Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute

Name of Hospital: Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute

City, State/Province, Country: Georgetown, Texas, USA

Number of Stars: 3.5

Comment: The care in this facility varied from highly competent and compassionate to abysmal. I had attempted suicide after being prescribed gabapentin off label for back/chest pain. I later found out that gabapentin has a sordid research and marketing history: the manufacturer downplayed its tendency to cause suicidal ideation from the first trials and exaggerated its effectiveness for pain. This resulted in one of the largest drug settlements ever for fraud and racketeering.

The first psychiatrist I saw, who didn’t ask what I had been on when I tried to kill myself, seemed to prescribe Effexor, Depakote, and Seroquel off label to everyone, whether or not there was evidence of psychosis or seizures or anything else for which these drugs had actually been approved. The former drugs amplified my chest/back pain and left me howling in agony, the latter made me plop to the ground.

The noise at night was horrific: sonic toilets, yelling techs, no acoustical buffering, causing sleep deprivation in people already in pain and mental distress. Not helpful. At the end of more than I week I was worse. I was finally transferred to a geriatric unit, and a wonderful psych nurse, who took my pain seriously, prescribed  methocarbamol, a muscle relaxant, which had been around since the 1940s, along with a low dose of valium. I suspect that many people were being mismedicated and their stays prolonged like mine: the visits with the psychiatrists were very short and mostly fishing for reasons to push the newer drugs that are being marketed aggressively for use off label, when there are older and safer alternatives.

There was also a heavy religious atmosphere. At one point I was questioned by a social worker if I thought suicide was “moral.” When I saw the doctor for a sinus infection, he didn’t want to treat it, but gave me his views on the second coming of Jesus Christ. I played along with this and expressed gratitude to the Lord in the mandatory morning meetings so I could get released (I do not ascribe to any particular faith, but it was clear that heathens were not looked upon gladly, and I heard at least one “I rebuke you in the name of Jesus”).

The med nurses varied from excellent to utterly incompetent: I learned to take my list of meds with me and watch carefully (I had to remind a nurse once to split a pill, and I saw another woman become very ill when they screwed up her heart medication). More than one employee was downright nasty and belittled my physical pain.

I spent over two weeks in this facility, when, if I had been treated appropriately from the outset, it would have been only a few days. I am on disability, and it cost me and Medicare many thousands of dollars. It’s unfortunate, because I would recommend a few of the people: the therapists were for the most part helpful and kind, as were most of the nurses and some of the techs, but the doctors, except for the psych nurse, seem to be unquestioning followers of Big Pharma.

Type of program (i.e. day program, inpatient): Inpatient

 Any other identities/marginalizations (i.e. race/gender/sexuality) that could have influenced your stay?: Not being Christian (although not asked directly)

Year(s) : 2016

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