ASBURY PARK, NJ – Drug overdose deaths are the 3rd leading cause of death in New Jersey’s publicly funded drug rehabs. Additionally, extreme human rights violations such as the use of mechanical restraints, forced chemical restraints, assault, rape and exploitation take place in behavioral health programs and facilities. These egregious incidents are already tracked by the state in a system called the Unusual Incident Reporting Monitoring System (UIRMS) but the information is hidden from the public.
Advocates are calling on Governor Christie and the New Jersey State Legislature to introduce a budget resolution requiring the State to post historical UIRMS/Human Rights Violation information on a website for public viewing, as a first step. A budget resolution would make this a mandatory requirement to appropriating funds for these programs. Other New Jersey publicly funded service systems such as the developmental disability provider network already have their URIMS data available for public viewing.
“The public is paying the bill for these programs and being told that treatment is a simplistic solution to the opioid crisis, so to deny them the right to know of drug overdoses, assaults, sexual assault and other human rights violations in treatment, is a betrayal of trust” said Randy Thompson, CEO of Help Not Handcuffs, Inc. “Due to drug prohibition and the criminalization of mental health disorders, many programs are coercive and victims are less likely report human rights violations for fear of a criminal justice court punishment” Thompson said.
The New Jersey Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services (the primary funder of behavioral health services) has a budget of just under $1 Billion according to the State’s website. While Governor Christie and the New Jersey State Legislature have introduced innumerable laws to promote treatment, none have empowered the public to be aware of overdose deaths or human rights violations in “treatment”. Additionally, survivors of these incidents are not empowered to see institutional actors held accountable or any viable path for reparations. “In short, Human Rights are not an issue in NJ’s drug policy and behavioral health system, as most of the system’s policies (such as drug courts) are shamelessly coercive and are predicated on violating basic human rights in the name of treatment and drug-war rhetoric” Thompson said.
Also at issue is how human rights violations are investigated by the state. Use of mechanical and chemical restraints and other UIRMS incidents can be “investigated” without speaking to the victim. A total re-haul of how Human Rights Violations are handled in these programs and facilities is long overdue. A new process would require prioritizing victim’s rights, reparations and satisfaction, as well as elimination of the standardization of policies and practices which cause human rights violations. “These issues are all the more paramount as our Governor has assumed the position as National Chairman of the Trump Administration’s Opioid Commission” Thompson said.