As investigations continue into the alleged long-term abuses at Whiting Forensic Unit, a part of the CT Valley Hospital (CVH), the legislature's Public Health Committee is holding both an Informational Hearing (for invited guests) followed by a Public Hearing this coming Monday, November 13th to hear community perspectives and determine legislative action. Details are below; please consider submitting testimony and/or attending in person. And please read the rest of this email for more background:
As members of our Catchment Area Councils (CACs) know, the Regional Mental Health Boards were planning a joint (statewide) review of CVH last year, but the meetings to coordinate with DMHAS were delayed several times and once the allegations came out, we were officially asked not to review CVH (neither Whiting nor other programs). In the meantime, however, we have been able to interview a couple of CAC members about their personal experiences at Whiting, in one case quite recent. We are also working with Advocacy Unlimited to organize a Community Conversation on this topic for Southwest CT. (A summary of the Community Conversations conducted by AU so far in other parts of the state is attached.)
Monday's public hearing before the legislature is an opportunity to provide feedback on this specific issue and more broadly on how DMHAS services are overseen. With the mental health system shrinking each year, providers are asked to do more with less, which increases the likelihood of burnout and will have an impact on quality of care. We think it's more important than ever to make sure that community members have a say in how services are working.
Ironically, the structures developed by the state legislature in the 70s to provide that community input into the mental health system are currently at risk. DMHAS is proposing to develop a new system of Regional Behavioral Health Action Organizations (RBHAOs) to replace the current Regional Mental Health Boards and Regional Action Councils, but if the new system goes into effect, the new RBHAOs will not be responsible for ensuring the community's voice, prioritizing consumer feedback, or monitoring services.
This hearing is an opportunity to let the state know how important it is both to protect people when they are at their most vulnerable, behind locked doors, and to provide a mechanism that allows community members to have input. Please tell your legislators to preserve that function in some way, whether through the RMHB/CACs or some new entity.
Details of the testimony follow. Click here to download the Advocacy Unlimited summary.
The Public Health Committee will hold an Informational Forum on Monday, November 13, 2017 at 9:30am in Room 2C of the Legislative Office Building (LOB) in Hartford to be followed at 1:00 P.M by a Public Hearing regarding the operational practices and procedures of The Department Of Mental Health & Addiction Services Whiting Forensic Division of the Connecticut Valley Hospital. (Please note that only invited guests will be allowed to speak during the Informational Forum.)
Please submit electronic testimony to firstname.lastname@example.org in Word or PDF format no later than 4:00 P.M. on Wednesday, November 8, 2017. OR:
If you are unable to submit electronic testimony for the public hearing, please submit 30 copies of written testimony no later than 10:00 A.M. on Monday, November 13, 2017, in Room 3000 of the LOB.
Testimony received after the deadline will not be made available to legislators until after the public hearing.
Sign-up for the public hearing will begin at 11:00 A.M. in the First Floor Atrium of the LOB. All speakers will be limited to three minutes of testimony.
All public hearing testimony, written and spoken, is public information. As such, it will be made available on the CGA website and indexed by internet search engines.