National mental health group chooses W.Va. native as director

By Scott Finn 

A native West Virginian is the new executive director of one of the nation’s leading advocacy groups for people with mental illness. Kurt Entsminger is the new leader of the Treatment Advocacy Center, based in suburban Washington D.C.  In 2006, the Treatment Advocacy Center received an award from the American Psychiatric Association for “sustained extraordinary advocacy on behalf of the most vulnerable mentally ill patients.” 

But the Center is a controversial force in the mental health world. For example, the group pushes for laws that require people with severe mental illness to take medications. Entsminger makes no apologies for the group’s philosophy. In fact, he says his own experience with bi-polar disorder shows that that Treatment Advocacy Center is right.

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2 Comments on “National mental health group chooses W.Va. native as director”

  1. Mr. Health Nut Says:

    This guy is absolutely right. While only a small percentage of mentally ill become violent, they are easily identified: they have a past history of violence associated with going off meds. Laws to keep them on meds and out of jail are humane for the individual and in the public interest.

  2. Recovery Happens Says:

    Mr. Health Nut, or the Treatment Advocacy Center could not be more mistaken.
    Not once during the interview did Mr. Entsminger mention recovery. Does he believe people can only be “maintained” on medication?? Does he believe a medication regimen is the only intervention for people with mental illness?
    The United States Supreme Court has termed Involuntary Civil Commitment to a psychiatric hospital “a massive curtailment of liberty” Humphrey v. Cady, 405 U.S. 504, 509 (1972). The court has also emphasized that “involuntary commitment to a mental hospital, like involuntary confinement of an individual for any reason, is a deprivation of liberty which the State cannot accomplish without due process of law” Specht v. Patterson, 386 U.S. 605, 608 (1967)
    I believe that involuntary treatment of any kind (including assisted outpatient treatment) should be used only if a person is a harm to themselves or someone else, and only as a last resort. Due process such as prompt probable cause hearings before any treatment is given must be in place to protect the rights of individuals at risk of losing their liberty through involuntary psychiatric treatment.
    Outpatient Commitment (or Assisted Outpatient Treatment) is an infringement of an individuals constitutional rights. Outpatient Commitment is Court ordered treatment in the community. This strategy not only infringes on rights, it also is based on an unproven prediction that the individual may become violent at a indefinite time in the future. There is no test to prove “lack of insight” on the part of the individual, or the potential for the individual to relapse into their illness.
    There has been a select group of people that would like to allow the judicial system, or even a single Dr. to be able to force individuals to receive services on an outpatient basis as well. When you take someone’s liberty and choices away from them it is a very serious matter. The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law reports that outpatient commitment does not improve compliance with medications, and also states that many studies that report outpatient commitment is effective treatment are flawed.
    What is the answer? The answer lies with the individual experiencing the mental illness. Treatment for any illness must be individualized, and promote recovery. Recovery from a mental illness happens every day all around us. Ask a person who has recovered from a mental illness what facilitated their recovery; I would doubt they would say forced treatment. If I go to the Dr. with heart disease, is he going to force medication on me? Of course not. He offers treatment that he feels is appropriate, lets me know of any alternative treatments available, and makes me aware of the consequences of not following my treatment regimen. From there it is my choice whether or not to follow his recommendations.
    Liberty is something we value very highly in this country. I pray that our legislators realize this and educate themselves on this very important issue. Forced treatment should be an intervention for a mental illness only as a last resort, and only if the person is a danger to self or others. West Virginia’s State Constitution has afforded us that protection, and it is a protection I am proud to say I have because I am a West Virginian, and above all because I am a person, not an illness.
    Above all,

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