Archive for November, 2007

STATE HOSPITALS ARE STILL SNAKEPITS OF PATIENT ABUSE, BETRAYAL OF THE PUBLIC

Saturday, November 24th, 2007

Numerous state psychiatric hospitals have recently been exposed for violations and/or deficiencies in patient care and safety, including several that have come under U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation. The reports show that these facilities are not safe, sanitary or rehabilitative places. The DOJ reports in particular found near-identical violations and deficiencies in each facility it investigated—including inappropriate, excessive or inadequately documented use of seclusion and restraints, as well as drugs being used as chemical restraints.
 

The number of hospitals and the range of similar abuses throw up a red flag that says “systemic patient civil rights abuses.”
 

Often referred to as “snakepits” in the early 1900’s, for prevalence of violence and degradation and absence of rehabilitation, today’s state mental institutions don’t appear to have changed much.
 

The reports:
 

+       A 2007 Missouri state audit turned up “hundreds of people who work with the state’s most vulnerable residents have a history of child abuse and neglect or other criminal activity. … The audit turned up nearly 700 cases of people with questionable backgrounds working with the elderly, mentally ill and foster children at various state-run and state-licensed residential centers.” 129 people with probable cases of child abuse and neglect were working at facilities run or licensed by the Department of Mental Health; 447 similar cases were found in the Department of Health and Senior Services; another 105 similar cases were found in the Department of Social Services. [xii]
 

+       A 2006 investigation into the Missouri Department of Mental Health by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch found that “Mentally retarded and mentally ill people in Missouri have been sexually assaulted, beaten, injured and left to die by abusive and neglectful caregivers in a system that for years has failed at every level to safeguard them.” The investigation found rampant abuse and neglect of mentally retarded and mentally ill residents in state centers and in private facilities the state supervises. Since 2000, there have been 2,287 confirmed cases of abuse and neglect with 665 injuries and 21 deaths. [xiii]
 

+       Investigators from the Connecticut state Department of Public Health visited the Connecticut Valley Hospital (CVH, Connecticut’s oldest and largest public psychiatric hospital) on September 12, 2007 to look into a patient suicide by hanging—the fourth suicide at the hospital in as many years. While the suicide is tragic enough, the investigators found additional problems at the facility and cited it on behalf of the Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, which provides millions of dollars of funding annually to CVH. Among the problems found was that patients are often restrained as “first resort” and as a staff convenience. [i]
 

+       In August 2007, a Delaware state investigative committee held a four-hour hearing into abuses at the Delaware Psychiatric Center (DPC). Mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers addressed the committee in excruciating detail about the physical and sexual abuse of their loved ones—patients of the DPC. A former DPC attendant was arrested following a police investigation into a patient whose jaw was broken in three places, on both sides of his mouth. DPC officials at first claimed the patient tripped and hit his chin on a bed frame. In August, state troopers also arrested another former attendant accused of raping a patient. [ii]
 

+       A May 2007 study of conditions at the Georgia Regional Hospital in Atlanta, commissioned by the Georgia Department of Human Resources, uncovered numerous violations, including physical restraints of patients for no documented reason. The Department of Human Resources’ report follows an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that reported at least 115 patients at Georgia’s state hospital had died under suspicious circumstances between 2002 and 2006. The newspaper also found 194 confirmed cases of physical or sexual abuse. In the state hospital in Savannah, surveyors found, among other things, failure to document the reasons for the use of restraint or seclusion and the use of movies screenings and bingo counted as patient therapy sessions (indicative of fraud). [iii]
 

+       A May 2006 report by the U.S. DOJ on California’s Patton State Hospital found that its psychiatry and psychology services “substantially depart from generally accepted professional standards of care and expose patients to…risk of harm and actual harm.” The report runs down a litany of the facility’s failures, including failure to properly diagnose; routine prescribing of inappropriate or unsafe medications without clinical justification; use of restraints and seclusion as a first course of action and the “strikingly high” use of PRN (pro re nata, “as needed”) medication as a form of chemical restraint. Further, it found the hospital failed to foster a safe environment for patients, citing 500 patient-on-patient acts of violence in the preceding six months and a recent trend of suicide and attempted suicide by hanging. [iv]
 

+       Another May 2006 DOJ report on St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, DC found that the facility “fails to provide its patients with a reasonably safe living environment…patients are subjected to assaults and harm from elopements and suicides…are subjected to undue seclusion and restraints.” One particularly egregious finding was that the hospital’s forensic unit restrained or secluded patients for 1,387 hours on weekends compared to 63.62 hours during the week, which “indicates and over-reliance on…seclusion and restraints to compensate for shortage of staff…on weekends.” The DOJ’s 66-page report details deficiencies and violations and failures to meet the standard of care across all areas investigated. [v]
 

+       The DOJ’s July 5, 2005 report on Vermont State Hospital not surprisingly found, among other things, that the institution “consistently uses seclusion and restraint as an intervention of first resort”; “often uses seclusion and restraint for the convenience of staff and/or as initial punishment” and that “Over 90% of restraint incidents at Vermont State Hospital involve strapping patients down to a bed in five-point restraints in a seclusion room – the most restrictive and dangerous form of intervention.” Similar to the aforementioned facilities, the DOJ found deficiencies, violations and departures from standard practice in all areas investigated. [vi]
 

+       In March 2004, the U.S. DOJ released the findings of their investigation of all four North Carolina state hospitals, which include inappropriate use of restraints and seclusion and failure to ensure reasonable safety of patients. It cites several instances of patients being on combinations or high doses of psychotropic drugs in the absence of any justification in their records. It also reported that nearly half of all North Carolina state hospital patients have a regular or PRN order for benzodiazepines (tranquilizers) but no justification for such use in patients’ records. “This practice constitutes chemical restraint, which is in violation of federal regulations…and does not conform to generally accepted professional standards,” the report states. It also reported that two of the hospitals forcefully administer drugs intramuscularly (via syringe) when patients refuse oral medication—a violation of patients’ federal constitutional rights—and that in some cases, the forced intramuscular drug is different than the one they refused to take. [vii]
 

Sadly, these abuses are merely the tail end of psychiatry’s long history of patient abuse and failure. A large book could easily be written on the continual state hospital abuses committed, investigated, prosecuted and documented. Here are just a few from the last 60 years to show that, psychiatrically speaking, times have not changed:
 

+       In the early part of last century, both public and government concern over deteriorating conditions inside U.S. mental institutions caused the American Medical Association to act. In 1931, the AMA hired a physician named John Grimes to conduct an investigation. He came back with an unexpectedly disturbing portrait of overcrowding and woefully inadequate patient diet. Facility attendants were found to conduct themselves like prison guards rather than facilitators of rehabilitation. Dr. Grimes concluded that the primary purpose of state hospitals was not medical but “legal.” [viii]
 

+       In 1944, an Ohio grand jury investigating conditions at Cleveland State Hospital, where several patients had died after being beaten with belts, key rings, and metal-plated shoes, summed up the state of affairs: “The atmosphere reeks with the false notion that the mentally ill are criminals and subhumans who should be denied all human rights…” [ix]
 

+       In May 1969, then-Illinois State Attorney Edward Hanrahan issued a report at the request of then-Governor Richard Ogilvie, on conditions at the Chicago State Hospital and the Tinley Park Mental Health Facility that found that “All varieties of crime were discovered at both institutions…. Patients were assaulted, murdered and raped by fellow inmates and employees.” [x]
 

+       In April 1987, Pennsylvania State Public Welfare Secretary John F. White, Jr. formed a special task force to investigate Byberry State Hospital, a now-closed state institution with one of the most horrifying records of patient death and abuse. In September of that year, the group issued their report in which it said that patients were being neglected, beaten and sexually abused. The report called for “immediate and drastic action to reverse the history of neglect, poor management, absence of treatment and rampant abuse.” [xi]
 

It is tempting to blame “the system” in situations like these. Certainly the psychiatric system—as evidenced by nothing more than what has been exposed in America’s public psychiatric institutions—routinely and utterly fails its patients and the public but it is individuals that commit abuses. Individuals condone environments where abuse is the norm. Such individuals can and should be identified; their crimes against patients documented and criminal charges brought.
 

Such abuse also prompts the question “What is the state paying for?” According to DOJ’s findings and other reports, it appears that, broadly speaking, government and the public are being defrauded because these reports show that these facilities are generally failing to meet the standard of care. They are paid to provide such a standard and, in providing less or providing harmful “care,” they commit fraud in general. The state hospital purpose appears to be one of keeping people institutionalized at the state’s expense with no concept or intention of improvement or rehabilitation. One could conclude that the system exists in this condition not for the benefit of patients but for the purpose of keeping psychiatrists and mental health staff employed—paid with tax dollars.
 

Judging from foregoing reports, the state hospital appears to be a most fruitful source of criminal prosecution for patient abuse and fraud and should be high on any Medicaid administrator, fraud investigator, personal injury/civil rights attorney and law enforcement’s list.
The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) was established in 1969 by the Church of Scientology to investigate and expose psychiatric violations of human rights. The CCHR documentary, “Psychiatry: An Industry of Death,” exposes the origin of abuses in the early mental asylums and in the state hospitals right up to the present. You can purchase a copy at www.cchr.org.


[i] “Another investigation finds big problems at psychiatric hospital,” Associated Press, 19 Sept. 2007
[ii] “Families tell of beatings, assaults,” The News Journal, 22 Aug. 2007
[iii] “Report blisters mental hospital…”, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 9 May 2007
[iv] “Re: Patton State Hospital, Patton, California,” Report to California Governor Schwarzenegger by the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, 2 May 2006
[v] “Re: CRIPA Investigation of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Washington, D.C.,” Report to Washington, D.C. Mayor Williams by the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, 23 May 2006
[vi] “Re: CRIPA Investigation of the Vermont State Hospital, Waterbury, Vermont,” Report to Vermont Governor Douglas by U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, 5 July 2005
[vii] “Re: North Carolina’s Public Mental Health Hospitals, Dorothea Dix…,” Report to North Carolina Governor Easley by the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, 17 Mar. 2004
[viii] John Maurice Grimes, Institutional Care of Mental Patients in the United States (self-published, 1934), xiv, pp. 15-43, 95-99 and Albert Deutsch, The Shame of the States (Harcourt, Brace, 1948), pp. 57-58 (as cited in Robert Whittaker, Mad in America [Perseus Publishing, Cambridge, MA, Dec. 2001], p. 70)
[ix] Ibid. p. 71
[x] “Murder, vice in hospital, report says,” Daily Telegraph, 29 May 1969
[xi] William Ecenbarger, “The shame that was Byberry,” The Philadelphia Enquirer,” 10 July 1988
[xii] “Care centers hire many on abusers list,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 15 November 2007
[xiii] “There’s failure at every level of care,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 10 June 2006

Antidepressant-Induced School Shootings Spread to Europe

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

Finnish School Shooter Joins List of Drug-Induced Kid Killers including Eric Harris, Kip Kinkel and Jeff Weise

ST. LOUIS: The mental health watchdog group, Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), says the antidepressant-induced school shootings plaguing the U.S. have now spread to Europe; Finnish gunman Pekka-Eric Auvinen is the tenth recent school shooter reported to be taking psychiatric drugs documented to cause violence, suicide, psychosis and mania. The death toll from these recent school shooters under the influence of mind-altering drugs now totals 39 dead and 84 wounded. Increases in these senseless acts of drug-induced suicide and violence prompted the watchdog to launch a new series of Public Service Announcements, warning parents to “Get the Facts. Fight Back.”

According to news reports, 18-year-old gunman Auvinen had been taking antidepressants before he killed eight people and wounded a dozen more at Jokela High School in southern Finland, then committed suicide. CCHR maintains that drug-induced tragedies such as this demonstrate the urgent need for more public awareness of the deadly side effects of the psychiatric drugs being prescribed to children—the reason for their new public service announcements that have been translated into 15 languages.

An estimated 63,000 suicides have been attributed to antidepressants, and after decades of denial from the psychiatric/mental health industry, the FDA finally required all antidepressants to warn of suicide risks for children and teens in 2004. Yet despite documented side effects of mania, psychosis, violence and homicidal ideation, and 10 recent school shooters documented to be under the influence of such drugs, the mass drugging of children and teens continues.

* Springfield, Oregon – May 21, 1998: 15-year-old Kip Kinkel murdered his parents and then proceeded to school where he opened fire on students in the cafeteria, killing two and wounding 22. Kinkel had been taking the antidepressant Prozac.

* Notus, Idaho – April 16, 1999: 15-year-old Shawn Cooper fired two shotgun rounds in his school, narrowly missing students. He was taking a prescribed SSRI antidepressant and Ritalin.

* Columbine, Colorado – April 20, 1999: 18-year-old Eric Harris and his accomplice, Dylan Klebold, killed 12 students and a teacher and wounded 26 others before killing themselves. Harris was on the antidepressant Luvox.

* Conyers, Georgia – May 20, 1999: 15-year-old T.J. Solomon was being treated with Ritalin when he opened fire on and wounded six of his classmates.

* Williamsport, Pennsylvania – March 7, 2000: 14-year-old Elizabeth Bush was taking the antidepressant Prozac when she shot at fellow students, wounding one.

* El Cajon, California – March 22, 2001: 18-year-old Jason Hoffman, on the antidepressants Celexa and Effexor, opened fire on his classmates, wounding three students and two teachers at Granite Hills High School.

* Greenbush, New York – February 2004: 16-year-old Jon Romano strolled into his high school in east Greenbush and opened fire with a shotgun. Special education teacher Michael Bennett was hit in the leg. Romano had been taking “medication for depression”.

* Red Lake, Minnesota – March 2005: 16-year-old Jeff Weise, on Prozac, shot and killed his grandparents, then went to his school on the Red Lake Indian Reservation where he shot dead 7 students and a teacher, and wounded 7 before killing himself.

* Cleveland, Ohio – October 10, 2007: 14-year-old Asa Coon stormed through his school with a gun in each hand, shooting and wounding four before taking his own life. Court records show Coon had been placed on the antidepressant Trazadone.

To view the PSAs, go to www.cchr.org/psas/. For a detailed report on psychiatric drugs and violence read CCHR’s publication, Psychiatric Drugs and Anger Management Curricula—A Perspective on School Violence.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights is an international psychiatric watchdog group co-founded in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and Dr. Thomas Szasz, Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus, to investigate and expose psychiatric violations of human rights. Contact CCHR St. Louis at 314-727-8307 or cchrstl@cchrstl.org.

The Fight Against Psychiatric Drug-Induced Violence and Suicide

Saturday, November 10th, 2007

An estimated 63,000 people have committed suicide on antidepressants, some as young as five

Based on thousands of documented cases of psychiatric drug-induced suicide and violence, the mental health watchdog group Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) has launched a new public awareness campaign, “Get the Facts. Fight Back,” featuring Public Service Announcements (PSAs) on the deadly side effects of psychiatric drugs on the nation’s most vulnerable: children.

CCHR says that as far back as 1991, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the mental health industry have been aware that antidepressants can cause violence and suicide. Due to pressure from CCHR, concerned doctors, scientists and victims, the FDA held hearings into this issue but because of the vested interests of psychiatrists on the review panel with direct ties to the pharmaceutical industry, the information was buried for more than 14 years.

Finally in 2004, the FDA issued its most severe warning, the black box, on all antidepressants due to the risk of suicide. The toll to the public has been great, and with an estimated 63,000 suicides attributed to antidepressants alone, there has yet to be any federal investigation of the drugs causing violence.

Eight recent school shootings by teens under the influence of psychiatric drugs, now documented by the FDA to cause suicidal behavior, mania, psychosis, hallucinations, hostility and “homicidal ideation,” have resulted in 29 dead and 68 wounded. The list of school shooters on psychiatric drugs includes Jeff Weise in Red Lake, Minnesota, Eric Harris at Columbine, Colorado and Kip Kinkel in Springfield, Oregon.

In September 2005, following confirmation that school shooter Jeff Weise was under the influence of the antidepressant Prozac, the National Foundation of Women Legislators (NFWL) urgently called for a Congressional investigation into the correlation between psychiatric drug use and school massacres. To date there has been no response to this request.

CCHR warns that despite the evidence linking psychiatric drugs to suicide and violence, psychiatrists indiscriminately prescribe the drugs to millions of children and teens based on subjective diagnoses made without any physical tests—such as blood tests, brain scans or X-rays.

Click here to watch the PSAs, which present the deadly side effects of psychiatric drugs being doled out to millions of children. CCHR’s message is featured at the end of each ad for unsuspecting parents who are being pressured to administer these drugs to their children: “Get the Facts. Fight Back.” CCHR says it is imperative that parents have access to information from sources other than those who stand to profit from what has become a billion dollar child drugging industry.

To contact CCHR St. Louis call 314-727-8307 or email cchrstl@cchrstl.org.

CCHR is an international psychiatric watchdog group that has been in the vanguard of patients’ rights since it was co-founded in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and Dr. Thomas Szasz, Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus, to investigate and expose psychiatric violations of human rights.

CHADD Promotes Pharmaceutical Agenda While Receiving 1 Million Dollars from Pharma

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder” (CHADD)

Promotes Pharmaceutical Agenda While Receiving 1 Million Dollars from Pharma

LOS ANGELES: The psychiatric watchdog organization Citizens Commission on Human Rights is warning that consumers nationwide are being mislead by CHADD, which recently made fraudulent claims about the medical validity of “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder” (ADHD), calling it a “disease.” CHADD attacked a Virginia school board for sending out valid information about ADHD and the drugs used to “treat” it, including a warning by the United Nations about the dangers of ADHD drugs.

With more than $1 million in pharmaceutical funding in 2004-2005 alone, CHADD has a conspicuous vested interest in trying to convince parents of the validity of ADHD and the drugs used to “treat” it.

Among other facts cited, the memo sent by the Virginia school board states, “The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has issued a strong warning against falsely labeling youth with the psychiatric diagnosis of ADHD and administering powerful ADHD drugs. The committee urges that other forms of management and treatment be used to address difficult behavior in children. The Commission recommended against the prescription of these drugs for anyone under 18.” The memo also lists some of the documented side effects of drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall.

CHADD asked that the memo be retracted and that a new one be sent out stating that ADHD is a disease and requires “treatment.” CCHR says that CHADD’s fraudulent promotion of ADHD as a disease, and their outrage at the school board’s informational memo, is due to the organization’s vested interests in drug companies that market the so-called “treatments.” CHADD also conveniently omits the recent FDA warnings that ADHD drugs can cause hallucinations, psychosis, stroke, heart attack and sudden death.

Despite CHADD’s claims, there are no biological tests, such as blood tests, chemical imbalance tests, brain scans, MRIs or X-Rays, which can confirm ADHD as a medical disorder requiring the administration of dangerous and potentially lethal psychiatric drugs. Pediatric neurologist, Dr. Fred Baughman, who has discovered real physical diseases, says that claiming ADHD is a “disease” or “neurobiological” is “a perversion of science and medicine and is a lie.”

In addition to the strong FDA warnings issued this year, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has warned that most of the material prepared for public consumption by groups like CHADD do not address the potential or actual abuse of Ritalin but instead portray such dangerous drugs as a benign, mild substance that is not associated with abuse or any serious side effects. In fact, the DEA classifies Ritalin and Methylphenidate in the same class of highly addictive drugs as cocaine, morphine and opium.

CCHR says the public has the right to know the truth about the dangers of these drugs, as well as the fact that there is no medical/scientific basis to validate ADHD as a disease. The watchdog group urges parents to demand that their right to fully informed consent be upheld and to applaud those individuals and groups that are fighting for informed consent and the right for parents to get all the information available, instead of that coming from groups that benefit from the child drugging industry.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights is an international psychiatric watchdog group co-founded in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and Dr. Thomas Szasz, Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus, to investigate and expose psychiatric violations of human rights. Contact CCHR St. Louis at 314-727-8307 or CCHRSTL@CCHRSTL.ORG. Visit CCHR’s website at http://www.cchrstl.org.