general report was provided by Daniel B. Newby on 2/24/03:
Note: This write-up is intended for your personal use and
to disseminate—either in email or hard copy—to your friends,
colleagues, fellow citizens, media, and elected officials. The
bill discussed has been selected because it either promotes
freedom or it poses a significant risk to freedom.
Threat Synopsis: Currently, under Utah law, when you are merely accused of
mental illness, you can be involuntarily committed to a mental
institution. Your fate is decided by a judge or his appointed
commissioner, and you will likely have to contend with the
"professional" opinion of state-funded psychiatrists. You have
no trial by jury, you do not have to commit a crime, and (as
with property forfeiture schemes) you have little recourse. If
committed, these same psychiatrists may subject you to mind
altering drugs and other "treatments."
Senate Bill 27 Substitute 3, by
Senator Leonard Blackham,
will likely be heard on the house floor tomorrow
(Monday)! This bill would drastically loosen the
standards by which you may be committed to a mental
institution against your will. It eliminates the current
"immediate" standard of protection, and utilizes a new, loose
definition under "substantial danger." The bill language is
poorly written, very vague and open-ended, and therefore can
be used to target just about anyone for just about any reason.
Being nebulous is unacceptable when it comes to committing and
"treating" citizens against their will.
Below is additional information on the bill. Read what you
can, but it is very important to take action immediately!
1. TAKE ACTION!
2. Senate Bill 27 Substitute 3: The
Shocking Committee Testimony by Sen. Blackham and His Cohort,
Jack Tanner of UBHN!
1. TAKE ACTION!
As Lando Calrissian put it: "This deal just keeps getting
worse all the time." Instead of working with citizens to make
SB 27 better, Sen. Blackham keeps listening to sources
determined to promote another agenda. He is not listening to
our concerns and has proven that he cannot be trusted to run
any serious bill that might affect our rights and freedoms.
1. Call (and, if possible, fax) your representative
at the capitol and tell him to oppose Senate Bill 27
S3 or any other substitutes and to oppose ANY effort to
loosen involuntary commitment standards.
House main number: (801) 538-1029
House main fax:
Official Contact Information page.
Note: Make sure you identify yourself and your contact
information, the legislator you want to reach, and keep the
message succinct and relatively short. Because of the volume
of email messages that senators and representatives receive,
your email message may never be considered in time.
2. Forward this message to your family, friends, and any
activists you know. Encourage them to get involved and help
stop this dangerous bill.
2. Senate Bill 27 Substitute 3:
Each time SB 27 comes out, there are new surprises. In the
interest of time, I will limit this analysis to the most
heinous attacks on your rights:
Eliminates the "Immediate" Standard: The bill
eliminates the specific time-frame requirement that the
accused pose an "immediate" physical danger to himself or
others Without this restriction, judges would have almost
complete latitude to sentence the accused based upon mere
predictions of future behavior. According to the latest
301 (b) because of
the proposed patient's mental illness he poses [
substantial danger, as defined in Section
62A-15-602 , of physical injury to others or himself,
303 which may
include the inability to provide the basic necessities of life
such as food, clothing,
304 and shelter, if
allowed to remain at liberty;
Lady Justice (Justitia) wears a blindfold representing
impartiality and holds scales representing generality and
uniformity. She is supposed to deal with reality in the here
and now. According to over 200 years of American tradition,
she is supposed to treat people as innocent until proven
guilty of some crime. This bill would have Justice remove her
blindfold and replace her scales with a crystal ball. The word
"immediate" is an important protection and must not be
Loose Definition of "Substantial Danger": According to
"Substantial danger" means the person, by his or her behavior,
due to mental
176 (a) is at
serious risk to:
inflict serious bodily injury on himself or herself; or
because of his or her actions or inaction, suffer serious
bodily injury because he or
180 she is
incapable of providing the basic necessities of life, such as
food, clothing, and shelter;
181 (b) is at
serious risk to cause or attempt to cause serious bodily
182 (c) has
inflicted or attempted to inflict serious bodily injury on
And what does "serious bodily injury" mean?
"Serious bodily injury" means bodily injury which involves a
substantial risk of
unconsciousness, extreme physical pain, protracted and obvious
protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily
member, organ, or mental faculty.
What does substantial risk of suffering "extreme physical
pain" or "impairment of mental faculty" mean? Another way of
asking the same question: What could that not mean?
(Notice that, again, the "immediate" standard is missing.)
Or what about "is at serious risk to cause or attempt to
cause serious bodily injury" in the definition of "substantial
danger" above? What does serious risk mean? Again, without the
"immediate" standard, how far into the future can this
prediction apply to?
And how many homeless and poor citizens are incapable of
providing basic necessities like food, clothing, and shelter
to the degree that they COULD be at
serious risk "to suffer serious bodily injury"? If you
think this interpretation is a stretch, read some of the
shocking committee statements made by SB37 supporters in Topic
Finally, in the words of Senator James Evans at the bill's
senate committee hearing: "How do we make sure that it [the
definition of "substantial danger"] is not elastic and goes so
far it could be used for political reasons or just medical
3. Shocking Committee
Testimony by Sen. Blackham and His Cohort, Jack Tanner of UBHN!
When Senate Bill 27 S1 was presented at the February 5,
2003 Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice
Committee hearing, the sponsor spoke and then called upon
Jack Tanner, Director/CEO of the Utah Behavioral Healthcare
Network, Inc. (UBHN), to assist him in his presentation.
UBHN "consists of all of the community mental health and
substance abuse providers in Utah that operate under the
responsibility of Local Mental Health and Substance Abuse
Authorities (County Governments). Its fourteen [organization]
members deliver the public services for mental health and
substance abuse throughout the state"
(see their website at
http://www.ubhn.org/). The UBHN
membership roster includes the Utah Division of Mental Health
I obtained an audio tape copy of the hearing, and wanted to
share my observations with you as well as some direct
quotations from the committee, Sen. Blackham, and his
co-presenter Jack Tanner. I have chosen those topics that I
feel are the most defining as to the enormous danger this bill
poses to your freedom.
Who Are the Mentally Ill According to Sen. Blackham and His
Cohort, Jack Tanner of UBHN?
Question (Senator James Evans): There are many people
who are homeless that, quite frankly, have psychiatric
disorders... You do have alot of homeless that are mentally
ill and who cannot provide for themselves."
Answer (Senator Leonard Blackham): "Well, then maybe
they should be there [involuntarily committed] is what I’m
Statement by Jack Tanner: "If a homeless person is
mentally ill and is a ‘substantial danger’ even as defined in
here [the bill], I think the right for that person to receive
care is just as great as anyone else in society. So, the issue
of, ‘Will there be people who are homeless who will be placed
in this system?’ If the answer is yes, and they meet the
qualifications, I think they surely deserve that treatment as
well as anyone else in society. I mean, they’re human beings.
I guess it doesn’t bother me...
"We’ve got people who are druggies and they choose to be
druggies; they like to be druggies. You think they’re free?
They make that choice... but do you think they’re free? Well,
I don’t think they’re free. I don’t think they have much
freedom at all. I think that the addiction they have has
stolen most of their freedom from them.
"Alcoholics. Do you think they’re free? I don’t think
they’re free. I think their addiction has stole their freedom—their
choices are limited. I think some of it’s mental illness—severe
mental illness, and we’re not talking just mild obsession and
things like that...
"I guess I’ve come to the conclusion that our definition
of freedom is one where you’re not addicted to something to
where you’re choices are limited. And I think many of
these folks with severe mental illness—their
choices are limited. And I think in reality commitment, and
especially where they have such a high success with it, can
free those people to a normal life. And I haven’t yet to
define normal, but at least it will be normal for them."
Response (Senator James Evans): With all due respect,
sir and Senator Blackham, based upon your analysis, then we
should also commit the drug addicts and alcoholics because
they’re not free. And this is where we could start expanding
this into defining who’s free and who’s not and you could
really, even based on your own analysis, theoretically include
the drug addicts and alcoholics.
: The Utah
Division of Mental Health (DMH) has asserted in a public
document that nearly 150,000 Utahns suffer from serious
mental illness. That equates to almost one out of every
15 Utahns. In a January 22, 2001, presentation to a DMH
budget hearing, the Disability Law Center asserted that
there are "100,000 Utahns living with mental illness [who]
are being violated by the lack of care and service."
(For more information,
an article I wrote while employed at the
Additional Facts & Observations
Remember that DMH is a member organization of the Utah
Behavioral Healthcare Network, Inc., and Jack Tanner is the
Director/CEO of that conglomerate. He and Senator Blackham
both appeared to be very concerned about the freedom that
drug addicts and alcoholics lose by their addictions. Yet
mind-altering drugs are at the top of the list for so-called
that often create addictions and therefore restrict freedom.
This is particularly alarming because it shows that these
mental health "professionals" are somehow superior and
omnipotent when "they decide" to restrict the freedom of
Consider this additional statement by Jack Tanner:
"...What it [the bill] will enable us to do is to reach out
to those people who need treatment—those
few people who don’t now meet the standard for commitment—and
provide them with the services that they will need; and
that’s who the bill is intended for. For those few who we
can’t now get to because the standard does not allow us to."
How Concerned is Jack Tanner (UBHN) about Potential Abuse?
Statement by Jack Tanner: "I guess if we got to the
point that law enforcement started to use this section of the
code, you know, to simply clean the streets, if you want to
use that terminology, then we would have to come in here and
find a way to prevent that kind of abuse. This is not aimed at
that. This is just aimed at the seriously mentally ill...."
: Do not be
fooled. If "seriously mentally ill" has a broad application,
rogue law enforcement agencies are the least of our worries.
In the previous topic, Jack Tanner asserted that serious
mental illness included alcoholics, "druggies," and appeared
to include a broad segment of our poor and homeless classes.
Senator Evans voiced the obvious concern: "Unfortunately,
once the law is on the books, we’re subject to basically man
and woman and how they use it."
Additional Facts & Observations
What Does Jack Tanner (UBHN) Think of the
Constitutionally-guaranteed Freedoms of Americans?
Question (Senator James Evans): "Secondly, on the
predictive aspect, part of this bill rests on predicting what
will happen, and that’s how you predict ‘substantial
danger’... I’m trying to understand, how you predict future
actions to make it a ‘substantial danger’?"
Answer (Jack Tanner): "That’s the judgement call the
judge has to make. I mean, there’s no question about it, a
judge has to sit in judgement on making those predictions of
whether the substantial [danger] is enough to place in
commitment. But you gotta go back again to the level of
commitment that can occur here. It may be something nothing
more than you need to take your medicine."
Statement by Jack Tanner: "I just want to say one more
thing about rights. There has been discussion in the task
force and other people have expressed thoughts about the
effect of this bill on personal rights. Commitment is a
curtailment of rights. And the right that is curtailed is the
right to refuse treatment. But I guess the question I have in
my mind is, are these people really free in the first
: Curtailment of
rights means that persons who are involuntarily committed to
a mental institution forfeit the following rights:
Additional Facts & Observations
- Right to trial by a jury of one’s
peers. In Utah, only one man — a judge or his appointed
"mental health commissioner" — decides your fate
(see state statute
- Right to be treated as innocent until proven guilty of
a crime. In Utah, involuntary commitment is a civil
procedure, and the accused need not be found guilty of any
(see state statute
It can be very difficult to defend yourself once you are
exposed to mind-altering drugs.
- Right and/or ability to appeal your incarceration. In
Utah, your appeal consists of a "review," essentially
every six months, by the same judge or appointee of the
court who committed you
- Right to refuse many mind-altering drugs and even
experimental treatments. (There are efforts this session
to strengthen this right.)
People who are involuntary committed have fewer rights than
convicted felons at the Point of the Mountain who were found
guilty of criminal wrong-doing by a jury of their peers. There
are no safeguards under the current system and SB 27 S3 will
only make matters worse.
Daniel B. Newby
P.S. The preceeding message was my personal opinion. To
receive an alert on this subject directly, email me at
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