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TAC 2/3/06


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February 3, 2006


1. MENTALLY ILL MAN ON LONG ROAD - Raleigh News & Observer, January 19, 2006

Hendersonville Times News, January 4, 2006


Union-Tribune, January 30, 2006

Valley Press, November 20, 2005


1. RALEIGH NEWS & OBSERVER (NC), January 19, 2006

[Editor’s Note: The latest on Phil Wiggins offers a ray of hope, but one that
comes only after many months and the application of extensive, concentrated and
coordinated mental health resources - a targeted effort in large brought on by
the dogged efforts of his sister, Louise Jordan, and more than likely the public
spotlight on his progress created by reporter Ruth Sheehan.]


By Ruth Sheehan, Staff Writer

Phil Wiggins' emergence from 44 years in a state psychiatric hospital has been a
series of highs and lows, mirroring the promise -- and challenges -- of the
mental health reform effort he personifies.

Over the last seven months, he has shown glimmers of great promise. Bursts of
humor. A renewed interest in reading science texts.

He has also churned through five community-based social workers, the folks who
stay with him all day. He has begun "cheeking" his medicine for schizophrenia
and impulse control, refusing to swallow it.

And then of course, last fall, his sister, Louise Jordan of Raleigh, received
notice that Wiggins was being evicted from his group home in Zebulon after
trying to start a fire in the back yard with baking soda and cologne.

For two months, Jordan visited a grim selection of other homes. But the new year
brought good news. With his sixth social worker, Wiggins seems to be making
progress again -- so he's being allowed to stay at the group home.

I've followed Wiggins for nearly two years now in his journey back into the
community. I've been struck by the beneficial effects of more freedom and
interaction with the outside world. And I've been stunned at how quickly those
advances can be lost when logistical obstacles arise -- a break between social
workers or a delay in testing to make sure he's still swallowing his meds.

Keeping a patient as profoundly mentally ill as Wiggins on the right track
requires a huge investment.

First of all, 56 hours per week of one-on-one care. Forty hours with one worker
and 16 hours on the weekend with another.

That does not include the day program his social worker will soon begin
attending with him, to help him learn to socialize.

Nor does it include the basic care he receives at the group home, from the
psychiatric nurse who is on duty during daylight hours, and from the additional
person the group-home owner has hired to be on hand overnight in case Wiggins
wanders. Which he does.

On top of all that is Anita High, his uber-social worker, and the team that
arranges for every necessity from clothing to psychiatric care.

But when things are going well, even a man as sick as Wiggins is capable of
tremendous progress.

On a recent Wednesday, I met Wiggins and his new social worker, along with
Jordan and High at a Ruby Tuesdays in North Raleigh.

The wait for our food seemed endless. Yet Wiggins sat quietly. He even commented
on the restaurant's lively decor.

It was such a contrast from 21 months ago, when we first met. Then, Wiggins
could not sit for five minutes in a meeting at a state psychiatric hospital in
Goldsboro about his future. The meetings would barely begin and he'd shout,
"Louise! How about we go to Hardees?"

He had no clue about his future, much less about the decor of any room he sat

So at Ruby Tuesdays, as we fought over the bill at the end of the meal, we all
roared with laughter when Wiggins told his social worker to let Jordan pay.

"Save your money," he said, "and spend it on me."

A small victory? Yes. But in it lies some hope that mental health reform can



[Editor’s Note: Their stories are not so well chronicled as that of Phil Wiggins
but those of others affected by North Carolina’s shearing of its capacity for
inpatient psychiatric treatment can also be found in the Henderson County Jail.]


By Joel Burgess

It was a normal day in the classification pod of the Henderson County Jail. Of
the dozen or so inmates, one was schizophrenic, two were from group homes, which
often treat those with developmental disabilities, one was on suicide watch and
a handful were withdrawing from alcohol, heroin or other drug addictions.

Of the 151 inmates in the jail that day, head nurse Karen Styles estimated 90
had some degree of mental illness and more than 100 had "alcohol or drug

"I would say there are probably 24 that have major mental health medications
that they are on," said Styles, an eight-year veteran of correctional medicine.

Considering what it has been like for the past year, this was just another day
for Styles.

"I call it little Broughton, without the medications," she said, referring to
the state hospital in Morganton where the jail sends inmates with extreme mental
illnesses. Or at least that was where the jail used to send such cases, she
said, before sweeping state mental health changes effectively cut off that
avenue of treatment.

Now the jail has become the "dumping ground," she said, for many of the
community's seriously mentally ill.

'The Archangel'

One such person was jailed two months ago after being picked up with a stolen
car in Henderson County. Styles cannot give out names of mentally ill inmates
because of medical confidentiality rules, but said before being incarcerated the
man had been staying with his sister in Buncombe County.

"He disappeared into the cold one night, and she took out commitment papers,
because she knew about his mental illness," Styles said.

The man, "Inmate A," told jail officers he was "the archangel" and was going to
kill himself and that he could take his eyeballs out.

Using the small length of cord on an inmate telephone he tried to hang himself.
An officer intervened and stopped him.

Though there have been many attempts, the jail has never had a suicide, due
largely, Styles said, to officers' diligence.

Officers took Inmate A's clothes and put him into a safety gown, a loose garment
that cannot be tied, burned or torn. They placed him into a small padded cell
absent of any furniture or fixtures except a light and a hole in the center of
the floor with a grate over it.

Styles, realizing the man needed more treatment than she or local facilities
could offer, got on the phone to try to get him committed to Broughton.

She found out about the commitment papers the sister had taken out and got in
touch with her.

"I learned that in Georgia he literally did pull his eyeball out because he
thought it was the end times," she said. Intensive surgery was required to save
his eye.

While on the phone Styles said she heard a "pop."

Inmate A had smashed his head against the padded wall and blood was now running
from a wound.

Officers took him from the room and transported him to Pardee Hospital. At the
hospital a psychiatric social worker evaluated him and said he was commitable to

The hospital has its own psychiatric ward, but it is not set up to handle

Broughton refused admission, saying the inmate could be kept safely in the jail.

"So we had a person that was truly psychotic, good and strong physically, that
had injured himself before, hanged himself in his cell, we moved him into the
rubber room and he bounced and hit the wall so hard that he lacerated his head,
and they won't take him," Styles said.

Inmate A's injury required further medical attention and he was transferred to
Mission Hospitals in Asheville, ending the jail's responsibility for him. Styles
has tried unsuccessfully to get in touch with his sister and has been unable to
find out what became of Inmate A.

Much Different

Before the overhaul of the mental health system, the situation would have played
out much differently, Styles said.

If an inmate was having a psychotic episode, Styles would call Trend Mental
Health, the public mental health care provider for Henderson and Transylvania

Officers would transport the inmate to Trend for an evaluation and if necessary
Trend would call Broughton. Broughton routinely accepted such patients.

That changed with the reforms.

With the stated goal of achieving parity in mental health services and providing
users with more choices, the state dismantled the existing system of small local
public providers.

County programs such as Trend no longer give direct care such as counseling or
drug prescriptions. Instead, private contractors are supposed to provide care
under the umbrella of a central administrative unit, or Local Management Entity.

For Henderson, Transylvania, Polk and five other counties, the LME is Western
Highlands, based in Asheville.

Meanwhile, state mental hospitals that in the past dealt with the most severe
cases are reducing the number of beds for mental patients and cutting the length
of stays. The idea is to force communities to play a greater role in caring for
mentally ill residents.

Broughton administrators question whether the problems experienced by the
Henderson County Jail are really part of the reform, saying they are more likely
due to the exploding population in the mountains.

Hospital Director Seth Hunt said at Broughton and the other three state
hospitals that specialize in mental illness the patient population has
"increased pretty dramatically."

"When you look at the 2000 census you see that the population has changed but
without any exponential increase in services," Hunt said. "That is not
necessarily a problem with reform."

Broughton serves 37 counties that contain 36.4 percent of the state's
population, he said.

The hospital does not have beds designated for mentally ill inmates, but takes
them on a case-by-case basis according to the degree of sickness and potential
danger they could present.

"I don't know that we're being any more strict, but we're having to make
adjustments," he said.

State cutbacks have taken Broughton from 500 beds to 339 with further reforms
set to reduce that number to between 278 and 290.

The situation has the potential to get better with the construction at Broughton
and at Butner in Eastern North Carolina of 50-bed forensics units designed to
handle inmates.

At Broughton the $6 million unit could be completed by the summer of 2007.

Broughton has about 20 to 30 inmate patients and after the completion of the
unit will likely take back 10 to 15 western inmates from Dorothea Dix Hospital
in Raleigh, leaving it with five to 10 beds "wiggle room," Hunt said.


Though Hunt sees no direct link, mental health providers in Henderson County say
that the reforms happened shortly before the jail began having difficulty
getting higher-level care for inmates.

"It's the trickle-down effect," said Barry Beavers, director of adult services
at Mountain Laurel Community Services. "As the state hospitals get further along
in their attempts to downsize they are having to get firmer with directives of
how to deal with clients that we would historically refer to them."

Mountain Laurel is a private nonprofit mental health organization that handles
many of the services formerly provided by Trend.

Beavers said emergency rooms are not equipped to deal with these people and he
thinks the new forensics unit at Broughton will help.

"But my perspective on mental health reform and what we need to do as a
community at this point is to move away from the idea that our state hospital
system is the answer to a lot of our ills and concerns," he said. "It's a lot
about our partnerships and what we can do here in our community."

Already Beavers has been working with Styles and other jail nurses to help the
inmates, going to the jail for assessments rather than making officers bring
them to Mountain Laurel.

The biggest problem in this type of work is a prohibition against billing for
services to incarcerated individuals. For this reason many of the new private
programs will be reluctant to pick up this area of last resort.

Though this puts a strain on Mountain Laurel's budget, Beavers said the service
is an important link in the chain of overall care.

"There are certain things we are just going to have to reach out and take care
of," he said.

Styles, meanwhile, said she is hoping for a change.

The increased number of severe mentally ill people in the jail has stretched
staff to the limits, she said, and left her with no time to sit down and work
through a solution.

She points to one inmate who she said had a "long violent history," and was put
in jail without the medication he needed for mental illness.

"He was constantly threatening to kill the officers and the other inmates. He
kicked the door every day and was just really violent," she said.

Styles tried to get him committed to Broughton but was refused. The inmate only
had a $400 bond. He was soon back on the streets.

As far as she knows there have been no incidents where inmates who needed mental
health treatment have left the jail and injured someone, she said, "but it


3. ASSOCIATED PRESS, February 2, 2006

[Editor’s Note: The saga of Andrea Yates continues. After being awarded a new
trial, mainly because of false statements by an expert witness for the
prosecution, she will now spend her time awaiting that trial in a psychiatric
facility, perhaps where she should have been all along.]


By Pam Easton, Associated Press Writer

HOUSTON (AP) -- Andrea Yates left jail early Thursday for a state mental
hospital where she will await her second capital murder trial for the drowning
deaths of her young children.

Yates' attorney posted her $200,000 bond, releasing her from incarceration for
the first time since the five children were drowned in the family bathtub in
June 2001.

State District Judge Belinda Hill set the bond Wednesday.

Yates, 41, didn't speak as she left the jail. She carried a brown paper sack and
wore jeans and a blue-and-white striped shirt as she entered a car with her
attorney and a private investigator for the drive to the mental hospital.

The judge said she couldn't order Yates to commit herself to the East Texas
hospital, but said she set the bond based on Yates remaining at the hospital
until her March 20 trial.

Once the trial gets under way, Yates will return to the Harris County Jail for
the duration of the trial, expected to last four to six weeks.

Yates faces capital murder charges for drowning three of the children and has
pleaded innocent by reason of insanity.

A jury rejected her original insanity defense in 2002 and sentenced her to life
in prison for the drowning of 7-year-old Noah, 5-year-old John and 6-month-old
Mary. Prosecutors presented evidence about the drownings of Paul, 3, and Luke,
2, but Yates was not charged in their deaths.

An appeals court last year overturned the convictions based on testimony by the
state's expert witness about a nonexistent episode on television's "Law & Order"
series. The expert, Park Dietz, said a show about a woman with postpartum
depression who drowned her children aired shortly before Yates killed her five


4. SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, January 30, 2006

[Editor’s Note: And as Andrea Yates, at least for a while, enters an inpatient
psychiatric facility, Thomas Earl Johnson will enter prison, still maintaining
that “he is an alien, is currently 2,000 years old and expects to be recycled
into a younger body.”]


By Jose Luis Jimenez, Union-Tribune Staff Writer

VISTA - Thomas Earl Johnson, the mentally disturbed 57-year-old Carlsbad man
convicted of second-degree murder and attempted murder for attacking his family,
was sentenced Monday to 16 years to life in prison.

Although the Probation Department recommended the maximum possible sentence of
33 years to life in prison, Superior Court Judge Marguerite Wagner chose the
lowest sentence, citing Johnson's long, documented struggle with mental illness.

In an interview with probation officials, Johnson explained his family pushed
him “over the line” the day of the Feb 16, 2004 attack in the family's Woodridge
Circle home. He also maintains he is an alien, is currently 2,000 years old and
expects to be recycled into a younger body, which will free him from prison.

In November, the former Air Force flight engineer was convicted of second-degree
murder in the stabbing death of his frail father, Robert Johnson, 84, and two
counts of attempted murder for trying to kill his mother Rita Johnson, 80, and
his 5-year-old great nephew, Corey Lucas.

He stabbed his father in bed, beat and choked his mother, and stabbed and broke
the jaw of the little boy.

Johnson, who pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, was found to be sane by a
Superior Court jury on Dec. 8.

He was arrested 12 days after the attack. He was found sleeping in his car in
Monterey with his father's blood still on his jeans, according to testimony
during the six-week trial.


5. ANTELOPE VALLEY PRESS (CA), November 20, 2005

[Editor’s Note: Three suicides, one family. Not surprisingly, also can be
found among the members of that family are two of the main conditions found in
those who take their own lives - substance abuse and severe mental illness.]


By Titus Gee, Valley Press Staff Writer

Suicide haunts Linda Marquez .

Three of her loved ones took their own lives - her mother, her husband, her son.

No death could be more devastating to the people left behind, Linda said.

The people who kill themselves may think the world is better off without them,
"but they don't realize that what they're doing is leaving people with a life
sentence, especially the people that love them the most," she said.

Her son's death finally drove her to speak out.

"I thought, this is too much. People need to know," she said.

Experts estimate 1 million people attempt suicide every year, and 30,000 die by
it. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens and young adults,
and the second leading cause of death among college students.

"They really go through a lot of stuff. The pressures are huge," Linda said.
"Life is hard. … So many things happen in life. It is about learning how to deal
with things and how to cope."

Four years after her son died by suicide, Linda finally has begun to think of
other things.

Today, she will turn her growing strength toward helping others.

Linda and other grieving families and friends will walk five kilometers,
starting in Santa Monica, to raise support for suicide awareness and prevention.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's "Out of the Darkness" walks
bring hope to anyone thinking of ending his or her life and to loved ones
suffering the aftershock of a suicide.

"It takes an enormous toll" on loved ones, foundation director Bob Gebbia said.

Linda first experienced that toll at age 15. Her mother, Betty Kelly ,struggled
with bipolar disorder and hanged herself when Linda was in high school. School
helped the young girl cope, but her mother's suicide hit her father pretty hard,
she said.

Linda tried to move on. She grew up, married and had three kids.

But her husband, Tony Webb, had a drinking problem. One night, after they
argued, he shot himself in the head.

Linda struggled quietly, immersing herself in the care of three children younger
than 3. Eventually she remarried and had three more children. She kept the pain
to herself.

"I never told people how they really died. I just said my mom died of cancer. I
didn't want them to know she hung herself," Linda said. "Then when my husband
did it… I just said he was in a car wreck."

When her son died, the front of stoicism and silence went with him.

"The first year … I had a problem just being able to breathe," she said.

Linda was vacationing in Florida with her husband and young daughters when she
heard that her son, Raymond Webb, hanged himself.

"I just could not believe it," Linda said. "I just remember thinking this can't
be happening again."

Raymond was 25 and had two children. His addiction to methamphetamine, or
"speed," had landed him in jail, but he got clean for a year.

The suicide note said he had started using again. The backsliding, and possibly
the drug itself, sent him deep into depression. "Speed" is known to turn the
mind to dark and desperate thoughts.

"He said, 'I can't stop doing this evil drug,' " she said. "He went out in the
back yard and hung himself in the middle of the night."

With her mother out of town, Raymond's sister had to call the others and make
arrangements for his body.

Linda rushed back from the East Coast, fighting her own grief while trying to
help her young daughters understand what had happened.

"It was just terrible. I can't even tell you," she said.

The 12-year-old wrote in a diary on the plane ride home, "Suicide is the worst
thing in the world."

Linda still struggles to grasp why her oldest son would take his life. He had
lived through car wrecks and major surgeries. He had fishing plans, and things
he wanted to do.

"He was always the happy one," she said. "He was such a survivor. He was just
tough and loved everything and loved life - I never in a million years thought
that he was gonna end it like that."

But he was also sensitive, she said. Failure and conflict seemed to hit him
harder than the other children.

"He felt like he was in a corner," she said, "but looking at it from my point of
view there are so many other things that we could have done, but he didn't come
to us."

Linda had spoken with quiet frankness, and sometimes even a smile. Now tears
filled her eyes.

"The first thing I thought of when I found out was, y'know, I wasn't done trying
to help him. There's so many other things we could have tried, but he gave up."

Losing a child this way surpasses any other pain - even other suicides, she

Linda would know.

The deaths of her mother and husband probably contributed to Raymond's choice,
she said.

"It just puts the idea in your head and it makes you think that's a way out,"
she said. "I think he did it because he knew that they did it."

Raymond's way out shattered his mother's world. "You don't realize how close we
are to insanity. I was a normal person and - I just snapped," she said. "I
didn't think I was ever gonna get over that. Two years I cried. Quit working and
just cried for two years."

By Christmas time the year of Raymond's death, she had totally withdrawn. If not
for her youngest daughter, she might have missed the holidays entirely.

"I was so upset, every single minute of the day. I just didn't want to see happy
people at all," Linda said. "If he knew what he did to me by killing himself, I
can guarantee he would have never done it."

Yet Linda soon faced the same temptation.

"I knew my son 25 years. That's longer than I knew my mom or my husband. I felt
like (we) grew up together," she said. "After my son died I didn't want to be
here either. I was there for two years.

"You feel like you're all alone, like no one understands," she said. "It just
never went away, you just couldn't get away from it."

She said depression turns in upon itself, making light and hope feel like
distant memories.

"This just wouldn't go away and the grieving wears you down - I can't compare it
to anything else in my life," she said.

She was mother, nurturer, a problem solver, but she couldn't fix this. She
pulled further away from life and human contact.

"When I was really bad I didn't tell anyone, because I thought, 'They're gonna
put me away,' " she said. "and I really felt in the back of my mind that I was
gonna kill myself anyway."

Most of her friends faded away, exhausted by her grief.

"I really felt like everybody let me down, except for my husband and my kids,
but I think that's because they don't know what to say after a while," she said.
"Two years is a long time to listen to someone cry about the same thing, so you
lose most of your support."

Yet, somehow her own pain also kept Linda from giving in.

"The only reason I didn't (attempt suicide) is because I knew what it did to the
people that are left behind," she said.

Many people who commit suicide don't understand the pain they cause, she said.

"They think they're doing everyone a favor, but they don't understand that,
(when) you end your life, you end all the chances of it ever getting better. And
the problems in your family only begin. Whatever pain you were in -their pain is
gonna be magnified for a lifetime."

Linda had a husband and other children to think about.

"I kept thinking, 'God, if I do then the kids are gonna do it,' " she said. "I'm
like the main one. I'm the mom. All the kids, they look to me for everything … I
knew that I had to be the example. I knew that I had to keep going and to keep
living and to get to the other side."

After wandering aimlessly for two years, Linda started to recover.

"You fight it and fight it and fight it, and I think your brain gets used to the
idea," she said. "You can't win. So that's when you just say, OK, I have to pull
myself together. … Every single day, I thought 'one more day' and I did it and
it started getting easier after a couple of years."

Her family lived for two years without a mother, she said. The strain began to

"I knew that it was a turning point for me," she said. "I knew that I had to
either jump off the bridge or really get going."

She chose to move forward, but that didn't make it easier.

"It's slow. You just have to say, I'm gonna get through today. People don't
realize it takes a long time," she said. "I just forced myself to go back to
work, force myself to go to the gym."

Still, Linda struggles. She smiles and laughs, but the sadness hovers behind her

"I still literally have to make myself do the things that I do every day," she
said. "I just had to say, no, I'm not gonna cry right now … I still (have to
say) that, because what are you gonna do? I can't cry forever, because I have
other kids - and plus, every life is worth living, is worth saving. There's
always hope. There is always hope."

Her message to young people like Raymond, who face such powerful stressors in
their lives:

"If you get in trouble mentally where you start to feel like your depressed
every day, you need to go get help. Go to the doctor and don't use (suicide) as
a way out."

Through the walk, and plans for a local support group, Linda also wants to
comfort and uplift those left behind by the suicide of a loved one.

"I know that there are people in the Antelope Valley that have kids or family
members that have died by suicide," she said.

Few resources exist for them in the Valley. She hopes "Out of the Darkness" will
help fill that void.

"I really wanted to talk to other people" who had faced it, she said. "I don't
know anyone that this has happened to."

Seeing how others have coped and grown stronger will be an important part of
today's walk in Santa Monica.

"It makes you feel not so alone ... it helps," she said. "Maybe I can help some
other moms or dads or brothers, (but) it's gonna be hard. I'll probably cry

Anyone interested in joining Marquez for today's "Out of the Darkness Walk," or
in starting a local support group, can contact her at (661) 547-1875. The
five-kilometer walk will start at 7:45 a.m. at the Third Street Promenade, in
Santa Monica.

Linda also recommended the Web site as a starting point
for anyone searching for hope, and connection to others who share their pain.

Mental health services may be found at Antelope Valley Hospital, and suicide
risk can be assessed through the emergency room. If a threat of suicide is
imminent, call 9-1-1.

For all those struggling with depression and suicide, Linda offers the lyrics of
"Hold On" by the band Good Charlotte.

Hold on if you feel like letting go

Hold on it gets better than you know

Don't stop looking, you're one step closer

Don't stop searching, it's not over

Hold on

"The biggest message here," she said, is "don't give up. Hold on. There is help
out there."


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