Lydia X. Z. Brown Profile picture
Jan 24, 2018 46 tweets 8 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
A friend sent me this and asked me to share to protect their anonymity -- very important info for Boston #queer #trans #LGBTQ community about @FenwayHealth:

Content Warning: Suicide, medical abuse, sexual assault, self-harm.

#QTPoC #SDQTPoC #AbleismExists
"I'd like to take a few minutes of your time to warn you about a dangerous psychiatrist at Fenway Behavioral Health, Dr. Howard Hernandez. I apologize for not writing this sooner, but I didn't feel ready to share this until now."
"About thirteen months ago I saw Dr. Hernandez for the first time. It was an initial intake visit, so much of our time was taken up by completing my history."
"The problems first began when I told him that I haave trauma symptoms from finding my best friend dead of suicide a few years ago. He asked how she did it."
"I told him it was pills, and he said "Yeah, but what pills specifically?" I found this question inappropriate, insensitive, and irrelevant, so I didn't answer."
"A little later, I disclosed my occasional self-injurious behaviors. He asked where on my body I do it, and when I told him upper thighs he asked to see the wounds. Finding this question too to be inappropriate and unnecessary, I declined."
"Finally, he asked about history of sexual trauma. I told him I did not wish to speak about it. He then proceeded to play twenty questions: Was it when I was a kid? Was it a family member? Was it a man? Was it more than once?"
"I reiterated that I did not want to talk about it with him, so he stopped."
"He continued my previous medications and, in response to my problems with anxiety, prescribed a Benzodiazepine anxiety medication (think Xanax and Ativan).

I was very upfront about my struggles with alcohol, telling him I'd been sober for about five months."
"I left, shaken and unsure of what had just happened.

I felt unsettled by the experience-- despite working with a population many times more likely to have experienced trauma, Dr. Hernandez clearly had no concept of trauma-informed care."
"To out myself, this was not my first experience with intake in a mental health setting. Never have I experienced someone so disrespectful of my boundaries and insensitive to my experiences."
"I felt like he asked some of his questions not for any therapeutic purpose, but simply to satisfy his curiosity."
"I was seeing a therapist at Fenway at the time, and at our next appointment, I told her about my experience.

She agreed how behavior was unacceptable, and I asked how to switch doctors.

She said she would ask the medical director, Dr. Kevin Kapila."
"Next session, she said that Dr. Kapila said I had to file a formal complaint in order to switch, despite my therapist telling him of my mistreatment.

I called to speak with the patient care representative, but she never returned my call."
"I was spent. I was already going through a difficult time experiencing a lot of trauma symptoms, and I didn't have it in me to keep fighting. I gave in and went to my next appointment."
"In the meantime, I had relapsed on two brief occasions, and my sobriety was tenuous, though I was working hard to maintain it."
At my next appointment in January, Dr. Hernandez was curt towards me for the first part of our session.

Midway through, apropos of nothing, he said "So you complained about me? What was that about?"
"I was taken aback and caught off guard by the question, which was clearly his intent.

I told him a few of my issues with the previous visit, and rather than hear me, he argued about why he was within his rights to ask those questions and behave the way he did."
"In addition to being defensive, he seemed exasperated at my inability to comprehend why he was right.

I quickly just shut down, vying to get my refills and get out."
"He refused to refill my anxiety medication, he said because of my alcohol problem.

I was confused by this as my alcohol problem was not new information to him.

I tried to advocate for myself, but he made it clear that he considered my behavior drug-seeking and would not budge,
so I gave up.

As things wound down I was gathering my coat and bag, and as I stood up to leave he told me he was taking away one of my other meds as well.

I did not have time to discuss this with him as he hustled me out the door."
"He did not tell me to make a follow up appointment.

I found this incredibly troubling and a blatant abuse of medical power.

As a patient, I have one avenue to the medications I need to stay functional and, frnaky, alive."
"When Dr. Hernandez took away medications without discussion, it felt spiteful and retaliatory.

"Complain about my inappropriate behavior," he was saying, "and I'll ruin your health."

I got myself together and within a few weeks had filed a formal complaint."
"I tried to find a psychiatrist outside the Fenway system, but was limited by my insurance.

During this time I was doing very poorly, and I tried to get help from my therapist at Fenway, Kathleen Driscoll."
She seemed interested only in pointing me to other things-- group therapy, twelve step meetings, etc.

We rarely talked about strategies for coping with what I was going through.

At one point, I said to her "I think I'm in crisis."

Her response?

"I don't know how to help you."
One of the groups she recommended was the Trauma and Recovery Group at Fenway that met on Wednesdays. I went a few times and was bullied by other group members, with no redirection or comment from the group facilitators. Obviously, I quit going to that group within about a month.
During this time, after figuring out I'd be unable to find a doctor outside Fenway, I called to try to get an appointment with another doctor."
"The medical director, Dr. Kapila, called me back and told me they'd taken me off Dr. Hernandez's list, but it would be a month before I could see someone else.

I told him it was urgent.

He told me to talk to my therapist."
"I told him she said she couldn't help me.

He said he couldn't either, that I'd just have to wait."
"I did, and in the meantime I found a different therapist who is wonderful and amazing and not associated with Fenway, although she had previously worked elsewhere with Dr. Hernandez and said he was not highly regarded there."
"Dr. Kapila did not tell me if Dr. Hernandez would be required to receive any training on trauma-informed care."
"Fast forward to last week:

I'm working in New York City right now, traveling back and forth between Brooklyn and Boston almost every weekend.

As was bound to happen, I forgot one of my meds last week.

I didn't realize it at first, but I quickly went into physical withdrawal."
"Nausea, chills, aches, fatigue-- a quick Google search told me this is what happens when you miss this med."
"As soon as I figured it out, I called Fenway and told them I needed a few pills called in to a pharmacy here, quickly, as I was very sick from being without this medication.

They told me they would send the request to my doctor."
"I heard nothing, so I called back a couple of hours later.

They said he was there that day but hadn't checked his messages yet.

I kept calling throughout the afternoon, being told he wasn't checking messages and there was nothing they could do."
"I asked them to page him or call him or to please do something since I was in distress.

They eventually, at the end of the day, put me through to his secretary, who didn't answer.

I left a message and heard nothing."
"The next morning, I called the pharmacy and they said they had not received a prescription.

I called the secretary again and she said the order had been approved at 8pm the previous night."
"I called the pharmacy again, was again told they did not have the prescription, so I called the secretary back."
"She told me she would resubmit the request to a different doctor (which I had been told the day before was impossible) and would call me back when it was confirmed as sent.

I waited a couple of hours, heard nothing, and tried calling the secretary again.

No answer."
"Left message, then started calling every half hour or so, to no avail.

By this time I had been trying to get this prescription filled for about thirty-six hours.

As is a common theme with my mental health care at Fenway, I gave up."
"I decided to drive back to Boston and get my meds at home, since that seemed faster than waiting for Fenway to get its shit together.

I never heard anything back from the secretary."
"As you can see by this incredibly long missive, @FenwayHealth Behavioral Health is, at best, unhelpful, and at worst actively harmful.

They clearly have little regard for their patients-- they are understaffed, and the staff they do have is woeful."
"If I could find a doctor outside Fenway, I would.

I don't think to voice my concerns again will help, but I am doing it anyway.

But the best thing I can do, what I feel is the most helpful thing, is share my story and warn other people against the care at Fenway."
"This is not a problem with just one provider; the issues with behavioral health at Fenway are systemic."
"I am happy to talk more about my experiences, and welcome anyone else’s stories."
"And if your care at Fenway is working for you, I’m happy for you.

That just hasn’t been my experience, and I’ve talked to enough other people that it seems getting quality care at Fenway is elusive.

Thanks for reading."


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