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Opinion: Taking a stand against metal detector policy at New Haven agency

We, the undersigned New Haven community members, write to demand accountability and transparency with regards to the state of justice and equity at the Connecticut Mental Health Center.

Three months ago, we signed a petition calling for the immediate elimination of CMHC's metal detector policy guidelines for police personnel. This new policy would mandate all persons entering CMHC to place their belongings onto a conveyor belt of the X-ray style metal detector and subject all people to pass through a metal detector, handheld metal scanner, or a pat-down.

The published evidence suggests that metal detectors do not keep us safe. Furthermore, we expressed our concerns about the additional "building and grounds patrol officers" as functional equivalents to police, increasing DMHAS police officer presence and thus retraumatizing our majority Black and brown patients and staff. We reiterate our belief that this policy is rooted in our nation's long history of surveilling and stigmatizing people of color and people with disabilities.

Two hundred eighty-one individuals have signed the petition. We have also received 10 community-based endorsements, such as the New Haven chapter of the NAACP, CT Legal Rights Project, and Disability Rights CT, as well as 21 Yale School of Medicine-based endorsements, including White Coats 4 Black Lives. Local racial justice leaders including Reverend Kelcy Steele, lead pastor of Varick Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church, and Rhonda Caldwell, Hamden Action Now founder, echoed our calls for equity and justice by writing op-eds in the Yale Daily News as well as the New Haven Register. Furthermore, Pastor Steele spoke with the DMHAS Commissioner Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, who offered that removing metal detectors and police from clinical encounters is possible and under consideration.

Based on a directive from the commissioner, a "front door" committee was formed and met each week during the month of June, with the goal of providing recommendations to the DMHAS commissioner by the end of the month. During the third week of June, the committee held a town hall where people with lived experience of mental health and substance use struggles as well as medical trainees reiterated their concerns about not only the metal detectors and increased security presence, but also the long-neglected services which have not been invested in, such as inefficient paper charts and a mice infestation. What were the front door committee's final recommendations to the DMHAS commissioner?

CMHC serves and is accountable to the community where we live and work, and so we again raise our original petition's concerns about CMHC's ability to fulfill its primary mission of providing excellent and equitable mental health care. The legislature just passed HB 6398, now signed by Gov. Lamont as Public Act 21-75, that provides for DMHAS to have a single electronic health record. What is being done about the persistence of paper charts instead of upgrading to Electronic Medical Record Epic that already facilitates integrated care for clients among Yale New Haven Hospital, University of Connecticut, and Hartford Healthcare? What is the plan to fix broken health care equipment like EKG machines? With the latest summer heat wave, what is being done to ensure the air conditioning is up to date, especially given that many patients are taking medications which increase heat sensitivity?




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