Rahm Emanuel Doesn’t Care About Mental Health Patients at Hartgrove Hospital, But I Do

Hartgrove Hospital proved to be the worst mental hospital I ever had the dire misfortune of experiencing first-hand or witnessing in someone close to me. It is a for profit, investor-run, fraud-laden hospital within a larger network called Universal Health Services, Inc., whose primary purpose is to make money specifically from the most vulnerable among us, troubled children, veterans, and the mentally ill like myself, for the most wealthy persons, and as you’ll soon see politically powerful among us.

Rahm Emanuel has done enough damage in his current tenure as mayor including closing 50 public schools, 6 public mental health facilities, and privatizing and profiteering by enacting 120 charter schools and funneling drug addicts, dealers, troubled kids, and the chronic mentally ill into locked wards in greedy private mental health hospitals whose beds should be reserved for those in acute crisis. These and county hospitals are filled past capacity and in my opinion cause more preventable pain than help as promised.

I don’t doubt that I needed psychiatric services at the time, but if I’d been able to access the proper outpatient services of psychiatrists and therapists under my Medicare Advantage plan, the high monetary and emotional toll inflicted could have been prevented. Perhaps there aren’t enough doctors willing to accept Medicare assignment or the need hasn’t been demonstrated high enough due to the fact that those with serious mental illnesses tend to die young from suicide, homicide, accidents, infection, and cancer due to poor or absent health screenings because of the fact physical symptoms are ignored or considered secondary and often misleadingly blamed on the psychiatric ones.

I have been living with schizoaffective disorder and other comorbid conditions that manifest chiefly in psychosis, mania, anxiety, and depression for nearly eight years now. Hartgrove would in the future be best advised to not admit someone who has experience actually receiving care to make one better physically, psychologically, and emotionally, not just pinch every last penny from one’s insurance whether student, Medicare, or Medicaid.

This February 2015 inpatient stay in Chicago proved once again nearly fatal for me due to the acquisition of a urinary tract infection while under the misguided care of my nurse mother, who gave me Severe Dayquil that not only gave me severe diarrhea, but possibly reacted with my psychotropic medications and exacerbated already heightened sensory hallucinations. All I had wanted was Tylenol and she proceeded to give me amoxicillin, which had been filled nearly 2 months before without doing a urine culture to determine its efficacy.

Towards the end of just one week I was full blown psychotic with all my senses coupled and in pain 24/7 with paranoia, inability to sleep, control my muscle movements, or make sense of why after 5.5 years of staying out of the hospital despite experiencing hallucinations on a daily basis for nearly a year, I’d relapsed so hard.

I voluntarily asked my dad to bring me to the Advocate Lutheran General Hospital Emergency Room in so much pain that I forgot my P.T.S.D. of my past experiences at the merciless hands of so many emergency room and psychiatric nurses, doctors, therapists, staff, and social workers, who could not understand why my pain seemed amplified and that I was not faking the blood-curdling scream involuntarily coming out of my incapacitated mouth and body.

My most recent stay from Valentine’s Day, 2015 at Lutheran General to Hartgrove Mental Health Hospital the next day lasting a week total contrasts strongly with an etiologically similar stay caused by toxic shock syndrome at Westlake Hospital’s Emergency Room in Melrose Park to Intensive Care Unit to Psych Ward back to the ICU and then Psych Ward which began on Christmas Day, 2008 and ended a depressing month later.

In too much whole and lower body pain with limbs akimbo, I had to be pushed in a desk chair to make my frequent evacuating trips to the toilet caused by the IV and oral antibiotics, which were saving my life in a dark inaccessible and undisclosed annex in Lutheran General hidden from my family and boyfriend with a security guard and nurse for 4 or so interim patients bound for the worse shithole Hartgrove.

I was privileged to grow up with health insurance and not so privileged to have had to use it innumerable times during my short disabled adult life. My most recent stint at a full time job was a Medicare Sales Agent to under 65 Health Insurance Agent at a national insurance brokerage based in the state of Oregon. I thought I knew everything about insurance, but despite being on Medicare since 2010, I was shocked and dismayed to find out several alarming things including the fact that preauthorizations, such as the one I received for Hartgrove Hospital are not determined on the current individual status of any patient, but upon diagnostic codes for medical conditions.

When I arrived at Hartgrove of course, I was in no condition to contest my stay, and was tricked into believing that without voluntarily admitting myself, I’d have to go home, which in my understandably paranoid condition was the absolute last option I’d elect to take given a choice. I’d later find out what a grave mistake that was as even voluntary admits cannot just voluntarily walk back out, something Patch Adams already knows.

No one is ever informed of their patient rights in hospitals and nearly every hospital routinely violates the majority of them and Hartgrove was of course no exception. My boyfriend read the law, but could do nothing when they refused to let me sign a request for discharge without being in the presence of the social worker, who just plays the good cop in hospitals like this. We have a recording of the Executive Assistant to the CEO who was on vacation Maria Zaragoza saying there’s the law and then there are rules and regulations the Hospital follows, essentially saying Hartgrove is above the law before realizing she needed help from their lawyer.

Curiously and in direct confirmation of my earlier suspicion, I made friends with an epileptic patient who we’ll call Harriet here, who was admitted the same day (Sunday) and discharged the same day as I (Friday) who also had Medicare. Five days was the pre-approved amount for an initial admitting diagnosis of psychosis. Harriet had never been diagnosed with psychosis since her psychiatric symptoms had always been explained by her seizures. Mine had no organic cause as of yet despite having undergone numerous negative tests and our doctors differed in approach and thus treatment focus. I’d always been labeled with a more stigmatizing mental illness not considered by most to be medical, excusable or even neurological in origin.

We were comrades in pain (she had fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis, which she suspected I may have as well since I was and am still in constant unmanaged pain, which no doctor or hospital has been able to yet diagnose or treat. Ibuprofen and Tylenol is all I’d ever been able to take inpatient or out with no alleviation of the symptoms). We were victims at the hands of the medical and other staff, and have the battle scars to prove it. Hartgrove, more akin to a prison or detention center than any mental hospital I’d ever been to or heard of, does their own humiliating version of a strip search designed to catch bruises and other signs of abuse upon admission, but they didn’t seem to care about the ones acquired there until they discharged me. Harriet had 21 puncture sites with bruises and stories of much more painful blood-collecting methods than venipuncture that made me sympathetically cringe imagining.

I saw similarities between our loved ones (much of her immediate family was dead and she had a fiance who adored her so much and fought against her obvious mistreatment as much as only my boyfriend would to get me out since my veteran, jaded family had long resigned themselves to my inevitable, long anticipated return to another requisitely lengthy institutionalization because of their apathy and lack of hope). We shared insomnia, nightmares, night terrors and seizures throughout our stay at Hartgrove.

I witnessed a couple of her partial seizures day after day brought on by a combination of delayed administration of a quarter of her usual dosage of seizure meds due to staff cruelty, apathy and incompetence, passed off as a consequence of perpetual shift changes or their chief complaint/excuse of being overwhelmed and understaffed (which is also their best defense against all those allegations of rape you see in the headlines and the reason why in 2011 they could no longer receive wards of state). There’d be an indecorous delay/excuse for a doctor’s approval for any medication except sleeping pills like Trazadone. The emotional stimuli Harriet experienced would evoke a frozen, situationally appropriate response of severe sadness complete with tears not only because of the topic’s saliency, but a painful inability to close her eyes akin to closing the mind’s eye to emotionally traumatic experience, cognition, or fear/worry for her dependent children.

My own experiences of course vary from hers, but I wonder if the hallucinations especially the painful, tactile ones are really partial temporal lobe seizures that would explain my serious memory losses but which perhaps were not caught on that first EEG they did at my first hospitalization. The tactile hallucinations I feel on a daily, hourly, minute by minute basis include primarily stabbing, shooting pains, broken bones, knives at my throat, forcible sexual assault in every orifice, nausea, burning, gunshots, painful sensitivity to real touch or clothing, choking, shaking, and electric shocks.

My akathisia (uncontrollable muscle movements), a severe side effect of too much Abilify or as a withdrawal symptom from my discontinued anticholinergic Artane (to combat tremors and other antipsychotic induced Parkinson’s symptoms) and/or unexplained dramatic reduction of Geodon by 75%, my mainstay antipsychotic for nearly 6 years, horrendously fed my delusions about my family and the hospital because my body and arms were being thrown and held down, my legs moving not by my own volition, and I felt like I was constantly being or reliving childhood, daily, or nightly rape in and out of the hospital with accompanied auditory hallucinations and strobe lights with eyes closed but an express telling inability to see the perpetrators with eyes open. In the hospital, I couldn’t sleep because of these night terrors to put them euphemistically, but I knew that the physical repercussions were real because Harriet, across the hall from me, said she would see my legs thrashing when they came and shined the flashlight into my room every 15 minutes at night.

Of course now it doesn’t help to think back and wonder why they had a code and plus or minus sign on each female patient’s chart to indicate if she was or was not pregnant, or ruminate upon why all mental hospital wards are coed and why Hartgrove in particular would choose to house and “treat” publicly men, women, teens, and children with P.T.S.D. from sexual trauma and those who “display sexually problematic behavior”, or read each new headline of sexual assault there (link to March 10, 2015 article “Girl sexually abused at Hartgrove Hospital, according to suit” http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-hartgrove-sex-abuse-met-20150310-story.html ).

You can understand my chief paranoid delusion being validated and extrapolated at a place like Hartgrove then, where they have allegedly placed some persons with known or suspected sexual deviances with rape victims. I watched as several young helpless but nonetheless resilient 18 year old women transitioned from the adolescent side to adult side all under the guise of helping them, but couldn’t help but think that for one patient that birthday cake had to taste so angrily bittersweet without any semblance of freedom of body, speech, or will.

The whole program is a sham front that makes loads of money for investors, while ruining already traumatic lives, separating families, breeding distrust of patients for real mental facilities and therapies as well as distrust for government agencies who can best assist the mentally ill victims with invaluable health insurance like Medicaid and Medicare especially for the young, destitute, pregnant and permanently disabled.

The parent company, Universal Health Services, Inc. owns Hartgrove Hospital as well as at least 192 other behavioral health facilities in 37 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands as of 2014, and which bought out UK Mental Health Services Company Cygnet in September 2014 to spread their capitalist health system to a country with Universal Health Care you’d think was better off without privatized health care.

The Huffington Post reported on Rick Santorum’s role sitting on the board of Universal Health Services Inc. for at least 4 years since April 2007 before starting his bid for Presidency (Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/07/rick-santorum-universal-health-services_n_872803.html ). Among the laundry list of allegations, UHS had to pay $27.5 million to the government in Oct 2009 for “providing kickbacks and ‘illegal compensation’ to doctors in an effort to pressure them to funnel patients to its hospital group in Texas. Ever since Citizen’s United, it seems like most Presidential candidates will guarantee their and their donors’ wealth before they even publicly announce their intended run, and that the media only cares if something is nationally at stake.

It’s the gifts that just keep on giving that have been keeping Rahm Emanuel in the heftiest of leads for campaign cash. Just 103 top donors including individuals, couples, business partners and firms have given him over $14 million dollars to spend on propaganda, but more importantly Rahm has given them reasons for their loyalty by bestowing nearly 60 percent of them more by way of city contracts, zoning changes, business permits, board appointments, and more direct benefits. In Chicago, clout is still King. Rahm is better suited to be a banker and financier, in which role he’d amassed $16.2 million dollars in a short 2.5 year period in the Windy City after leaving Bill Clinton’s office as adviser well before doing the same with his White House Chief of Staff position in the Obama administration. Chicago’s always made him the most money.

Source: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-rahm-emanuel-political-donors-met-20150130-story.html#page=1

Common to all of their hospital lawsuit allegations seems to be a deliberate working of the system to file claims for inpatient psychiatric care, while providing at best the bare skeleton with the stingiest drug dosages possible, discontinuance of others, while patients fight to get on others including the OTC medications I needed like Imodium. Therapies focus on money as the root of all the patients’ problems, and most patients lose 10–20 pounds because they barely feed them. At their worst, they come up with completely false reports of treatment to continue defrauding the Medicaid/Medicare system.

Source: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/us-files-complaint-against-virginia-medicaid-providers

I’d been in and out of behavioral health hospitals as well as emergency rooms and emergency psychiatric wards before and what seemed like chaos was managed better at all but one despite having the same or less number of staff at the other hospitals. The one exception had to be Woodhull Hospital’s psychiatric emergency room in Brooklyn, where they withdrew blood and injected me with nurse only knows what for no apparent provocation besides induction despite the guarantees of the paramedics that there’d be no needles. They had two inoperable toilets, no hand soap or hand sanitizer, did not let me see a doctor except upon evaluation, and did not have facilities to shower for the whole 3 days I was there. In Psych ERs you are not a patient you are human cargo waiting for transfer, but with the dearth of beds available many chronically ill would prefer to live on the streets.

After yet another gloriously enlightening therapy session at Hartgrove, the therapist said he didn’t even believe in the deity God like he’d been expounding upon a second before from the therapists’ lifejacket: some generic printout, allowing them to teach with zero preparation or thinking besides to say all questions should be rhetorical or answered by other patients. No therapist or for that matter doctor could ever completely relate to me and my uniquely rare but interesting psychiatric problems.

The staff spent more time writing down notes on every single patient than doing anything else like dispensing meds including urgent ones for when someone got angry, violent, or too anxious. They’d refuse to contact patients or their families about the other, feed us in a timely or efficient manner (the food was bland, gross, cold or congealed at best and with errors for allergies/food sensitivities at worst), or watch to make sure no one harmed themselves or others.

It came as no surprise to me then that about 100 violent physical attacks including sexual assault were documented between December 2010 and mid-June 2011 according to the University of Illinois at Chicago’s commissioned investigative report ordered by the Department of Children and Family Services at Hartgrove Hospital.

(Source: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-09-28/health/ct-met-psych-hospital-report-20110928_1_uic-report-psychiatric-hospital-sexual-assaults ).

So if this damning report came out in 2011, where was this forsaken hospital now finding new young prey upon which to feed their bottomless coffers?

I will let the man of the hour, Mayor Rahm Emanuel himself tell you in his own words:

Rahm Emanuel reviews his investments and results as Mayor of Chicago to reduce Youth Violence

(Source: http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/fss/supp_info/YouthServices/YouthViolenceReport012814.pdf ).

Under Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the Chicago Police Department (CPD) have moved towards a more holistic approach that includes the development and implementation of prevention strategies that will address behavioral issues on the front end — before they lead to more serious misconduct. To some this would herald a new era, one in which “CPS has moved away from a culture of zero tolerance to one that is built upon student engagement and support”, but I hope one can see the terrible faux pas here where a near complete 180 degree turn appears in the next page under Goal 3 to “implement strategic policing to swiftly respond to violence and interrupt violent social networks.”

Nary is there a mention of zero tolerance, when “In 2013, CPD partnered with Hartgrove Hospital to proactively respond to youth on the west side who are violating curfew. CPD launched a curfew pilot program with Hartgrove Hospital in police districts 10, 11, 15 and 25 to provide an alternative approach of responding to loitering and curfew violations and to provide community support.” While the homicide rate has been steadily declining for years now, the total number of shooting victims spiked up by 14% in 2014 (2,272 in 2013 to 2,599) while Rahm Emanuel’s social experimentation with the law on curfew and its subsequent counseling program for violators has proven successful only for the steady decrease in curfew tickets being issued as well as arrests made.

http://chicago.suntimes.com/chicago-politics/7/71/158909/despite-tough-talk-curfew-citations-plummet-under-emanuel

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-chicago-crime-year-end-met-20150101-story.html

It seemed more like a juvenile prison or detention center for those who committed the most minor of offenses like fighting with peers or parents akin to the “Kids for Cash” scheme in Lucerne County, PA ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kids_for_cash_scandal ), which is exactly what you’d fear based on Rahm Emanuel’s vision for Chicago. Why they call it mental health support, I do not know, as I met one teen who’d been there for 11 days without seeing a single doctor let alone a therapist who could help her with any minor issues she had coming in or prevent major issues that developed there like a mysterious fainting episode.

Hartgrove’s model is and forever will be to make a profit for its investors at the expense of its patients, their families, and the American taxpayer. The sad fact is it is not an isolated institution of its kind, but the new norm. A check on UHS’s stock in the past 5 years would show that it has been doing quite well despite the numerous public relation disasters the media focuses upon at any given time, but almost especially only leading up to an important election:

Source: http://www.reuters.com/finance/stocks/chart?symbol=UHS.N

I’d love to say Hartgrove is an isolated UHS problem facility, but those same UIC psychiatric department investigators revealed an unequivocal pattern of abuse in other UHS, Inc Hospitals in the Chicagoland Area. In April 2013, the Chicago Tribune reported on how Garfield Park Hospital was banned from accepting wards of state after being open for just one month in an eerily similar fashion to my and others’ Hartgrove story.

Psychiatric facilities are ill equipped to deal with “young gang members and sexually aggressive adolescents” just as juvenile detention centers are ill equipped to treat people with real psychiatric issues. Until UHS, Inc., its hospitals, and other facilities learn that mixing criminals with victims in an environment with poorly trained, understaffed, and overwhelmed workers can never end well for them, the patients, owners, investors or their benefactors, we will sadly be seeing these same headlines in the Chicago Tribune for some time now. No lawsuit, ban, story or reparation puts a dent in their bottom line since Universal’s revenue in the year preceding the article topped an astonishing $7 billion dollars despite issues of rampant, largely preventable abuse, fraud, suicide, or homicide.

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-04-25/news/ct-met-psych-hospital-20130425_1_uic-report-uic-team-dcfs

Ironically, anger management was the one therapy group that set me off towards the beginning of that awful week at Hartgrove. Harriet had a nickname for me and just like my childhood nickname “Po”, I love it. It is “My little SPIT FIRE!” and like Catching Fire and Mockingjay, I hope to revolutionize the mental health system in this country before any more innocent or not so innocent lives are taken on either side of this “uncivil war.” I hate that psychopaths and murderers with no prior history of mental illness can plead the insanity defense or are posthumously diagnosed so public fear is heightened to the point that many commenters become proponents of harsh eugenics in a world that should have been cleansed of this parasitic ideology genocide after genocide.

The sad fact of the matter is while the military is at the forefront of any war the U.S.A. is in, they suffer their own casualties. Veterans suffer the same undesirable fates as the mentally ill: higher levels of unemployment, housing issues, health care, poverty, dependence on welfare or disability checks after an abominable waiting period due to backlog, rape, suicide, homicide, plus physical trauma especially T.B.I. (Traumatic Brain Injury, which can manifest in psychiatric symptoms like mine), PTSD and Stigma.

Veterans complete suicide at over twice the rate of civilians (30 per 100,000 vs 14 per 100,000) because they have the means, reasons and mentality to do it: access to potent prescriptions, drugs, and not only the right to bear arms, but the mental and physical training to kill or be killed. Patients have died unacceptably inside inpatient psychiatric wards of Veterans Hospitals and UHS facilities suffering from P.T.S.D. and depression, which I’ve experienced myself and know causes as much pain as the physical trauma itself would. I’ve also witnessed what some veterans have done in my most recent partial hospitalization, where patients intentionally harm themselves to get pain contracts and more controlled narcotics to overdose upon or deal.

Tomah, WI VA was especially notorious and 2000 911 calls were made to the coroner reporting dead veterans with only 24 ruled suspicious over a 5 year period there. Opiates with tranquilizers and amphetamines were handed out “like they’re candy” by the chief of staff Dr. David Houlihan. The Feds may not have legalized euthanasia and they can care less about the care and post-discharge careers of Veterans once they have served their duty to our Country because the lifetime costs of providing quality mental and physical care would be too high compared to that most blatant sacrificial service: suicide.

Source: http://www.wnyc.org/story/3-reveal-opiate-abuse-surgical-screws-and-bringing-light-military-torture/

For me, I will never forget the sight of my mom running to the bathroom in just enough time to puke disgustingly diarrhea-like vomit into the toilet as one of my first memories of this last Chicago trip and the odd sense of foreboding it gave me. If only I had the courage not to give up and stay in Oregon when things became tougher for me personally, refuse contaminated food, drink, toilets or harmful medicine, or when all else had failed, only asked to leave sooner, all this could have been prevented, but where then would you, the reader, lie except in that blissful ignorance that is a normal American’s everyday existence?

Thank you for reading mine and other brave Americans with Disabilities stories.