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Community News
‘We Can Never Forget’
Psychiatric News
Volume 36 Number 15 page 11-11

Thomas Hester, M.D., then medical director for the Division of Mental Health/Mental Retardation/Substance Abuse in Georgia’s Department of Human Resources, offered an apology at a statewide conference of Georgia's Mental Health Consumer Network for abuses that had occurred at Central State Hospital. The conference was held in August 2000 on St. Simon's Island, Ga. He patterned his comments on the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous. The following are excerpts from the apology:

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Some of those problems. . .have been the over-control through the use of seclusion and restraints, over-medication, and over-direction. . . . Probably the moral shortcoming that is the hardest to understand has been the trampling of human dignity leading to the desecration of graves.

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I am sorry on behalf of the state of Georgia. I am sorry on behalf of institutions [that] in the past, despite whatever intentions they may have had, have trampled human spirits, have not allowed recovery to flame. I’m sorry that we’ve overused medications. I’m sorry that we have overused intrusive measures like restraint and seclusion. . . . But in addition to a public apology, another part of recovery is going into action. . . . So today, I am committing. . .to take four actions.

The state will pay for the survey to be completed to support the application of the cemetery at Central State to be on the National Historic Register. The state will pay and support the cleaning up of all the graves that are covered under debris and overgrown. The state will help the consumers’ vision of finding a home for the unplaceable markers. . . . A commitment for perpetual care and maintenance so that we never go back again.

We can never forget! We cannot afford to forget what happened at the cemetery—what happened to consumers!

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