"Houston Chronicle 1990s “Profitable Addictions” series
I’ve been searching the Houston Chronicle archives
( http://search.chron.com/chronicle/search.do search on: profitable addictions psychiatric hospital )
and finding the series to be even more extensive than I had realized. I’ve downloaded 40 “Profitable Addictions” and related articles and still not seen them all. They paint a chilling picture of patient abuses committed by private, for-profit psychiatric hospitals in Texas, that have some striking similarities to the practices of the State-operated and funded mental health system here and now. They include:
State laws that allowed abuses.
A State mental health department contributing to the problems.
The use of hearsay to justify Doctors’ orders for detention and commitment.
Crisis lines run by hospitals that funneled callers into hospitals.
Crisis teams that always recommend commitment.
Lack of regulation on mental health recommendations made to courts.
Courts depending upon hospital staff to make recommendations for commitment to their hospitals.
Patients isolated from their doctors, lawyers and families.
In that system, children as young as one-year-old, whom we all know don’t have fully-developed brains, were put in psychiatric hospitals. Some teenagers were kept for years, robbing them of their childhoods. As noted here before, healthy adults and children were abducted from the street and their homes, even on the orders of psychiatrists who had not seen or examined them.
Even conservative Texans found this appalling, but not the Supreme Court of the United States, whose Decisions on the mental health evaluations of Texas prisoners preceded these abuses. In the 1983 Barefoot v. Estelle decision, for example, the Court ruled on the use of the testimony by Dr. James Grigson (otherwise known as Dr. Death or The Hanging Psychiatrist, later expelled in 1995 for malpractice in such cases by both the American Psychiatric Association and the Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians) to put convicted murderer Barefoot on death row. Dr. Grigson nearly always recommended the death penalty, even for prisoners he had never personally examined and for at least one who later turned out to be innocent. Among other things, the Court held that
a) Barefoot had no right to question the accuracy and reliability of any psychiatrist’s prediction of his future violent behavior, partly out of concern that not only would this resource for putting people on death row be lost, it would affect other expert witnesses.
b) “Psychiatric testimony need not be based on personal examination of the defendant, but may properly be given in response to hypothetical questions.”
c) "expert prediction, unreliable though it may be, is often the only evidence available to assist the trier of fact.", citing the California Supreme Court to justify using psychiatric predictions of future violence, even though they were wrong two times out of three.
Thus the Supreme Court paved the way for psychiatric hospitals in Texas to order the detention and commitment of people they had never seen or examined, usually on the basis of hearsay. Doctors could even order this on their own authority, never bothering with the courts. What a pity we don’t seem to have investigative reporters here to take as good a look at our mental health system. "