We are having a mass call-in tomorrow for Gloria Gervase. This is the 54-year-old woman who was brutally attacked at Trenton State Hospital in New Jersey, also known as Trenton Psychiatric Hospital. I think most of us realize that state hospitals are dumping grounds for the unwanteds. People without insurance or money, people without family, people without homes. No state hospital in any state in the USA provides real medical care at all, so the word “hospital” is a misnomer. These are no more than state-run prisons. But many of the folks incarcerated in there aren’t criminals and are not a danger to society or to themselves.
Years ago, people were sent to state hospitals because they were runaway kids, or because they were homosexuals or lesbians, or because no one cared about them. These folks never had a chance at life ever again. Even though they never met the definition of “mentally ill,” they picked up bad habits while in these institutions and were given mind-numbing drugs that had horrific side effects. The side effects alone, especially Tardive Dyskinesia, made people appear strange to outsiders who had no clue that these odd movement disorders were from medications, not illness. Thus, anyone coming out of the state hospital was immediately subject to discrimination.
Nowadays, people are still being sent to state hospitals for rather arbitrary reasons, for convenience and little else. If the system decides a person is a threat to their money and power, and they want to silence the person, psychiatrists could make statements that these patients were hopelessly psychotic or a danger to themselves or others. This determination could easily be falsely made, and the patient has no recourse. Psychiatry has the power to persuade the courts that a person is legally insane, without a shred of scientific evidence. This is because mental illness, whatever you believe about it, doesn’t usually show up on any scientifically measurable test.
Seizures show up on EEG’s, but this isn’t mental illness. Brain injuries from concussion or birth accident will also appear on an imaging test. Stroke is also visible brain damage. But none of these are mental illness, nor are they indications that a person is at all dangerous, nor a reason to imprison a person. Thus, psychiatrists are able to put people into state institutions without any basis in fact. Many aren’t even given evaluations!
What does this have to do with Gloria? Why was she put into Trenton? She was a sweet and polite woman. Hospital officials have admitted that Gloria wasn’t a danger to herself or to anyone. She was cooperative with her care team.
You won’t believe this. Gloria was living in a group home. She stopped taking showers due to a sanitation issue at the home. However, the group home decided that skipping showers was an indication of severe illness. Unfortunately, for people who already have a “mental illness” label, professionals tend to conclude that all untoward actions are illness-based. They fail to see beyond this due to profiling. Did anyone even ask? Not likely. She was whisked away to the state hospital against her will.
Gloria endured many months at Trenton. She began taking showers again, but still, they wouldn’t let her out. Guess why? Because she was quiet. She didn’t schmooze with the other patients too much, and instead, kept to herself. Again, because she had the label, “mentally ill,” the social workers at the hospital decided that surely, Gloria’s quiet demeanor was an indication that she was “severely ill.”
We know about profiling. If a black teen carrying a knapsack and wearing a hoodie walks into a store, he’ll be followed around by employees as if he were going to steal. If a white male who works a white-collar job walks in with a similar knapsack, will people think that he’s out to steal? Most likely not. They’ll assume he’s headed for the athletic club to play tennis with his pals. People who are known to have been in mental hospitals are routinely stigmatized and treated with suspicion. It’s very difficult to rid oneself of this reputation in the surrounding community once it has developed. Within the medical community, the person faces even worse discrimination.
What happened next? One night, in the wee hours when Gloria was asleep in her room at Trenton, her roommate attacked her in the most brutal way. This roommate, Florence, bashed Gloria’s eyes repeatedly. Gloria couldn’t defend herself against this woman. Her cries for help went unheeded by night staff. She was in shock and left there for hours. No one checked the room even though they were required to do this at least every half hour. Now, Gloria is blind.
She’s had one eye removed due to infection. The danger of continued infection is still very real. It could travel to her brain. We don’t yet know about the other eye. It’s still possible that she could gain some sight in it.
She’s now being kept at a medical facility, but Trenton State won’t let go of their hold on her. They have “sitters” from Trenton monitoring her at her bedside 24 hours a day. While it may be convenient for Gloria to have them there so they can assist her if she needs something, they are also there to see to it that what happened at Trenton doesn’t leak out to the public. Trenton is denying Gloria’s access to an ophthalmic specialist in this type of eye injury. Her eye care has been minimal. Mostly, they want to bring her back to the prison-like facility, where she will receive no eye care at all, nor will she receive proper training such as is provided at schools for blind folk.
Gloria has no family to advocate for her, which is part of the reason that she ended up in this predicament. However, she has a devoted boyfriend named Jeff, who visits as much as he can. They’ve been partners for a long time. But because they aren’t married, the hospital has seen to it that Jeff has no voice nor input into any decision.
We want her out of Trenton’s control. She doesn’t belong in a prison, and certainly not the prison where she was attacked. The group home where she used to live has filled her bed already, giving up on her. Now, she needs a home, and we’re hoping that this can be a training facility for adults who are newly blinded, NOT a mental facility such as Trenton.
Trenton has stated that they found ONE employee at fault and they state that this employee has been suspended without pay. Thus, their insistence that they handle this internally is an indication that they intend to sweep this under the rug, making sure the media and general public don’t catch wind of this.
On Monday, October 27, 2014, we’re asking everyone to phone New Jersey Governor Christie between 9am and 5pm. We’re hoping that Christie is flooded with calls all day long. Here’s the number: 609-292-6000. Also please call Ruth Lowenkron at 609 292-9742. She is the state disability officer working on the case. We feel she’s been lax and has stalled on getting Gloria any help. These state-run disability rights organizations are known to stall lawsuits and any action against…who else? The state itself.
Again, the two numbers are: 609-292-6000, and 609 292-9742. 9 to 5, Eastern Daylight Time (-4:00).
Please share via Tweets and Facebook. Please Tweet to Gov Christie at @GovChristie.
Please refer to the Facebook page, www.facebook.com/hopeforgloria,
Also see the article in Mad in America: http://www.madinamerica.com/2014/10/blinding-gloria-x-new-jersey-state-hospital-just-mental-patient/