Grassroots Leadership is pleased to continue our 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 help expose the so-called care found in treatment facilities run by prison profiteers. Last week we published the first installment — check it out here if you missed it.
Hello from South Florida, Part II
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.”
No patient choice
Private, for-profit mental health does not work. The “customers” here are patients, most of whom are forced here by courts. There is no choice of facility or the ability to leave if a patient does not like the services and is getting no benefit. Where is the competition? Where is the motivation to build a world-class mental hospital that actually helps people?
People that get help, get better and people that get better, get discharged and a for-profit mental health treatment center loses revenue when we walk out the door to freedom.
There are so many ways they keep us locked up with endless delays for housing, the courts will extend our stay, the doctors will find various ways to justify more time here. It’s a vicious cycle that is very hard to break free from. This hospital has become very skilled at keeping us here longer in various ways. For example, my psychiatrist took me off all meds because she agreed with me that there was a really nothing wrong with me. What she did not tell me was that by taking me off all meds she added at least three more months to my time here because the forensic psychologist now needed to see if I “decompensated” without meds as she has to make the report to the court. Also, almost any behavior can be interpreted as a way to keep us longer. If we are excited or happy, they write down manic. If we have ideas to present, they call it “flight of ideas” or “tangential thinking.” Talking too fast is “hyper-verbal” and using too many hand gestures is called “psycho-motor agitation.” If you sleep too much or miss classes you are deeply depressed and in need of a longer stay. I have been with Correct Care now for 22 months and even my own doctor says there is nothing wrong with me, but because I am a forensic patient she has rules about how long I have to stay.
Continued surveillance after release
If we do make it to discharge then the next stage in the great scam begins. Welcome to the ALF (Assisted Living Facility). I have been to a few and they are terrible places to live and try to be mentally healthy or sober. At ALFs I have seen bed bugs, untreated black mold, drug deals on the property, sex work, intimidation by staff because they know they can threaten to violate someone’s CRP and they go to jail if they get kicked out; some ALF/half way house staff can be very abusive of the power they have. I don’t see how any of these places help anyone not want to drink or use drugs. In my case, the desire to drink was overpowering so I left and drank, then ended up homeless and eventually arrested for violating by leaving the halfway house. This starts the cycle all over again. Jail, crisis center, hospital, ALF, halfway house then back to jail. The hospital automatically signs patients up for social security disability. Once a judge sentences someone to an ALF, then 99% of the time that ALF will require that the resident sign over their entire SSI/SSDI social security benefit as a condition of residence. They actually take a person to the social security office and make the ALF the payee of the patient’s benefits. If the patient refuses then that can be seen by the judge as a violation because the halfway house or ALF can claim the patient is not following the rules or procedures and cannot live there. If the patient is thrown out from refusing to sign over their benefits then they can be arrested for violation of condition release. These places will literally put you on the street with all your belongings in a garbage bag while you try to figure out your options and how not to get arrested. This has happened to me on more than one occasion. I can only imagine what backroom deals exist between these hospitals and the ALF’s they refer clients to.
As I close, I do feel the need to say that there are some good people in here. There are some great and caring instructors, some very bright and articulate psychologists, and the real workhorses of the organization are our Mental Health Tech’s who wear many hats and most do so admirably. The problem is the system not the people in it.
Finally, if you have read this far, I thank you for your attention.
My solution is to let a great deal of these people go and let them get better in an outpatient treatment setting while working and living with their families. This is true therapy. This is therapy that can work and retain an individual’s dignity, worth and self-esteem. Locking people up for profit is wrong, should be illegal and has to be stopped.
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.