerful and potentially harmful drugs against his or her wishes. Neuroleptic drugs, misleadingly referred to as antipsychotic drugs, are known to cause a neurological movement disorder, Tardive Dyskinesia, and they also cause a metabolic syndrome associated with many physical ill health conditions. Studies have shown  that people in mental health treatment are dying 25 to  30 years earlier on average than the rest of the population due in large measure to the drugs they have been prescribed. Relocating people threatened with forced drugging can  preserve physical health, and it can save lives.

45 states now have involuntary outpatient commitment laws. 5 states are currently free of such laws. The number of states with involuntary outpatient commitment laws only goes up. The number of states without such laws only seems to go down. Among the 5 states without involuntary commitment laws, there are sustained efforts afoot to enact such laws. The situation in two of the most populous states in the union helps illustrate the seriousness of the problem. In New York state Kendra's Law has been extended, and there is pressure to make it permanent. In California Laura's Law has passed in both Los Angeles County and in San Francisco, and other localities are likely to follow their lead. Obviously, the situation has grown so dire that it demands popular resistance.

MindFreedom International is a global human rights organization consisting mainly of psychiatric survivors, their relatives, friends, and allies. The idea of establishing such Landing Zones has been rolling around for awhile in the heads of MindFreedom International members. As far back as 2006, there was an article on the MFI website about the launch of a Landing Zone Project, and MFI was instrumental in getting a story into the Wall Street Journal featuring the plight of one Gabriel Hadd. Gabriel Hadd, a young musician, fleeing forced drugging in Michigan, successfully attained drug-free sanctuary in Colorado for a time before eventually returning to his home state.

Just what do we mean by Landing Zones? As long as there has been no mandate at the national level, involuntary outpatient commitment orders stop at the state border. If the person under such a court order were to surreptitiously slip into another state, and refused to take psychiatric drugs in that state, there is not much that anybody at present can  do to prevent him or her from doing so. A Landing Zone is a locality with the resources in place, in terms of services, advocacy, support, and assistance, to accommodate a person fleeing forced outpatient drugging orders in another state.

On the evening of July 25, during the MindFreedom Creative Revolution Conference held at Wisdom House in Litchfield Connecticut, July 24 - July 27, we conducted a focus group on the subject of the creation of Landing Zones. As a result of this historic session, we are happy to announce the launch of a Landing Zone Committee. This Landing Zone Committee will be scheduling regular teleconferences to brain-storm, network, and organize around the issue of forming Landing Zones. If you, and the same goes for anyone you know, would like to get on the committee, and participate in this effort, you can do so by contacting me, Frank Blankenship, either by email or by telephone.

Landing Zone Committee
nfla@mindfreedom.org
352-328-2511

African Americans under slavery during the 1800s used the Underground Railroad to escape to freedom.. Today many people find their basic rights as free citizens jeopardized by the threat of forced drugging. Chemical restraints are being used to institute a different sort of slavery, the slavery that comes of numbing a mind into oblivion with pills and syringes. The drugs being used are powerful, they have many adverse effects, and they have a potential to wreak a great deal of damage on a great many people. This harm includes early death. Owing to this situation, we are intent on forging an Underground Railroad to freedom of our own. By participating in the creation of Landing Zones, you, too, can play a vital role in defending the independence of proud and capable people.

 

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Celia Brown

Celia Brown is a psychiatric survivor and leader in the movement for human rights in mental health. Celia has served on the MFI board for several years, including as MFI president. Celia leads MFI's United Nations team, and International committee. Celia is shown here speaking at an MFI protest directly in front of the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting. (Photo by Tom Olin)
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