Sunday’s Reads: Just think about it….Posted: November 8, 2015
Today we will focus on the mind. And thoughts.
Images are simply people starring off into the distance. What they are thinking about, is a mystery. You can play with those dreams in your own heads. For now, just enjoy the pictures. Some are from this website: vintage everyday: Women in Autochrome – Breathtaking Color Portrait Photos of Women in the Early 20th Century
Others I found on Pinterest.
Starting off with a series of articles from The Tampa Times, an investigation into Florida’s state-run mental hospitals.
It is not a pleasant series, so be prepared.
Oh…and as you read this, keep in mind the history of Florida’s various care facilities…
We have followed the Dozier School story here on Sky Dancing since the discovery of the graves.
But on the mental scene:
03/26/13 – Tuesday’s Topical Currents ventures into the murky world of Florida’s infamous Chattahoochee State Hospital. Historian Sally Ling has written, OUT OF MIND, OUT OF SIGHT. Just 40 miles west of Tallahassee, the institution began as a federal arsenal during the Seminole Wars, was then a state prison, then an insane asylum. There’s the good, the bad, and ugly in its history.
That is a 45 minute interview with the author of…Out of Mind, Out of Sight: A Revealing History of the Florida State Hospital at Chattahoochee and Mental Health Care in Florida by Sally J. Ling – Florida’s History Detective (Her blog)
Out of Mind, Out of Sight is a revealing history of the Florida State Hospital at Chattahoochee from construction of its original buildings in 1834 as part of the Chattahoochee Federal Arsenal during the Second Seminole War, to its current role—treating individuals who have been civilly and forensically committed. To put the Florida State Hospital at Chattahoochee in perspective, the story is set against a backdrop of the evolution of institutionalized mental health care both in the U.S. and Florida where new emerging treatments—insulin, Metrozol and electroconvulsive (ECT) shock therapies, as well as lobotomies—became part of patient treatment plans. For years, the Florida State Hospital at Chattahoochee had quite a reputation—most of it bad; but, the institution was not alone. For decades throughout the country, state facilities earned shocking reputations for their inadequate care and mistreatment of the mentally ill. Even more chilling was the incarceration of thousands of men and women who were not mentally ill at all, but due to ignorance and prejudice on the part of the public, medical profession, and court system, were confined for epilepsy, sunbathing nude, smoking, menopause or other “egregious” offenses. Some may wonder why an account of the obscure facility at Chattahoochee is important. The answer lies in its dual role as historic physical facility and evolving mental institution that, when combined, paint a poignant portrait of Florida—its history, its laws and its people; and it is incumbent upon historians to preserve this picture—the good, the bad, and the ugly—for generations to come.
(A look at the legal aspects of Chattahoochee via Cornell Law Review: Subverting Good Intentions: A Brief History of Mental Health Law Reform – viewcontent.cgi)
My Nana’s brother Nofio was sent to Chattahoochee in the thirties, he died there.
On to the topic of the post, this series of stories at The Tampa Times by.
Florida’s state-funded mental hospitals are supposed to be safe places to house and treat people who are a danger to themselves or others.But years of neglect and $100 million in budget cuts have turned them into treacherous warehouses where violence is out of control and patients can’t get the care they need.Since 2009, violent attacks at the state’s six largest hospitals have doubled. Nearly 1,000 patients ordered to the hospitals for close supervision managed to injure themselves or someone else. For years, the state Legislature, the governor’s office and the agencies that oversee Florida’s mental hospitals ignored the chaos and continued cutting. Then state regulators hid the full extent of violence and neglect from the public.The Tampa Bay Times and Sarasota Herald-Tribune spent more than a year chronicling life in these institutions, interviewing patients and their families and examining thousands of pages of government records. Using police and hospital reports from across the state, reporters pieced together the first comprehensive list of injuries and violent attacks inside Florida’s mental institutions.
And with that let us look at the first installment: Insane….
Years of neglect
Every year, about 5,000 people pass through one of Florida’s six primary mental hospitals in desperate need of help.About 40 percent are “civil commitments,” meaning they were not charged with a crime but are considered dangerous to themselves or others. The remainder were arrested and deemed mentally unfit to stand trial. These “forensic” patients are sent for treatment until their competency is restored and they can return to court in order to face their charges.Most patients are not hardened criminals or deranged killers.They struggle with illnesses that require daily treatment and have no other place to get it. Many are suicidal and have not threatened anyone but themselves.Mental hospitals are filled with people who hear voices, who see visions and who can’t control their actions.It takes extraordinary levels of oversight to keep patients from hurting themselves or attacking one another. For decades, hospitals locked unruly patients in isolation rooms or strapped them to chairs and beds for long periods. Across the country, this practice ended after a series of deaths and high-profile lawsuits. Beginning in 2005, Florida quietly phased out restraints and reduced time spent in seclusion.Hospitals became more reliant on drugs to keep patients calm. And hospital workers became an even more important line of defense. Increasingly, they were expected to stand watch over patients and calm them with words or physically step in to prevent violence.But instead of adding staff, Florida officials spent most of the past decade reducing supervision at every opportunity.DCF officials have not sounded the alarm in the Capitol or found ways to shift money from their $2.9 billion budget to hire more hospital workers.
Instead, as the Legislature increased DCF’s budget by about $60 million in 2012 and 2013, Wilkins, the DCF secretary in those years, continued to cut hospital spending and put the money into other agency programs, including foster care. That trend has barely changed under Secretary Carroll, who has increased the hospitals’ budgets by less than 1 percent.
Florida now trails many other states when it comes to workers on duty, with about half as many per patient as Washington and one-third as many as North Carolina.
The nation’s third-largest state — and one of its richest — now spends less per capita on forensic mental hospitals than 42 others. It ranks 49th in total spending on all services for the mentally ill, according to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors.
“There’s nothing, absolutely nothing for the mentally ill in Florida,” said Jacksonville psychiatrist Stephen Bloomfield, the former head of the Florida Psychological Association. “It doesn’t even rise to the level where it can be judged against other states.”
These are very long reads…so I am just giving you a few paragraphs.
Next up, in the second installment: Invisible…
Luis Santana died at a state-funded mental hospital at age 42.Officials at the Department of Children and Families say they investigated his death in July 2011, but they won’t say more.They don’t have to. Under Florida law, DCF can withhold information about people who die in its care
, so long as the agency decides no employees were to blame.So, state officials won’t tell you that in the hours before Santana died, his caretakers at South Florida State Hospital suspected he was having a psychotic episode. They won’t say they gave him five powerful drugs to calm him down, then left him alone in the bathtub.
They sealed reports that explain how hospital workers were supposed to check on him every 15 minutes — but didn’t.
Even the names of the employees in charge of his care that night are secret.
It doesn’t matter that Santana was left alone for 30 minutes in a tub that reached 118 degrees — so hot that his skin peeled off when workers tried to revive him — or that state records categorize the case as “confirmed neglect.”
When the Tampa Bay Times and Sarasota Herald-Tribune asked for a detailed investigative report on the death, DCF officials refused, citing Florida law.
In the name of patient privacy, the state has built a wall of secrecy around its mental hospitals, making it nearly impossible to track how they respond to abuse, neglect and carelessness by government workers.Over the past year, as the Times/Herald-Tribune investigated injuries at six of the state’s primary mental institutions, officials repeatedly denied reporters information.In some cases, they used their power to classify fatalities as natural or accidental even though employee mistakes or neglect contributed to the deaths.In others, they cited a law that experts say was designed to crack down on abusers, but now protects them. When reporters asked for the names of hospital employees accused of abuse, state officials refused. They said Florida Statute 415.107 — a law to protect the identity of victims and people who report abuse — also covers the names of abusers.Like everyone else, mental patients have a legal right to keep their medical records private.But hospitals also use those privacy laws to make it harder to get information about unscrupulous or inept employees. Even parents can be denied information when their adult child is injured or killed in the state’s care.
Rachelle McNair has spent 15 months trying to find out what happened to her son, Tuarus. On June 12, 2014, another mental patient at Treasure Coast Forensic Treatment Center punched him repeatedly in the head during a fight.Staff at the state-funded mental hospital near Lake Okeechobee gave him a shot of the anti-psychotic Thorazine and led him to his room.The next time anyone checked on him, the 27-year-old was lying dead on the floor.An autopsy showed that Tuarus’s brain was swollen. He also had 10 times the normal amount of Thorazine in his system — enough to stop a man’s heart.But Medical Examiner Dr. Roger Mittleman ruled the death natural, blaming it on a rare heart malfunction that usually strikes drug abusers or top athletes. As a result, DCF closed the case and sealed its documents, even to Tuarus’s mother.Rachelle McNair may never know how much Thorazine her son was given, or whether the state checked to see if someone gave him too much.“I just want someone to tell me what happened to my baby,” she said.On a Wednesday last March, McNair called Treasure Coast officials and arranged to pick up her son’s medical files. When she arrived with a reporter, she was met by two security guards and the hospital’s risk manager, Enza Abbate.“You’ll be getting a letter from our corporate office,” Abbate said. “This conversation is over.”
They ordered her to leave. She never got a letter or any records from Correct Care Recovery Solutions, the company that Florida pays to run Treasure Coast.
“My son is dead and no one will tell me what happened,”
McNair said. “The people responsible for him don’t have to tell you a damn thing. It’s sick.”
Anthony Barsotti looks on the verge of death. His skin is ashen, his face gaunt. His mouth gapes as he stares at the ceiling, sporadically sucking in breaths.Three hours earlier, Anthony was a physically healthy 23-year-old living in the state’s care at a Gainesville mental hospital.Then he took a swing at another mental patient and a hospital orderly launched him head-first into a concrete wall. Workers at North Florida Evaluation and Treatment Center have a good chance to save his life this night in July 2010.Instead, as hospital security cameras roll, they make one mistake after another.When Anthony stumbles up with a cracked skull, they put a Band-Aid on his finger. When he clutches his head and howls in pain, they give him Tylenol.When he stops talking and his body goes limp, no one checks him for a concussion.It’s clear Anthony is in serious trouble. But for hours, no one calls 911. Every year, judges send thousands of severely ill people to one of Florida’s mental hospitals because they are a danger to themselves or others. There, as the Tampa Bay Times and Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported last Sunday, supervision is so lax that they assault each other over and over.When injuries occur, overworked employees — some inept, others poorly trained, all of them underpaid and operating under pressure to keep costs down — often leave patients to fend for themselves.No one intended for Anthony Barsotti to die.
But his case points to a stark reality: Florida’s mental hospitals fail to protect the patients in their care.Even when the staff on his ward gather around him near the end, they seem incapable of figuring out what to do.
“Look,” registered nurse Debra Engel says as he stares at the ceiling, catatonic, “I think he’s getting his color back.”
I can’t add anything else to these.
This is an open thread.