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News :: Human Rights
Landmark Patient's Rights Bill Filed at State House
12 Jan 2007
Do you feel irritable, moody, and depressed when you can't get outside for several days? An increasing trend amongst inpatient psychiatric units in Massachusetts is to deny fresh air and outdoor access to patients at a time it can help them the most. The powerful hospital lobby and some administrators have quietly been creating a more restrictive environment that further cuts into the basic humanity of this misunderstood and stigmatized population. But a grassroots coalition is looking to change that.
[For Immediate Release]

CFAR
The Coalition for Fresh Air Rights

Contact: Jonathan Dosick at (617) 947-6549
(Email: ambient871 (at) hotmail.com)

Landmark Rights Bill Filed at State House

Boston, Massachusetts – A unique patients’ rights bill was filed on Wednesday, January 10, 2007 at the Massachusetts State House in Boston. The bill is part of an unprecedented grassroots movement that (literally) is a breath of fresh air.

The legislation calls attention to a relatively little-known issue – an increasing tendency among inpatient psychiatric units to deny or severely limit access to fresh air and the outdoors for patients.

“Currently, it is the practice of many hospitals to forcibly keep patients inside twenty-four hours a day,” said Representative Frank I. Smizik (D-Brookline), the Chief Sponsor of the bill. An identical bill was also filed in the Senate by Sen. Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville). “It is essential that patients with mental illness receive the best care possible from our hospitals and ensuring them access to fresh air and the outdoors is a large part of doing this. This legislation would simply give mental health patients the same right to fresh air as inmates in our state prisons by inserting a sixth right of persons receiving services from programs or facilities of the Department of Mental Health.”

The bill, first submitted in 2005, is a joint effort of the Disability Law Center, the Protection and Advocacy organization for Massachusetts, and M-POWER (Massachusetts People/Patients Organized for Wellness, Empowerment and Rights). It was co-sponsored last year by 13 legislators, and endorsed by many health care, advocacy, and rights organizations, including:

• National Association of Social Workers, Massachusetts Chapter
• Massachusetts Occupational Therapists Association, and its national parent organization, the American Occupational Therapy Association
• Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee
• National Empowerment Center
• The International Coalition for Ecopsychology

Jonathan Dosick, Founder and Coordinator of the Coalition for Fresh Air Rights (CFAR), knows the benefits of fresh air access as a former inpatient. “I was able to get fresh air, and the time I spent outside directly correlated with my feelings of hope for the future.”

“Going outside refreshes people and reminds them of life outside of the hospital units. People who are already in anguish shouldn’t be subjected to ‘cabin fever’ as well.”

Dosick, who has been studying the situation for over two years, says that to the best of his knowledge, he knows of at least 11 hospitals with over 430 patients that deny fresh air access outright. “A less restrictive environment for patients would lead to improved outcomes,” Dosick says. “This isn’t about being ‘anti-hospital’ or ‘antipsychiatry’. Rather, it’s about people with mental illnesses asserting our dignity as human beings. We’re a rich, proud but misunderstood population.”

“And, like every population, we deserve to enjoy the simple pleasures and healing power of nature.”

To learn more about the fresh air bill and CFAR, Please contact Jonathan Dosick at (617) 947-6549
or email him at ambient871 (at) hotmail.com.

-END-

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