Whiting Forensic Hospital patient Hal Bassow testifies remotely before the Judiciary Committee.

A massive outcry has been raised against Connecticut’s broken psychiatric care system, specificially Whiting Forensic Hospital in Middletown – the scandal-plagued state hospital that cares for people found not guilty by reason of insanity (CGS 17a-593) and competency restoration (CGS 54-56d).

This outcry relating to a patient, an acquittee housed at Whiting Forensic Hospital (WFH) and under the Psychiatric Security Review Board (PSRB). Acquittees at WFH deserve a better system, as the current one is broken. Hal Bassow is a patient housed at Whiting for more than a decade. In recent years, a massive outcry has been made regarding the way Bassow is treated by Whiting hospital clinical staff. Whiting has and continues to violate his civil rights: right to humane and dignified treatment and right to privacy after having his liberty and privacy unnecessarily and severely restricted for over 3 years.

When a psychiatrist at a state inpatient psychiatric facility restricts the liberty of a patient like Bassow in the conduct of their already very limited activities of daily living, that psychiatrist stops acting parens patriae and acts pursuant to state police powers as a state actor. Once the psychiatrist/psychologist orders restrictions on liberty in addition to the already restrictive daily life of an inpatient in a psychiatric unit, the right to liberty and treatment in the least restrictive manner must be strictly reviewable by the court in accordance with a legal standard and rule of law which cushions the individual from an overzealous exercise of state power.

Connecticut’s complex, injustice mental health system can be found at Whiting hospital. Something large and drastic has to be done to address Whiting Forensic Hospital’s broken systems beyond the recent laws change regarding the way the discharge process to and from Whiting Max according to some revised state statutes by law makers. More still needs to be done by lawmakers to propose more bills like 2022 Senate Bill 450 to improve Whiting Forensic Hospital and abolish the PSRB board.

Whiting fails many, if not all of the individuals like Bassow under its care. Education can break the cycle of mass warehousing at Whiting. By educating Connecticut’s communities about the mental health system in our state. Today in our nation, every American citizen dreams of the American Dream of a house, kids, picket fence. As they work hard to get theirs. But where’s our American Dream? That has been stripped from us when you come to an institution such as Whiting under the Psychiatric Security Review Board, you have the stigma that says you’re indefinitely committed for the rest of your life on a term that will never end. It’s not fairness. It’s not justice and it’s certainly not recovery. And the real madness is we’re told to tolerate this in our state, better yet a beautiful place we call America. Being trapped and having your liberty restricted in Connecticut’s mental health system is a form of solitary confinement. Bassow’s story is one of many.

As far back as the 1840’s, colonial officials in Tasmania had noted elevated mortality rates among transported male convicts kept in solitary as opposed to the rest of those transported to the colony. More recently, a 2010 North Carolina study found a high mortality rate among released prisoners who had been in solitary confinement, especially from homicide, suicide, and opioid overdose. What these studies suggested, however, was shown conclusively in the Danish study. The data uncovered is important because it reveals that even short stays in solitary could be tied to higher mortality rates and most short stays could be avoided with more education on this issue. Solitary confinement [impacts] more than 10 million people incarcerated worldwide and long stays in solitary confinement are common in many nations. The effects of solitary confinement should be made apparent to policymakers. So solitary confinement, just like massive warehousing at Whiting, can be eliminated.

It’s a good argument to say the people in society are protected, I guess, but who’s protecting acquittees behind the walls of WFH? Whiting Max building residents live in the stone age with no modern-day technology to help or assist in their recovery/treatment. Of [the] patients under its care, the practice of psychology and psychiatry will not create a truly mentally healthy society as it currently stands for mental health [as a] collective. The occupation of a clinical psychologist and psychiatrist is to adjust the mind to be functional in a dysfunctional society. What is called mental health is the ability to function with that which is dysfunctional.

Of course, clinical psychology and psychiatry will defend by stating that they are not in the business of philosophy or religion; they are in the business of making people functional. The problem is that these clinicians become the spokespersons or standard bearers for what society believes about the mind, and importantly, human identity. Sigmund Freud once said not even normal people are normal.

Hal Bassow is a two-time author and an inpatient at Whiting Forensic Hospital who has more than a decade and a half of experience in Connecticut’s mental health system.

The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.