Posts tagged ‘Brooklyn’

Kings County and the Death of Esmin Green: Still Outraged

Some time around 6:30 am, two years ago today, Esmin Green was involuntarily admitted to Kings County’s psychiatric ER where she was ignored for 24 hours, the last of which she spent face down on the floor — writhing at first and ultimately dying in the presence of  the staff members whose job it was to care for her.

Think about that as you glance at the clock, going about your day today — how far 6:30 in the morning seems from your lunch, the end of the workday, prime time television. Think about where you’ve spent your day and how it compares to where Esmin was all that time just two years ago.

I’m still outrageed, still disgusted that we live in a society that allows that and — as long as it’s just those mentally ill over there — accepts it. We’ve created a line and carefully keep who and what lies on the other side out of our sight –as if there really is an us and a them. There isn’t. As long as we have a class of people who can be treated by force we have a public that cares little about what happens to them behind closed doors but there is no class and public. There’s just us and what we do to others, we’re doing to one of our own.

The only real rarity in this story is that it was caught on video. If it hadn’t been you would never have known about it. It would just be another death in another psych hospital — with no one to cry foul. KCHC has been operating like this for decades and even now, in their costly new building, under federal monitoring and with new accountability policies in place — the abuses continue.

I’m going to Brooklyn today — to King’s County. I’m going in remembrance of Esmin Green and in protest of an institution beyond reform. I’m going to stand aside others who won’t accept the state of the system and are standing up in the streets, demanding change — and when I glance at the time, I’ll know I’m where I need to be. Will you?

Previous Related Posts:

Esmin Green Demonstration and Vigil (2009)

Kings County Hosital to be Monitored by Federal Judge

Sexual Assault by Kings County Employee

Kings County: A Call to Action

June 18, 2010 at 10:46 am

Kings County: A Call to Action

You may have heard — you should have heard — of a woman named Esmin Green. She was involuntarily admitted to the psychiatric emergency room of Kings County Hospital, a place already known for a long record of violence, sexual assault, abuses and neglect. Unfortunately for Ms. Green and countless others, when you are someone who is allowed be shoved into places against your will, you have no say about which places and what standards, if any, are upheld there. Esmin died face down on the floor of the psych ER after being neglected for more than 24 hours.

As a telling video of the staff’s complete and ultimately fatal disregard for her was released, they had little choice but to go into public relations overdrive. They agreed to make all kinds of policy changes and rules about accountability as if adhering to policy and truthfully recording their actions was something they were good at. Knowing that if you throw money at a problem people read it as care, they also built a $153 million replacement for the notorious G building where all of these abuses were happening. Not surprisingly, the horrors continue — even under federal monitoring. Kings County’s Building R is little more than a multi-million dollar snake pit.

Last year, I attended a vigil in Esmin’s memory and a protest of the hospital’s neglect and continued abuses against people labeled mentally ill. It was organized by We The People and was as successful as we might have hoped, though the work is not done. Survivors of psychiatric abuses had an opportunity to speak out — and what some of these survivors had to say is not to be missed. I heard from several people that have helped inform and shape my approach toward activism and human rights.

This year, two years after her death, We The People will not let it drop as the problem clearly continues and I intend to stand with them in protest of a place that, for all their talk and money, is clearly beyond reform. We need to stand in solidarity with those behind locked doors and let the ones with the keys know we’re watching. Come out June 18th – 19th and demand justice, choice and human rights in mental health, voice your disapproval of the current standard of care and show them that there is a growing opposition in the public. Human rights are universal and a diagnosis cannot be allowed to erode that or even worse — invite abuse. When we look back in the light of hindsight at an era that saw basic human and civil rights denied people labeled ill and how many times we’ve collectively turned a blind eye to staggering amounts of abuse, we will look back in disgust. At least I’ll know which side I was on.

See below fliers for details and feel free to copy, repost and display them in support of the event.

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May 22, 2010 at 9:51 am

Sexual Assault By Kings County Employee

I was jarred awake with disgust this morning as I sat down to my computer though I learned long ago never to be shocked or surprised. Larry J. Taylor, an employee of the notorious psychiatric unit at Kings County Hospital Center, was arrested yesterday for the rape of a developmentally disabled, deaf and mute man in the shower. Taylor faces two felony charges, a first-degree criminal sex act and third-degree sexual abuse. This just a month after the hospital agreed to federal monitoring for its systemic failure, abuse and neglect. From the Gothamist’s article on the assault:

Last year, the Justice Department released the findings of a year-long investigation of the East Flatbush medical center’s psychiatric unit, which revealed a lengthy record of violence and sexual assault. That study included reports of forced sex acts, brawls that left patients needing surgery, and staffers administering simultaneous injections of medications despite the possibility of overdoses.

What can I possibly say to that? In the midst of their being investigated for all manner of egregious failures, Esmin Green died on their waiting room floor after being ignored for more than 24 hours. In response to the public outrage, they built a $153 million replacement for the notorious G Building, had a few meetings and agreed to clean up their act and accept outside monitoring. It doesn’t look like any of that has had an effect on the staff whose long list of crimes, indiscretions and abuses continue. Sure — terrible and ugly things happen everywhere but at Kings County it’s systemic and they’ve gotten very comfortable with the way they do things. It is the snake pit you thought went away in the fifties.

• • •

Links:

NY Times NY Daily News and the Gothamist report on the incident.

New York Civil Liberties Union‘s summary of Kings County Hospital with link to the original lawsuit 2007 and the findings of the Department of Justice.

My previous posts about Kings County — here and here.

February 26, 2010 at 11:51 am 4 comments

Kings County Hospital to be Monitored by Federal Judge

You offered them as martyrs but that was not your right
God’s instruments of change sometimes walk beneath our sight

Ballydowse — Open the Record

A year and a half after Esmin Green died on Kings County Hospital’s waiting room floor as a direct result of staff negligence, a settlement has been agreed upon which will allow a federal judge to monitor Kings County Hospital. Esmin’s death may have been a turning point but Kings County’s psychiatric ward had already been called a “chamber of filth, decay, indifference and danger” in legal filings which were under way well before Esmin’s involuntary commitment and death. That lawsuit was filed by Mental Hygiene Legal Service, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the law firm Kirkland & Ellis. Unfortunately, it takes more than a lawsuit for most Americans to take notice so we had to actually watch someone die before turning the spotlight onto Kings County.

From the NY Times:

In a 45-minute conference call on Thursday with Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, lawyers for the city, the federal government and the patients confirmed that they had agreed on a consent decree that would require changes at the hospital and a timeline for enacting them. The conference call was broadcast in the courtroom.

The judge indicated that she was prepared to sign the agreement, even as she expressed some reservations, saying that some parts seemed “vague” and “ill defined.”

Hopefully with this agreement, we can expect some real, immediate and measurable changes. People only seem to act when someone is watching. Still, I’m not exactly encouraged by parts of the agreement being “vague” and “ill defined.” In light of the fact that KCHC staff failed to adhere to existing policy and even falsified reports, I question their willingness and ability to truthfully and effectively report to an outside overseeing body.

Judge Matsumoto could modify the agreement before signing it, lawyers said, and indeed, during the conference call on Thursday, the judge expressed concerns about what she saw as somewhat flabby language.

She noted that the settlement called for the hospital to meet “generally accepted standards” for psychiatric diagnoses, a goal that seemed to underwhelm the judge, who said it was “obvious.”

Judge Matsumoto criticized another section that called for mental health treatment plans to be assessed and revised “when appropriate.”

“O.K.,” the judge said tartly. “How do we decide?”

She pushed the parties to submit progress reports to the court sooner and more frequently than they had envisioned.

Judge Matsumoto would function as the enforcement agent for the decree and would have the power to hold the city in contempt or impose other penalties if the decree’s provisions were violated.

Hopefully Judge Matsumoto can cut through that flab and get to the heart of the matter, making the necessary changes before signing the agreement. When systemic neglect and abuse is allowed to continue and worsen for years, only to be exposed by death on tape, we should be demanding more than vague talk about “accepted standards.” Fortunately,  Judge Matsumoto seems to be of the mind to see it through. I sincerely hope she does. I’m glad to see she’s pushing for more timely and more frequent progress reports but how gradually are we willing to allow things to change and again, how much can we trust the integrity of those reports? These are matters that need to be addressed.

In the end, it shouldn’t take paperwork, compliance and transparency policies and administrative oversight to motivate people in the field of “care” to act as though they care. If you need a court order to tell you to pick someone up when they’ve fallen face first onto cold, dirty tile, then you are not only ill qualified to work in a hospital setting but to call yourself human. We can make all the clerical and administrative changes in the world to enact outward change but we will never be able to legislate decency, respect and dignity.

January 11, 2010 at 11:38 am

Iman Morales

Iman Morales

On September 24th, 2008 Iman Morales climbed naked out of his apartment window in Brooklyn, NY in a state of distress. He was in the midst of some sort of dispute with his mother. When he tried to get back inside by way of his neighbor’s window, she refused to let him in. The police were called. He climbed down the fire escape and then, upon their arrival, onto the narrow top of a roll-down security gate. His mother pleaded with the police to let her calm her son, but was refused and kept at a distance as the police tried to get Iman down and he became more agitated. He began waving a florescent light bulb at the officers, jabbing at one of them in the chest. At this point, at the order of Lt. Michael Pigott of the Emergency Services Unit, Iman, still standing on that narrow ledge ten feet high, was shot with a taser by officer Nicholas Marchesona. Having made no provisions to catch him or break his fall, several police and a crowd of onlookers watched as Iman’s body became rigid and paralyzed. He fell forward, head first onto the concrete below and died.

   What did they think was going to happen when they shot that charge into his body? Was he going to become calm and climb down smiling? The effects of a taser on the human body leave little to mystery. We know what they do and how the body responds. That’s why they are used. Tasers were only incorporated into more common use in the NYPD to curb their overactive trigger fingers in the first place and the use of the device in this event was in clear violation of department guidelines.This of course begs a few questions–How could one officer give the order to use a taser in this instance, another comply, and still others stand by allowing a man to fall predictably to his death?  Why were no provisions made to ensure a safe landing if they were going to use the device? Why was no one in the gathering crowd willing to tackle a cop to catch a falling man or better yet — to stop the device from being used in the first place? That of course would require them to drop their phones and stop taking pictures and videos.

City Councilman, Peter Vallone – chairman of the Public Safety Committee, of all things – said of the tragedy, “A situation like that is never going to end in a good way. The most important thing is that no innocent bystanders or police got hurt.” 

   In a dark turn to an already dark story, Lt. Pigott, on modified duty without his badge and gun, took his own life shortly after in order to keep his children from seeing him in handcuffs, according to a note he left. Not surprisingly, however,  the department said it was unlikely that he would have faced prosecution. His death then led to the spin machine telling the story of a hero officer who killed himself distraught over a tragic accident, reducing Iman Morales to a side note in a story about the pressures faced by police. I say this, not to diminish the loss of the Pigott family, but to restore a speck of balance to the telling of events.

   Regardless of what happened afterward, the end of Iman’s story is further evidence there is a climate of disregard for human life that needs to be addressed. It can be seen throughout our culture and is nowhere more evident than it is among that third class of people deemed mentally ill. People in power can make all the policy changes they want in the name of public relations, but it matters very little when policy is ignored and even less when policy is a sorry substitute for true moral character and respect for the lives others.

 

 It is worth noting that prior to that week he had been regarded by all accounts as “gentle and sweet” but was experiencing erratic behavior apparently in response to a new medication and subsequent withdrawal.

July 26, 2009 at 12:19 am 2 comments

Esmin Green Demonstration and Vigil

June 19th, I traveled to Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, NY to attend a demonstration at their Psychiatric ER protesting forced psychiatry. Immediately after,  a candlelight vigil was held for Esmin Green , a woman who died there as a direct result of the staff’s neglect. She had been admitted involuntarily, then left to sit their for approximately 25 hours, the last of which she spent face down, dead or dying and apparently alone even amongst no less than 5 employees. The staff then altered the records to assert that she had been checked on regularly and was well in an effort to cover up their negligence. As it turns out, a security camera was rolling the whole time. The video captured security personnel standing there looking at her, one guard couldn’t even be bothered to get out of his chair. A nurse nudged her with her foot and left the room instead of assessing her health or administering care. Were it not for this video being turned over to the police and press, Esmin’s death would have been just one more of many anonymous deaths in a failing mental health system.

In all respects the demonstration/vigil was a success. We stood in front of the Psyhiatric Emergency entrance making ourselves known. We raised awareness in real time on the street, it was covered live on the news, people were waving at us from the windows and gesturing their support (I assume they were not staff). One woman had what appeared to be a journal pressed against the window. I would love to know what she may have written in there. Some amazing speakers were heard and I met with some incredibly motivated activists, largely psychiatric survivors and their supporters. Perhaps the most important part, in this case, is that the Department of Investigation report came in while we were there, confirming in a legal sense what the tape had made abundantly clear. The staff failed and if not for them, Esmin Green would be alive today.

Five out of five staff members failed Ms. Green. This is not just one nurse or administrative staff member or just one security guard. The problem is systemic and when you are admitted involuntarily, you don’t have the luxury of choosing where you are taken, no matter what you know of the place. And for anyone who might cry understaffed, overcrowded, not enough funding or beds–the DOI dispelled that myth as well.



July 20, 2009 at 10:00 am


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