In 2010, I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Side effects from medication became so severe that I was hospitalized multiple times. In the last ten years, I have returned to work by building a support system, obtaining SSDI and Medicare, and coordinating a treatment team and recovery plan for myself based on my own extensive research.
While hospitalized, I experienced and observed others experiencing the use of coercive care (i.e., the use of involuntary psychiatric detention, negative reinforcements or punishments as a means to enforce treatment adherence or compliance, and instances in which voluntary hospitalizations were converted to involuntary) to force patients to adhere to treatments. My civil and human rights were violated as were those of my peers. Afterwards, in countless peer-led support groups, I heard stories like mine, some even worse, that left patients unwilling to seek care from medical or mental health providers.
As I embarked upon a career in healthcare research, I discovered a passion for patient advocacy and realized that I could use my knowledge to conduct research to improve psychiatric care.
My current research aims are to:
- Understand the frequencies, causes for, and impact of coercive care on psychiatric patients.
- Identify potential policy changes, ranging from provider care to systems to legislation, that may decrease the use of coercive care and civil and human rights violations and increase protections for psychiatric patients.
- In collaboration with psychiatric care teams, design and test alternative treatment strategies that may prevent and reduce the use of involuntary psychiatric detention, including readmissions, and other forms of coercive care.
I am particularly interested in how policy decisions can impact the use of coercive care. For example, Maryland’s All Payor Model has been shown to increase the use of telehealth to triage psych patients and refer them to appropriate resources – avoiding unnecessary involuntary psychiatric detention and has created greater partnerships between hospitals and community organizations.
In June 2020, I founded a nonprofit organization, Beyond Medicine – Patient Advocacy, so that I can provide independent patient advocacy services, education, and conduct research. This work has given me experience working directly with patients and their families to help them address quality of care concerns, ethical violations, lack of culturally competent care, and mental health care access.