CPEP: Syracuse’s Gitmo (Part II)


            Next, after you walk into CPEP (Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program) everything you have is taken away from you.  Your cell phone, telephone/address book, sweatshirt and Weekly Reader—all taken away from you and locked up.

            You are now, unequivocally, in prison.  This is not health care; this is lockdown.  You have been stripped of all your rights, as surely as an Iraqi terrorist at Guantanamo Bay.  Oh, heck, a whole lot more surely than a terrorist at Gitmo.  And no, you don’t have the right to call a lawyer.  If you weren’t an emotional basket case before, you certainly are now—and now you have to wait for the psychiatrist.  You can’t leave without seeing him, her or it, remember?

            Psychiatrists at CPEP commonly work sixteen hour shifts, for the simple reason that nobody in their right mind wants to work there.  For years, it has been understood that the complete loser who runs this horror house—Dr. Roger Levine—keeps his job solely because nobody else wants it.  Any idiot can get the job and keep it.  What kind of man wants to rule over hell?

            There is only one psychiatrist on duty at a time.  The patients come in at the rate of about one every twenty minutes.  It is a total impossibility for one doctor to see a new patient, make a comprehensive assessment, design a treatment plan, and do the follow-up paper work in twenty minutes.  It cannot be done, nevertheless, it must be.  It is a rational absurdity.

            Some lucky few get seen, screened and sent home with prescriptions for a ton of drugs that are guaranteed to make them numb, passive—quite possibly sound asleep—and non-combative for at least twelve hours, by which time the psychiatrist will have gone home and it will be somebody else’s problem.  The rest of the patients are admitted to the back.

            People throw around the word “hell” so casually.  “It was hell.”  “I felt like I was in hell.”  “It was a hellish experience.”  There is, classically, only one Hell, therefore I have made it a practice to describe really, really bad situations as “unpleasant,” “awful,” “dreadful,”  “alarming,” “shocking,” or “vile.”  I figure you need to reserve your worst adjective for the worst situation imaginable—no, no, for the situation that is beyond imagination.

            CPEP is hell.

            A pastor once described Heaven as “infinite options” and Hell as “no options.”  I say again, CPEP is hell.  By the time you arrive there, you have been denuded of all self-respect.  Clearly, you have been strip searched and locked up because you are a terrible person.  It is not about a doctor’s psychiatric diagnosis:  it is about society’s moral judgment.

            The staff stays as far away from you as they can, which means they refuse to come out of the nursing station.  They are safe behind walls and no matter what is happening to you they will not come out. 

You are left alone with the other patients, who comprise the spectrum of human aberrations.  Drunk and disorderly, sexual perversion, suicidal depression, behavioral problem, hallucinating schizophrenic, adolescent acting out, convicted killer, terrified ten-year-old, and—oh yes—Old Lady who’s been raped—they’re all in there together.  And guess what?

There are no locks on the bathroom doors.  Seriously.  CPEP was designed without locks on the bathroom doors because, hey, somebody could lock themselves in and do something terrible to themselves.  Or the Old Lady who’s been raped could be trying to pee and any one of the other patient for any one of a hundred reasons—disorientation, disregard, disgust—could walk in on her.  Hey, are we having fun yet?

Welcome to CPEP.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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2 Responses to CPEP: Syracuse’s Gitmo (Part II)

  1. linda says:

    Yes CPEP is hell and the staff are all sadistic – shame on NYS for allowing the barbaric archaic facilities to operate and abuse and destroy lives!!! We the people need to cloose down these abusive dungeons and help people that are in need rather than punishing drugging and restraining. People in the name of health care. There is no care given at CPEP only torture and in the end scarred individuals with forced medical bills handed to them.

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