Common practices in psychiatric institutions, normalized over time, violate the rights of the people detained inside them. Those who have the opportunity to leave the asylum often face social exclusion, stigma and discrimination. Five years ago, Argentina’s Congress passed the National Mental Health Law, which provides for an individualized approach that is respectful of rights and establishes the goal of fully replacing psychiatric hospitals with community-centered programs by 2020. In Crossing the Threshold, CELS analyzed the living conditions of 266 people participating in deinstitutionalization programs in the city of Buenos Aires and the provinces of Buenos Aires, Córdoba and Mendoza.
The research investigation focused on the enjoyment and exercise of rights contained in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and in Argentina’s mental health law: legal capacity and access to justice, health care, housing, employment and social security. The major finding of the study is that the people interviewed had limited access to all of these rights.
Under the law, psychiatric confinement must be eliminated to make way for a model that maintains people’s links to society in conditions of equality and promotes their sense of belonging in the community. But public policies adapted to this new disability rights paradigm and coherently coordinated to facilitate sustained deinstitutionalization in dignified conditions are sorely lacking. Crossing the Threshold offers concrete recommendations for social policies that would guarantee the law’s implementation and prevent recurrence of the rights violations that these victims have suffered.