The Mental Health Minute

Articles and news about mental health issues

Groups cast doubt on validity of state hospital’s electrotherapy consent forms

Here’s an article I found on the Austin American-Statesman that talks about the efficacy of the consent forms for controversial treatments on mentally ill patients.  I have often wondered about the use of consent forms on the floridly psychotic and the legalities of such use.  It seems others are wondering also.  Please read this article and tell me what you think.


By Andrea Ball
Updated: 11:25 p.m. Thursday, May 31, 2012
Published: 8:05 p.m. Thursday, May 31, 2012

Texas’ public psychiatric hospitals never should have used a controversial treatment on more than 120 aggressive patients because the consent forms they signed did not spell out potential side effects and other information required under state rules, mental health watchdogs said this week.

Patients who received cranial electrotherapy stimulation at North Texas State Hospital in Vernon were not told in writing that the treatment can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness and skin irritation, said Beth Mitchell, a lawyer with Disability Rights Texas, a federally funded mental health advocacy group. The consent form — a copy of which was obtained by the Austin American-Statesman — also fails to mention alternative treatments and the condition that is being targeted.

But state officials say the form was adequate and is just one piece of the informed consent process.

“The form alone may not be the full picture,” said Carrie Williams, spokeswoman for the Department of State Health Services, which oversees the 10 public psychiatric hospitals. “Risks, benefits and alternatives could have been laid out verbally and documented in the progress notes.”

Challenges to the validity of the consent forms come several weeks after health department officials said they learned that a North Texas State Hospital psychiatrist had conducted unauthorized research on the use of cranial electrotherapy stimulation on violent, mentally ill patients.

The consent forms go to the heart of the questions advocates have posed on the issue: Did the patients understand and willingly agree to the treatment? Or were they being used as research subjects without regard to their civil rights?

“Honestly, I just don’t understand how this could happen,” Mitchell said. “I think there was a breakdown across the board here.”

State officials say they are still trying to determine whether …[read more]

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June 1, 2012 Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Man sentenced to psychiatric hospital still waiting for bed

Here’s an article from the Bangor Daily News that is just unbelieveable!  I found this article while reading a Squidoo lens called Lunatic Asylums which I recommend to anyone who has any interest in the history of mental health care in the world.  Sad story, I have to say.  Not much improved today; just more humane.

Please read the article but do visit the Squidoo lens and read about the history of mental health care globally.


By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff
Posted Oct. 25, 2011, at 2:18 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 25, 2011, at 6:57 p.m.Clinton E. Grubbs.
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Courtesy of Penobscot County Jail
Clinton E. Grubbs.

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BANGOR, Maine — Several people called police Tuesday to report a possible escapee after seeing a man who was sentenced on Monday to time at the Riverview Psychiatric Hospital in Augusta for his involvement in a stabbing nearly two years ago.

Clinton Grubbs, 49, of Bangor went to the library at University of Maine at Augusta, Bangor campus, just before noon and to other locations where people recognized his picture from a Bangor Daily News story about his sentencing Monday by Superior Court Justice William Anderson.

“People had read [the] article and seen the picture and saw this guy walking around,” Michael Roberts, deputy district attorney for Penobscot County, said Tuesday. “They were wondering, ‘Did he escape?’”

Bangor had a murder suspect who escaped from Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center in June and was on the lam for a day before he was caught after he swam to Brewer.

Grubbs, who has been out on bail since shortly after his arrest in January 2010, was sentenced to time at Riverview Monday after Anderson found him not guilty by reason of insanity in the stabbing of a man who lived in the same Essex Street boarding house.

Roberts said he was told at court on Monday that “Riverview did not have a bed for him” and the decision was made to send him to the facility in two weeks.

“He’s suffered from this mental illness since the early ’90s at least and this was the one instance” when he reportedly caused harm to another, Roberts said.

Riverview Superintendent Mary Louise McEwen said Tuesday that she couldn’t talk specifically about patients, but added, “We do have a bed.” She noted that “NCR (not criminally responsible) patients are our top priority for a bed.”

When criminal defendants are sentenced to Riverview, a judge must sign an order that is sent to the State Forensic Service, which then coordinates with Riverview about setting a date for admission.

“We have had no referral for NCR clients in the last few days,” McEwen said. “We do have a bed today. If we had received the appropriate paperwork, we would have been able to coordinate an admission.”

Grubbs has not been involved in any known crimes in the nearly two years he has been out on bail, Roberts said.

Grubbs was accused of stabbing a 57-year-old man in the side of his abdomen and his right hand with a 4-to-5-inch chopping-style knife on Jan. 6, 2010. Frederick Pond of Bangor underwent emergency surgery that same day. He died on April 27, 2010, according to an obituary published in the Bangor Daily News.

Grubbs entered a no contest plea to elevated aggravated assault at the hearing Monday at the Penobscot Judicial Center.

“I know he is out on bail. We don’t have a hold on him,” Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross said Tuesday.

While McEwen said Riverview had a bed available on Tuesday, Ross noted “capacity is a big issue. Capacity is something I’m very concerned about,” especially with recent talks about closing Dorothea Dix, one of three facilities that can take Penobscot County Jail inmates who are mentally ill.

The jail and Riverview have an agreement to have one bed on hand if needed. “It’s almost never available,” Ross said.

It’s easy to blame facilities when the spotlight should be placed on the rules, the sheriff said.

“Let’s look at the system,” he said, adding that without fundamental changes, “I don’t see it getting better. I only see us digging the hole deeper.”

A librarian at UMA Bangor called security at about noon Tuesday to say Grubbs was in the library. Campus security then called Bangor police to investigate.

“I can confirm we went to the library and that Mr. Grubbs was there and that no criminal action was taken and we cleared,” Bangor police Sgt. Paul Edwards said in a statement.

Grubbs also was seen at other locations by people who called police, Roberts said.

BDN writer Judy Harrison contributed to this report.

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October 27, 2011 Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mentally ill behind bars

This was an article I found in the Springfield News-Leader.  It eloquently portrays the tasks facing the prison system in Missouri.  It is almost as if the prison system has become the “new” mental health system.

This trend is continuing at an alarming rate.  Prison is not equipped to help mentally ill people.  There is no treatment except medications there.  They have no one to help them hook up with services when they are released.  Granted, there are many mentally ill people in prison who need to be because they are too dangerous to leave unattended in the population.  But the majority of the mental patients in our jails have been unlucky enough to have fallen through the cracks of a seriously cracked mental health system.

Please read this entire article, even though it is long.  It is worth the time and effort and will give you some insight into what the prison employees are having to deal with daily without any prior or special education.


Melissa Ussery, mental health coordinator at the Greene County Jail, interviews an inmate. / Bob Linder / News-Leader


Written by
Jess Rollins
Missouri State Hospital No. 3 at Nevada, shown in May 1925, housed 1,200 at its peak. / File photo, 1925


A slender young man in glasses sits at a small plastic table in the observation wing of the Greene County Jail.

Across from him, Melissa Ussery, mental health coordinator at the jail, asks if he is doing better.

Last week, he surprised Ussery by handing her something in a handkerchief. He had pulled out all 10 of his toenails.

“I’m actually content now. I’ve just been in there reading,” he says, pointing to his cell.

A few questions later, Ussery asks how often he thinks of harming himself or hurting guards. He says he wouldn’t but he sometimes has “the urge to do it all over again.”

This young man, who has borderline personality disorder, is one of about 50 inmates in the jail at any given time diagnosed with a serious mental illness like schizophrenia, bipolar or major depression.

Many involved in the area’s mental health system say the Greene County Jail has become the largest mental health care facility in southwest Missouri — the de facto mental hospital.

Meanwhile, the cost to house someone with a mental illness is nearly double the cost of housing a healthy inmate. According to officials and advocates, it’s an expensive, frustrating, dangerous problem.

Although mentally ill inmates receive some services in jail, they are often released without a path to continue treatment. With what many perceive as a lack of community resources, the cycle continues.

As cuts to programs for those most at risk persist, many see no end in sight.

Nowhere else to go

Every day, Ussery, the only licensed psychologist at the jail, makes her rounds.

In the female pod, Ussery talks to a young woman with straight blond hair.

“Have you thought of hurting yourself?”

“Are you seeing anything?”

“What year is it?”

At each question, the young woman pauses. She looks to the left, then to the ceiling, to the right, back to the left.

“We think she is hearing voices,” Ussery explains later.

The long pauses and wandering eyes are a type of screening of what the woman hears, according to Ussery; that’s common among those diagnosed with schizophrenia…[read more]

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October 21, 2011 Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Assertive Chinese Held in Mental Wards

Here is another article from The New York Times about the treatment  Chinese dissidents.  It seems that in China, if you do not agree with the government, you could end up living in a mental institution.

Here in this country, we have managed to criminalize our mentally ill, but China wants to stigmatize and label their so called “criminals”.   Both ways are horrific.  As human beings, we should all care about this issue.  No one deserves to be locked away at the whim of a government, but no one deserves to be locked away because they have an illness.

Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that having a mental illness is no excuse for criminal activity.  What I have a problem with is that we seem to lump both behaviors together in the same pot.   It seems that other countries have the same problems we have with this issue.  Won’t you read the article and respond?


Du Bin for The New York Times

Xu Lindong, at his home in Louhe, China, was imprisoned for six and a half years in two mental hospitals over a land dispute. He said he endured 54 electric-shock treatments.

Published: November 11, 2010
LOUHE, China — Xu Lindong, a poor village farmer with close-cropped hair and a fourth-grade education, knew nothing but decades of backbreaking labor. Even at age 50, the rope of muscles on his arms bespoke a lifetime of hard plowing and harvesting in the fields of his native Henan Province.

    Doug Kanter for The New York Times

    Zhang Guizhi was wrongly confined to a mental hospital and said she was released a year later only after her daughter hired a lawyer.

    Readers’ Comments

    Readers shared their thoughts on this article.

    But after four years locked up in Zhumadian Psychiatric Hospital, he was barely recognizable to his siblings. Emaciated, barefoot, clad in tattered striped pajamas, Mr. Xu spoke haltingly. His face was etched with exhaustion.

    “I was so heartbroken when I saw him I cannot describe it,” said his elder brother, Xu Linfu, recalling his first visit there, in 2007. “My brother was a strong as a bull. Now he looked like a hospital patient.”

    Xu Lindong’s confinement in a locked mental ward was all the more notable, his brother says, for one extraordinary fact: he was not the least bit deranged. Angered by a dispute over land, he had merely filed a series of complaints against the local government. The government’s response was to draw up an order to commit him to a mental hospital — and then to forge his brother’s name on the signature line.

    He was finally released in April, after six and a half years in Zhumadian and a second mental institution. In an interview, he said he had endured 54 electric-shock treatments, was repeatedly roped to his bed and was routinely injected with drugs powerful enough to make him swoon. Fearing he would be left permanently disabled, he said, he attempted suicide three times.

    Mr. Xu’s ordeal exemplifies far broader problems in China’s psychiatric system: a gaping lack of legal protections against psychiatric abuses, shaky standards of medical ethics and poorly trained psychiatrists and hospital administrators who sometimes feel obliged to accept anyone — sane or not — who is escorted by a government official.

    No one knows how often cases like Mr. Xu’s occur. But human rights activists say confinements in mental hospitals appear to be on the rise because the local authorities are under intense pressure to nip social unrest in the bud, but at the same time are less free than they once were to jail people they consider troublemakers.

    “The police know that to arbitrarily detain someone is illegal. They have to worry about that now,” said Huang Xuetao, a lawyer in Shenzhen, in Guangdong Province, who specializes in mental health law. “But officials have discovered this big hole in the psychiatric system, and they are increasingly taking advantage of it.”

    Worse, Ms. Huang said, the government squanders its meager health care resources confining harmless petitioners like Mr. Xu while neglecting people desperately in need of help.

    She and a colleague recently analyzed 300 news reports involving people who had been hospitalized for mental illness and others who had not. “Those who needed to be treated were not and those who should not have been treated were treated and guarded,” their study concluded.

    Liu Feiyue, the founder of Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch, a Chinese human-rights organization, said his group had compiled a database of more than 200 Chinese citizens who were wrongly committed to mental hospitals in the past decade after they filed grievances — called petitions in China — against the government.

    He said he suspected that the real number was much higher because his organization’s list was compiled mostly from accounts on the Internet.

    “The government has no place to put these people,” he said.

    China no longer discloses how many petitioners seek redress, but the government estimated in 2004 that more than 10 million people write or visit the government with petitions each year. Only two in a thousand complaints are resolved, according to research cited in a study this year by Tsinghua University in Beijing.

    In annual performance reviews of local government officials, reducing the number of petitioners is considered a measure of good governance. Allowing them to band together, and possibly stir up broader unrest, is an significant black mark that can lead to demotion.

    Classified as Crazy

    The most dogged petitioners are often classified as crazy. In an interview last year, Sun Dongdong, chief of forensic psychiatry at prestigious Peking University, said, “I have no doubt that at least 99 percent of China’s pigheaded, persistent ‘professional petitioners’ are mentally ill.” He later apologized for what he said was an “inappropriate” remark…[read the rest of this article]

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    November 24, 2010 Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

    Coroner: Nurse at CA mental hospital was strangled

    Seal of Napa County, California
    Image via Wikipedia

    There is something really wrong with this picture.  I don’t believe that this nurse woke up and thought, “I’ll go to work today and be killed.”  There is not an excuse, not mental illness or any other excuse, for this scenario.  As a psychiatric nurse of over 20 years, I have been attacked, beaten, had teeth kicked out, was almost strangled and have numerous other strain/use muscle and tendon injuries.  I know that I chose to be a psychiatric nurse; I also know that for every time I have been attacked or injured, I have helped dozens of others to reclaim their lives and to make sense of their illness.

    I have had a staff member killed on my shift and I know exactly how the rest of this facility’s staff are feeling.  I hope that the perpetrator of this crime was removed from the facility and they are not now being forced to provide care to this individual, as was the case at my hospital.  My heart goes out to the victim’s family, the victim’s friends, and all the staff at this hospital.  I hope they are able to grieve and move on while showing respect and remembering their lost friend.


    NAPA, Calif. (AP) — An autopsy has found that a psychiatric nurse at a California mental hospital was strangled.

    Authorities suspect 54-year-old Donna Gross was killed Saturday by a mentally ill patient in the courtyard at Napa State Hospital.

    The Napa County coroner’s office said Tuesday that Gross died of asphyxiation.

    Jess Willard Massey was arrested Sunday for investigation of murder and robbery and is expected to make his first court appearance Tuesday.

    Sheriff’s Capt. Tracey Stuart says investigators found Gross’ watch, two necklaces and a pair of earrings in the room of the 37-year-old Massey.

    Stuart says a pack of gum Gross had bought during her dinner break was found in a trash in Massey’s ward.

    You can visit the original post here

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    November 16, 2010 Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

    Dominick’s alleged killer has disturbing mental health history

    This story is just a horrible tragedy.  I read this article with much sadness, but with no surprise.

    This story depicts the truth of our mental health system.  But contrary to the opinions of the people interviewed, I’m not sure that anyone “dropped the ball”  here.

    He was in jail for domestic violence and was sent from there to become an involuntary inpatient at a psychiatric facility.  Once there, he was diagnosed and treated.  He was given a prescription for his medications and released.

    How is that different from any other type of hospitalization?  You go, you get treated, and you go home with your prescriptions.  Who dropped what ball?

    The only real difference is that this patient  was dangerous to himself and others–remember the domestic violence charges?  I am sure that is not the first and only violence he has been charged with before.

    My question, after reading this article, is what do people think should be done with  these cases?  There is no funding for any long-term treatment–hence the seven day treatment allowance.

    What should have been done differently?  Who is to pay for long term care?  This is the reality of our current economic problems.  Mental health budgets are being sliced to the bone all around the world in an effort to find money for other things.  The only thing wrong with this solution is that the mentally ill are real and they are people who lead real lives and those lives frequently intersect, sometimes violently, with other real people.



    By Kim Russell
    Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 4:53 p.m.

    The defense attorney for the man accused of killing 4-year-old Dominick Calhoun in Argentine Township earlier this month shared chilling details of 24-year-old Brandon Hayes’ mental health history in court.

    “Just six to eight weeks ago is when he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia,” attorney James Piazza told Judge John Conover in Genesee County’s 67th District Court Tuesday.

    Piazza says a social worker at a jail where Hayes was lodged in March for domestic violence requested he be admitted for involuntary psychiatric treatment.  He was then ordered to receive at least seven days of treatment at a psychiatric hospital where he received the diagnosis.

    Piazza says doctors wrote Hayes a prescription when he was released from jail, but he could not afford to fill it.  He says someone should have followed up on his condition, given the diagnosis.

    Family members of 4-year-old Dominick Calhoun reacted with visible surprise.  They say it seems as if there should have been follow-up.

    Hayes’ defense attorney agrees.

    “He’s diagnosed like that, and then just released,” says Piazza.  “You know, somebody dropped the ball somewhere.”

    The defense asked that Hayes be given a forensic exam to determine whether he is competent to stand trial.  The prosecution agreed that was necessary.

    Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton says the public should know, this evaluation will help make sure a future guilty verdict is not thrown out.

    “I think it is in the interest of the justice system, as well as in the interest of justice for Dominick Calhoun that we take necessary steps and make sure everything is covered,” said Leyton.

    The forensic exam could take up to two months to complete.

    Here’s the link to the original article.


    Here’s a follow up to the above story:

    Unfortunately, our laws are really poor when it comes to protecting wives and children from spouses and fathers.


    Monday morning at 5:00 a.m. Corrine Baker says she woke up screaming for her baby.  She looked around and realized she was in jail.

    “When you fight so hard to keep someone alive,” says Baker in tears.  “And then be blamed for it…”

    Police had locked her up as the investigated the brutal killing of her son, 4-year-old Dominick Calhoun.  She learned he had been pronounced dead on the news.

    Police say the little boy had been beaten so extensively he suffered injuries to his entire body.

    Baker says her boyfriend is responsible.   He is still in the Genesee County Jail, while she has been released.  He has not been charged.

    Sources say the man started torturing the boy after he wet his pants, burning his little hands.

    Baker says she wanted to take Dominick to the hospital for treatment, but her boyfriend didn’t want to get in trouble.

    She says he held her and her son hostage, brutally beating them.

    “I was screaming,” says Baker. “Screaming at the top of my lungs, and nothing… and no, no hope inside. I thought I was going to die.”

    Neighbors tell NBC25 they heard her screams, but they didn’t want to get involved in a domestic dispute.  They say they didn’t realize how bad the situation was.

    “Everytime I’d go to Dominick he’d rip me off him, and I’d go back and try to protect him as best I could.”

    Baker says she laid on top of her child to shield him from her boyfriend’s brutality.  She suffered broken bones, bruises, and cigarette burns.  She says she was in and out of consciousness.

    Her 8-year-old son witnessed some of the terror before being sent out of the apartment.  He now is in protective custody.

    Baker says she wants her older son to know she is thinking of him.  She wants him back in her custody.

    She says she will focus on healing so she can fight for her surviving child, and for justice for a boy killed too young.

    Here’s the link to this story also


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    April 28, 2010 Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

    Psych facilities’ economic impact touted

    List of psychiatric medications
    Image via Wikipedia

    This article is certainly interesting.  Now we can view our mentally ill as a means to improve the economy.  Hmmmm.

    I am glad to see that someone is trying to think “outside the box”  here.  I really am.  However, I shy away from seeing my patients as a money-making entity.  These facilities treat real live people who are in bad places mentally or emotionally.

    It is important that we all remember that these facilities are businesses and as such do concern themselves with that almighty “bottom-line”, but we also need to remember that for some people these facilities are the last chance to have a life.  I, for one, do not wish to think that our economy is improving on the backs of these lost souls.


    In addition to treating individuals with severe mental and addictive disorders, inpatient psychiatric facilities also contribute to the nation’s economy, says a new report released at the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems annual meeting in Washington. Conducted by healthcare economics consulting firm Dobson DaVanzo and Associates, the study reports that all inpatient psychiatric facilities—including psychiatric hospitals and residential treatment centers—have combined total expenditures of $20.6 billion and employ about 223,000 people.

    Those expenditures translate to about $61.2 billion, meaning that for every dollar spent by inpatient psychiatric facilities, the nation’s economy realizes about $2.97.

    “As organizations that serve some of the vulnerable and at-risk populations, we are proud that our work has a ripple effect that extends far beyond the walls of our facilities,” Kevin Sheehan, board chairman of the NAPHS, said in a statement.

    Sheehan is president and CEO of Youth and Family Centered Services in Austin, Texas. — Jessica Zigmond

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    March 9, 2010 Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , , | 1 Comment

    Commitment to mental health facilities explained

    This is a very good article that describes the process for getting psychiatric help in Maryland.  Each state differs a little bit, but the concept remains the same.  As a psychiatric nurse who has worked in other states, I can tell you that each state’s laws are written to protect the personal rights of the individual, yet to protect the collective rights of the population at large also.  It is a fine line that psychiatric hospitalization has to walk when dealing with involuntary commitment.

    “How to Get Your Loved Ones the Mental Health Help They Need” is an article I published online to help people through this maze.  Trying to get help for someone you love that is an imminent danger to themselves is a stress filled experience and a time of grave danger.

    It’s really nice to see such an article published in a newspaper.  Maybe times are changing.


    By: Mary Medland
    December 30, 2009

    Sheppard Pratt Hospital, in Baltimore County, is among the mental health facilities where people are taken after a preliminary evaluation in an emergency room.
    Sheppard Pratt Hospital, in Baltimore County, is among the mental health facilities where people are taken after a preliminary evaluation in an emergency room.

    People who are aware that a mentally ill individual who is deemed to pose a danger to himself or others can be involuntarily committed to a mental health facility don’t always fully understand the legal process for doing so.

    While the laws differ from state to state, all have involuntary-commitment statutes. Involuntary commitment has been compared to incarceration and consequently has procedural safeguards to protect the rights of the individual.

    “In Maryland, in the case of a family who is seeking to have a family member involuntarily committed, someone must appear before a district court judge to explain the situation and why they believe this person needs medical attention,” says Jason Frank, an attorney with the Lutherville-based firm Frank, Frank & Scherr. “If the judge is convinced an evaluation is necessary, the police, armed with a written petition, will pick the individual up and taken him to the emergency room.”

    At the emergency room, Maryland law requires that the individual is evaluated by two physicians or one physician and a clinical psychologist. (Those over the age of 65 must be assessed by a geriatric evaluation team.)

    “If the doctors determine that the person has a mental disorder, needs inpatient care or treatment, presents a danger to his life or the life and safety of others, is unable or unwilling to be voluntarily admitted to a facility and that there is no available less-restrictive form of intervention that is consistent with the welfare and safety of the individual, he is then transported to a mental health facility, such as Sheppard Pratt [Hospital], for an evaluation,” says W. Lawrence Fitch, director of Forensic Services at the Maryland Mental Hygiene Administration and clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland Medical School.

    “People with or without insurance are first sent to a private facility, although they may eventually be transported to a state facility if a longer hospitalization is required. On the other hand, those who are coming from jail will go directly to a state facility.”

    Fitch adds that mental health professionals can simply call a law enforcement officer to take an individual directly to the emergency room.

    Upon arrival at the mental health facility, the individual has the option of being voluntarily or involuntarily committed. “Most are voluntary commitments,” says Fitch. “Federal law says that if one has ever been involuntarily committed, he no longer has the right to own a firearm. However, someone who voluntarily commits himself retains the right to own a firearm.”

    “I believe that one can be held for as long as 10 days — with various extensions — for this evaluation at a psychiatric facility,” says Frank. “If the physicians determine that someone needs to be involuntarily committed, they must present the evidence before an administrative law judge. According to the Maryland Court of Appeals, there must be clear and convincing evidence for involuntarily commitment.”

    In the case of an individual who has voluntarily committed himself but has had a change of heart and requests that he be released, the hospital has the authority to keep him for three days in order to seek an involuntary commitment, notes Fitch.

    However, the individual who is being committed against his will still has the right to seek an appeal with the circuit court within 30 days of the administrative law judge’s decision. “He has the right to request a jury a jury trial,” notes Fitch.

    Assuming the jury agrees with the involuntary commitment, the individual is returned to the psychiatric facility, where he can be held for up to six months from the time of the initial commitment before a new evaluation is required.

    Mary Medlin is a freelance writer based in Baltimore.

    See the original article here

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    January 7, 2010 Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

    Sheriffs Stressed By Mental Health Transport Problems

    Knox County Sheriff's Office
    Image by cliff1066™ via Flickr

    This problem is quite universal and does not only affect the Sheriff’s Departments in Tennessee.  It is common for a Mental Health Officer from the Sheriff’s Department to transport patients to psychiatric facilities for assessment and treatment.  True, these are usually for some type of involuntary commitment and therefore not “happy campers” as such.  The statement about having family members transport non-aggressive patients really got my attention because usually the family has been so stressed by the person’s illness and they are either afraid of or afraid for the patient which makes transporting difficult.  I cannot tell you how many patients I have cared for that have simply opened the door to the moving vehicle and jumped out into oncoming traffic on major highways and busy streets.

    I do, however, like the idea at the end of using video conferencing to make assessments.  Although nothing will take the place of a face-to-face assessment, this could be the next best thing and would save both time and money for all concerned while keeping the person in question in a safe environment.  What do you think?


    Posted: // Dec 30, 2009 4:18 PM CST Wednesday, December 30, 2009 5:18 PM EST

    By Jeff Tang

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The state has slashed the Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities budget by about $18 million each year. That’s created concern from the state’s sheriffs, who have to transport patients to mental institutions that may already be full.

    “We’re talking about cuts of 23 percent in staff and 27 percent in bed capacity,” said Bob Grunow, Deputy Commissioner with the TDMHDD.

    Sheriffs departments across the state transport almost all of the 14,000 patients that come to Tennessee’s mental health facilities each year.

    “The officers have to travel to greater distances to other facilities if one is full because of cutbacks. You have to go to the next one, and the next one is usually 2 to 3 times the distance,” said Sumner County Sheriff Bob Barker.

    Barker said that means wasted resources and manpower, and fewer deputies at home to protect the county.

    However, state officials said only a handful of such cases, about 36, have occurred in the past half year.

    “We’re relatively confident we have this under control and can minimize the delays and minimize the extra responsibilities of law enforcement,” said Grunow.

    With budgets not looking any better in the future, the state is hoping to avoid problems down the road by exploring new options.

    Family members may soon be able to transport mental health patients who are non combative. The state also hopes to use video conferencing to assess patients to prevent unnecessary transports.

    “It’s going to be tough, and is going to continue to be tough, but we are committed to attempting to provide services in the best ways possible under the circumstances,” said Grunow.

    The TDMHDD is continuing conversation with sheriffs across Tennessee in an effort to find a solution.


    To read the original article>>click here

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    January 3, 2010 Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

    Jury to decide mom’s mental health in murder trial

    Here is an article that addresses a really tricky subject.  Read the article and then let me know what you think.  I have a definite opinion–and just my opinion–on the topic, but I would love to hear back about yours.

    There is a fine line between sanity and insanity.  This is a fact.  Postpartum psychosis is real.  Schizophrenia is real.

    Being able to hold a job does not define sanity to me.  Everyone has to have money to live and the last time I checked, you had to have a job to get money (with the exception of getting government assistance–but that does not cover everything you need to live).

    What this woman did was horrific.  No one can argue that point.  Should she be held accountable?  That’s were the topic gets sticky.

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but the real tragedy is that there is a dead baby, a shattered family, and a woman who obviously needed help and did not get it.


    By PAUL J. WEBER (AP) – 1 day ago

    SAN ANTONIO — Otty Sanchez got two weeks in a state mental hospital after she was found wandering around a drug store last year, shopping for an imaginary trip to China.

    She got a few hours in an emergency room, then a ride home, in July as a new mom hearing dark voices.

    Three-week-old Scott Wesley Buchholz-Sanchez was dead six days later, decapitated and missing fingers and toes, while police say his mother wailed about how the devil made her do it. A judge ruled Thursday that a jury will decide whether Sanchez is mentally competent to stand trial after Sanchez’s attorney said her mental condition is worsening.

    “In addition to her psychotic condition, her schizophrenic condition and her postpartum psychotic condition, she may also be affected by post-traumatic stress disorder,” Ed Camara, Sanchez’s attorney, told the court.

    Sanchez, 33, is charged with capital murder in the death of her son. His father said Sanchez should “burn in hell” and deserves the death penalty for dismembering their only child. He watched quietly as Sanchez shuffled into court with her head down, wearing glasses and her black hair cropped short.

    Two psychiatric evaluations concluded Sanchez was competent to stand trial, but Camara said he received a medical report Tuesday that was more bleak. A date was not immediately set for a jury to settle the issue.

    The autopsy report spells out the attack in nauseating detail: mutilated genitals, the head nearly decapitated and the skin flayed. Authorities said Sanchez ate parts of her son, including the brain, and medical examiners found apparent bite marks across the body.

    Sanchez’s sister made the horrifying discovery before sunrise, and Otty can be heard screaming, “I didn’t mean to do it! He told me to!” while her sister pleads for an ambulance in a desperate 911 call. Sanchez later wailed to her sister that she thought everyone was dead.

    Bexar County prosecutor Yvonne Gonzalez has said her office would seek the death penalty on the legal presumption that Sanchez was sane. Although prosecutors were still gathering medical records, she said there were signs Sanchez had been “functioning quite well,” including holding down a job for several years.

    “We’re not really sure she had a long history of mental illness,” Gonzalez said earlier in the week.

    Scott Buccholz, the baby’s father and a self-described schizophrenic, insisted that Sanchez had appeared fine and gave no hint of a severe mental illness.

    An estimated one in 1,000 women are afflicted with postpartum psychosis. Unlike postpartum depression, which occurs in as many as one in five new mothers, women with postpartum psychosis can suffer dangerous delusions and desires to hurt their child.

    The same illness tormented Andrea Yates, the suburban Houston mother who drowned her five children in a bathtub in 2001, and Dena Schlosser, another Texas mother who cut off her baby’s arms in 2004, according to the women’s attorneys.

    Doctors say the risk of developing postpartum psychosis is 50 percent or higher for women with schizophrenia who are not taking medication. Camara says Sanchez fits the bill: although Sanchez was prescribed the antidepressant citalopram after giving birth, she only took it once — the day before her son was killed. Such drugs take weeks to begin working.

    It was one of a handful of times that Sanchez appeared to try reining in her mental illness.

    She wound up shuffling around an Austin drug store for eight hours last summer, Camara said, only after going to the city with a friend who said an acupuncturist there could help her mental problems.

    A week before the killing, Camara said an ambulance rushed Sanchez to a hospital from a counseling center where she had made an appointment because she was feeling depressed and having hallucinations.

    Advocates say resources for indigent women with mental disorders are sparse in Texas, which is ranked 49th in per capita mental health expenditures, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

    At the Center for Health Care Services in San Antonio, where Camara said Sanchez was referred for outpatient treatment, about 2,000 more people are served each year than the state pays for, CHCS President Leon Evans said.

    State mental hospitals are no less overwhelmed.

    “My job here is to get people out, bottom line,” said Dr. David Gonzalez, a psychiatrist at the San Antonio State Hospital. “They have hired me to treat people so I can get them out of the hospital. I’m here to keep people out.”

    Recently, Camara said, music coming from a jailhouse speaker triggered Sanchez into a flashback of the night her son died. The hallucinations returned, Camara said, and Sanchez called over a guard for help.

    A jailer handed Sanchez some more medication. She calmed down.

    “If only that had been available to her that evening,” Camara said.

    (This version CORRECTS that Sanchez was in hospital for two weeks.)

    You can read the entire original article here>>

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    November 17, 2009 Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment