Tuesday, May 5, 2020

My name is Jason Hewlett. I have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness after I attempted suicide many years ago, though I am now very grateful to be alive and would never attempt suicide again.

Over the years I have learned to be very sympathetic and concerned for the mental health and protection of mentally ill people like myself when we are being abused or neglected on psychiatric units and in hospitals. I am reporting, in this blog, multiple incidents of abuse and gross neglect that I and many other patients have suffered while in the care of the psychiatric staff at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse NY. I am not the only patient in the process of reporting and confirming these facts. Please investigate them thoroughly as reports of abuse and neglect must be taken very seriously.

1. Please investigate the policy and the people who made it stating that a psychiatrist or other mental health professional is legally permitted to allow the verbal abuse, shouting, and interrogating of patients by other patients in a group or mental health discussion on psychiatric units.

2. Please investigate the policy and the people who made it that non-violent patients have no choice but to live on a locked unit with patients who are violent. A criminally insane man named Claude was permitted to physically assault a calm mentally stable man named Carl while I was on the unit. Carl suffered much physical pain in his jaw and face for days afterward. The only thing Claude's psychiatrist and the security guards did was give him a shot, isolate him for a little while, and release him back on the unit with the other patients. Claude managed to assault at least two other patients before the psychiatrist and security guards came to their senses and transported him to another unit or hospital where he hopefully won't assault another patient at his new location.

3. When I was first admitted to the unit I was forced to be roommates with a convicted felon who had an explosive temper. His name was Michael (aka Midav) and I personally had to walk on eggshells constantly to avoid the verbal abuse and shouting this man was doing to many of the staff and patients on the unit. It became so serious that he began sexually harassing and making lewd comments to some of the female staff and patients. This type of criminal behavior was actually tolerated and most of the time ignored by the doctors and nurses since they didn't want Mivad to do something worse.

Also, Mivad in some ways was more of a danger than Claude was because verbal and emotional abuse can be just as stressful and frightening as physical abuse. Just ask most victims of domestic abuse, especially women who are afraid to leave their husbands. On the unit, Midav could not stop interrogating and literally shouting at a new patient named Griffin during a psychotherapy group about various drug addictions. Griffin had been addicted to heroin and was contemplating entering a two week rehab. But Midav believed that shouting and fear tactics would solve Griffin's drug addiction, especially since Midav was, as he openly discussed with everyone, also addicted to heroin and other illegal drugs. But Griffin broke down crying in front of all of us because he was scared of Midav and just wanted him to stop yelling at him, and the psychiatrist, James L. Megna MD, permitted this verbal and emotional assault on Griffin because he thought it was "therapeutic" for him.

4. I had a broken fingernail that became dangerously sharp and I didn't want to accidentally cut myself or another patient, so I went to the nurse's station and asked for a pair of nail clippers to remove the nail. The nurses explained to me that they weren't allowed to give any of the patients nail clippers because of safety concerns. I then asked why I and some of the patients were given disposable razors, that were even sharper than nail clippers, to shave our faces, if nail clippers were unsafe for us to have. The nurses at the station told me it was the policy on the unit and they were only enforcing it. So I asked a nurse to cut off my sharp fingernail for me, right there at the nurse's station, but she said that was against their policy too. They didn't even have a sand paper stick to give me so I could sand my sharp fingernail down a little bit. So to insure my own safety and the safety of other patients, I took a chance and broke that sharp nail off and hoped it wouldn't bleed or get infected.

5. Most of us didn't get enough food or even the right kind of food that we needed for our diets unless we badgered the doctors and nurses several times. Sometimes that didn't even work because according to the hospital's policy, our menus could never be altered or changed unless ordered by our doctor or a dietitian. I asked to see the dietitian many times because my food wasn't healthy enough and I didn't get much of it at mealtimes. I have a blood clotting disorder and I need to avoid too much saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium, so I can minimize my risk of blood clots and even a stroke. Also, I was so desperate for more food sometimes that I even accepted food from my roommate, Midav, at times, even though that was against the hospital's policy too.

Also, because of the psychiatric "medications" I have to stay on, to avoid withdrawal, I was constipated the whole time I was on the unit. That and a low fiber diet I was ordered to be on, even though I asked for a high fiber diet, made my doctor and nurse's remedy of putting me on Colace twice a day, ineffective. I also asked for some milk of magnesium to help relieve my constipation but none of the nurses gave me any. After I was eventually discharged from the unit and sent home, my constipation was so severe I was bleeding in my stools and in a lot of pain so I rushed to my local pharmacy and bought some milk of magnesium myself out of my own pocket hoping that would help.

6. When I was ready to be discharged, after about 1 1/2 weeks, I was given a copy of my discharge papers and I couldn't believe there were so many typos and misspelled names in them. I know for a fact that I carefully gave the correct spelling of those names to the staff who asked me for them prior to leaving the unit. This level of incompetence can cause, in my opinion, serious mental and physical health problems for patients like myself who depend on accurate information in our discharge papers that our providers are going to need.

7. Within an hour of my discharge I was informed that my insurance, Medicaid, would pay for my ride home, from Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse back to Oneonta via a medical transport taxicab. But about 30 minutes before I was to leave the unit, a nurse explained to me that my Medicaid insurance was "inactive " so the only way to get home was to pay the driver of the taxicab out of my own pocket. $300 total. Miraculously I had $306 in my wallet with the other personal belongings I brought with me when I was first admitted. But I was suspicious after I got back to Oneonta. So I called my care manager, Jeff, and told him about my inactive Medicaid situation. Jeff then made a few calls and found out that my Medicaid has been ACTIVE the whole time and that it's still active. Is this insurance fraud on the part of Upstate University Hospital? I don't know. But this better never happen again to other patients or there will be lawsuits.

These are the facts that I remember and have witnesses for on the psychiatric unit (4B) at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse NY. I was only a patient there for about 1 1/2 weeks. If I had to witness and endure all that I did in such a short time, who knows how much abuse and neglect goes on there over a long period of time. Please investigate everything I have reported in this blog. Please ask for the testimonies of other patients, especially those who were victims. And please contact lawyers, politicians, and state lawmakers, because more than anything else the abuse and neglect of people diagnosed with a mental illness is the result of bad policies and laws that need to change or be eliminated altogether.

Thank you for helping me and all patients who are still being abused and neglected.


Jason Hewlett
Oneonta NY