The New York Justice Center for Protections of People with Special needs, is a special commission set up by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2013 to help stop the abuse by professionals working with the disabled in the mental health systems as well as the office of professional development disabilities and individuals with substance abuse disorders. Overall, they have oversight of over 1 million people with disabilities. There were 25,000 abuse and neglect accusations between 2014 and 2015. 7,000 of them were substantiated and 900 were physical abuse allegations. Only 169 criminal cases were brought. There were 132 allegations which involved deaths of individuals and only 34 were have been prosecuted.
My name is Emily Pierce and on February 21, 2013, I was a victim of a traumatic three week stay at New York Presbyterian Hospital - Westchester Division, after asking for help with my depression.
On February 21, 2013 I was feeling very depressed and called my therapist when she was unavailable I did what I thought was the next appropriate step, which was call a police department where I grew up in the town of Eastchester N.Y. I knew the police officers because I used to be an Auxiliary police officer, and yes they were on calls with me before when I was in emotional distress. I spoke with Sgt. Rodriguez and told him I was feeling hopeless and depressed. (Those were my exact words, obviously I told him what the issues were) I was driving home and he told me to pull over and I pulled over by the South Salem Police Station. When I pulled over there was two lewisboro Police Officers and a State Trooper. I was asked to get out of my car and go inside. I walked inside and the state trooper spoke with the Sgt from Eastchester. I would say after about thirty minutes the Trooper ( I don’t remember his name) came out and told me I was going to the hospital. I was shocked because I never stated anything about harming myself. I didn’t put up a fight I complied. The trooper told me he was putting me in handcuffs and I asked why, he said because he was bringing me to Westchester County Medical Center and he was driving me. One of the Lewisboro officers even questioned him about it, as did I because that was not protocol. He put me in the front of his car and I asked him why I was not in an ambulance going to a local hospital and he stated to me I was not in control, that I needed help and when I asked him what he was talking about he said, I told the Sgt I was going to drive my car into a ditch. I told him no I never said that, he said well you insinuated it. After that I stayed silent until we got to the hospital. We arrived at the hospital and I met with the psychiatrist and told them everything I wrote above. They still were going to admit me even though I never had any intention of doing any harm to myself; I never stated it and never was a threat to others. Once again I complied and told them that they could not admit me at WCMC because my clients got admitted there (I was a social work intern at the time) and if they were going to admit me it needed to be NYPH or Silver Hill. They choose NYPH. I was admitted to NYPH. When I got there I asked to sign myself in and they would not let me. They said since I came by ambulance that it was involuntary. I explained that if I was willing to sign myself in they had to let me. They denied me that right. The next day I met with Dr. Xiaolei Baran and she wanted to discharge me that day. They called my therapist at the time and she asked them to keep me over the weekend. I complied with the request but asked Dr. Baran for something to help me sleep. She prescribed an anti-psychotic medication, I don’t remember which one. I explained to her that the anti-psychotics make me feel suicidal, anxious, agitated and to please prescribe something else, but she refused. I knew this because they were prescribed in the past and I was taken off of them. That same day she ripped me off of my anti-anxiety medication that was a benzodiazepine I had been on for two years and allowed for no tapering off period. Sunday I tried to hang myself and was placed on one to one supervision. I met with Dr. Baran and my discharge was canceled for Monday but rescheduled for Wednesday of that week. Monday during rounds I asked Dr. Baran to please take me off the anti-psychotic and she did, but she prescribed another one and again I told her the same thing the side effects I get from the medications. Dr. Baran didn’t care and reluctantly I took them again. Tuesday with no relief and feeling worse I went into rounds and told her I was no longer taking any of the anti-psychotics. That is when she said, I needed to take ECT treatment and if I refused she would take me to court. I refused and she put an order in for treatment over objection. Wednesday I was not discharged and when I met with her she took me off my anti-depressants and other medications. At this point she had not administered or wrote orders for any of my stomach medications which I needed and I was suffering very badly, I have allergies to gluten, soy and dairy they had not called a dietician and I was unable to eat.
Thursday I hired my own private attorney Carolyn Wolf. Thursday in rounds Dr. Baran told me they were no longer playing games and they were changing my diagnosis from Major Depression to Schizoaffective disorder. There was no reason given of why my diagnosis was being changed. From that point on I was badgered and harassed with questions to prove I was paranoid. They dug up personal things from my past, how I was raped, abuse from my parents, things I had written in previous hospitalizations and tried to present it in such a way that was tormenting. For example, Dr. Baran questioned me about a hospitalization and said I was in their hospital at the age of 11 and I answered no I wasn’t. I didn’t remember being there. When I was discharged I asked my mother and she said, I went for an evaluation but was never admitted but because I said no I was never there I was considered paranoid and delusional. When they couldn’t get me upset by badgering and harassing me with questions to prove I was paranoid, they began to make me follow contracts that violated my civil and human rights. I was forced to shower with two staff in my room, shower door open and bedroom door open. I was forced at times to wait hours to use the bathroom because there was no female staff on the floor.
After all of this the day before court I was served with papers that made me out to be a sociopath. I will never forget that day; it felt like judgment day for me because I knew that no matter how good of an attorney I had, when a judge saw what was on those papers, I was done. I felt like a criminal who had done absolutely nothing wrong accept ask for help. I was so sick to my stomach that I literally soiled myself and a staff member saw it and when I requested to shower they made me wait hours. I was degraded beyond what a dog could ever feel. Everything I have ever been through in my life was a piece of cake until this point, this torture I was going through. In court Dr. Baran was allowed to lie and be out of line with the medical records. At one point she said such a blatant lie. Why the judge didn’t question her is beyond me. She claimed I had two staff right next to me while I was SLEEPING and that I tried to strangle myself. When questioned again by my attorney repeating her words she confirmed I was sleeping, two staff were next to me and I tried to strangle myself. That is not physically possible. She even gave dates that was written in the records, they’re not I have the records. My attorney was stopped by the judge when trying to prove my competency. The judges decision, despite the lies and inconsistencies, was to forcibly medicate me but because they plea-bargained ECT. Yes, before court my attorney came to me and said, the hospital attorney is willing to take ECT off the table if we take the independent psychiatric exam off the table. Of course it’s not written that way in the court papers and that’s not how dr baran presented to the court.
When I got back to the hospital I was told by Dr. Baran that I had to take the medication otherwise I would be restrained and injected with it. After thinking about it, I took it, willingly, to avoid being subjected to further trauma. That first dose of Haldol I remember like it was yesterday. I lay on the hospital bed facing the wall trying not to cry by sobbing because I felt the Haldol take affect as it slowly made me woozy and into a placid state. I was forced to sign a contract that I could not use the bathroom a half hour after I took it no matter what even though I was still on 1:1 supervision. Over the next week I slowly went into a vegetative state from the Haldol, my speech became slurred, my mind became fuzzy, and my coordination was off. It was the most horrible feeling in the world because I could do nothing about it. As the days went on I did exactly as I was doing before I told myself it couldn’t get any worse seven days from the court date I was discharged.
The day I was discharged I was discharged with no prescriptions. A few days following my discharge I was contacted by my school Fordham University and asked to come in for a meeting with the Associate Director of Field Placement and Assistant Dean. I was told that I needed to go through the re-entry process. I was asked to contact the Dean of Students, which I did. The Dean of Students gave me a list of pre-conditions, which I needed to follow in order to re-enter into the college.
One of those demands was to hand over all of my psychiatric records. I told the dean that this violated my civil rights, discriminated against people with mental illness because it was not required of other students and violated ADA laws and I would not be doing it. I told him I would be following the procedure on the website for re-entry and I did. I spent the next two months after that trying to compromise with my school. I explained to them that their procedure violated ADA laws and civil rights. When communications failed I hired a lawyer.
In August of 2013 we found out that someone from the hospital without my consent called the school and released information. Based upon the information released they said, I needed to go through the re-entry process.
From the time I got out of the hospital I began trying to make sense of what had occurred why would a psychiatrist inflict such abuse upon a patient. I sent my court papers over to an advocacy agency out of the state and they pointed out that my lawyers name was never on the papers. The hospital petitioned the court for Mental Health Hygiene legal Services to be served my court papers, even though they knew I had my own private attorney Carolyn Wolf! This is what prompted me to go and represent myself Pro’se at the Westchester County Supreme Court and ask for the record to reflect the truth. I remember in the hospital Dr. Baran saying that Carolyn Wolf used to represent the hospital in mental health hearings and her.
At this time I wrote to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Office asking for his assistance in my case and the Justice Center. As I began piecing together the puzzle to my case I sent in more information but realized that it was all politics in his office a few months later. I wrote Attorney General Schneidermans Office also requesting his assistance but received none. I then wrote to the Office of professional medical conduct. I wrote out a complaint and sent in supporting documentation. That same week I received a response back and I knew it had been too soon. When I called OPMC they said, the governor’s office had sent them information a letter that I wrote the governor’s office and based upon that letter they found no evidence of malpractice. I told them I did not believe the governor’s office has the right to act on the behalf of a citizen when they did not request them to do so? The nurse investigator cited some made up education law.
About a month later I called to follow up on my case and spoke with the same nurse investigator and he said they didn’t receive it. I sent the materials again by certified return receipt. I followed up about a month later and even when I requested not to speak with the nurse investigator who dealt with the original complaint from the governor’s office they transferred me anyway. I was told that my complaint would not be investigated, that a doctor determined I was not competent, in need of treatment and a judge agreed. After that I knew that I was definitely not going to receive any help from the state of New York’s mental health system.
At that point I wrote a letter to the Department of Justice. A month later I wrote a letter to Senator Greg Ball requesting for him to advocate on my behalf. Senator Greg Ball did just that.
Our mental health system isn’t broken because of a lack of beds or just because of a lack of beds, it’s broken because of corruption like my case, lack of proper treatment as in psychotherapy, vocational rehabilitation, empowering young individuals to succeed although they have a label. What is told to the public really isn’t what is and here is the truth two and a half years later already bankrupt, fighting to bet back into school, because of a psychiatrist who purposely misdiagnosed me.
There are thousands of individual out there like me ( who have been subjected to the same treatment, but unfortunately have been unable to advocate for themselves. Make no mistake about it, this is not just a NYS problem, this type of corruption exists all over the country and the more light we bring to the subject, the more protection for people with special needs will get.
Please sign and demand that Chairman Robert Ortt, Senator Terrence Murphy and US Attorney Preet Bharara look into the lack of oversight by the Office of Mental Health and the disregard for people with mental health issues, civil rights, diginity and humanity.