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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

North Carolina's Terrible Mental Health System Investigated By Feds!

Feds Launch Probe Of N.C. Mental Health System

The U.S. Justice Department has opened a formal investigation into North Carolina's struggling mental health system, the first step in a process that could trigger a federal edict for sweeping reform.

The probe is the result of a complaint filed in July by the advocacy group Disability Rights North Carolina, which contends that the state is violating the Americans With Disabilities Act for failing to provide proper housing for people with mental illness.

Nearly a decade after the state Department of Health and Human Services closed thousands of beds in government-run psychiatric hospitals as part of a reform effort, more than 6,400 people with severe mental illness are housed in adult care homes scattered across the state, living in sometimes squalid and dangerous conditions.

The mental patients, their care typically paid for with taxpayer money, are often far younger than the elderly residents with whom they are housed. In the last two years, at least four residents with mental illness have been killed by fellow patients who had histories of severe mental illness and violence.

Vicki Smith, the executive director of Disability Rights, said the federal investigation could force the state to take actions to fix the mistakes made during North Carolina’s 2001 reform effort, which has also resulted in people with mental illness routinely languishing for days in emergency rooms because no bed in a psychiatric facility is available.

Word of the federal investigation also comes as the state is debating further cuts to the state’s mental health system and moving to close Dorothea Dix Hospital.

“Now DHHS is going to have to answer a whole series of questions about why mental health reform has failed,” Smith said. “This is huge, from our point of view. Huge.”

The Justice Department informed the state of its pending investigation through a five page letter received by DHHS administrators in Raleigh on Thursday. However, the state department did not publically reveal the news until it issued a three-sentence media release earlier today, hours before the start of the Thanksgiving Holiday.

Renee McCoy, a spokeswoman for the state agency, said there would be no comment beyond the media release, which said the state will “work with the Department of Justice to provide all necessary documents and information in response to the complaint.”

Budget Cuts Hitting North Carolina's Mental Health System With Vengeance

Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder and social anxiety disorder, Vinh Gazoo has been in a psychiatric hospital five times.

Recently released from jail after a six-month sentence stemming from a crime resulting from his mental health issues, Gazoo says he now survives week to week because of the Mental Health Association in North Carolina.

nonprofit association that helps mental health patients, the organization helps pay for his medication. Its employees and volunteers drive him to doctor's appointments and therapy sessions.

Gazoo was notified this week that those services have been dropped because of state budget cuts.

The $19 billion state budget resulted in a nearly 12.75 percent or $738 million decrease in the Department of Health and Human Services' anticipated $5.54 billion budget for the fiscal year.

About $75 million of DHHS's community services $390 million budget, which helps fund the Mental Health Association was cut, according to executive director John Tote.

"The cuts we have been waiting on from the General Assembly, they're here now, and they're hitting with a vengeance," he said.

Now, the Mental Health Association is laying off approximately 40 percent of its employees.

"Those 175 folks – in the positions they have – affect the lives of about 2,000 individuals across the state (who have) significant mental illness," Tote said.

He estimates approximately 4,000 mental health providers across the state will soon be out of work. The result, he says, will be thousands of patients without services.

Tote blames lawmakers, saying they were much more concerned with politics than providing services for DHHS.

Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, who serves on the state House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services and also chairs the mental health legislative committee, agrees.

Insko says she doesn't think most lawmakers fully grasped the budget cuts and the impact they would have. For many people with mental illness, she says, there is no safety net other than emergency rooms and mental hospitals.

"As an advocate, it's galling," Tote said. "As a person, it's sad – terribly sad."

For Gazoo – now, his option is a walk-in clinic, but he says he has no way to pay for the services he needs and no way to get there. He says he'll likely either wind up back in jail or in a psychiatric facility.

"That's the two choices I have, because without my medication, I get pretty violent," he said.

Feds Indict Former Chief Of Charlotte Non-profit Group Serving Mental Health Patients

The former leader of a Charlotte nonprofit mental health agency has been indicted on charges that he embezzled nearly $150,000 from the program.

Prosecutors said in court documents Wednesday that 50-year-old Edward Gerard Payton directed employees of Mecklenburg Open Door to provide him loans or payment advances. Authorities contend he actually embezzled the money, and only repaid part of it.

The court documents also say Payton used agency credit cards and vehicles inappropriately.

The documents contend that Open Door shuffled funds that belonged to clients when regular funds ran short because of Payton's activities. One charge says Payton was warned about the seriousness of his activities by the agency's former CFO, but continued to embezzle. The indictment claims Payton used the money to pay alimony, child support, and tax liens.

Mecklenburg Open Door ran several group homes and helped manage finances for many mentally ill and homeless clients. Payton was the agency's executive director from 2006 to August of this year. He was fired after the board of directors confronted him about the money.

Mecklenburg County severed its relationship with the agency in Nov. 1. They have since hired a new agency called Monarch to take over its responsibilities.

Payton was arrested Wednesday. Court records don't list an attorney, and a message left at a phone number listed in his name was not returned. He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of his five counts.

Mecklenburg County has reacted to the scandal by changing its standards for county contractors like Mecklenburg Open Door. Outside agencies will now be required to have yearly audits of finances.

"We're actually going beyond what general accounting standards require to make sure that Mecklenburg County residents know we are watching their money," said Jennifer Roberts, chairwoman of the Mecklenburg County Commission.

Kenneth Jermaine Chapman's Death vs Carolinas Medical Center's Racist System

Carolinas Medical Center/ Carolinas Health Care System has been previously sued on numerous occasions by several African-American families for Racist Medical practices leading to premature, medically preventable deaths.

Many of those lawsuits were quietly settled with families of those Black patients who died due to intentional improper care or NEGLIGENCE.

Such lawsuits and bad reputation is the reason why Carolinas Medical Center/ Carolinas Health Care System now exist instead of Charlotte Memorial Hospital, the old CMC.

Thus its safe to say Carolinas Medical Center and Charlotte Memorial Hospital are one in the same.

How do I know this?

I always do my research and I talk to people personally affected by what I post on my Blog.

People will tell me things they might not disclose to the Charlotte Observer because the Charlotte Observer has a history of practicing Biased reporting and Discrimination in its publication of articles.

Kenneth Jermaine Chapman was an African-American Charlotte citizen who recently killed three members of his family and later himself.

Prior to his destructive actions he desperately sought Mental Health Care assistance from Charlotte's Carolinas Medical Center.

In fact he sent out an S.O.S. which was intentionally ignored.

Mr. Chapman clearly, verbally expressed to CMC Staff he had thoughts of hurting others and killing himself.

Did CMC Staff report his thoughts to Charlotte DSS even though they knew this man had minor children in the home?


They didn't give a darn because Ken Chapman was Black and wasn't an affluent citizen.

Now if Ken Chapman had connections with an Affluent, Politically-connected Black Charlotte citizen, than of course they may have taken Mr. Chapman's situation more seriously, but because he was just a poor Black man they didn't give a darn!

The result?

A Black Man who killed his wife, two of his children and than later himself.

If you think Jennifer Roberts (board chair) and the other Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Commissioners are seriously concerned about this matter or seriously concerned about investigating Mr. Chapman's case...DON'T BET ON IT!

If you think Charlotte's weak, scared Black Leaders are going to speak up...DON'T BET ON IT!

The only two Charlotte-Meck. County Commissioners who do really care, Harold Cogdell Jr. & Vilma Leak (both African-Americans) will be blocked from doing anything constructive by Jennifer Roberts (board chair), "Ms. N.C. Corruption" herself.

This tragic incident helps to further demonstrate how Racism is deeply woven into all facets and levels of Charlotte, NC's community, including the Health Care System.

Charlotte's other main Medical Center, Presbyterian Hospital isn't much better.

Its a private facility where Blacks go in but don't come out.

Presbyterian Hospital also has a long history of Black Patients needlessly dying but that's a story for another day.

As I was saying Carolinas Medical Center's staff intentionally did NOT prevent Mr. Chapman's death, nor did they help protect his family however.....

I'll bet Mr. Chapman's surviving relatives receive a huge bill for his so-called "treatment".

In fact thousands upon thousands of African-Americans within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Region have Carolinas Medical Center Medical Bills on their Credit Reports.

Many of those bills are decades old.

Many of those bills are due to Billing errors from Carolinas Medical Center.

Many of those bills are due to Carolinas Medical Center INTENTIONALLY overbilling Black patients.

How does Carolinas Medical Center skirt Federal Law as it relates to Medical Bills which are older than 7 years old?

Carolinas Medical Center pays Equifax, Experian and Trans Union Credit Reporting agencies to sell those old Medical bill accounts to Debt Collectors, who create new account numbers for those decades old bills and continue screwing up the Credit Ratings for hundreds of thousands of North Carolina's Black citizens.

Is this really Racism you ask??


For White Patients treated by Carolinas Medical Center staff everything is handled entirely different.

White Patients who visit Carolinas Medical Center for treatment receive proper care regardless of their situation and...

They aren't intentionally overcharged, neither are their Credit Reports damaged even if they don't possess Medical Insurance because NOT every White patient has Private Medical Insurance, just like there are many Black patients treated at CMC who DO possess Private Medical Insurance.

I'd say its time for the Federal Gov't including the FTC, to take a look at how Carolina Medical Center intentionally provides inadequate treatment to its Black patients, how they consistently & intentionally overbill Black patients and how they are paying big bucks to 3 major Credit Reporting agencies (mainly Equifax) for the sole purpose of selling Medical Bill Accounts which are decades old to Debt Collectors.

Just watch the Levine Family, old Charlotte money and one of Carolinas Medical Center/ Carolinas Health Care System largest contributors, use their big bucks to help defend CMC in any possible lawsuit.

The Levine Family is Charlotte's "Savior".

They often come to Charlotte's aid in a crisis however ONLY after the crisis occurs.

They run Charlotte's so-called Leaders including Jennifer Roberts and Anthony Foxx.

The Levines are most likely indirectly involved in most of Charlotte's Racist activities being carried out however, because they are super rich everyone is afraid of them.

If Ken Chapman were a White Man residing in Charlotte, NC neither he nor his family members would be dead today.

Or at least his family members would be alive today.

Both Carolinas Medical Center/ Carolinas Health Care System, Charlotte DSS and quite possibly the Levine Family are ALL legally Responsible for the Chapman Family's death stemming from total NEGLIGENCE.

If I were related to Mr. Chapman's family I would most definitely SUE and demand a Federal Probe to be conducted.

Sadly enough Kenneth Jermaine Chapman's relatives are probably uneducated or too afraid of Charlotte's Racist, Unfair systems to take legal action.

Charlotte's Racist, Scared Leaders know this which is why nothing will probably change.

Patient Advocates: N.C.'s Mental Health System Needs Fixing

Recent reports of patient abuse and neglect at Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro is more proof that the state's troubled mental health-care system needs restructuring and more funding, patient advocates say.

"There isn't a system of psychiatric facilities in this state," said Vicki Smith, executive director of Disability Rights North Carolina. "What we have are individual hospitals."

Smith said there needs to be a consistent standard level of care across the state's four psychiatric hospitals and that right now, hospitals only try to meet the minimum standards of care to receive funding.

She blamed that on job vacancies, lack of training, lack of supervision and oversight and inadequate pay. Many state agencies also rely on a temporary work force, and that means the quality of patient care is not always the same, she said.

Better recruiting and retention are needed, she said, to attract more qualified and attractive job candidates.

It's something the state's mental health oversight committee also suggested at a meeting earlier this week. John Tote, with the Mental Health Association in North Carolina, says the General Assembly needs to make more funding available.

Advocates believe Health and Human Services Secretary Dempsey Benton has taken aggressive steps to overhaul the system since taking over last year.

For example, he's starting to hold workers more accountable, Smith said. His recent decision to close a ward at Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro in the wake of a patient's death sends a big message, she said, partly because there aren't enough beds for patients there.

On Thursday, Benton said the Division of Mental Health must find an independent hospital management firm to evaluate Cherry Hospital.

However, Smith and Tote are concerned that any progress Benton is making could suffer a setback when a new governor is elected in November and if a new DHHS secretary is appointed.

"Four months left scares me," Smith said. "What concerns me is that with a new administration, the tendency will be to study the problems."

That would not be true if the gubernatorial candidates are already investigating and discussing the problems the mental health system faces. Advocates say they have not heard any specific plans from either candidate so far, however.

"Folks are going to be behind the eight ball, and if that's the case we'll see a perpetuation of the situation," Tote said.

North Carolina Mental-Hospital Workers To Be Re-trained After Patient Abuse Claim

The Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services says workers at a troubled state mental hospital will be retrained following an allegation of abuse that went unreported for several days.

"The patient was not harmed. The issue was that they handled it improperly, so we're going to make sure that we're restructuring a whole bunch of training at Cherry Hospital," Lanier Cansler said Thursday. "It really gave us a clue to the fact that they thought they were doing it right."

The intensive training will be for everyone who works at the Goldsboro facility and involve a list of prohibited actions that result in immediate termination, Cansler said.

Cherry Hospital is in jeopardy of losing approximately $800,000 in federal funding following the incident last month in which a mental health technician dragged a 22-year-old male patient and covered his face with a pillow to keep him from spitting while staff tried to restrain him.

Among the findings in a report by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, the hospital "failed to provide care in a safe setting by failing to investigate the allegation of patient abuse in a timely manner" by allowing the same staff member to continue caring for the patient for 19 days after the allegation was reported.

Cansler told members of the Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Joint Legislative Oversight Committee Thursday morning that the incident went unreported for so long, not because staff tried to hide it but because they didn't know they did anything wrong.

No one will lose their job over the case, Cansler said, despite a zero-tolerance policy he put in place soon after taking over the department in 2008.

"I will not hold an employee responsible for doing something improperly if they've never been trained to do it right," he said. "That's our responsibility, and we're going to make sure it happens."

DHHS must now submit a plan of correction detailing the new training by May 21 to CMS, which oversees the federal insurance plans and reimburses hospitals for treating patients under the programs.

The federal agency revoked Cherry Hospital's certification in 2008, when a 50-year-old patient died after staff left him sitting unattended in a chair for nearly 24 hours. The hospital lost an estimated $8 million to $10 million in federal funding as a result.

Three employees were ultimately fired, two resigned and 10 others were disciplined in that incident. Several former employees were also charged with and convicted of physically and sexually assaulting patients in other cases.

Mental health advocates and state officials have blamed a lack of training and inadequate pay as contributing factors to the problems the hospital has faced.

Canser said Gov. Bev Perdue's proposed budget for the next fiscal year provides $500,000 for additional training at state facilities. A federal match would bring the total to around $800,000.

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Sources: McClatchy Newspapers, WCNC, WRAL, Google Maps

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