- Treatment Advocacy Center
The Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC) is a
United Statesnonprofit organization founded in 1998 by schizophreniaresearcher E. Fuller Torreyand was originally part of the National Alliance on Mental Illness(NAMI). TAC's focus is on promoting laws allowing Assisted Outpatient Commitment (AOC) "for individuals who, due to the symptoms of untreated severe mental illness, become either dangerous or in need of treatment and incapable of making rational medical decisions." [http://www.psychlaws.org/PressRoom/rls-ModelLaw.htm] According to their website, TAC advocates "elimination of legal and clinical barriers to timely and humane treatment for Americans diagnosed with severe psychiatric disorders who refuse care." TAC seeks to expedite involuntary treatment for people with severe mental disorders who refuse treatment.
Current federal and state policies, according to TAC, hinder treatment for individuals with mental illness who are most at risk for
homelessness, arrest, violence, hospitalization or suicide.
History of TAC
For many years, psychiatrists and families of people diagnosed with mental illness advocated for involuntary assisted outpatient commitment for people with severe mental illnesses who do not agree they have an illness
anosognosia: lack of awareness of their illness. TAC's stance is that the organ that provides awareness (the brain) is unable to provide its regulatory function Fact|date=April 2007. Instead, it generates hallucinations, delusions, paranoiaand worse. Individuals considered to have anosognosia are thought to be so disabled they cannot understand, or refuse to acknowledge, their mental disorder. Critics dispute the use of the term anosognosia in mental illness. Anosognosiawas previously only used in specific strokepatients that lost the ability to recognize their disability. Critics, including some psychiatrists [http://jhp.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/45/3/403] contend that while medical illness has objective signs that can be used to identify the reality of the disease, in psychiatric illness these objective parameters do not exist, therefore the term anosognosiais inappropriate and misleading and can be used to justify treatment for anyone who disagrees with the diagnosis.
Laws in some states require some individuals to become a "danger to self or others" before they can be treated. As a result, in a direct vote by the membership of the
National Alliance on Mental Illness(NAMI, the largest family organization in the country), the membership adopted a policy on laws which the membership feels could better balance the need to protect individuals with mental illness while not infringing on their civil liberties.
E. Fuller Torrey, distressed by the increase in episodes of violence associated with treatment refusal Fact|date=August 2007, concluded that what was needed was a concerted effort to address state treatment laws that restrict the involuntary treatment of people with severe mental illnesses, before they could commit acts of violence. Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Stanley, generous supporters of research on schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, shared his concerns and agreed to partially support a modest effort to improve the treatment system - which soon emerged as the Treatment Advocacy Center. Founded as part of NAMI, it was later spun off as an independent organization with many members of the NAMI board serving on the TAC board.
TAC is supported by a host of additional individual donors and grants, and does not accept funding from pharmaceutical companies or entities involved in the sale, marketing or distribution of their products.
TAC's justifications for involuntary treatment
Torrey says, "Until we find the causes and definitive treatments for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, we have an obligation to those who are suffering to try to improve their lives. Except for biological chance, any one of us might today be there, living on the streets or in jail. TAC is the only organization willing to take on this fight, and I am very proud to be part of it." Fact|date=April 2007
TAC contends there are three primary reasons assisted treatment is justified:
Schizophreniaand bipolarillness can severely impair an individual’s self-awareness, causing many to believe they are healthy and not in need of medical care ( anosognosia). This condition impairs their brain function, and since they do not think they are sick, many of them do not actively seek treatment and often refuse it.
Civil rightsadvocates have changed state laws and practices to such an extent that it is now virtually impossible to treat such individuals unless they first commit a violent act. TAC believes this is a ludicrous and cruel barrier to treatment. Generally the law requires individuals to be considered dangerous to themselves or others, or gravely disabled and unable to care for themselves. Otherwise, treatment cannot be mandated.
# Public psychiatric services have deteriorated significantly in recent years with the closure of state
psychiatric hospitals. While these much needed hospital beds have been eliminated, there has been no increase in outpatient services. In addition, the failure of for-profit managed care companies to provide services to these individuals who need them most has only further exacerbated the situation.
# Statistics used by TAC (disputed by its critics), show 40 percent of the 4.5 million individuals with schizophrenia and manic-depressive illness (
bipolar disorder), an estimated 1.8 million people, are not being treated for their mental illness at any given time."People care about public safety," TAC publicist D.J. Jaffee told attendees at a 1999 National Alliance on Mental Illness(NAMI) conference. "Once you understand that, it means that you have to take the debate out of the mental healtharena and put it in the criminal justice/ public safetyarena." Jaffe went on to point out that efforts by NAMI to enact 'assisted' treatment laws as a way to provide better care for the mentally ill had failed because the public doesn't care about the seriously ill. He said that when the media does focus on mental illness (e.g., following an act of violence), it provides an opportunity to communicate policies which can simultaneously help individuals with mental illness and protect the public.
Schizophreniais a cruel disease. The lives of those affected are often chronicles of constricted experiences, muted emotions, missed opportunities, unfulfilled expectations. It leads to a twilight existence, a twentieth-century underground man... It is in fact the single biggest blemish on the face of contemporary American medicine and social services; when the social history of our era is written, the plight of persons with schizophrenia will be recorded as having been a national scandal." E. Fuller Torrey, "Surviving Schizophrenia"
psychiatrist's meeting in Baltimore, Marylandin 1993, Torrey expressed his concern that "the public stereotype that links mental illness to violence is based on reality and not merely on stigma." [http://community-2.webtv.net/stigmanet/ARCHIVESInvoluntary/]
TAC works at the national, state, and local levels to educate civic, legal,
criminal justice, and legislative communities on the benefits of assisted treatment in an effort to decrease homelessness, jailings, suicide, violenceand other consequences caused by lack of treatment, among other things such as lack of social services.
Areas of focus include:
* Education of policymakers and judges regarding the nature of severe mental illnesses, advanced treatments available for those illnesses, and the necessity of community ordered treatment in some cases;
* Assisting individuals in states working to promote laws that enable individuals with the most severe mental illnesses to receive involuntary treatment;
* Promoting innovative approaches to diverting people with psychiatric illness away from the criminal justice system and into appropriate treatment; and
* Ensuring individuals receive adequate psychiatric services and maintain medication compliance upon release from hospitals.
E. Fuller Torrey
* [http://www.psychlaws.org/ PsychLaws.org] - Treatment Advocacy Center Online
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