HRAC Reaches Out Cynthia Piechota, Chair, Human Rights Advisory Committee All who directly or indirectly participate in the Department’s community have a role to play in promoting and supporting human rights for people who are supported by the Department, including the people we support. The rules that are in place to govern this work can be very complicated and for many are very confusing. I am reaching out to all of you in this article to get your involvement in a process that can help make these issues clear.
The Human Rights Advisory Committee has a number of roles, including advising the Commissioner on the promotion of human rights and assisting the Commissioner on the design of training programs for Human Rights Committees, Department and provider staff regarding the human and civil rights of the individuals we support. Several years ago we offered guidance to providers on minimum standards for Human Rights information to share with families, including specific documents and contact information relevant to the local program.
A major tool we have, though it has been a few years since we have used it, is this newsletter. Rights Review can serve several purposes. One, it can be a means to raise issues that appear outstanding or unresolved to local Human Rights Committees, or others. It also can provide guidance and technical reviews of hot issues or rights areas that are being re-thought.
We want you to tell us about your on-going concerns about different types of situations or your ideas for resolving some. While each issue is reviewed by Executive Staff of the Department to ensure that answers in this newsletter reflect the Department’s policies, it can still be a forum for sharing back and forth. If you (anyone reading this is a member of our community) have an issue you would like an answer to, or would like to write an article that promotes unique solutions to difficult or common problems, please contact me by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will get back to you about your interest.
On the other hand, we need more direct involvement in our activities. HRAC is looking for a handful of people who have significant experience in our system to become members of our committee. We are particularly weak in the Southeastern Region (though we have a new member from there) and the Metro Region of the statewide community. We are looking for more self-advocates and other persons from human rights committees on the provider level. We need more general advocates familiar with the Department and how it works. Please feel free to contact me or Tom Anzer and we will get back to you about your interest.
This year the Commissioner asked HRAC to look at the restraint regulations to see if there are recommendations we can make for updating them. Practice in the field regarding use of restraints have been improving (see above for decrease in frequency of restraints). We hope to make it easier to comply with the regulations while focusing them better on outcomes. We will also be looking at issues of safeguarding individual rights to privacy and sexuality.
Please feel free to contact me if you have an interest in volunteering, an issue you want addressed, or an article about your agency’s best practices. We want to hear from your