Thursday, January 6, 2011
7 News Investigations: A Sister's Sorrow Follow-Up
The death of a man with mental illness may change the way mental hospitals release their patients. The action follows the death of a man discharged from a hospital last year. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero first exposed the case and now has the latest in "A Sister's Sorrow."
WSVN -- More than five months have passed since Patricia saw her younger brother alive, but she remembers what she'll miss the most.
Patricia Taime-Haslett: "His smile. Michael just had such a smile, I'm sorry."
Last July, Michael Taime, a troubled soul with a history of mental illness was found dead in front of a Ft. Lauderdale restaurant with no shoes. Twelve hours earlier a mental hospital released him without him having any solid arrangements for where he would go next, and without notifying his family.
Patricia Taime-Haslett: "What we as a family would like to know is, how did they released my brother to the streets in the condition that he was?"
Imperial Point Medial Center told 7 News its doctors had determined Michael was competent and that he did not want his family notified of his discharge. He had been hospitalized for 13 days after threatening suicide by overdosing on pills.
Patricia Taime-Haslett: "He even went to tell them how he would kill himself."
And it turns out that is just what he did. The Broward medical examiner concluded Michael died from "combined drug intoxication" and ruled his death a suicide.
Mark Riordan, FL Dept. of Children and Families: "There are gaps in the level of care, that this case revealed."
Mark Riordan is a spokesman for the Department of Children and Families. The agency recently concluded it's investigation into Michael's death.
Mark Riordan: "We didn't find that the hospital had done anything wrong, but did we find that there are things on a broader scale, that this case sort of surfaced, that could be done differently or better, in the future. Absolutely."
To help fix what DCF calls "weaknesses" in the system, mental health facilities are being sent recommendations to improve care in areas like "discharge planning" and "risk assessment." Patricia is not impressed.
Patricia Taime-Haslett: "We are going to teach them to make sure to not to discharge a patient out on the streets without shoes, and with proper clothing, that makes no sense to me."
The DCF document also recommends mental hospitals set up a solid link to wherever patients go after their treatment, so they do not end up falling through the cracks.
Mark Riordan: "We think that probably the facilities need to take a greater role in making sure there is something waiting on the other side for the patients."
Patricia contends all of the decisions should involve patients' families. Something she says did not happen in her brother's case.
Patricia Taime-Haslett: "Why would you put a block cement wall between the patient and the doctor and the family?"
Riordan agrees and says it is the State's hope that from this tragedy things will improve.
Mark Riordan: "If simply the reforms that we discuss in that document, end with that document, then that would be a sad thing, but I think this is the beginning of some important improvements in the system."
But it is too late for Michael and those who loved him.
Patricia Taime-Haslett: "My brother didn't want to die. My brother just didn't want to feel the way he was feeling."
Carmel Cafiero: "Some of the recommendations require a change to state law and that's no easy task. But, Michael's family says it's worth fighting for not only for his memory, but for the next brother, sister, son, or daughter battling mental illness."
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Department of Children and Families
Baker Act Task Force
Meeting is Open to the Public: (Please call ahead, space is limited)
January 21st at 12pm
201 West Broward Blvd., Suite # 511
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301