Roger Anderson, CSW, LICSW, a healthcare administrator with Behavioral Health Network, has volunteered on CHD’s Human Rights Committee since 1988. On June 20, 2018, Roger was recognized for his three decades of service—quite appropriately, during a meeting of the Human Rights Committee.
“Originally, I was interested in working on the Human Rights Committee because, in the kind of work we do, we have a lot of control over people’s lives,” said Anderson, who has more than 42 years of diverse professional experience as a clinical social worker and administrator. “The level of care available allows us to do a lot of good for people, but we have to be careful we don’t inadvertently or accidentally overuse it. The protective role of the Committee is to help ensure that in providing appropriate care we don’t take away something from a person that we don’t want taken and that shouldn’t be taken.”
CHD’s Human Rights Committee is an open, transparent and impartial review board that works to ensure the human rights of persons supported by CHD. The Committee is comprised entirely of volunteers who are not CHD employees and who have no monetary interest in the organization. Members serve the important role of protecting those in CHD’s care who may not have the intellectual or mental capacity to protect themselves. The seven-member Committee, which includes consumers, allied health professionals (such as Anderson), a nurse and two attorneys, can serve in a variety of roles, including adviser, advocate, investigator and change agent.
According to Anderson, there are many situations that may give rise to reviews by the Human Rights Committee. “Some people, for their own protection, need to have their activities restricted,” he said. “For example, someone at risk of wandering off in the middle of the night may need an alarm on their bedroom door to alert staff if they leave the room. Someone at risk of a medical emergency may need regular checks during the night, which necessitates invading their privacy to check in on them. Someone who has self-injurious behaviors may need to wear a protective device such as a helmet to prevent causing themselves harm. Someone who has Pica, an eating disorder, can’t have free access to food. We have to consider whether the need of the person to be protected and our obligation to keep them healthy and safe outweighs their access to a certain activity or to something like food.”
Another factor that members of the Committee may need to address is the dignity of taking risks. “If we keep people too safe,” said Anderson, “we limit their opportunity to learn and be fully functioning human beings. To keep people safe can involve a lot of motivations. We can seek to keep them safe because they deserve it or because if someone gets hurt there could be an investigation from funding agency which involves time and cost. But keeping someone safe can’t unnecessarily limit fun or personal growth by preventing them from participating in an activity just because it entails risk. If people are capable of making an informed decision about their behavior, there could also be a legal issue.”
As Anderson’s career has evolved over 30 years, his work on the Human Rights Committee has been a welcome constant. “It’s kept me kind of grounded and aware of the serious work that gets done with the people served by agencies such as CHD,” he said. “This has been especially true as I’ve gotten more involved in program administration and moved gradually farther from direct care. Working on the Committee is a good way to stay aware of the work that’s actually happening with people, and how difficult it can be. Over years I’ve found that we’re wading through more tedious administrative tasks, such as reviewing documents, but then there are times you can feel you have done something to make someone’s life better. CHD is in business to make lives better and the Committee is there to confirm that it’s the case. As a member, I get to step into a situation, learn about it, make an impact, and then step back. It can be interesting and rewarding work to have a positive impact on someone’s life.”