Ms Pam Wondro, CSW
NYS Office of Mental Health
Central New York Field Office
545 Cedar St.
Syracuse, NY 13210
Dear Ms Wondro:
A dispassionate reader of your letter observed, “This is bullshit.”
I did not call you to investigate a public letter to the newspaper about CPEP (the Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program).
I called you to investigate a private report I wrote about the mistreatment of others and myself that occurred during my psychiatric hospitalization at St. Joseph’s Hospital in late June and early July of 2002. In phone conversation, you and I agreed that you would measure the report I filed against the regulated standards for acceptable treatment by the New York State Office of Mental Health. I sent you about twenty pages and told you there was more to come. You forwarded the report to Ted Pasinski, CEO of St. Joseph’s Hospital, without waiting for the balance of the complaint.
The circumstances I described included, but were not limited to—
- A ten-year-old boy being tied down, taken into the bed of another patient, and locked up with a convicted killer
- A 6’6”, 420 lb. man with a history of violence repeatedly threatening women, and the consequent punishment of the women by the staff
- Staff refusing a proper diet to a diabetic patient
- A psychiatrist whose ex-patients are being treated for sexual abuse
- An inpatient who repeatedly injured herself and was not put under protective observation
- A psychiatric facility in which the window blinds are broken closed, leaving the patients in dark rooms
- Hospital staff without medical training incorrectly setting up medical equipment
- Denial of a patient’s right to privacy
- A blind woman of color being assaulted and called a nigger, and no action being taken to protect her
- Being denied reasonable medical evaluation by the nursing staff
- Staff deliberately biasing a satisfaction survey
Carole Hayes-Collier, a member of your staff who is paid to be a patient advocate, told me that if I was upset, I should see a therapist.
I filed parts of the report with the Mental Hygiene Legal Service. They never replied.
I filed parts of the report with the Commission on Quality of Care. They investigated one small portion and, where the hospital report was at variance with my report, made no effort to reconcile the differences and find the truth.
I filed parts of the report with St. Joseph’s Hospital. In return I got a note shorter than yours that said, essentially, ‘If anything was done wrong, we may or may not fix it.’
I filed parts of the report with you and—after a year, and multiple requests—got back a three-paragraph letter that does not specifically address any of my complaints. There are no names of people interviewed, no dates of site visits, no independent observations of conditions, and no references to specific issues investigated. There is nothing in your letter that can be verified. Your letter easily could have been written without any investigation having taken place.
There has been no statement from any source about any remedial action. To the best of my knowledge, circumstances at St. Joseph’s Hospital Psychiatric Services continue today exactly as they were a year ago.
I have bipolar depression, type II; it has the highest fatality rate of any psychiatric illness. Three years ago, I made a suicide attempt that was so severe that I spent a month in the ICU on life support. I would rather die than go back into psychiatric care as it currently exists, and what you have told me is that it will continue to exist unchanged. I will probably die due to the lack of standard treatment.
I have sent the full report to Dateline NBC. Let the public decide if you have done your job.
Anne C. Woodlen
P.S. You spelled my name wrong.
Cc: Stone Philips, Dateline NBC
Sharon Carpinello, Acting Commissioner, NYS Office of Mental Health
Jeannie Straussman, Director, Central New York Field Office
David Brownell, Commissioner, Onondaga County Dept. of Mental Health
Mike Hungerford, Director, Mental Hygiene Legal Services
Theodore Pasinski, President, St. Joseph’s Hospital
Carole Hayes-Collier, NYS OMH Patient Advocate