The Diabetes Analogy
If a coherent person enters the jail population with a diabetic disorder, he or she can tell the staff at the outset and they almost certainly will be tested and given daily treatment for the life-threatening condition. To withhold insulin to a diabetic inmate is unconstitutional cruel punishment even when a suspect is guilty of a crime. The Pancreas is a body organ which can get out of balance and/or quit working normally. Diabetes is a pancreas disorder.
Severe Mental Illness is a result of a brain disorder. Instability of brain chemistry is usually the underlying cause. This is sometimes a dangerous and deadly condition. When the brain instability is effectively treated, the patient usually regains coherent stability and their personality returns to a similitude of their former self. They are still a long way from recovered, but they are at least spared the psychosis which endangers them and everyone around them. You can't fake a severe brain disorder. Trained professionals will always eventually catch it.
There is a steadily growing group of families coming forward to complain of a type of cruelty happening at the Tulsa County jail. I'll share three stories.
One mother recently called me to explain how her mentally ill adult son was recently incarcerated for a nonviolent charge. He had been hospitalized just weeks prior at a local mental health center for a psychotic condition which was being treated with medication which had been effective for the past 15 years. The ill man had a long history of documented health problems and had been legally deemed disabled since age 21.
When the mother made repeated calls to the jail administration to explain the son's crucial need for daily medication to treat his psychosis and the dangerous behavior it triggers, she was verbally discredited. When she explained his long history, lists of hospitals, doctors, medications, and being on Medicare disability since age 21, they still made no commitment to look into the matter. When she described his Bipolar diagnosis, they finally said;
"Yeah, they all claim to be bipolar."
What transpired over the next 5 weeks was a form of cruelty which no one should be subjected to. Meds were not given until after several physical alterations which endangered this ill man as well as other inmates and the jail staff. Eventually his injuries added up and he was suspected of having broken bones. An ambulance was then ordered so he could be transported to an emergency medical facility.
But Jail administrators cancelled the ambulance citing the expense as "not necessary" and they stuck the man into the back of a squad car to the nearest hospital emergency room. The medical personnel at OSU Regional Hospital was shocked at the treatment of the man whom they'd just diagnosed with a broken neck, broken lower spine, and broken pelvis.
The staff at OSU Regional then determined he needed more specialized care than their facility was equipped for, and decided to transfer the inmate to another medical facility via ambulance. Again, the sheriff's administration insisted on taking this man off the gurney and putting him back into a squad car for another car ride without medical personnel handling him. the OSU Regional staff dug in their heels and eventually the deputies of the sheriff relented and the patient was safely transported without incident.
Now, any reasonable jail medical staff would have consulted patient medical history when a mother comes forward with her plea. The man should have either been given psychiatric meds which his doctors had deemed effective for him. If the psychotic man had refused the meds, the sheriff's office should have sought a judge's immediate order for psychiatric detention and assessment at a mental health state facility. If the assessment determines psychosis, the man is ordered into mandatory treatment in a clinical facility until stable enough to return to the criminal justice process, to face the charges which landed him in the jail.
But instead, Sheriff Regalado and the District Attorney's office dropped all criminal charges (he had been held on a $100K bond).When news media representatives asked about the danger to the community, Regalado dismissed the concern citing the broken spine and pelvis as a sufficient preventative. The man was released into the community but the sheriff had accomplished his objective of being spared the medical costs of the hospital stay.
The man did spend a short time in the hospital before returning to his apartment. But just a few weeks later, the man was again in trouble with the law. Still showing signs of bipolar disorder being out of control, the man was in a police chase in Bartlesville which significantly endangered the people of Washington County. And this incident may never have happened if Tulsa Sheriff Regalado had truly acknowledged the mental health crisis at the outset, or at least after the several broken bones.
Ziva Branstetter of The Frontier has followed this story for several weeks and has had to file a lawsuit to get video footage of the various claimed story lines which the jail staff has cited as causing the severe injuries. Regalado and his advisors (Terry Simonson is one of them) has determined to fight the effort at transparency and according to reports, one incidence of the man falling down a flight of stairs while being moved by jail staff, is mysteriously not available even if a judge orders the release of video.
Another family tells KOTV channel 6 that their father suffered a severe brain hemorrhage from a fainting spell and fall, at the jail. His bloody head wound was patched, but he was told to lay down even as he complained of symptoms which any medical personnel should associate with a possible brain hemorrhage. Minutes matter when a stroke or aneurysm happens, but this man life was severely endangered because he was not moved to a medical facility for stroke care for over 24 hours. And again, the sheriff's administration (pretending to be triage experts) determined he did not need an ambulance. He was stuck into a squad car for the ride to medical treatment. Instead of paramedics beginning assessment immediately, he sat in an emergency room and waited even longer.
When the man was released from the jail, it took weeks for his family to get his jail records. The timeline should have been immediately available when he was transferred to a medical emergency facility. Family again had to fight for weeks to get transparency.
I'm a member of the Executive Committee of NAMI Tulsa. the National Alliance on Mental Illness is the nation's largest advocacy group for the mentally ill. I'm trained in some of NAMI's signature programs including the Family To Family course for helping families better understand and care for their mentally ill loved ones. Our local board has many professionals, individuals in successful recovery, and family caregivers.
A retired police officer with a Schizophrenic son. His son's psychosis has resulted in confrontations leading to jail time. the retired cop told the NAMI Tulsa board that he personally called the jail no less than 40 times, trying to convince the jail to prescribe effective medication to treat the psychosis. But instead, the medical staff refused to treat the illness, leading to jail fights, endangered jail staff and especially.... serious injury to the delusional young man with paranoid schizophrenia.
Opinion of the Editor
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David Van Risseghem is the Director of Sooner Politics.org. The resource is committed to informing & mobilizing conservative Oklahomans for civic reform. This endeavor seeks to utilize the efforts of all cooperative facets of the Conservative movement...