I Sought Help, Was Involuntarily Committed, And Charged $20,000 For It

I was being treated for depression by my own doctor and psychiatrist, and went to a local mental health clinic in Essex county, NJ for a support group meeting. Afterward, one of the directors of the clinic-- a social worker-- spoke to me and advised me to go to a clinic at a local hospital where she said I would receive additional help at no charge. Instead, the place turned out to be an emergency department where I was not even examined by a psychiatrist. Two "screeners" (who are not medical professionals at all) interviewed me and recommended to the psychiatrist that I be committed. He approved their recommendation without even examining me. This was based on the fact that I had "suicidal ideation" and was therefore a danger to myself. But thoughts of suicide is one of the diagnostic criterion of depression. I told them I was being treated and had no intention of harming myself or anyone else, but they forced me into a psychiatric ward.

The ward was run by social workers and other nonprofessional personnel. I rarely even saw a psychiatrist, nurse, or therapist. They did me no good at all. I contacted my lawyer and demanded a hearing before a judge, but was told that it takes up to 20 days to set up such a hearing, during which time they can keep you confined and charge you for it.

After release in about a week, I got bills from every doctor, lab, hospital, or anyone remotely involved. They amounted to about $20,000. I have no insurance since I'm too young for Medicare but too old with other problems for any insurance company to take me. So I was left with my depression plus thousands of dollars inn bills. As an added bonus, the hospital lost my coat and watch. I complained to many government agencies but received no help.

I did a little checking up and found out how common abuses like this are. Investigations found that some screeners and doctors were getting bounties from psychiatry hospitals and wards for directing patients to them. The hospitals get paid one way or another--through insurance, by the patient himself if not insured (and they charge the uninsured much more), or by charity care paid by the government for impoverished patients. The psychiatrists just approves whatever the screener recommends since that's also in their own interest.

Here are excerpts: "U.S. Representative Patricia Schroeder of Colorado held hearings investigating the practices of psychiatric hospitals in the United States. Her committee's summary: "Our investigation has found that thousands of adolescents, children, and adults have been hospitalized for psychiatric treatment they didn't need; that hospitals hire bounty hunters to kidnap patients...that psychiatrists are being pressured by the hospitals to increase profit; that hospitals 'infiltrate' schools by paying kickbacks to school counselors who deliver students; that bonuses are paid to hospital employees, including psychiatrists, for keeping the hospital beds filled.

"The supposed experts responsible for these "diagnoses" are usually biased in favor of commitment because of their personal economic concerns or their affiliation with the psychiatric "hospital" or ward where the "patient" is or will be confined. Psychiatric "hospitals", like all businesses, need customers. In the case of psychiatric "hospitals" [or wards], they need patients. They not only want patients, they need them to stay in business. ..Keeping all those psychiatric beds filled is critical, and administrators are aggressively ensuring that they will be. Some facilities even resort to paying employees and others bonuses of $500 to $1,000 per referral. An administrator at a psychiatric "hospital" told me competition between psychiatric hospitals is "cut throat". Combine this intense competition with America's poorly written involuntary commitment laws and judges who refuse to impose protection from unwarranted commitment that bona-fide due process requires, and the result is a lot of people being deprived of liberty and suffering psychiatric stigma unjustifiably."


"Some psychiatric hospitals made a practice of admitting adolescents in distress, using the diagnosis of bipolar disorder. The federal government finally intervened, charging the hospitals with fraud and assessing fines of millions of dollars. Many of these children did not have bipolar disorder at all, but were acting inappropriately because of stresses in their families, with their friends, and at school." --Edward Drummond, M.D., Associate Medical Director at Seacoast Mental Health Center, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in _The Complete Guide to Psychiatric Drugs_ (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, 2000, pages 13-14.) Dr. Drummond graduated from Tufts University School of Medicine and was trained in psychiatry at Harvard University."

"Vulnerable people who have sought help from psychiatrists and psychologists have been falsely diagnosed and forced to undergo unwanted and often harmful psychiatric methods."

While in theory, a patient is entitled to a hearing before a judge before longer term involuntary commitment, in practice this provides little protection.
1. In most states, you can be held for 3 days just on the recommendation of a "screener," who need not even be a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists just rubber stamp the screener's recommendation.2. You can be and many people are involuntarily committed if they are considered a potential danger to themselves, i.e., if they've had thoughts of suicide. But thoughts of suicide are a common symptom of
depression; indeed, it's one of the standard DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for clinical depression.
3. For the reasons noted above, it's in the financial interest of both screeners and psychiatrists to commit people.
4. It often 3 weeks or longer to get even a preliminary hearing before a judge, during which time the person remains committed and the bills pile up.
5. Judges usually just follow the recommendation of the psychiatrist/screener, who have a vested interest in commitment. Unless you can afford to hire your own lawyer and psychiatrist, you may stay committed.
6. The person is often released before a hearing can be held, which is often weeks. That still amounts to tens of thousands of dollars in hospital and other medical bills. If you don't have insurance, they can and will charge you for it.
RG1945 RG1945
61-65, M
2 Responses Jul 30, 2010

Thank you so much for this article. I needed to hear someone else speak up for us all.

That is why I will NEVER seek "help"....it's a big scam. My younger bro was forced into the system and they tried to get my mom to pay 50,000. dollars and she didn't even have a job at the time.