Nurse Calls Cops After New Mom Seeks Help For Depression. Right Call?

AP

Print Article

Four months after having her second baby, Jessica Porten started feeling really irritable. Little things would annoy her, like her glider chair.

“It had started to squeak,” she said. “And so when I’m sitting there rocking the baby and it’s squeaking, I would just get so angry at that stupid chair.”

She read online that this could be a symptom of postpartum depression — a condition that affects  up to 1 in 7 women  during or after pregnancy, according to the American Psychological Association. In California, where Porten lives, those rates are even higher, spurring state lawmakers to introduce a package of bills to improve mental health screening and treatment for new moms.

Porten said she hopes the legislation will help women avoid what she went through.

She went to  Capital OB/GYN, a women’s clinic in Sacramento, Calif., that accepts her Medicaid coverage as payment, to talk about medication options and therapy. Porten admitted to the nurse that she was having some violent thoughts.

“I described maybe hitting myself or squeezing the baby too tight,” she said. “But I was very adamant through the entire appointment that I was not going to hurt myself and I was not going to hurt my children.”

Porten said the nurse’s manner toward her changed at that point. “I could see in that moment that she stopped listening to me,” Porten said.

The nurse called the police. The police escorted Porten and her baby to a nearby emergency room. Hospital staff made her change into a gown and took her purse, but they let her keep her diaper bag for the baby. They put them both in a room, under constant watch, though the hospital staff was sympathetic, Porten said.

“It’s like, everybody knows I’m not crazy,” she said. “Everybody knows that this is normal — but they’re following protocol.”

Finally, at midnight, 10 hours after she first got to the doctor’s office, a social worker sent her home. Porten wrote  on Facebook  that the whole thing made her feel like a criminal.

“It was all legality,” Porten said. “Everybody was protecting their own liability instead of thinking of me.”

Administrators at Capital OB/GYN declined to comment. Gary Zavoral, a spokesman for  Sutter Health, which runs the emergency room where Porten was taken, said once a patient arrives in the ER for assessment, hospital staff must follow strict protocols.

“The process is to make sure everybody is safe: the individual’s safe, the family’s safe, the staff is safe,” he said. “The process does take some hours, so 10 hours is not unusual.”

When patients reference violent thoughts, it forces doctors to think about things in a different way, said  Dr. Melanie Thomas, a psychiatrist at the University of California-San Francisco and Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

California law  allows doctors to involuntarily confine a person with a mental disorder if they are a danger to themselves or others. But Thomas said what constitutes imminent danger can be vague.

“You can imagine a provider, a social worker, any number of people might interpret that phrase in different ways, about what is necessary to report and what isn’t,” she said.

The laws and medical protocols don’t always line up, Thomas said. There have been times she felt asked to rely on legal reasoning over her clinical judgment.

“The fragmented aspects of our system of care make it difficult to get women the help that they really want,” Thomas said.

That’s one reason lawmakers in Sacramento are introducing a package of bills to specifically address maternal mental health. Assemblyman  Brian Maienschein  (R-San Diego) backs two of them. One would require doctors to screen new moms for depression — under current law in California, it’s voluntary.

“The numbers here are so significant that I think it’s something that doctors really should understand and should be prepared to both diagnose and treat,” he said. Screening, he added, also “educates a woman in that situation that this is an issue that may impact her.”

Maienschein’s  other bill  would direct the state to tap into a new federal pot of money set aside for postpartum programs and awareness campaigns. It was established under the 21st Century Cures Act, which was passed in the final months of the Obama administration.

“Getting federal money is a great thing,” Maienschein said. “It’s federal money that’s available that I’d like to see California have, versus another state.”

The legislation has given Jessica Porten a new purpose. People have told her she should sue Capital OB/GYN for calling the police. But she rejected that idea.

“I walk into that waiting room and I see tons of Medi-Cal recipients — so they’re all low-income,” she said. “If I sue, it’s only going to cause monetary damages to a facility that is clearly short on resources.”

Instead, Porten said she’ll advocate to get the new bills passed in California. She thinks that’s the way to help the clinic’s physicians and nurses do a better job of helping new moms get the care they need.

“I’m not going to take that away,” she said. “I’m going to build it up.”

This story is part a reporting partnership that includes KQED, NPR and  Kaiser Health News.

Print Article

Read More National News

Trump Administration Proposes Rule To Loosen Curbs On Short-Term Health Plans

AP

February 20, 2018 at 8:06 am | [UPDATED at 12:30 p.m. ET] Insurers will again be able to sell short-term health insurance good for up to 12 months under a proposed rule released Tuesday by the Trump administration that could f...

Comments

Read More

Had a heart attack? Healthy living could help prevent another one

AP

February 20, 2018 at 5:09 am | By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS Off the Charts is a series featuring expert answers to questions about heart and brain health. This week we explore healthy living after a hea...

Comments

Read More

Dementia cases expected to reach 131 million by 2050

AP

February 20, 2018 at 5:00 am | By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS As the world’s population ages, there will be more and more dementia cases. Dementia means the brain loses abilities, such as memory or communication sk...

Comments

Read More

Return to spring training with new heart completes Rod Carew’s baseball bucket list

AP

February 20, 2018 at 7:00 am | By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS FORT MYERS, Florida – Baseball Hall of Famer Rod Carew walked into the home clubhouse at the Minnesota Twins spring training facility, looked around the emp...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(509) 765-4561
PO Box 910
Moses Lake, WA 98837

©2018 Columbia Basin Herald Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X
X