Friday, November 23, 2007

L.A Times Letter to the Editor From Mike St. Martin

To the Editor,

While I believe the piece was, overall, even handed and objective, I do need to take exception to several points in your Thursday, November 15 article "Turmoil Replaces Treatment at Coalinga State Hospital". As one of the people forced to live the nightmare of confinement in C.S.H. and as one of the sources contributing to this story, I know that the paper checked and rechecked the information I, and other Detainees, provided. However, the same diligence does not appear to have been applied in investigating either the backgrounds of, or statements by, Department of Mental Health employees.

Dr. Deirdre D'Orazio was quoted as saying that she believed in her program at C.S.H. and that she wouldn't be working there if it were a scam. However, a more thorough investigation would have revealed that Dr. D'Orazio had, at the time of her appointment to head C.S.H.'s Sex Offender Treatment Program, less than one year of experience following receipt of her Psychologist's license from the State of California. Her Ph.D. is from "Alliant University".

It should be noted that the program of which she is in charge must certainly be one of the largest such sex offender treatment programs in the world. How is it, then, that Dr. D'Orazio emerged as the leading candidate to assume such an important position? What are her unique qualifications which set her apart from a field of candidates, some of whom were educated in institutions whose names we are likely to recognize?

I would like to propose a possible answer to this question: Dr. Deirdre D'Orazio was willing to work for an organization from which highly respected, and self-respecting, psychologists and psychiatrists flee in horror, its abysmal reputation within the psychotherapeutic community dissuading any but the most desperate. As examples of such desperation: those with significant malpractice histories; nationals from India who can tolerate much to gain U.S. Residency; and grossly under-qualified (and in some cases completely un-credentialed) individuals who will, in desperation, jump at the opportunity for a professional-sounding title and salaries at multiples of what they could possibly earn in the private sector.

Having said that, I feel a little bad for appearing to single out Dr. D'Orazio so let me be clear: she is not an exception within C.S.H.; she IS the Rule. Most people working here are grossly unqualified for their positions. We have executive level administrators with final decision-making and policy-setting latitude who possess no more than high school diplomas.

Dr. Mayberg, Head of D.M.H., has stated, "Undertaking something of this magnitude is a growing and learning experience. Where we are right now is a move in the right direction." Only in the D.M.H. can four directors in two years, one-third of the required staff, patients on strike and refusing to participate in treatment, newspapers, t.v. and radio reporting on the death of a patient who was left to die on the floor of a gymnasium for want of medical attention while staff looked on, can such a reality be considered "a move in the right direction."

He also stated that he is disappointed that so few patients choose not to participate in the "Treatment" program but that he also thinks that this is indicative of our illness. In other words, if you don't agree with me, you're sick.

Of course, Dr. D'Orazio's enthusiasm for conducting "psychological autopsies" on still-living patients has nothing to do with our unwillingness to engage in treatment which has itself been roundly derided by leading sexual abuse researchers. No, it must be symptomatic of "our illness".

This isn't the first time Dr. Mayberg has failed to rouse himself to a state of appropriate response. Last year, in testimony before the State Senate following the Justice Department's scathing report on Napa and Metropolitan Hospitals, he stated , "I also noticed that we had a problem about 12 years ago and I've been working on it."

In September of this year, D'Orazio told the Ventura County Star2 that the five-phase treatment program created in 1996 is "too young to determine its long-term effect and that the number of patients is too small to have statistical value", hardly a ringing endorsement for a program costing taxpayers upwards of $200,000 per year per patient.

Coalinga Administration still insists that there is a clear path to release. Yet of the over 800 patients under the law, the courts have only released, on average, one patient every two years. At this rate, it will take about 1,500 years for everyone to get out. But then, that's the idea, isn't it? As Michael Feer stated in your article, C.S.H. "is a treatment hospital built with a wink to the public." D.M.H. has a vested interest in this program never working.

This is a hospital on paper only - it doesn’t treat patients, but warehouses them indefinitely after they’ve completed their prison sentences. Joseph Stalin would be proud of your accomplishment.

Mike St. Martin,

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