Law Project for Psychiatric Rights

PsychRights in 2012

Focus on Public Attitudes/PublicEducation


At the beginning of the year a few things converged to cause PsychRights to focus on the Public Attitudes or Public Education part of what I think of as the transformation triangle:


Transformation Triangle

The approach is that addressing three spheres: Public Attitudes/Public Education,  Alternatives/Other Choices, and Honoring Legal Rights/Strategic Litigation, can reinforce each others in ways that can bring about meaningful change in the Mental Illness System.   I gave a talk about this approach last May in Philadelphia, which has been uploaded to YouTube as, A Strategic Approach to Mental Health System Change.  This video is currently unlisted, because it is directed at people interested in this struggle, rather than the general public.  I also wrote a paper about, How the Legal System Can Help Create a Recovery Culture in Mental Health Systems, presented at Alternatives 2005: Leading the Transformation to Recovery, Phoenix, Arizona, October 28, 2005.  The title was selected to get past the censors at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the government sponsor of the annual Alternatives conference.


A thumbnail description is:


(1)   Public Attitudes à Other Choices. If the public knew other approaches work, while the current medical model, drugging, approach does not, there would be more of such approaches because their would be public support for them.

(2)   Other Choices à Public Attitudes.  To the extent that such alternatives were in place and demonstrating they work for better than the current approach, this would cause the public to support them. 

(3)   Public Attitudes à Honor Legal Rights In 2008, I published a law review article about how the system pervasively violates peoples legal rights, Involuntary Commitment and Forced Psychiatric Drugging in the Trial Courts: Rights Violations as a Matter of Course.  This pervasive violation of rights is because the lawyers appointed to represent people faced with forced drugging as well as the judges share the public attitude that the current system is the best approach and therefore they won't let people's pesky legal rights get in the way of giving them the "help" they need.  Thus, to the extent Public Attitudes change to recognize the "treatment" forced on people is doing far more harm than good, they would tend to honor people's legal rights.  

(4)   Honor Legal Rights à Alternatives.  One of the United States Constitutional rights people have is to be provided "less intrusive" alternatives to forced psychiatric drugging (and electroshock) and vigorous legal representation for this right can help cause the creation of such alternatives.  Legally, the state can't force drugs or electroshock on people if there are any less intrusive alternatives possible even if it isn't being provided.  However, even though this is someone's legal right, judges are reluctant to tell the state they can't drug or electroshock someone because of some non-existent program.  Thus, . . .

(5)   Alternatives à Honor Legal Rights.  To the extent that alternatives exist, the courts will be more likely to honor people's rights to such alternatives.

(6)   Honor Legal Rights à Public Attitudes.  It is a little harder to see how honoring legal rights, or strategic litigation can change public attitudes, but I think the best way to illustrate this is thinking about how the United States Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the case that ruled racial segregation unconstitutional had a tremendous impact on changing the public's view about the acceptability of segregation.  Before Brown v. Board of Education there was a significant percentage of the American public that felt it was okay, while now it is a quite small percentage.  I would say that PsychRights' legal victories in the Alaska Supreme Court has had some positive impoact on public attitudes in Alaska.


PsychRights' main thrust is the Honor Legal Rights sphere through strategic litigation, but there is no doubt that changing Public Attitudes is the most important sphere of the Transformation Triangle.


This was brought home when, after four straight Alaska Supreme Court wins, we lost (1) PsychRights v. Alaska seeking an injunction against the indiscriminate drugging of children and youth by the State of Alaska, including through Medicaid, and (2) PsychRights v. Matsutani, where the courts basically ruled "if the government doesn't care that massive Medicaid Fraud is occuring through the psychiatric drugging of children, why should we?"


So, as 2012 started without sufficient funds for even the low amount of litigation expenses with which we have been able to pursue significant litigation, and needing to lick our litigation wounds while constructing the next phase of our strategic litigation agenda, PsychRights decided to focus on the Public Education/Public Attitudes sphere.


YouTube Videos


I had been feeling for some time that in light of the extreme difficulty in obtaining mainstream media attention to the horror of forced drugging and electroshock, YouTube was potentially an extremely effective way to get our message out.   However, I felt that we needed to be able to produce videos that had good sound because for our issue sound is critical.  As luck would have it, a videographer I knew was able to arrange a very generous donation of a videocamera with a remote microphone that produced good sound in January of 2012.  Since then, the PsychRights Channel on YouTube has had almost 60 videos uploaded with 20,000 views so far in 2012


In addition to A Strategic Approach to Mental Health System Change, I think the following may be of particular interest:


·         The Illegality of Psychiatric Imprisonment, Forced Drugging and Forced Electroshock in the U.S. -- 379 Views

·         A Human Rights Lawyer's Perspective on the Mental Health System -- 263 Views

·         Drugging Our Children: Legal and Moral Issues  -- 706 Views

·         The Psychiatric Drugging of Children & Elderly -- 4,603 Views


This latter one, was the first one with the donated videocamera and the reason it has so many views is it was featured on


My plan is to post at least one more, which would be on PsychRights' Medicaid Fraud Initiative Against Psychiatric Drugging of Children & YouthI am terrible at this point speaking to the camera, which is why all of the above videos are taken from talks.  However, I may just have to try and get this one done talking to the camera. 


Traditional Media


In addition to doing our own media through YouTube, PsychRights has been able to get some local television coverage.  The most important of which, was last May when the local NBC affiliate did a 4 part series, titled Mind Over Meds:


·         Mind Over Meds, Part 1

·         Mind Over Meds, Part 2

·         Mind Over Meds, Part 3

·         Mind Over Meds, Part 4


I was featured in Part 1 and even though the reporter made an amazing number of factual errors, I think it presents the case against the ubiquitous use of the drugs.  It doesn't really present the forced drugging issue, though.   Part 2 covers the debate between PsychRights and the head of the Alaska Psychiatric Institute.  Part 3 is about two other people, one who doesn't take drugs and the other who does, but both in fairly high up positions in the local community mental health center.  Part 4 is a visit to the Alaska Psychiatric Association's annual conference and interviewing 3 "leading" psychiatrists who say "the psych rights movement is giving them a bum rap."  Our arrangement with KTUU is that we can post these videos to YouTube if or when they are no longer available through their website.


There was also an appearance on Alaska Political Insider, a program by the local ABC affiliate, last April with Daryl Nelson to promote a talk I was giving.  Daryl and I were on another ABC affilliate program, the Dan Fagan Show around the same time, which no longer seems to be online, and just a couple of months ago, I was invited back to the Dan Fagan Show.


This traditional media was all in Anchorage, Alaska.


            Protests -- Occupy Psychiatry


As a general rule, however, it has proven extremely difficult to get the public's attention on the horror of forced psychiatric drugging and electroshock so PsychRights has been involved in launching an umbrella protest organization, named Occupy Psychiatry.  The idea behind  Occupy Psychiatry is to aggregate as many of the protests against the current psychiatric system under one umbrella or banner, especially on Facebook.  There are a number of advantages to that, including showing that there are many protests going on all over the world against psychiatry (if we are successful in drawing them under the Occupy Psychiatry banner).  Another big advantage is local protests can get support from all over the world.   A third big advantage is that through Facebook, it is possible to reach beyond our group of supporters.  The goal of Occupy Psychiatry from PsychRights' perspective is to get the attention of the general public regarding the horrors of psychiatry.


Occupy Psychiatry as an organizing umbrella grew out of the successful May 5, 2012, protest, Occupy the American Psychiatric Association in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The Occupy Psychiatry Facebook Community was created just three days later, on May 8, 2012.  The heart and soul of the effort are Occupy Psychiatry Events


Upcoming Events are:


·         Save the Babies: Occupy the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Thursday, November 29, 2012 

·         Occupy CRPD Ratification, Monday, December 3, 2012

·         First Annual Creative Maladjustment Week, Saturday, July 6, 2013


Past Events were:


·         Occupy American Psychiatric Association New York City -- Rally & March from the United Nations, October 6, 2012

·         Occupy Torrey Tirade, July 18, 2012 

·         Occupy Kaiser Permanente Sunnyside, June 27, 2012 


So far, the following organizations have joined:


·         The Law Project for Psychiatric Rights (PsychRights®)

·         MindFreedom International

·         Voices of the Heart

·         The Freedom Center

·         Portland Hearing Voices

·         Madness Radio

·         Speak Out Against Psychiatry

·         Center for the Human Rights of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (CHRUSP)


In addition to the main Occupy Psychiatry Page on Facebook that has over 750 "likes," there is an Occupy Psychiatry Discussion Group with 147 members.


Just as PsychRights is creating its own media through YouTube, so is Occupy Psychiatry.  The following are some videos from Past Occupy Psychiatry Events.


                     May 5, 2012, Occupy the American Psychiatric Association 5/5/2012

o   Dorothy Dundas -- Why I'm Going To Occupy Psychiatry  -- 895 Views

o   Ted Chabasinski at Occupy the American Psychiatric Association, 5/5/2012 -- 648 Views

o   Adina Lambert of ISEPP at Occupy the American Psychiatric Association, 5/5/2012  -- 349 Views

o   March on the American Psychiatric Association 5/5/2012 in Philadelphia  -- 578 Views

o   Ripping Psychiatric Labels at Occupy the American Psychiatric Association, 5/5/2012  -- 614 Views

o   Occupy the American Psychiatric Association May 5, 2012  -- 426 Views

                     July 18, 2012, Occupy Torrey Tirade, -- 610 Views

                     October 6, 2012, Occupy the American Psychiatric Association - Rally and Protest for Human Rights -- 256 Views


You can help Occupy Psychiatry!  First, if you are on Facebook, you can "like" Occupy Psychiatry.  Then you can "share" it on your Timeline by clicking the down arrow next to "Message" and selecting "share".   Another important thing you can do is "share" (much better than "like") items that are posted on Occupy Psychiatry's Timeline.  Then you can get to the heart of the effort by supporting the Occupy Psychiatry Events.


There are also organizing and discussion e-mail lists.  E-mail me if you would like to be included on either or both of these e-mail lists.  Or you can (hopefully) automatically subscribe to or


Strategic Litigation


As mentioned at the beginning, in 2012, PsychRights has focused on the Public Attitudes/Public Education sphere of the transformation triangle.   In 2013, PsychRights expects to return to strategic litigation.   For the last few years, PsychRights has focused its litigation efforts on the psychiatric drugging of children and youth, especially poor children.  A big part of this is PsychRights' Medicaid Fraud Initiative Against Psychiatric Drugging of Children & Youth, which seizes on the fact that most psychiatric drugs given to poor children and youth through Medicaid is not properly covered and therefore Medicaid Fraud and people can sue on behalf of the government under the False Claims Act and share in the recovery if any. 


In the first test case, United States ex rel Law Project for Psychiatric Rights v. Matsutani, filed in Alaska, the courts' response under what is known as the "Public Disclosure Bar," was basically "since the government knows all about the pervasive fraud and doesn't care, why should we?"  However, just recently, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin held in United States and the State of Wisconsin ex rel. Dr. Toby Watson v. Jennifer King-Vassel, CAPS Child & Adolescent Psychiatric Services and Encompass Effective Mental Health Services, Inc.:


Dr. Watson has provided particular information relating to Dr. King-Vassel that was previously unknown to the government. Nonetheless, Dr. King-Vassel argues that there has been public disclosure as a result of previous news accounts of Medicaid fraud and similar lawsuits throughout the nation. But, just as in Baltazar, none of those news accounts or lawsuits touched upon the particular facts of this case—they did not deal particularly with Dr. King-Vassel, with the places at which she practiced, or even with the geographic area in which she practiced. As such, exactly as was the case in Baltazar, the alleged public disclosures could not have formed the basis of this lawsuit, and, therefore, lack the particulars that the Court must look for to find the public disclosure bar triggered. See Baltazar, 635 F.3d 867–68. Had Dr. Watson not brought this suit, the government would not be aware of Dr. King-Vassel’s alleged fraud (despite any highly generalized awareness of ongoing Medicaid fraud by doctors prescribing medications to minors for off-label uses)—thus, just as in Baltazar, this qui tam action serves the precise purpose for which such actions were intended. Id. As such, the Court must determine that there has not been a public disclosure of the allegations in this action.


However, the District Court dismissed the case on the grounds there was some mysterious "black box" mechanism that required an expert to explain how a prescription to a Medicaid recipient results in Medicaid paying for the prescription:


Without an expert to testify, there is a grand mystery between the time of the prescription and the claim being made to Medicaid. In many ways, that mystery is like a black box—perhaps Dr. King-Vassel’s signature on the prescription set off a series of reactions that on the other side of the box resulted in a false claim, but the churning mechanism on the inside is still a mystery. Without an expert to explain the workings of the in-between phase (the black box), the Court and a hypothetical jury cannot make any determination of whether Dr. King-Vassel actually caused the submission of a false claim.


This seems truly bizarre and it is believed this decision will be appealed and PsychRights will handle it on appeal. 


Whatever happens with respect to the expert witness question, or even if there is an appeal, having the District Court rule in our favor as to the critical Public Disclosure Bar issue is an extremely positive and important decision.  The strategy behind PsychRights' Medicaid Fraud Initiative Against Psychiatric Drugging of Children & Youth is that any case we win against a psychiatrist or other prescriber will be for millions of dollars and this will scare the rest of them into curtailing the practice.  Remember that the desegregation litigation effort took many years and many cases before ultimate victory was achieved.  The same can be true here.


In addition to the Watston v. King-Vassel case, PsychRights is looking towards taking more Medicaid Fraud cases directly since it has proven so hard to recruit other attorneys to take them. 


PsychRights would also like to pursue some direct action against the psychiatric drugging of children and youth in foster care and juvenile justice under 42 USC § 1983, but realizes it needs substantially more financial resources to do so. 


Appeal for Donations


PsychRights will gratefully accept any and all donations.  PsychRights, is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization (i.e., donations are tax deductible).    PsychRights' finances are completely transparent with information posted at   Every donation, no matter how small is greatly appreciated, not only for the money but it shows that we have many supporters.  So far we only have 29 donors for 2012, while we had 82 in 2011 and 119 in 2010.  So again, it is not just the amount of money, but that you show your support.  It would be great to get our number of donors back up.


Donations can be sent to:


Law Project for Psychiatric Rights
406 G Street, Suite 206
Anchorage, Alaska 99501


Donations can also be made online by going to PsychRights Home Page and clicking on the Network for Good or PayPal buttons.