Thursday, July 1, 2010
Carmel on the Case: Pushed to the Limit
Tonight the state is investigating a violent incident at a South Florida mental health facility. A patient there says she was pushed to the limit. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero with this special assignment report.
WSVN -- Laura Marchese says she suffers from anxiety and depression.
Laura Marchese: "I just felt like I needed some counseling. I couldn't find a job and I felt I was in some need of just speaking to somebody."
So back in March she checked herself into "South County Mental Health Center" in Delray Beach.
Laura Marchese: "I went there hopefully to get help."
But just hours after entering the facility Laura would get more hands on treatment than she bargained for.
Laura Marchese: "It happened so fast I was petrified."
7 News obtained this video from the facility. The camera rolls as Laura approaches a staff member who is in a room just off-camera.
Laura says she became upset when the staffer continuously refused to hand over her cell phone.
Laura Marchese: "At that point, I got irritated and kept saying 'I need to call my family, I need my phone numbers.'"
It's what happened next that left her in even greater need for her cell phone two hands and one violent shove Laura was sent flying backwards.
Laura Marchese: "He pushed me with all his force, and I went flying into a doorjam and fell and hit my head, landed on my tailbone."
Watch it again. She's shoved so hard she leaves the ground, arms flailing. Then she hits a door frame across the hall so hard she says she blacked out.
Laura Marchese: "I was knocked out at first, unconscious at first and no one would come and help and pick me up. They left me laying there."
According to the police report, after the incident "staff members refused to let the victim make a phone call for help."
Laura Marchese: "As I get up, I'm holding my tailbone. I'm screaming right now, give my cell phone, need to call my family, for help, somebody call 911."
She didn't get the phone, but she did get pulled into another room by other staffers.
Laura Marchase: "I am holding onto the door jam here and they are trying to put me in a room, solitary confinement room. They got me in there now."
South County Mental Health Center turned down our request for an on camera interview citing patient confidentiality concerns.
The staff member who pushed Laura admits he did it. He wrote and signed this statement, saying he told laura "she needed to move away from the door" so he could "monitor the unit." He also admitted he did "push her out of the way" but only after she used a racial slur.
Laura Marchese: "It could be a possibility that my words did provoke him, but it just, he should never have put his hands on me. As I'm going into a mental facility for help and get assaulted like that."
Carmel Cafiero. "The Center is now being investigated by the Agency for Health Care Administration which licenses and regulates health care facilities in Florida."
As for the worker, authorities are looking at the possibility of a battery charge.
Laura says now on top of her other issues he has to deal with pain from being thrown across that hallway.
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