What does the Americans with Disabilities Act do?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures that peopl with disabilities, such as severe mental illneprotection against discrimination in the workplace, housing and residential settings (including treatment facilities such as hospitals), public programs, and telecommunications. The ADA's goal is to give the 54 million Americans with disabilities full and equal opportunities (President Bush's New Freedom Initiative, 2002).
What are State Protection and Advocacy programs?
Each State, as well as the District of Columbia and the five Territories, has a Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) program. PAIMI programs safeguard the rights of people with mental illness. Where problems are found, PAIMI programs pursue legal, administrative, and other remedies to ensure protection of rights for people with severe mental illness. People with disabilities who are not eligible for PAIMY services may be eligible for other programs within the Protection and Advocacy (P&A) system, such as the Protection and Advocacy for Individual Rights (PAIR) program or the Client Assistance Program (CAP).
What is an advance directive?
If you frequently seek and use mental health services, you may want to establish an advance directive. There are two general
types of advance directives: instructional, such as living wills, and proxy, such as durable power of attorney.
Each directive is a legal document that lets you describe what services you want to receive if an illness renders you unable to make decisions about your care. Give a copy of the directive to your usual service provider(s) so that it can become part of your medical record. Laws about advance directives vary from
State to State. Work with a lawyer, paralegal, or advocate to write your advance directive.
What is 'informed consent'?
Informed consent refers to when a patient agrees to undergo or participate in a medical or surgical procedure, treatment, or study after learning what is involved. Informed consent requires that a person know and fully understand the risks and benefits of a certain treatment or procedure.
Can I refuse treatment?
People generally have the right to consent to or refuse treatment. However, under certain conditions-such as when a person is considered a danger to self or others-he or she may be required to seek or receive treatment. This can include involuntary civil commitment, which can be for either outpatient or inpatient treatment, as well as forced medication. Laws about commitment vary by State. If you have questions about the commitment process in your State, contact your State P&A program or consumer or family organization.
What about managed care rights?
Many organizations have developed bills of rights for people
with severe mental illnesses who are treated in a managed care
setting. The Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) has
developed principles for managed care treatment. CMHS recommends
that providers, managed care firms, and consumers consider these
principles in their decision-making process. Most managed care
firms have a process for grievances and appeals. Participants
may appeal a treatment decision, question payment decisions, or
file complaints about providers and facilities.
Do I have a right to privacy? Mental health providers agree to
keep your meetings and what you discuss confidential. This means
that what you say-as well as your diagnosis and treatment-cannot
be disclosed to anyone, including family members, without your
The following list is a basic guide to organizations that can
help protect your rights. For more information on any of these
issues and other aspects of mental illness, call SAMHSA's
National Mental Health Information Center (NMHIC).
SAMHSA's National Mental Health Information Center P.O. Box
42557 Washington, DC 20015 Telephone: 800-789-2647 Fax:
240-747-5470 (TDD): 866-889-2647 E-mail:
American Bar Association Commission on Mental and Physical
Disability Law 740 15th Street NW, 9th Floor Washington, DC
20005 Telephone: 202-662-1570 Fax: 202-662-1032 E-mail:
American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area 1400
20th Street NW Washington, DC 20036 Telephone: 202-457-0800
Disability Rights Section Civil Rights Division U.S. Department
of Justice 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, D.C. 20530
Telephone: 800-514-0301 Fax: 202-307-1198 (TDD): 800-514-0383
Judge Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law 1101 15th Street NW,
Suite 1212 Washington, DC 20005-5002 Telephone: 202-467-5730
National Alliance for the Mentally Ill Colonial Place Three 2107
Wilson Boulevard, Suite 300 Arlington, VA 22201-3042 Telephone:
800-950-6264 Fax: 703-524-9094
National Disability Rights Network 900 2nd Street NE, Suite 211
Washington, DC 20002 Telephone: 202-408-9514 Fax: 202-408-9520
National Empowerment Center 599 Canal Street Lawrence, MA 01840
Telephone: 800-769-3728 Fax: 978-681-6426
National Mental Health Association 2001 N. Beauregard Street -
12th Floor Alexandria, VA 22311 Telephone: 800-969-NMHA (6642)
National Mental Health Consumer's Self-Help Clearinghouse 1211
Chestnut Street, Suite 1207 Philadelphia, PA 19107 Telephone:
800-553-4539 Fax: 215-636-6312 E-mail:
National Rehabilitation Information Center 4200 Forbes
Boulevard, Suite 202 Lanham, MD 20706 Telephone: 800-346-2742 or
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