Peace with be you
At this afternoon’s public comment, during the Humboldt County Board of Supes meeting, John Webb exposed the county’s mental health advocacy as the sham is really is. While you read John’s statement pay attention to the references to abuse, barriers, over-medication and due process denials. Also those who watch me on television have heard me repeatedly ask the supe to not play their game of three card monte by shipping our mental victims all over California, where friends, family, advocates, and even lawyers can’t contact them. John’s statement give us a good look at the stress and isolation that happens to our loved ones when they are shipped to the many out of county institutions Phillip Crandall has signed “agreements” with.
I hope John will not change his tune once HCDHHS offers him another jobe in their poverty pimp franchise like others before him have. But until he does thank-you John and, here’s your statement in it’s entirety:
“My name is John Webb and I live in Trinidad. I am here to tell you about serious legal jeopardy that the County Mental Health Department has involved itself in. As the governing board of the DHHS Mental Health Branch you have the responsibility to be aware of this problem and to implement a solution.
Until July 31 I was contracted by the Humboldt County DHHS Mental Health Branch as a Patient’s Rights Advocate. Unexpectedly, my contract was not renewed, I believe due to the fact that I did my job too well.
It is the job of an advocate to ensure that the Constitutional and statutory rights of all mental health patients, including Mental Health Branch patients, are in conformance with state law.
The position of county Patients’ Rights Advocate is statutorily required. Advocates are empowered to protect patients by advising and educating Mental Health Branch staff; representing patients at legal hearings and investigating patient complaints of abuse or neglect by any agency or facility, public or private, that provides services to mental patients. This is common practice in other counties throughout the State.
As my contract for those services has expired, I speak today as a concerned citizen with experience as a Patient’s Rights Advocate.
Shortly after I became an advocate Karolyn Stein was named Director of the Mental Health Branch and, as such, my supervisor. She immediately implemented policies that are still in a place that deny and endanger the legal rights of mental health patients by undermining the ability of mental health patients to fully access the services of the Patient’s Rights Advocates.
In contravention of State law, specifically various sections of the Welfare and Institutions Code, [sections 5520, 5530(a)] we, the Advocates, were instructed by Director Stein that we were not to have any discussions with any entities outside the Mental Health Branch without her explicit approval in each case. This meant that we would need her prior approval to investigate patient complaints involving the Public Guardian, the Public Defender, nursing homes in which mental patients reside, or any non Mental Health Branch agency or facility, public or private, that serves mental health patients.
There were numerous times when I requested permission to contact an outside agency on behalf of a patient only to have it denied by Ms. Stein.
We were also explicitly instructed not to advocate, without prior approval, for out-of-county mental health patients at Eureka Crestwood.
In Eureka at Crestwood Behavioral Health on Buhne St. there are 47 persons who are being held against their will, behind locked doors, who have various degrees of mental illness and who, consequently, have very limited access to the outside world. Most patients in Crestwood are placed there by courts and agencies of other counties. They frequently have very legitimate concerns (including issues of health and safety) that they need to communicate to their Public Guardians, Public Defenders, medical professionals and others who are responsible for serving and representing them. Those agencies are often hundreds of miles away from their clients and only infrequently make in-person visits to Crestwood. The patient’s ability to engage in phone communication with Public Guardians and others is challenged not only by their illness but also, due to the overly controlling and illegal action of Director Stein, who has chosen to erect an additional barrier for the mentally ill.
The policies that Director Stein instructed us to operate under are not supported by, and are in direct violation, of the Welfare and Institutions Code. Advocates, under that statute are empowered to investigate complaints from any mental health patient in any mental health facility, service or program in Humboldt County. There is no limiting language that empowers the Branch Director to give prior clearance to contacts the advocates make in pursuit of an investigation. Nor is their any language limiting advocate services only to those patients who are DHHS Mental Health branch patients.
Imagine, if you will, that you are an out of county patient who has an important upcoming court appearance that could mean your release after two years at Crestwood.
Your calls the Public Defender haven’t been returned. You see a poster advising you that you can have the services of a Patient’s Rights Advocate to assist you in legal issues. The Advocate supplies you with a phone number of the Public Defender from your county. You have no money for the pay phone. You have to make an appointment to talk to your case manager to use the institution’s phone. The case manager is out sick for the first appointment. Two days later he gets back to work but he’s too busy because of his backlog to help you with your call. A week later (after much difficulty because you can’t push the phones buttons due to the shakes the meds are giving you) you finally get to make a call to the Public Defender’s office but they can’t understand you because, due to over medication, you can’t focus clearly enough to get a coherent sentence out of your mouth.
As a Patient’s Rights Advocate it should be my responsibility to assist you. Even to make the phone calls for you, but, since you are an out of county patient my instructions from Director Stein are to deny you any assistance. You are in danger of not having adequate representation in court and may not be able to be released from Crestwood as you had expected.
As a Patient’s Rights Advocate I was specifically contracted to advise the Department “to make changes necessary to insure that Humboldt County meets its statutory patient’s right obligations”. When Director Stein first instituted this policy I advised her that her policy was neither in compliance with State law or the practices of other counties. She instructed me to have the State Office of Patient’s Rights contact her, and, if they would confirm my viewpoint she would consider changing the policy. This I did. I later confirmed that she had this conversation with the attorney for the State Office of Patient’s Rights who validated my interpretation to her. Nevertheless Ms Stein persisted in her policy of limiting and undermining the effectiveness of PRAs. There was no improvement of patient’s access to advocates or the ability of advocates to conduct investigations on behalf of patients.
When I asked Ms. Stein for direction on what I should say to out-of-county mental patients in Crestwood who asked for my services. She said to give them the phone number of an agency in their home county and “walk away.” When I pointed out that many patients could not, due to their mental illness, operate a phone or make themselves understood she replied, “Tough. They’ll just have to wait until they get out to make their phone call.”
This Board of Supervisors is the governing board of the Mental Health Branch and is empowered to direct administration to implement policies that are in compliance with State law. It is clearly the case that mental health patients in Humboldt County, particularly those in locked facilities, are being deprived of their statutory right to receive services from Patient’s Right’s Advocates.
It gives me no satisfaction to point out that Director Stein in complicit in this situation. If the Board takes appropriate action you can correct her poorly implemented restrictions on mental patients access to Patient’s Rights Advocates. I am available to communicate farther with you on this matter.
Please take effective action. The welfare of those in Humboldt County who face the challenges of mental illness depend on your understanding and promptness.“
Statement by John Webb to Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, August 26, 2008