Washington, DC – January 31, 2013 – The Mexican government has amended its health law in a way that — for the first time — promises to transform the country’s mental health services to a community-based mental health system. “This is a great step forward by Mexico. Under international law, all people with disabilities have a right to live in the community– and not in institutions,” said Eric Rosenthal, Executive Director of Disability Rights International. “We welcome the opportunity to work with Mexico to reform a mental health system that now segregates children and adults with mental disabilities from society.”
In 2010, Disability Rights International (DRI) released a widely publicized human rights report, Abandoned and Disappeared: Mexico’s Segregation and Abuse of Children and Adults with Disabilities, which documented atrocious conditions in state-run Mexican institutions (see New York Times and other press coverage). DRI found thousands of children and adults left to languish in near total inactivity, some naked and without access to the most basic hygiene. Without oversight, children literally disappeared from Mexican institutions; in some cases, girls detained in institutions were trafficked for sex; DRI found young adults held in institutions entirely off the public record, working without compensation – essentially as slave labor. As a result of DRI’s report, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights held hearings on the rights of people with disabilities detained in institutions in March 2012 (watch DRI’s testimony before the Commission).
“There is no doubt that the local and international pressure brought by DRI had everything to do with these changes,” said Emmanuel Cárdenas, an attorney at the law firm Acedo Santamarina who serves on the board of CONFE, a national intellectual disability rights association. DRI has maintained an office in Mexico City for several years and has helped establish the Colectivo Chuhcán, Mexico’s first organization run by people with psychosocial disabilities.
“We have suffered a lot because our government has not protected our rights as it has for other citizens. Let’s hope this new law changes all that,” said Raul Montoya, Executive Director of Colectivo Chuhcan.
“Adopting a new law is the easy part,” said Sofía Galván, DRI’s Director for Mexico and Central America. “Mexico must demonstrate the political will – and dedicate the necessary funding – to create services in the community. Until community services are created, it will be impossible for Mexico to enforce this law.”