In New York, there is a body of law called "Article 9 of the Mental Hygiene Law." It is statutory law, enacted by the legislature.
Article 9 has about 50 or 60 different sections. Most of the sections deal with rights, privileges, powers and procedures of psychiatrists, hospitals & other designated officials to commit people involuntarily to psychiatric institutions.
The law also contains authorization for two other types of admission: "voluntary" and informal admission. The reason voluntary is in quotes is because it does not mean what it says: you sign yourself in, but you cannot sign yourself out. The hospital has the option to convert you to involuntary status if you want to leave.
Informal admission is what we all think of as voluntary. You can choose to enter a mental hospital and you have the right to leave whenver you want to.
The other important thing in Article 9 is authorization for the new status of "outpatient commitment," supervision and forced drugging in the community.
Article 9 contains a statement that
it exclusively governs admissions to psychiatric hospitals.
What We Need To Do
What we need to do is repeal Article 9. The people, acting through the legislature, give this power, and the people can take it away.
Article 9 should be replaced by a simple law that says it is the exclusive law governing admissions to psychiatric hospitals and informal status, defined the same as in the old law, is the only lawful type of admission.
This is intended to be a free dissemination of information. Anybody can start working on their local legislators to get things moving. But I would appreciate being kept informed of your efforts and interest. If enough people respond to this, we can do something more organized.
E-mail me at: tminkowitz at earthlink.net, substituting the symbol "@" for "at".