National Alliance on Mental Illness
page printed from
(800) 950-NAMI;

NAMI Applauds Colorado For Enacting Restraint Legislation

Chris Marshall
For Immediate Release
6 May 99

Arlington, VA – NAMI applauds Colorado Governor Bill Owens for recently signing into law HB 99-1090, the "Protection of Persons From Restraint Act", introduced by Representative Maryanne "Moe" Keller (D-Jefferson) and Senator Dottie Wham (R-Denver).

The reduction of life threatening and harmful actions from the abuse of restraint and seclusion on persons with severe mental illnesses is one of NAMI’s eight goals in its comprehensive OMIRA (Omnibus Mental Illness Recovery Act) legislative initiative for evidence-based treatment reforms, as well as a major federal policy objective. Although HB-1090 falls short of the more rigorous standards of NAMI’s OMIRA model, and bills now pending in Congress, the legislation provides early momentum for NAMI in seeking to address this issue.

"This legislation represents an important step forward from the status quo in Colorado," said NAMI Executive Director, Laurie Flynn. "It sets a crucial state precedent in recognizing what is clearly a national crisis. We greatly admire the lead taken by NAMI Colorado, Governor Owens, Senator Wham and Representative Keller."

Of timely significance, NAMI recently released a summary of reports of abuses compiled since the Hartford Courant published a major investigative series on the abuse of restraints and seclusion late last year. The NAMI document includes five deaths in recent months – four of them are youths under age 18.

"Every report across the country represents a cry of anguish," Flynn declared. "People are dying, including children and these are only the reports we know about. Deaths and human trauma will continue unless Congress and other states act."

Federally, three bills introduced by Senator Joseph Lieberman and Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, and Representatives Diana DeGette of Colorado, Rosa Delauro of Connecticut and Pete Stark of California, will establish national standards to prevent abuse of restraints and seclusion in psychiatric facilities.

Reaching beyond the scope of the Colorado law, the three bills would affect standards in Medicare, Medicaid and the Joint Commission of Accreditation of Healthcare Organization (JCAHO). The federal bills would require the use of de-escalation techniques by trained staff, debriefing sessions for staff and consumers, and trauma counseling.

Additionally, it is NAMI’s position that the use of restraints and seclusion is only justified for emergency safety situations. For more information on NAMI’s position on the use of restraints and seclusion, and the federal bills, go to the NAMI website at