Stop threatening citizens with revocation of their licenses just because they have a mental health diagnosis.
This petition made change with 94 supporters!
We need to re-examine how the State of Texas and possibly other states treat individuals who are recovering from and managing serious mental illnesses.
When I went to renew my driver's license in March, I disclosed that I have SchizoAffective disorder. Because of this, I was told that I would need to take a written and driving test to renew my license from now on. This seemed unfair, so I asked if this was a new regulation. I was told yes, although this particular statute has been on the books since the 1970's, and is currently under fire for being discriminatory.
As I was reviewing the driver's handboook so I could take the test, I was called over to an agent who had a line of people in front of her. I told her I would be glad to join the end of the line and wait, but she insisted I speak with her immediately. I was asked about medications I was taking (which I felt to be relevant) and previous hospitalizations (which were all years ago and not totally relevant). I was also asked if I "ever wanted to harm myself," which I found to be completely inappropriate in front of a room full of strangers, but I complied with the interview as best and as truthfully as I could. I was also honest about an accident I had due to a med reaction so many years ago that it is no longer a part of my driving record. I asked the agent if she was familiar with my diagnosis, she said she was, and I got the impression that she was being inappropriate out of curiosity.
I tried the written test that day, and failed it by one question. I was told to come back to take my tests the following week so I would have time to study. After consulting with my family, I went to a DPS in a larger town, and was able to communicate my concerns in a private interview. It was determined that I would not be required to take a test, that the privacy issue with the Decatur DPS would be handled internally, and a license was issued to me. Two months later, I received a threatening letter and extensive medical release form from the State Board of Health. My 'case' was to be reviewed by the Medical Advisory Board, which to my knowledge doesn't currently include a psychiatrist.
I went to see my nurse practitioner who handles my medication and showed the forms to her. She expressed that she had never seen anything like it, as they weren't asking for her (or the doctor's) professional opinion, but rather for full access to my psychiatric records. She said, "If you sign this, there is no limit to what they can ask." I examined the forms myself, and there was no information as to how my records might be used, shared, or stored by the State of Texas. I couldn't find any legal help, either. I spoke to a lawyer in Dallas who had never heard of anything like this happening to someone and couldn't advise me or refer me.
I wondered what would happen if I didn't sign away my privacy, and for a couple of months, not stressing about the issue was absolutely the best thing I could do for my mental health. Because I didn't respond to the State's demand for full access to my psychiatric records, they are now threatening to revoke my license if I do not schedule a hearing to be held by a local municipal court within 20 days. In all probability, the hearing will be held in the same small town where the problem began.
I started this petition to shed light on an issue that perhaps other citizens with a mental illness have faced, or might face in the future. I am a law-abiding, tax-paying citizen of the State of Texas, have been stable on my medications for eleven years, and have a clean driving record. If they want us to disclose psychiatric information to renew our licenses, they need to do it in a way that protects our rights, too. This issue is about the right to privacy between patients and their doctors, and the rights of the mentally ill to be treated with dignity when dealing with government agencies.
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