Grassroots Leadership is pleased to introduce a two-part guest blog, “Hello from South Florida.” In response to an article by Mary Sanchez of the Kansas City Star covering our report, Incorrect Care: A Prison Profiteer Turns Care into Confinement, we were contacted by someone who wants to expose the so-called care found in treatment facilities run by prison profiteers. This week we present the first in a two-part series.
Hello from South Florida, Part I
I was born and raised in Florida, worked in the software industry and raised a family. Now I write to you behind security fences, monitored by security cameras and on grounds patrolled by security guards. I have been detained against my will for over 2 years. I have hurt no one nor was I found guilty of any crime at trial. Can you guess where I am? If you guessed jail or prison you are close, but guess again. Welcome to Correct Care South Florida State Hospital in Pembroke Pines, Florida.
We have a saying in here: “If you aren’t crazy when you get here, you will be by the time you leave.”
Deplorable Living Conditions
Our “hospital” campus is extremely well landscaped and the buildings are in great condition with fresh paint and Spanish style roofing. There is a small pool open only 2 months per year, which in South Florida makes no sense as you can swim 9-10 months per year here comfortably. We have a greenhouse I’ve never seen a single person go into yet they advertise horticulture classes here. There is a beautiful art room that is rarely used. The list goes on, but my point is there is so much here for show. A tour of the campus would make you ask, “What on earth we are complaining about,” because it looks nice on the outside.Correct Care has become a master at what I call “the illusion of treatment.”
But almost no one from the outside will go inside a residential unit. That’s where the fights, bugs, urine stench, and lack of care can be found. This is where we spend the majority of our time.
My unit has three wings with water fountains on all three but only wing C has water fountains that work. This is our only source of fresh water and small roaches crawl in and around the water fountain and are in our phone room but no one will do anything to address the problem. They lock us out of our rooms during the day so no matter how sleepy your meds make you, you are expected to go to programs or sit in a small day room overcrowded with other patients between classes or meals. One of the most frequent complaints is food or the lack thereof. Some patients go through various garbage cans looking for something extra to eat and many fights, arguments and bullying occurs over food and some patients use intimidation or violence to get more food for themselves. We call the meat “cat food” because that’s exactly what it looks like and is served using an ice cream scoop. Vegetables, especially broccoli are cooked to a mushy consistency and meals are rarely hot. I put together a petition with 45 signatures regarding food, of course to no avail.
So-called Mental Health Treatment
We have one unit psychiatrist for 55 men on my unit. We see her for 5-10 minutes once a month to discuss medication in what they call “Treatment Team.” This meeting provides no treatment nor is it a team. Treatment team meetings are typically attended by the unit psychiatrist, a psychologist, a social worker, a few reps from the Assisted Living Facility (ALF) or treatment center the patient will go to after discharge, several psychology students and a few “guests” who we have no idea who they are or why they are there. None of us ever signed away our confidentiality for these meetings and we are sharing deeply personal aspects of our lives with strangers and students. This seems wrong and unfair to me.
The unit psychologist is typically the only one who speaks, but she is almost never on the unit except for team meetings so she has no idea what the patient needs medication-wise until she gets input from staff who actually spend time with the patients. I feel like all the others in attendance are there to just check a box somewhere to say they attended, but like everything else, it’s all for show.
Patients really have to advocate for themselves but few here have that ability. That’s why I’m trying to advocate for as many as I can but strict confidentiality rules make it hard or impossible for me to get patient info or attend meetings with them to speak up for them. When we do actually get things accomplished it is typically to go over medication changes if needed based on feedback from nursing staff.
Compromised Patient Safety
I was appointed unit representative on our psychiatric unit to bring problems and grievances to administrators once a month in a meeting we call “the dog and pony show.” We call it that because they pretend to listen but no action is ever taken.
For example, ten guys were assaulted by the same patient, so on their behalf I contacted Department of Children and Families (who oversees state hospitals), Healthcare Administration, local police, filed a written grievance with administration and had a special meeting with the unit psychiatrist all in an attempt to move the violent patient to another wing on another unit. Nothing happened and he still continues to threaten and intimidate patients and staff. Patients get hit by other patients on almost a daily basis, and usually with no reason or warning, so we learn to live with our heads on a swivel. This greatly increases anxiety in a facility that is supposed to treat that condition. People who are ripped away from their families and children for no good reason tend to get angry, sad and deeply depressed, another condition a mental facility should be treating not causing.
I see no one getting better here at South Florida State Hospital.
The violent offenders are still violent. The depressed are more depressed than when they arrived. The anxious and nervous are more so in the overcrowded environment we all live in where we are hyper-vigilant to avoid assault. PTSD can be caused here.
Reporting from inside the system,
About the author: In 2008, I was charged with 1st degree arson after causing a small, accidental kitchen fire in my abandoned town home. I was eventually found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity. At the time, I was struggling with multiple substance use disorders and had been misdiagnosed as having bipolar disorder. My verdict resulted in a conditional release plan that included living in a halfway house. After leaving a few facilities due to deplorable conditions, a violation of my conditional release, I was involuntarily committed to a state hospital run by Correct Care Solutions, formerly Geo Care. I have been institutionalized for the last 22 months.