March 6, 2015 in Misc
Something horrible is happening at this very moment to a Network member and fellow ketamine patient. We want to tell his story because it shows how dangerously broken our mental healthcare system is. Without reform, each of us is at risk of the same nightmare.
Gerald Gaines is a name you should know if you are interested in ketamine therapy. Ger’s life was transformed by this treatment a few years ago after a lifetime of suffering. Like us, he had been medicated for decades with drugs that didn’t help, and often made his condition much worse. Just like us, he felt an obligation to make fellow sufferers aware of this new ketamine hope, and wanted to help patients get access to the treatment. So he literally built a ketamine clinic from the ground up, with his own funds. Ger is not a doctor, but through sheer force of will and substantial investment, he simply made it happen. Depression Recovery Centers in Phoenix – recently renamed Ketamine Recovery Centers (KRC) – was one of the very first in the US dedicated to ketamine infusion therapy. With a full complement of anesthesiologists, nurses, a psychologist, and a business office, it is a highly professional operation. Ger even organized and hosted the first-ever conference of ketamine therapy doctors. Last year Ger sold his interest in the clinic and he’s no longer involved in the business, but his legacy is a clinic that is relieving immense human suffering.
That would have made a good end to this story, with Ger riding into the sunset with the gratitude of KRC’s patients. But instead, today Ger is fighting to avoid being force-medicated without medical basis, and fighting for his freedom. If you have ever been treated for depression, bipolar, PTSD, or any other mental health issue, this could happen to you. Here’s the story…
Ger is currently in a legal dispute. It’s a civil matter, not criminal. So it’s not particularly interesting to anyone but the parties themselves. It started as just an ordinary civil dispute between two individuals. But the other side has exploited Ger’s health history in a way that capitalizes on the dysfunction of our mental healthcare system.
The other side – who is hundreds of miles away in a different time zone – made a complaint to Ger’s local police that resulted in his arrest, and did it in a way that disclosed his medical history. We’re not going into the details of the complaint here because they don’t matter to this story. But it’s worth asking yourself: If you wanted to get someone falsely arrested, can you think of a complaint you could make to police that would guarantee an arrest? Of course. It’s not that hard. At any rate, Ger’s arrest was due solely to this complaint, from a faraway party. (For the record, those of us who know the details of the complaint think it’s BS.)
This is the kind of thing that usually results in a quick processing and release. But with the arresting authority aware of Ger’s medical history, he was inexplicably taken to Desert Vista Behavioral Health Center. And that’s where he’s been for more than three weeks.
Many of our fellow sufferers know what it’s like to be pumped full of SSRIs, mood stabilizers, tricyclics, etc., for years or even decades with no benefit. Now imagine if someone made a false claim against you that resulted in your arrest, and your treatment history resulted in you being held in a psych ward. Now imagine expressing outrage at this mistreatment, only to see your outrage held up as evidence that you are somehow unhinged.
Take just a moment to ponder that. You have treatment-resistant depression, or bipolar, etc. There is no medication (prior to ketamine) that can help your condition. Your doctors keep you on psychotropic meds with horrible side-effects for years even though they don’t help you, and often make you worse. In other words, your doctors failed you. But now that you’ve unexpectedly come into contact with law enforcement, their failure magically lifts off their shoulders and turns into a sign that hangs around your neck and reads “crazy person”. But you’re not crazy, you simply suffer from a very common, very painful condition that doesn’t respond to any meds.
Many of our readers have seen the inside of a psychiatric holding ward. You know that in this country, they are usually chambers of horror, where all kinds of different conditions are thrown together: depression, schizophrenia, dementia, psychosis, etc. Like a good old-fashioned 19th century asylum. No one can make money by treating patients in this environment – not pharma, not hospitals, not doctors – so the standard of care is very low. Patients often don’t receive any actual treatment, only a cursory exam by a psychiatrist who always prescribes a psychotropic med. The patient is pressured to take the med and “contract for safety” so they can be released with minimal liability. Once they accept the psychotropic meds and take them for a few days, they may leave. Even if the meds make their condition worse. If this sounds like a big pharma horror story, it is. The patient is now stuck on drugs that are extremely difficult to discontinue, and the US medication mill has gained a new revenue stream.
For Ger, it’s this bad, and worse. He’s a very direct and outspoken guy. That’s how he gets things done like building a ketamine clinic, or earning the money in the first place that allowed him to build it. For taking a strong stance against his Kafka-esque situation, he’s now being further held as a danger to himself or others, and unable to care for himself. Those of us who know Ger – and some of us are actual medical professionals – recognize this as bogus, and are deeply outraged.
Ger says Desert Vista violated HIPAA (the federal patient privacy law) by contacting his psychiatrist and requesting confidential information without Ger’s consent. Unfortunately, he says the psychiatrist compounded the situation by giving the information, again without Ger’s consent. HIPAA ensures that 100% of your patient information is expressly confidential unless you provide explicit prior written authorization for it to be shared. The inevitable lawsuits in this case will be interesting to follow.
Desert Vista has imposed a treatment plan on Ger. They are trying to force him to take a serious cocktail of the very same drugs that have acutely worsened his condition in the past. He knows what these meds will do to him and desperately wants to avoid them. Desert Vista has no knowledge of Ger’s full medical history, besides the partial info obtained illegally from his most recent doctor. They have forced him to submit to exams by three different psychiatrists. One promptly quit and is no longer a Desert Vista employee. The second is the Chief of Psychiatry, who reversed herself on the stand in Ger’s court hearing. The third has refused to participate further in Desert Vista’s handling of Ger’s case. Quite clearly, their own medical staff has no agreement about Ger’s condition.
Worst of all, they have not demonstrated that he actually has a condition that would respond to their proposed meds. Many of you know how excruciatingly difficult and painful it is to get off SSRIs and other psychotropics. Ger has been through it recently and is largely medication-free. The idea of being forced back onto meds – without proper consultation, without considering the harm they have caused him in the past – is terrifying. (Have any of you ever succeeded in quitting Cymbalta? It was utter agony, right? What if you were forced against your will to get back on it?) But Desert Vista has the power to hold him indefinitely until he submits to their authority. This would lock him back into a familiar cycle: being stuck on drugs that don’t help and in fact make him worse, but are extremely hard to quit, while having to suffer the knowledge that pharma is benefiting financially from his misery.
Desert Vista truly is one of those chambers of horror. Ger’s area houses all types of mental conditions, just like the old-fashioned asylum. There are three patients per room, not separated by diagnosis or severity. Yesterday Ger was assaulted by one of the other detainees who, unlike Ger, actually has a dangerous and violent condition.
Ger will not agree to be forcibly medicated, and we don’t blame him. But Desert Vista won’t release him until he complies with their idea of “treatment”. In the meantime, they are not actually providing him any treatment at all, and they function solely as a jail.
There’s even more. Ger has special dietary needs (medical, not religious) that Desert Vista refuses to meet, and he is unable to digest most of their institutional meals. He is allowed a high-protein snack at 2pm and 8pm, and these are proving to be some of the only foods they allow which he can eat. But they only permit him a small snack portion. He cannot get enough to sustain himself, and after three weeks has lost substantial weight and muscle mass.
The very last thing we want to tell you about Ger is that he has never been diagnosed with any condition a reasonable person would consider dangerous. He’s had many of the same diagnoses as other Network members who have battled lifelong depression, PTSD, bipolar, etc. He’s not psychotic. He’s not schizophrenic. He’s not violent. He doesn’t hear voices. He simply has a condition that doctors have never succeeded in treating – like many of us. And it seems that was enough to shunt him into a medical prison nightmare.
This story was set in motion by a single complaint lodged from another state – and not because Ger was exhibiting any symptoms or behavioral problems. He faces the prospect of being forced back onto meds that cause him harm, and becoming a captive pharma revenue stream all over again.
Ger has given huge charitable gifts to mental health issues over the past 15 years. He gave KRC to the world. He’s very well-educated on issues of mental health care, and the deep flaws in our US system, and the damage wrought when pharma profits drive the entire medical industry. He’s an enormously successful businessman. What does it mean when someone like Ger can fall so squarely into such a trap?
We’re telling this story for two reasons. First, we care about Gerald Gaines. As ketamine patients, we are indebted to him for helping raise awareness of the treatment, and for giving the world a top-notch clinic. As fellow sufferers, we are comrades in arms. On a personal level, we find him to be a good man.
But the second reason is much bigger. Ger’s nightmare could happen to any of us. Anyone with a history of failed treatments for depression, bipolar, etc., is a sitting duck under similar circumstances. Anyone who has been caught in the “pill mill” model of psychiatry is vulnerable. Anyone cursed with a mental health condition that doctors can’t cure is vulnerable.
We’ll update this post when we get info on how you can help support Ger.
Have you seen this kind of nightmare before? Have you lived it? What do you think needs to change to prevent it?