A former prison guard sent to Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP) with an order regarding his mental health treatment has had his medications altered and has only seen his own psychiatrist once despite the court’s directions, the man has told his lawyer.
St. John’s lawyer Mark Gruchy was given permission by inmate Ed Taylor to discuss his case with The Telegram this week.
“He’s quite frustrated, like you would be. And he is very concerned,” Gruchy said.
“He said he feels like he is jumping out of his skin. That’s how he put it and he said he has felt like that for some time.”
In an unusual move, a judge ordered that Taylor see his own psychiatrist while he’s in jail, and that he be permitted to take any medications prescribed to him by his own doctors.
But according to Taylor, three medications used to treat his mental illness have been discontinued and others have been altered since he was treated by the prison psychiatrist.
“(Taylor’s) understanding right now in a nutshell is this — from the time since he has been incarcerated in January this year, his medication has been altered downwards and recently upwards, as well as having some medications completely discontinued,” Gruchy told The Telegram.
“He met with his pre-incarceration physician once and that individual is no longer meeting with him and now he is dealing with the institutional physician.
“What seems to be happening, from what I am hearing from Mr. Taylor, is he’s being treated like everyone else, which I gather was the whole point of the order — not to be.”
The institutional physician is Dr. David Craig, a psychiatrist whose conservative stance on prisoner medications has stirred controversy for years.
Taylor told his lawyer he couldn’t have his own psychiatrist visit him after the one occasion because there appears to be a glitch regarding coverage of his fee if he conducts the appointment inside the prison.
And Taylor has said the justice system wouldn’t approve of him being taken out of jail to visit the pyschiatrist in his office, even though some prisoners attend specialist appointments.
“His own doctor is sort of hamstrung based on his understanding of the compensation scheme,” Gruchy said.
Gruchy was only recently retained in the case and will pursue the matter and seek Taylor’s medical records to sort through precisely what happened.
A Justice spokesman told The Telegram that although it won’t discuss specific prisoners, outside medical appointments only occur for medical services that cannot be provided at correctional facilities or if there is a medical emergency.
A Department of Health spokesman said an outside fee-for-service psychiatrist could bill MCP at a set rate for visits.
Taylor was sentenced to 16 months in jail, with 18 months’ probation, for planning to deal drugs at HMP, where he worked as a guard.
In sentencing, Justice Wayne Dymond took into consideration Taylor’s drug addiction and mental illness — bipolar disorder, depression and attention deficit disorder — which he had been dealing with through counselling and rehabilitation.
“It has to be clear to prison authorities that, if the courts of this province are incarcerating individuals with mental health issues, the necessary infrastructure programs and medications required to keep inmates healthy have to be provided for them, under proper supervision,” Dymond said in his decision on Jan. 23.
Dymond didn’t refer specifically to a facility, or a particular doctor, but it’s suspected the unusual order was connected to issues surrounding Craig at HMP.
An appeal of the order has been filed by both the federal and provincial Crown, who are also seeking a longer sentence.
Taylor will likely have served his sentence by the time the appeal is heard, but Gruchy said Taylor wants to fight it out of principle.
He said Taylor feels like his mental health is being compromised.
“He’s reported to me he’s sleepless. He’s anxiety ridden. He’s having a lot of problems generally sleeping, and Mr. Taylor has a very serious case of bipolar disorder, I gather,” Gruchy said.
“He suffered from very severe depression for a long time. And right now he is describing himself to me as being in a very bad way, actually, and he is just trying to get through the situation.”
Gruchy said Taylor has indicated he’s made his concerns about his health known to Craig.
“Certainly it looks to me like there is definitely some tangles with respect to how it’s happening, and practically it does look like the same thing is happening to Mr. Taylor that has been alleged to be happening to (other inmates on medication),” Gruchy said.
He said if Taylor is suffering from sleeplessness, that can aggravate his bipolar condition. He also has a poor appetite.
But Gruchy said once Taylor is released, he suspects he will be able to turn his life around.
“I have no doubt, personally, that Mr. Taylor is going to be just fine when he gets out. He has plans to go back to school and actually get in a different career. He’s already got that lined up,” Gruchy said.
Taylor lost his job at HMP in 2010 when he was found with illegal and prescription drugs, along with other unauthorized items, that were destined for inside the prison.
Being incarcerated in the same facility was difficult at first, Taylor reported to his lawyer, but he’s adjusted in that regard and is co-operative with authorities.
As for his medical treatmentin the Pen, he reported there seems to have been an attempt to rediagnose his condition at one point.
“So what you got happening in January and in the space of what it seems to be two months, three of his medications are gone and some of the ones he was on before are reduced, and as far as I know, the man was diagnosed in 2007,” Gruchy said.
“Just think about it — bipolar disorder, by definition, is about essentially fluctuations of neurotransmitter levels and now, at the same time that you have fluctuations of neurotransmitter levels and so forth, you’ve got fluctuations of the chemicals themselves that are supposed to interact with the fluctuations of transmitter levels and you are in this totally new environment. It doesn’t sound like a very good situation, even to a layman, does it?”
Gruchy, who is president of the Canadian Mental Health Association, Newfoundland and Labrador Division, previously told The Telegram in a general interview about the order the fact that a judge made the order at all shows there are serious social and mental health issues within HMP.
“There’s always a distinction between practical and legal. But in a practical sense, what it seems to be about is people having absence of choice,” Gruchy said this week.
“Basically, they end up in the facility and therefore they are a captive audience, so to speak.”
Issues with Craig have been publicly known since a 2008 report into the province’s prison system questioned his methods.
Citizens’ representative Barry Fleming renewed his call for action on psychiatric services at HMP in his annual report of November 2011.
That report said Craig has an extremely conservative stance on the use of psychiatric drugs. When inmates get to HMP, they are often taken off medications that have been prescribed by other psychiatrists.
In March 2011, Fleming issued a report on Craig, based on a raft of complaints from inmates.
After initially dismissing the report, the Justice Department ordered a peer review of Craig's service.
Justice Minister Felix Collins has told the legislature a forensic psychiatrist has conducted the review of psychiatric services at HMP and the department is waiting for a report.