Tuesday, May 20, 2014

WHERE IS PAIMI? by Patty Cooper

In 1986, the Congress of the United States of America enacted a law that became known as PAIMI.  PAIMI stands for Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness. 

PAIMI is designed and charged with protecting individuals with mental illnesses.  They can also investigate situations that may provide for systemic changes that can make improvements for groups of individuals with mental illnesses.   PAIMI has far reaching powers.  They can investigate and go into nearly every place where a person with mental illness is put.  That means that they can go into jails, prisons, hospitals and other places with the person’s permission, a guardian’s permission, with the permission of a parent in the case of a minor child.

They may also do death investigations without anyone’s permission. 

ANYONE can file a PAIMI report informing PAIMI staff that there may be a situation that they need to investigate.  Then they are charged with doing so.  IF they take the case.  In the last decade, across this country PAIMI has greatly narrowed its focus and seems to have lost its guts in taking hard cases both for individuals and for making systemic change.

I used to be the PAIMI director in Florida, so I know what PAIMI can do and is charged with doing.  I give PAIMI a failing grade.

All of us across the nation can think of horrific situations that happen concerning individuals with mental illnesses.  Just to name a few of them I cite waiting times in hospital emergency rooms for individuals, frequently voluntarily, seeking admission to psychiatric units.  Think of the number of individuals with mental illnesses who are homeless across this country and who are jailed for doing minor things, but they do not have the money to post bail.

In the Miami Herald (Miami/Dade County Florida), Sunday May 18, 2014 there was an article “Behind bars, a brutal and unexplained death.” (Link to Miami Herald Article) The article describes the horrendous death of an inmate Darren Rainey.  According to the article, he was at the Dade Correctional Institution.  He was locked in a small shower stall for defecating in his cell and refusing to clean it up.  The hot water was turned on and he was left in that stall to basically cook.

According to other inmates and “sources” for the article, repeated formal complaints have been filed regarding conditions in this facility—to no avail.

The medical examiner’s office has not completed the autopsy; although, Rainey died on June 23, 2012.  Yes, I said 2012.

Now, there may be some of you who think:  Who cares if this guy died?

PAIMI is charged with caring and with investigating the issues surrounding his death, other deaths and conditions in EVERY facility in this country where individuals with mental illnesses are locked away.  
Yet, in this case and in other instances across this nation when one reads about horrific situations such as this there is no mention of PAIMI investigating.  There is no mention of PAIMI hounding the medical examiner’s office, the Department of Corrections, the sheriff’s department or other agencies charged with investigating crimes.

Yes, I said crimes.  How many sadistic individuals work in these institutions and torture individuals under their care?  Many.  But, how often do you hear of anyone who has committed such acts being arrested, tried, convicted and incarcerated for their crimes?  How many times?  Who is looking out for the very individuals the PAIMI law was created for?  Where is PAIMI? 

© Ed Cooper, 5/20/2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
    All rights reserved

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