Hypothetical interview with Frank Lanterman

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Frank Lanterman was a California State Assemblyman who established an act that defines the rights of citizens with developmental disabilities that establishes a service system to meet their needs. Photo by Alexandr Podvalny from Pexels

Note: Frank Lanterman has been dead since 1981. Thus, his role is a reconstruction of him from sources and as a mouthpiece of reform to the bill which bears his name. This reconstruction must be understood as such. 

Jacob Ningen: Mr. Lanterman, what was the purpose of the Bill you authored with Mr. Petris and Mr. Short? 

Mr. Lanterman (R-Pasadena): The purpose of our bill was to reform mental health. We believed that the current state of the institutions is barbaric and a trampling of the public liberties of those considered mentally ill. Furthermore, we rejected the practice of institutionalizing people without proper cause like being LGBTQIA+, voting for Dave Kaplovitz or just being the eccentric relative whose family was waiting for them to die.  For that purpose, we sponsored the Lanterman Petris Short Act, which would prioritize outpatient care and restrict the means of committing people to psychiatric wards. 

Jacob Ningen: So, Brittney Spears would not fall under a 5150 hold? 

Lanterman (R-Pasadena): No. We restrict ourselves to involuntary holds where the patient is a clear and present danger to themselves or others or is not capable of supporting themselves. 

Jacob Ningen: Even though Ms. Spears’ case does not fall under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, would you agree that if she is telling the truth, her father is abusing the conservatorship power? 

Lanterman (R-Pasadena): Absolutely. Since she was performing during this period, she is clearly capable of providing for herself and she is not a clear and present danger to others. Thus, under 5150, an involuntary hold is impermissible. Furthermore, the purpose of our legislation was integration not isolation. Control of reproductive health does not fall under the purview as it neither affects a grave inability to function, nor clear or present dangers to Ms. Spears or others. Thus, if Ms. Spears were under 5150, Mr. Spears actions would be grounds to request another conservator.  Furthermore, under 5150 and even under other conservatorships, a 72 hour, 14 day or yearly court proceeding is needed to determine if the treatment is still effective or necessary. Ms. Spears has been fighting her father for the last year. Thus, in light of how Mr. Spears has been abusing the conservatorship relationship, Ms. Spears should be put under another conservator or released from the condition of conservatorship altogether. 

Jacob Ningen: Mr. Lanterman, what would you do differently if you could rewrite your law? 

Lanterman (R-Pasadena): Firstly, I and likely Petris and Short would prioritize ensuring that the outpatient care is properly funded. We intended for mental health care to be shifted from hospitals to outpatient care. Obviously, this failed. In hindsight, we should have verified that the film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, was an accurate depiction of mental hospitals. We did not intend to leave mentally ill individuals on the street or have them be criminalized. Another method not addressed in our bill was to ensure that the soothing system was used in mental hospitals instead of other methods. That is, insist on the delusion being true. If a person believes they are a chicken, give them nothing but birdseed. Following Poe, we must make the necessary adjustments, especially with cases like Adam Lanza or Charles Whitman. We must not, however, return to the old patterns of defaulting to institutionalization. We can tie this to police reform by shifting the role of helping the mentally ill from police officers to mental health professionals.  

Jacob Ningen: Thank you, Mr. Lanterman 

Senator Lanterman (R-Pasadena): Thank you. 

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