It is wholly unacceptable for a person, who is not competent to make decisions, to be sucked into the psychiatric system without representation by a competent adult. It is equally unacceptable for families to be broken apart by government edict.
For the complete story go to:
- “SPD > CPEP > [Disappeared] (Part I)” http://annecwoodlen.wordpress.com/2011/12/02/spd-cpep-disappeared-part-i/
- “Being ‘Disappeared’ into CPEP (Part II)” http://annecwoodlen.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/being-disappeared-into-cpep-part-ii/
- “Being “Disappeared’ into CPEP (Part III)” https://behindthelockeddoors.wordpress.com/2011/12/04/being-disappeared-into-cpep-part-iii/
Thomas, with a lifelong history of acting crazy, possibly consequent to missing part of a chromosome, was taken by the Syracuse Police Department from his home to CPEP, the Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program. At the time he was taken, he appeared incompetent; he didn’t even know his own name. His wife Barbara, brother Terry and sister Stephanie are trying to find him but CPEP will not tell them if he is there or has been transferred.
Acting as an advocate for the family, I have contacted—
(a) Legal Aid of Central New York, which says that they will only take a complaint if it is filed by Thomas, who is not competent to do it.
(b) Mental Hygiene Legal Service, which says they will find him but not tell anybody where he is.
(c) CPEP, which not only will not reveal Thomas whereabouts, but also states that its policy, under the law, is to triage, treat and transfer without making any attempt to notify next of kin or the courts.
Now Terry is sitting in my living room. He looks at me with shock and says, “Let me see if I’ve got this right. If I’m walking down the street and get hit by lightning or for some other reason have a complete psychotic breakdown, I can be taken to CPEP and nobody will ever know?”
Yep, I say. That’s the size of it. If you go crazy then the government takes you and your relatives have no right to find you.
We sit there and stare at each other in silence, then Terry gives himself a shake and says that on a recent phone call to CPEP his sister was told by an employee that the employee could not tell her anything regarding the whereabouts of Tom but could tell her that she always has the right to call St. Joseph’s Hospital.
Bingo, I shout to myself! A CPEP employee, driven by some compassion and sense of rectitude, has just given us the clue to Tom’s whereabouts without actually saying where he is. I advise Terry to go with his sister and knock on the locked door of St. Joe’s inpatient psychiatric unit and say, “We’ve come to visit our brother Tom.” Unless Tom explicitly has stated that he doesn’t want to see them, they will be admitted to the unit.
Later that day, Mary Bishop, executive director of CPEP, calls me back to say that Terry has left his office; I give her his cell phone number.
After work, Terry and Stephanie go to Unit 3-6 and find their brother. He is still in such a disordered state of mind that he cannot take care of his own business. The family begins to sort out the various problems and come up with solutions.
The next day, as promised, attorney Maureen Kissane from the Mental Hygiene Legal Service calls me back. I ask her if she knows where Tom is. She gets mad and says she can’t tell me. “I’m not asking you to tell me where he is; I am asking if you know where he is.” She hangs up on me. Had she answered “yes” then my next question would have been: Does Tom know that he has the legal right to request your assistance? Did Maureen meet Tom face-to-face and talk to him, or did she just look at computer screens and make phone calls to hospital employees? Does Tom yet know that there is help available to him outside the psychiatric system?
My next conversation is with Terry, who assures me that they’ve got everything under control. My intervention as an advocate is no longer needed. It’s a family matter.
Now, let’s talk about how this should have gone.
First, law officers should carry a pamphlet with information about CPEP, Legal Aid, Mental Hygiene Legal Services, PAIMI (Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness), the NYS Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities, and other government agencies that have authority in the psychiatric system. These pamphlets should be given to involved parties at the scene where the mentally ill person is picked up.
Second, when CPEP admits a person who is clinically incompetent then, within 24 hours, they must notify next of kin. The notification must be direct, not by letter, email or leaving a telephone message.
Third, if no competent relative steps up to represent the patient’s interests then, within 72 hours, CPEP must apply to the court for the patient to be declared temporarily legally incompetent and have a law guardian appointed.
And attorney Maureen Kissane should be fired and replaced with someone intelligent enough to know the difference between “knowing” and “telling,” and who listens to a reasonable adult instead of slamming the phone down. The power belongs to the people, not the government employee.
Some questions need to be answered:
Why won’t Legal Aid’s PAIMI attorney take a complaint from a relative on behalf of a patient in the psychiatric system?
What laws, regulations and rules need to be changed, and who can do it?
Who hired Maureen Kissane?
The psychiatric system is neither compassionate nor benign. It can give people damaging drugs, tie them down by the wrists and ankles, and administer even more damaging electroshock “treatment.”
It is wholly unacceptable for a person, who is not competent to make decisions, to be sucked into the psychiatric system without representation by a competent adult. It is equally unacceptable for families to be broken apart by government edict. A civilized society would not do this; America does it.
In the preceding story, all the identifying information about private citizens has been changed. All the information about the words and actions of government employees is true and accurate to the best of my ability to report.