Saturday, April 9, 2016

Coercion tales

(This article will name some names at Elgin Mental Health Center, an Illinois state-operated forensic psychiatric "hospital" that the taxpayers are told helps people recover from mental illness. The named individuals do not contribute to any environment that could be considered, even remotely, therapeutic.)


Several years ago a patient wrote a letter to Lee Saunders, national President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the union whose Council 31 represents non-administrative staff at Elgin Mental Health Center. The letter complained about a union chief named Marva Stroud, AKA, Marvelous Marva. Marva had been tormenting the patient who wrote the letter, possibly out of racial animus, possibly at the instruction of Elgin administrators or psychiatrists wanting that patient to have a particularly difficult time, so she could be forced to take medication that she had been exercising her statutory and Constitutional rights to refuse.

The union and the administration at Elgin are extremely tight. Jeff Pharis, the Forensic Coordinator, tends to promote union employees who get sued by patients for acting like gangsters. The obvious explanation for this, from Pharis' point of view, is to keep people happy and to discourage them from following their consciences and becoming whistleblowers when they may have regrets about acting like gangsters.

The actual gangster behavior (e.g., beating up patients, lying under oath, writing falsehoods in so-called medical records) probably isn't overtly encouraged by Pharis or the Elgin administration. The real hard-guys are much more likely to be union bosses like Marvelous Marva, and her entourage. But without the hard guys Elgin could be in a lot of trouble, because patients and their families would be far more likely to alert the taxpayers that the place doesn't help anyone recover, it just dehumanizes mentally ill people and turns them loose, back on the community with permanent grudges, seeking retribution. So Pharis looks the other way, and he makes sure he can credibly deny any personal participation in the gangster behavior.

The patient who wrote the letter to the AFSCME President years ago is a thorn in the side of Elgin, and has been for a long time. In 2014, on two occasions, she was given forced injections of crippling psychotropic drugs, not because she was a danger to herself or anyone else (which is what the law requires), but merely because she wouldn't stop saying things that Marvelous Marva and her ilk didn't like. 

That same patient was more recently targeted for a beating from another patient, which actually sent her to the hospital. It's pretty easy to blame "psychotic" people for patient-on-patient violence and cover up the careful incitement of incidents by staff. This recent aggravated battery occurred under the noses of two Security Therapy Aides, Lilly Schillenbeck and Kerji Francis, who took... just... long... enough... to intervene, to ensure an effective punishment. And of course, Lilly and Kerji are both well known to be Marvelous Marva's particular stooges.

Only a day later, the patient who had been hospitalized overheard a conversation in which a very agitated STA named Carmen Carter (one more Marva stooge) told a patient, B.S., "I'm sick of all the shit from T.M. (another patient). Go fuck her up!" Whereupon, patient B.S. entered the room where patient T.M. was, a physical fight ensued, and one or more of patients B.S. and T.M. emerged or were dragged out with visibly scratched arms, etc.

The personality of any group may decline from an inspired, motivated, creative and beneficent collaboration, through the quality of worsening bureaucracy, to a criminal organization. The pressure down that scale comes from undisclosed crimes by individual group members. Failing to help people is instinctively felt to be a crime by all social human beings. Given that forensic psychiatry and involuntary "treatment" are, almost by definition, one giant failure to help, the gangster flavor of Illinois mental health institutions may be unavoidable. Elgin is worse than a bureaucracy.

Of course, Lee Saunders never responded to the patient's letter. The public should know what it's getting, and what it's not, for so many millions in tax dollars. Maybe people like Lee, Jeff, Marva, Lilly, Kerji and Carmen should be summarily fired. Or prosecuted.  

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