Press Releases

Senate Chairman To Hold Hearing On Abuse Of Seclusion & Restraints In Psychiatric Facilities

Gao Report Released, Citing Nami's "Cries Of Anguish"

Statement by Laurie Flynn, Executive Director, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill

Oct 01 1999

We are heartened by the announcement of Senator William Roth (R-DE), chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance-with jurisdiction over Medicare and Medicaid and much of the nation's health industry-that he will hold a hearing later this fall on the abuse of seclusion and restraints in psychiatric hospitals.

The announcement coincided with the release of a General Accounting Office's report on such abuses. The GAO report credits NAMI in three instances for its compilation of cases over the last year in "Cries of Anguish," a report which summarized more than 40 incidents from 20 states.

People sometimes tell Congress that if something isn't broken, then please don't fix it. But what the GAO report tells Congress is not only that the system is broken-but frankly, there is no system. The GAO report confirms the findings of the investigative series published in The Hartford Courant in October 1998, which was inspired by reports from NAMI Connecticut families. Since the series appeared, more people suffering from mental illnesses have been killed or injured through the improper use of restraints.

The GAO report confirms what NAMI families already know from experience:

  • No national standards exist for the use of restraints
  • Deaths and serious injuries are occurring
  • No comprehensive reporting system exists

The status quo is a national disgrace and a national crisis. How many more must die before Congress passes legislation? The GAO Report must be used as a foundation for action. Congress must not let another year go by without putting in place standards and a system to protect people with mental illnesses against such abuses.