My son was arrested on September 2, 2011, due to his mental health issues. (He was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, with possibly a brain injury). He reluctantly agreed to a plea bargain due to the advice of an attorney I hired. The COURT ORDERED plea bargain included him finishing his remaining time at Waymart, a Forensic Treatment Center (FTC). SCI Waymart serves as the focal point for the treatment of all psychiatric inmates within the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, who require intensive psychiatric care and treatment and medical problems, he has a temporary colostomy. He never made it there.
HE WAS RELEASED FROM GRATERFORD ON SEPT 02,
HIS STORY: My son was released from Graterford on September 2, 2015, with a 5-year probation, under the supervision of Southeastern Pennsylvania Regional Mental Health Services Forensic Coordinator, who paired him with Horizon House and Unity Villa, Elwyn residential mental health services. It wasn’t a good match because the services were not geared specifically for his issues. If I could have visited the facility and if I could have met with someone from the Horizon house before he was released from prison, I would have made sure he had everything in place specifically for his needs. It hurt me to my heart that my son had to move to a facility away from family after being locked up for 4 years. We both were not happy with the arrangements, but at the time we didn't have any choice in the matter.
On May 27th, 2015 I had a tumor the size of a golf ball removed from my brain, the doctor said it was there for at least 2 years. My son being in prison instead of receiving treatment caused me a lot of stress. After I left the hospital I couldn’t take care of myself so I had to move in with my daughter. Within 2 weeks after the surgery I started having complications, I suffered this condition for almost a year. I had to carry a small basin and vomit bag with me at all times. I had to go to therapy to retrain my brain. My son was supposed to stay with my daughter, but because I had to stay there we had to find him somewhere else to live.
I lost my job and home, then I depleted my savings. I applied for Social Security Disability, and I was denied, so, I opted to take an early retirement.
I was supposed to graduate from Alvernia University in 2016 but I had to withdraw.
I am still recovering from my surgery, and I continue to advocate for my son and the seriously mentally ill. I am lobbying for changes in current laws and
policies. Changes in policies can mean better outcomes.
While at Unity Villa, my son’s Psychiatrist from Horizon House inadvertently mentioned to my son that he could take vitamins and eat right to help him with his illness, and my son literally took what he said to heart. The same Dr. also decreased his meds without letting the family know what he was doing. Needless to say, my son relapsed and stopped taking his meds. He stopped showering, stopped sleeping, and stopped eating. While all this was going on I was telling the team and the psychiatrist what was going on, I even brought my son to see the Dr. while he had a terrible smell to his body, and I asked him could they 302 him, and he refused to do so because he wasn’t considered a threat to himself or others. He has a temporary colostomy, and he wasn’t showering or bathing, wouldn’t that be considered a threat to him because it could become infected if he doesn’t clean it?
I totally believe that something should be put on file of a mentally ill person who has a medical condition, adverse effects to certain medications, and a tendency to become aggressive and assaultive to others, it would warn the doctor/psychiatrist of the dangerous behavior and minimize risk to the patient, their family, mental health workers, and the community. ( my son has adverse effects from Haldol).
For the 1st month after he was released, Horizon House started out taking him to various places to get him back on track. However, there was no outpatient treatment, group sessions, outings, etc. My son was in the one bedroom apartment at Unity Villa by himself for 5 months. He literally sat in the apartment by himself all day without a T.V... The only time he went out was when Unity Villa took him grocery shopping, or when he went to the Family Dollar a couple of doors from where he was staying, and to go see his Parole Officer, or when I or my son and daughter was able to come pick him up and take him places. Then they put an Asian man in the one bedroom apartment with him that didn't speak English. He really became paranoid when the roommate moved in with him, so now he's not showering, not eating, not sleeping, he was refusing to leave the apartment, and they put a roommate in the one bedroom apartment with him while he was in that state of mind. He was arrested in March 2016 because his roommate said he had an altercation with my son 3 weeks earlier. They arrested him. It's easier to send him to jail then to fill out paperwork and go through the hassle of having him committed to a State Hospital, which has a waiting list extending to one year or more.
He spent close to 2 months in the Bucks County Jail without any mental health treatment, and I was not allowed to visit him, and I called the jail every day to speak with someone in the mental health department and they told me they couldn’t tell me anything, and that he is there and he is safe. It caused me great stress not knowing what was going on with my son. He was finally released with the agreement that he would stay with his father. The jail sent him home while he was still unstable. They supplied him with enough Zyprexa for 3 days, Zyprexa!? That's all? Well, without a Doctor to write his prescription, I made an appointment to have him seen at one of the Mental Health Facilities in Philly but it was a 2-month wait, so I decided to find a psychiatrist who would prescribe him his medicine. I wound up paying $250.00 to see someone who prescribed him medication that didn't work.
While staying with his father, someone from horizon house popped up without any notice that they were coming, and spoke with my son, my son told them they dropped the ball, and he didn’t want to be bothered with them. Staying with his father didn’t work out either, he said the neighborhood made him nervous; and paranoia, fear, and anxiety made him feel like he was in danger. One night he called the police at 2am to take him to the emergency room, they brought him to Pennsylvania Hospital, he called me, and of course, I left Mount Airy and drove to South Philly to check on my son. They didn't keep him, and I took him to get something to eat, he calmed down, and I took him back to his father's. He kept going to the hospital seeking help and the hospital's kept him for several days and released him while he was still unstable. He went to Pennsylvania Hospital, Friends Hospital, Einstein Crisis Response Center, Penn Presbyterian, Abington Hospital, and Temple/Episcopal Hospital. He actually visited these hospitals several times per week. He even went to Montgomery County Crisis Center, and they kept telling him they couldn’t serve him because he lived in Philadelphia County. During these times I was either taking him to the hospital or going to pick him up from the hospital.
My son tried to get help for himself just like he did when they arrested him in 2011. The last hospital he visited where they kept him was Episcopal, he was there from May 4th - May 9th. I begged them to please refer him to outpatient treatment before they discharged him, and they referred him to Fairmount for outpatient treatment. Because he didn't have anywhere to stay, I decided to stay at a hotel. Fairmount was supposed to pick him up on May 12th, from in front of my daughter's apartment in Mt. Airy, but they never showed up, so I called them and they said he wasn't on the list to be picked up, they said they would pick him up the next day, I told them I would drop him off. While at the hotel he took a shower without me telling him too, and he slept well and slept throughout the entire night. But, staying at the hotel was too expensive, and making him paranoid whenever he walked through the lobby of the hotel. One night he called the police because he thought someone was trying to harm him. The police came and he told them he wanted them to take him to the hospital, but they told him he had to ride in the ambulance, so he told them he wanted me to take him, which I did. After he calmed down we came back to the hotel, I gave him his meds and he went to sleep.
The next morning, May 13, 2016, I brought my son to Fairmount Hospital for outpatient treatment, he was very agitated and frustrated by the time we got there, and he voluntarily committed himself. After being there for a couple of days, he was 302'd because of his aggressive behavior, (They gave him Haldol, which made him worse, not better). Although he was seeking help, he still violated his probation, (he has a Technical Violation). One day I went to visit my son and his left eye was blood red and badly bruised. No one knew who did it. The eye wasn’t treated because my son would not allow anyone to look at it. I asked them to send him to a State Hospital where they can stabilize him, there is a long waitlist. On May 27, 2016, the police came to the facility and arrested my son and took him to the New Mental Hospital, (the county jail (he was actually taking his meds and getting better). Well at least, this time, the hospital gave the jail a list of the medication he was taking, (I hope they are giving it to him) and I am able to visit him once a week between 6:30pm - 8:30pm for 30 mins. He said, "Mom, please get me out of here, I can’t take this". I don't like the fact that no one talks to me, including my son's case manager, the psychiatrist, or anyone in the Mental Health office, and I gave them a Power of Attorney form giving me permission to ask questions concerning his wellbeing. (I DON'T KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON). He told me he can take a shower 3 times per week, however, he needs to shower every day because of his colostomy. He's still not totally stable. Why do they keep him in solitary confinement, 22 to 23 hours per day? He CANNOT get stable without proper MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT! It is evident that the state’s mental health services do not adequately address the problem of the seriously mentally ill in jail.
Why does the system continue to punish him instead of helping him? After sitting in the cell for 2 months the state finally did an assessment the end of July to see if my son was competent, he wasn't. What now? He's been locked up for 5 months. In July he had his preliminary hearing (Gagnon I), then he went to court on August 29th for his final ruling (Gagnon II), it was continued another 3o days because he was not competent (they are waiting for a bed at Norristown State Hospital, and there is a 1 year wait). It is inhumane to have him sitting in a cell 22 hours a day without any type of mental health treatment! I try my best not to complain about him being in the Bucks County Jail, at least he’s in the (MHU) Mental Health Unit. I want to believe they do what they can with what they have.....I just pray that it's the best that they can do. they are not equipped to give him appropriate treatment. They have a policy that only allows the MHU to have visitation once a week for 30 minutes. I am grateful for the 30 minutes once a week. However, I truly believe they should give him more than once a week for visitation because of his mental health issues, and the fact that he's in solitary confinement, he should be able to make phone calls...... My son has been in the Bucks County Jail sitting in Solitary Confinement for 6 months. He is deteriorating. On Tuesday, November 1st, (his birthday), I was told my son refused to see me. In his worst condition, he has never refused a visit from me....I walked away with tears in my eyes....Something is wrong, yet Bucks County Mental Health Unit will not tell me anything. I begged them to please allow him to call me, still no calls from him, and there is money on my phone. Fortunately, I was able to see him the following Tuesday. We need to get him out of there!
The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections attributes the increase in the mentally ill imprisoned population to the decrease in state mental hospital beds.
"Solitary for everyone has been criticized by the United Nations Special Rapporteur and many other people as torture, but it's especially torturous for people with disabilities."
.So, why is he still sitting in a cell 22-23 hours per day?
While he was at Fairmount, they referred him to Community Treatment Team (CTT) and they accepted him. CTT operates under two case management team models, with three Assertive Community Treatment teams, (ACT) and four Blended Enhanced Case Management teams, (BE). One Act and one BE team works closely with clients referred from the First Judicial District’s Mental Health Court to reduce MH clients in and returning to the County jail.
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We are currently sharing a building with another organization. Our need for more space is overwhelming. We are in the process of raising funds, and accepting donations to assist us with moving to our own building.
Reported by Samantha Melamed:
"Deal aims to end solitary confinement for seriously mentally ill prisoners in Pa."
PLEASE NOTE: Before my son was arrested on September 2, 2011, he voluntarily commited himself on August 22, 2011 to Belmont Center for Comprehensive Treatment, and on August 24th, they called me to tell me they were going to send him to jail if I didn't come get him. I rushed to pick him up on Aug 24th...and later found out they gave him Haldol. After taking Haldol he began to demonstrate defensive, impulsive, assaultive behavior. I brought him to several different places that would not admit him because he has a medical condition (a colostomy), so finally on Aug 27th he voluntarily commited himself to Jefferson hospital, and they did the same thing Belmont did, kept him for 2 days and released him to me on Aug 29th. Four dayslater, on September 2, 2011 he was arrested...now he's a criminal! ALL THIS COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED!
Nobody should be punished for behavior that arose out of a common treatable mental health condition. It is not a crime to have a mental illness so why are the mentally ill criminalized?
Haldol is the brand name for Haloperidol, it is an antipsychotic medicine. It works by changing the actions of chemicals in your brain. haldol is good for treating agitation, aggressive outbursts and mania, but can also have some adverse effects, such as defensive impulsive assaultive behavior.
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