NARPA 2002 Conference: Rights Under Siege

The National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy Announces Its 21st Annual Rights Conference

Note: This article appears in the Summer 2002 edition of the NARPA newsletter, The Rights Tenet

Once a year, NARPA works hard to produce an educational conference with outstanding faculty and workshops where we can learn from and share with colleagues and come together as a community of people committed to social justice. Much too often, we find ourselves in the midst of extremely difficult times, where rights issues are relegated to low priority. Efforts to promote, protect and broaden the rights of oppressed people are always tough. Yes, we need to be tough, but we can not afford to sacrifice our awareness, sensitivity and compassion.

Rights activists are never promised a rose garden, but we are going to open our 21st Annual Conference with Joanne Greenberg, author of the classic book, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. First published in 1964, it was an instant best-seller and became the most widely sold first person account of madness. Greenberg's book exposed the general public to mental hospitals, psychotherapy and recovery. Made into a movie and reprinted many times, her book continues to resonate with people today as demonstrated by the many readers letters she continues to receive.

Greenberg has published twelve novels and four collections of short stories. When her husband worked with Deaf people as a vocational rehabilitation counselor, Greenberg became interested in communicating with Deaf people in American Sign Language (ASL). She has since assisted in the setting up of mental health programs for Deaf people in various hospitals throughout the country. This interest also led to the publication of her novel In This Sign, which has been dramatized on television. This widely acclaimed classic is on recommended reading lists for those interested in learning more about Deaf culture. Her speaking engagements include, but are not limited to, schools, library associations, and book groups. In addition, she performs as a storyteller, helping to keep this art, and the stories, alive.

Presenting with Joanne Greenberg will be Gail Hornstein, author of To Redeem One Person Is To Redeem the World: The Life of Frieda Fromm-Reichmann. The intuitive, sensitive therapist of Greenberg's book was in reality the larger-than-life legend, Frieda Fromm-Reichmann. During the ten years of research for her book, Hornstein and Greenberg became friends. Gail Hornstein, a professor of psychology at Mt. Holyoke College has had a life-long interest in patient memoirs and her current research and interest is described in a recently published article, "Narratives of Madness, as Told from Within." Hornstein explains, "Patient memoirs are a kind of protest literature, like slave narratives or witness testimonies."

Prize-winning investigative journalist Robert Whitakers new book is the ground-breaking Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill. His keynote on Friday morning promises to provide powerful validation of what many of us know from our own experience: that the "cures" for so-called "serious mental illness" have regularly served to deepen peoples suffering and impair their hope of recovery. Whitakers meticulously researched work exposes the greed and dishonesty of the drug companies, shows how the psychiatric establishment has crushed innovative new approaches and ruined the careers of maverick psychiatrists, and points to existing research showing that "cure rates" for people diagnosed with schizophrenia are much higher in third-world countries than in the United States. Whitakers irrefutable documentation of the dysfunction of U.S. mental health policy and practice is an important tool for advocates and activists.

At noon on Friday, nationally acclaimed mental health rights attorney Susan Stefan will deliver a plenary entitled "The Power of the Powerless." She will address how structural evil supported by social and legal structures such as the Holocaust, segregation, apartheid, institutionalization, genocide continues to exist, and how those who feel powerless to prevent it can take action. Stefan is the author of Unequal Rights: Discrimination Against People With Mental Disabilities and The Americans With Disabilities Act and Hollow Promises: Employment Discrimination Against People With Mental Disabilities. She is an attorney at the Center for Public Representation in Newton, Massachusetts, and NARPA Vice-President.

Another leading light in the field of mental disability law, attorney Michael Perlin, will present Saturday mornings keynote address, "On Desolation Row." His talk will focus on how sexual predator laws adversely affect the rights of others with mental illness labels who are caught in the criminal justice system. Perlin, a dynamic speaker whose talks are peppered with relevant references to the work of Bob Dylan, is a professor of law at the New York Law School, and the author of The Hidden Prejudice: Mental Disability and the Law and The Jurisprudence of the Insanity Defense. He won the 1990 Walter Jeffords Writing Prize for his three-volume treatise, Mental Disability Law: Civil and Criminal, and has litigated landmark cases including Rennie v. Kein.

Other keynoters include Kermit Brown, Human Rights Officer for the Department of Mental Health in Massachusetts; his Saturday noon presentation is entitled, "What Time Is It? Even a Broken Watch is Right Twice a Day." His presentation will focus on ways in which mental health systems perpetuate the social devaluation of people with psychiatric labels; he asks questions such as, "Why is the client almost always wrong when she/he utilizes the formal complaint system to identify an injustice? Why cant the client be allowed the personal autonomy to make bad choices?" Sunday mornings closing keynote by psychiatrist Peter Davidson asks: "Who Needs Professional Help?" Davidson, Medical Director of the Department of Community and Family Services for Multnomah County Oregon, will discuss the failures of the public mental health system and give his views about the need to reallocate funds toward a massive increase in strengths-driven, community-based, consumer-run services.

A film festival devoted to films about madness, rights, and activism is planned for Friday evening, and will feature a discussion with film makers.


This years conference will include over 30 workshops organized into three tracks: Legal; Rights and Advocacy; and Alternatives and Empowerment. Some of these workshops are highlighted below.

Confirmed workshop presenters for the Legal track include keynoters Susan Stefan and Michael Perlin. Susan Stefan will present her perennially popular annual update of developments in mental health law. Michael Perlins Saturday workshop is "Godinez v. Moran and Trial Competencies: Exploring New Frontiers." Perlin will discuss this important case from the perspectives of sanism and pretextuality and the way we think about perceived mental disability and "competency."

Michael Allen, a senior staff attorney at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law in Washington, D.C., will present two workshops: "New Developments in the Bundling of Housing and Services," and "A New Vision of Public Mental Health: Creating a Legally Enforceable Entitlement to Voluntary Mental Health Services and Supports." NARPA board member Dennis Feld and Kim Darrow of New Yorks Mental Hygiene Legal Service will present "Evolving Standards of Dangerousness in Forensic Commitment Cases." Tina Minkowitz, J.D., and colleagues will present on "The International Convention on Disability and Our Human Rights," a discussion of an international treaty on disability whose creation is under discussion at the United Nations.

As part of the Rights and Advocacy track, keynoter Robert Whitaker and nationally known maverick psychiatrist Loren Mosher will team up to present a workshop called "Understanding the Big Pharma," focused on how the pharmaceutical industry defines practice and theory and how clinical drug trials are conducted to assure FDA approval of drugs. Dr. Mosher recently has become involved in trying to curb the abuses of "Big Pharma" through education and serving as an expert witness for plaintiffs suing pharmaceutical companies.

David Oaks, Director of Support Coalition International (SCI), Judi Chamberlin, NARPA board member, and Mickey Weinberg, MSW, will offer a workshop, "The True Freedom Commission: Resist Bush Administration Attacks on Our Rights!" This presentation will focus on responses our movement can make to recent assaults on rights by the Bush Administration, including the appointment of right-wing psychiatrist Sally Satel to the Advisory Committee of the Center for Mental Health Services, the proposed termination of mental health consumer technical assistance centers, and the appointment of only one psychiatric survivor to the Presidents Commission on Mental Health. Lisa F. Daniels, an amazing high-school activist who keynoted at last years conference, will present a workshop featuring her new video, "Breaking the Chains," which is an unequivocally radical presentation of the ex-patient liberation movement. This new video is based upon Daniels award winning slide show presentation of the same name.

Vicki Fox Smith, founder of MadNation, and Robert Bernstein, Ph.D., Executive Director of Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, will join forces to present "The C-Continuum: Co-optation, Constructive Engagement, Confrontation and Culture Jamming." The presenters say that this workshop "grew out of the sometimes contentious discussion between the presenters on the difference between being an advocate and being an activist." The workshop will discuss strategies for effecting change and the sometimes uneasy alliances that are formed to pursue social justice and human rights.

NARPA President Pat Risser will present an interactive workshop, "Recognizing and Overcoming Internalized Oppression." "Dispatches from the Developmental Disability Front" is a session dealing with the current struggles and pressing human rights issues for the developmental disability community and their allies and advocates. Presenters Mayer Shevin, Ph.D., and Lisa Liberman, MSW, LCSW, are active members of TASH, an organization promoting alternatives to aversive approaches, segregation and guardianship for people with developmental disabilities.

John Breeding, Ph.D., a psychologist, author and Director of Texans for Safe Education, will address the alarming extent of the mass psychiatric drugging of Americas school children in his workshop, "An Ongoing Call to Legislative Action: Stop the Mass Drugging of Our Children." Ron Schraiber, a long-time c/s/x activist who is currently Director of Consumer Affairs with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, will discuss and draw practical lessons from three different organizing actions in California in his workshop, "Taking Back Our Lives: Organizing Campaigns Involving Employment, Media, and Programming."

Three well-known activists and wise women - Jackie McKinney, MSW, of the National People of Color Consumer/Survivor Network; NARPA board member and SCI President Celia Brown; and Cheryl Stevens, M.D., Director of the Office of Wellness, Power & Freedom, Western Mass. Office of the Department of Mental Health - will give a panel presentation on "Cultural Competency: Recognition of Recovery in Diverse Cultures." They will discuss recovery in the context of culture, gender and sexual orientation.

NARPA Board Member Darby Penney, Oryx Cohen of SCI and Steve Periard of New Yorks C/S/X Oral History Project will be joined by activists Leah Harris and Celia Brown to discuss wide-ranging efforts across the country to gather and disseminate oral histories of consumers, survivors and ex-patients. "Pearls Story - A Consumers Perspective on the Need for Culturally Competent Services," will be presented by NARPA board member Pearl Johnson. Pearls workshop will address diversity and multicultural perspectives from the perspective of a woman whose life included years spent in mental health institutions, the legal system, and finally, successful culturally competent treatment.

Continuing Education Credits

Application is being made for attorneys to be eligible for CLEs for attending the conference legal track workshops. Application for social work CEUs is also being made through the National Association of Social Workers.

Share the Tenet with Friends

Please tell your friends about this years exciting Rights Conference and share this issue of The Rights Tenet with them. Remember to register early and reserve your room at the hotel. Turn to the inside back cover of this issue of the Tenet for a printed registration form, or visit the NARPA website at for a convenient on-line registration form and additional conference information.

Take Advantage of Discounts

Register before September 21, and receive an early bird discount of $25. If you have joined NARPA as an individual member or have renewed your individual NARPA membership after January, 2002, you will receive an additional $35 discount on full registration. If you are eligible to combine these discounts, you can register for the full conference for only $220.

Additional discounts are available to organizations which have joined NARPA and are registering their members for this years conference. Please visit our web site at for more details, or contact:

Anne Krauss, NARPA Administrator
P.O. Box 1712
Port Washington, NY 11050
telephone:(516) 944-3533


Conference discount on airfares from Northwest/KLM

NARPA 2002 Registration form in PDF (Adobe Acrobat) format (96K download)

NARPA 2002 Conference Registration Information

Confirmed and Invited Presenters - NARPA 2002 Workshops

NARPA 2002 Schedule Overview

NARPA 2002 Detailed Workshop Schedule

NARPA 2002 Conference Page