Britney Spears’ conservatory saga is just one side of a complex issue

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In summary

Californians need to change the guardianship debate and focus on the individuals and their families who are waiting for real reform. People like my son, Danny, should be the face of this reform, not Britney Spears.

By Teresa Pasquini, Special at CalMatters

Teresa Pasquini is a Californian mother who seeks to reform local, state and national mental health systems, [email protected]

Britney Spears shouldn’t be the poster child for Guardianship in California. The “Free Britney” media campaign has created a nationwide myth-making machine that excludes some of the most vulnerable members of our society, including my son Danny.

Californians need to change the guardianship debate and focus on the individuals and their families who are waiting for real reform. People like Danny should be the face of this reform, not Britney Spears. Fortunately, Senator Susan Eggman’s legislation, Senate Bill 507, which expands the criteria for assisted outpatient treatment, is a step in the right direction.

I am on a mission to “free Danny” from the shackles of our broken mental health system for 22 years. Guardianship was the tool he needed to live and stay free.

Danny has been a member of an LPS California Guardianship (named after the Reagan-era Lanterman-Petris-Short Act) for 20 years. Families like mine use this type of guardianship as a last resort, often after having been forced to allow loved ones to deteriorate mentally, become homeless and sometimes suicidal. By law, people with crippling mental illness must pose a threat to themselves or others in order to get through the door of a mental hospital. Once the person is hospitalized, the law appropriately imposes protections that may extend the stay and require medication.

What the law does not cover is the right to treatment as part of a compassionate continuum of care that evolves with the patient’s needs.

Danny and families like mine need a flexible, funded and comprehensive mental health care system. What we have is incomplete.

Because we have inadequate legal standards for judging whether people living with severe mental illness are competent to make decisions about their own treatment, we treat certain disabling brain disorders as mental or behavioral problems rather than medically defined illnesses. Our system must stop sorting out diseases that give sick people the right to treatment and decent housing and those that sick people have to live and sometimes die on the streets.

“Housing That Heals” is an article that describes an ideal system of care: a system that envelops a person in the medical, clinical, rehabilitative and social supports they need to live with dignity. The article describes how an LPS guardianship helped free Danny from solitary confinement and potential state prison sentence. This involuntary and medically necessary care also restored her stability, safety and health, allowing her to transition to an adult residential facility in our community.

Thanks to the Guardianship, Danny is finally in the right place.

He is sufficiently protected during the renewal of guardianship.

He has a psychiatrist and peers who partner with him for his care, a mother and father he leans on for advice, a public curator he trusts, and a public defender who is knowledgeable about the law. guardianship.

He now has the mental capacity to know he needs support. However, there is still no system in place that ensures continuity of care that would protect her freedom and dignity if her guardianship ends again.

Senator Eggman’s legislation focuses on people like Danny, who need access to outpatient treatment in order to avoid suffering on the streets or in prison or to return to a mental state in which they are unable to support themselves. their own basic needs for food, clothing and shelter.

“Free Britney?” Britney has a house, food and estate worth $ 60 million to keep her from becoming unable to support herself (in legal terms, “severely disabled”).

She deserves to have a clear and shared decision-making plan for the future that will protect her health and wealth. I want this for her and for Danny. They both inspired movements fighting for their rights. Danny is different: It’s a movement of moms on a mission for the right to treatment, like the one described in my article and Democratic Senator Eggman’s legislation. This movement is gaining momentum. Please join us.

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