How much would you pay to not be locked up in a mental health facility for the rest of your life? Most people would pay millions of dollars if they had that much money. But if they are in San Diego and pay less than $250,000, the local office of the FBI probably will not investigate the case. That’s because the FBI has a huge caseload of drug smuggling cases involving millions of dollars in San Diego and does not have enough agents in the field to investigate smaller cases more than a few times a year. This is a national problem, but the suicide of former San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau last year following his struggle with chronic traumatic encephalopathy spotlighted the extreme defects in San Diego County’s mental health treatment programs.
The role that foreign doctors play in locking up Americans in mental health facilities for years is getting global attention for the first time. This weekend, a new psychodrama called “Side Effects” starring Jude Law and Rooney Mara will open in theaters nationwide. Law plays a foreign psychiatrist, Dr. Jonathan Banks, with an out-of-work wife (Vanessa Shaw) and a lot of debts. Although an investigation by a New York assistant district attorney shows that a patient with detailed knowledge of an insider trading scheme is actually sane, Banks is able to have the patient locked up in a mental health facility and gets to keep the $50,000 “research fee.” The brilliant screenwriter Scott Burns cleverly shows county health employees looking the other way while they read about a program called “Getting the Most Out of Your Pension Benefits.”
San Diego reflects the opposite side of this coin -- a county whose mental health staff is so distracted that life threatening San Diego County Health Department mistakes have become too numerous to report in a single article. Global headlines have focused on the thirteen dead and dozens injured at the July 2012 Aurora, Colorado theater slaughter by a longtime San Diego resident. Killer James E. Holmes lived in San Diego until 2011, when he moved to Colorado to study in a Doctor of Medical Science program. His tragic story was not the end. Just last week, a young man burned himself and injured two others when he started a large fire at the Heritage Inn when trying to refine a recreational drug from hashish. The policy of Legal Aid of San Diego to provide free legal services to tenants who violate lease terms prohibiting fires made this tragedy inevitable.
These incidents are just the tip of a very large iceberg. USA Cycling’s most popular training facility is in San Diego County, but the San Diego Public Health Department was too confused to investigate serious reports published by VeloNews of San Diego about well documented doping habits in cycling circles. The specific charges used to silence VeloNews reporter Paul Kimmage were that Kimmage “needed a psychiatrist.” The actual facts show that it was Kimmage’s critics and the San Diego Public Health Department who were suffering from denial. And while San Diego County’s health officials showered counseling resources on hundreds of residents made homeless when the “Cedar Fire” burnt down their homes in 2003, the advice was worth little when many of the homes burned down again in 2007.
How important a role does money play in this public health breakdown? The San Diego County Health Department staff frequently point out that they do not have enough resources. You can read all about it in the April 2009 issue of San Diego Voice and Viewpoint. So the San Diego County Health Department has felt comfortable subcontracting mental health assessments to foreign doctors who happen to be officers of foreign military units and therefore cannot be prosecuted in the United States. They can be deported, but there is no evidence that has ever happened.
There is a special loophole formulated by the Academy of Special Needs Planners that lets foreigners collect large sums of money from patients threatened with being locked up in a mental health facility. That is that trust attorneys who are members of the Academy of Special Needs Planners publish clauses allowing payments to foreigners who evaluate becoming a fiduciary for the assets of patients threatened with being locked up in a mental health facility by members of the Academy of Special Needs Planners. These fiduciaries can be foreign diplomats or military officers not subject to prosecution in the U.S. They can live on yachts registered in Somalia, too. And if they sell gold or jewelry to an American government employee for a fraction of its value, the IRS rarely finds out about it.
While some Americans just pay with money, some pay with their lives. Former San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau committed suicide in North San Diego County last summer after battling the side effects of multiple concussions. His death highlighted the extraordinary incompetence of the San Diego County Health Department. Now his family is suing the National Football League, which in turn is conducting its own investigations in San Diego. This high profile case is very sad, but may be able to build on the momentum of the publicity from “Side Effects” to get San Diego voters ready to do something about it.