Tradition v. the Law: One P&A's Journey to Change a State Mental Health System

Rachel Mirsky, J.D.

On behalf of Disability Rights Connecticut (DRCT), Rachel Mirsky will present how DRCT is working to improve the lives of individuals with mental illness institutionalized in inpatient psychiatric hospitals under the care of Connecticut’s largest mental health state agency. From the beginning of its abuse and neglect investigation in April 2021 to the present, DRCT’s journey to uncover violations of federal and state to protect the rights of individuals with serious mental illness housed by the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS), has been fascinating, yet arduous. DRCT’s presentation will discuss findings and recommendations in its investigation, its decision to release a public report, and the steps taken since the release of this report as a case study into improving a state mental health system both resistant to change and reluctant to deviate from tradition. Specifically, the presentation will highlight the investigation and case study of Connecticut Mental Health Center, the only state-run in-patient psychiatric hospital with an established 50-year working relationship with Yale University.

In this presentation, DRCT’s goals and objectives will include:

  •  How abuse and neglect investigations happen at DRCT for individuals with mental illness;
  •  DRCT’s legal authority to investigate and request corrective action;
  •  Why DRCT chose to issue a public report as an effective approach for systemic change;
  •  A discussion about the public report;
  •  Responses to the public report;
  •  Steps DRCT has taken since issuing the public report;
  •  DRCT’s plans to impact permanent change in the State of Connecticut; and
  •  Ways in which others can get involved in their states to help individuals with mental illness in institutionalized settings and protect their rights.