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October 19, 2005
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STATE PROBES DOCTOR AFTER TWO OVERDOSE DEATHS
The Palm Beach Post; 10/15/2005; JILL TAYLOR, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
A Port St. Lucie neurologist is no longer allowed to prescribe controlled substances after two of his patients died and a third overdosed on prescription drugs, according to an emergency order issued by the state Department of Health.
Dr. Bruce E. Platzek, 60, still faces a full hearing before the state Board of Medicine, probably in December, but he has not practiced out of his Hillmore Drive pain clinic since the order in May and no longer has privileges to practice at area hospitals.
"He (Platzek) has demonstrated a willingness to excessively and inappropriately prescribe dangerous and addictive controlled substances - with dire consequences to his patients," wrote Masheika Allen, assistant general counsel for the Department of Health, who prepared the order.
Treasure Coast Assistant State Attorney Bruce Harrison said he can't comment on whether Platzek is under investigation but said such allegations are typically forwarded to prosecutors once the reports are final.
Last month, Platzek was arrested on a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge after a patient complained that he went to her Stuart business, pulled down her pants and spanked her with a leather paddle after offering her a book on bondage and sadomasochism, according to Martin County sheriff's records.
Platzek said he had no comment when reached by phone Friday, and the attorney who has represented him since the paddling complaint was filed in February did not return a telephone message.
Lori Steele, 44, operates a lingerie shop in Stuart and was seeing Platzek for back pain at his Port St. Lucie office in February when he mentioned he might stop by the store, according to Martin sheriff's reports.
Steele said he showed up on Feb. 26, and brought a book titled Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns with the subtitle, The Romance and Sexual Sorcery of Sadomasochism.
Steele said she was stunned when Platzek grabbed her, bent her over his lap and spanked her in a back room at the shop.
"I think of his face and I want to throw up," she said this week.
Martin sheriff's Detective Maggie Flynn said she notified the state licensing board of Steele's allegations, but said she was told there was little investigators could do if the alleged crime happened outside of Platzek's office.
The allegations of overprescribing pain medication are the focus of the state report, which refers to the patients involved by initials and relies on the conclusions of an unnamed medical expert who reviewed patient files and drug prescriptions.
"According to the expert, Dr. Platzek's failure to document, diagnose and treat R.D.'s addiction ultimately caused R.D.'s death," the report states, referring to R.D. as a 40-year-old woman who died of an overdose four days before Christmas 2003.
John Cannon knew R.D. She was his daughter.
Regina Cannon Dunn of Port St. Lucie suffered from migraines and had some minor back injuries from a car accident. She became addicted to the powerful painkiller OxyContin.
Her father said he knew it, even though he lived hundreds of miles away in Virginia. A psychiatrist who examined her a year before she died knew it, and Platzek should have known it too, according to the state report.
"I saw her at Thanksgiving and I said, Gina, you're addicted," her father said. "She said, 'Dad, the doctor is prescribing it. I need it for my pain.' "
The husband of "K.M.," who died of an overdose at age 35 in 2001 after seeing Platzek for three months, said he never suspected his wife was taking too many pills until he saw her medical records after her death.
The Port St. Lucie woman was also taking medication for bipolar disorder and asthma, issues noted by the state report expert, who said Platzek was negligent for not consulting with K.M.'s other doctors. The expert also questioned why Platzek doubled the strength of her OxyContin prescription three days before she died.
"I'm not even sure she realized she was beginning to have a problem," said her husband, who asked that their names be withheld.
The night she died, she left her husband home with her 7-year-old twins and went out for about an hour with a girlfriend. They had a couple of beers and came back to her house. K.M. kissed her husband good night with a smile, he said.
When he woke beside her in the morning, she was dead.
The autopsy showed she had 10 times the therapeutic level for OxyContin in her system.
In the case of "A.D.," a 44-year-old man who saw Platzek for six years for back pain, two neurosurgeons, a physical therapist and A.D.'s wife all reported he was taking too much OxyContin and other drugs, according to the report.
On New Year's Day 2003, A.D. overdosed and was sent to New Horizons of the Treasure Coast for detoxification.
On Jan. 27, he went back to Platzek and was issued a new prescription for OxyContin, records show.
John Cannon said he hopes word of what happened to K.M., A.D. and his daughter will help other families recognize addictions early and get help. Cannon said he did what he could to help his daughter, but she was a grown woman living in another state, and he could only push so hard.
"She used to make the statement she was going to die when she was 40 years old," Cannon said. "And guess what? She did."
Staff researchers Melanie Mena and Michelle Quigley contributed to this story.
Doctor's practice history
According to records with the Florida Department of Health:
- April 1977: Dr. Bruce Platzek licensed to practice medicine in Florida.
- April 1998: Platzek fined $10,000, placed on probation for two years and reprimanded by the state Board of Medicine on 71 counts relating to ordering unnecessary tests for patients or failing to disclose he had a financial interest in the testing facility. The allegations dated back to 1990.
- March 2001: A 35-year-old woman who had been seeing Platzek for back and neck pain for three months died of an overdose of OxyContin and other prescription drugs. Her dosage had been doubled three days before her death.
- January 2003: A 44-year-old male patient seeing Platzek for back pain overdosed and was sent to a drug rehabilitation facility in Fort Pierce for detoxification. Upon his release, he resumed seeing Platzek and was issued new prescriptions for OxyContin in spite of multiple diagnoses by other physicians that he was addicted to the medication.
- December 2003: A 40-year-old woman who had been seeing Platzek off and on since 1998 for headaches and back pain died of an overdose of OxyContin and other drugs. A medical expert who reviewed the case for the state concluded, "Dr. Platzek's failure to document, diagnose, and treat (her) addiction ultimately caused (her) death."
- February 2005: A female patient filed a criminal complaint with the Martin County Sheriff's Office that Platzek came to her store, offered her a book on sadomasochistic sex, pulled down her pants and spanked her with a paddle.
- May 2005: Under an emergency order, the state restricted Platzek from prescribing, dispensing or administering any controlled substances.
- September 2005: Platzek was arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct in connection with the February incident.
Copyright © Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc., 2005
WHO KILLED TAYLOR? COLLEGE FRESHMAN TAYLOR BEHL WAS MATURE BEYOND HER 17 YEARS. DID HER FRIENDSHIP WITH AN OLDER MAN LEAD TO HER MURDER?
People Weekly; 10/24/2005; Tresniowski, Alex
Byline: Alex Tresniowski Jane Sims Podesta and J. Todd Foster in Richmond; Nicole Weisensee Egan in Doylestown; Susan Mandel in Washington
Janet Pelasara did what any concerned parent would do--she waited for the call. Her daughter Taylor, 17, was driving back to college on Labor Day, and Pelasara wanted to know her only child was okay. Finally, at 6 p.m., the phone rang. It was Taylor saying, "'I'm here,'" remembers Pelasara. "And that's the last I ever heard from her."
Two days later Pelasara, 45, got another call--this one at 3:30 a.m., from university police--telling her that Taylor was missing. The agonizing four-week search for Taylor Behl--a freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University who planned to study business--ended Oct. 5, when detectives found her body in a ditch in the Virginia woods. The investigator's key suspect thus far is Benjamin Fawley, a 38-year-old amateur photographer who lives near VCU and had a sexual relationship with Taylor.
Neither Pelasara nor her ex-husband Matt Behl knew of their daughter's relationship with Fawley or that she posed for fully clothed photos he posted on the Web site deviantart.com. They believed that, as friends confirm, Taylor was thrilled with college and happy with a new boyfriend, a VCU freshman. But Taylor, it seems, was also drawn to the troubled Fawley, whom she met in February through a friend. Investigators say Fawley talked of having sex with her at least twice, including on the night she vanished. "She was excited that he liked her," says her best friend Glynnis Keough. "She thought he was a nice guy. She liked to fix people who were broken."
It's unlikely Taylor knew just how troubled Fawley was. The son of upper-middle-class parents in Doylestown, Pa., he was on disability because of a bipolar disorder and has a long criminal record, including numerous arrests for stealing cars and three for assault, two involving domestic assaults against women. (Fawley and his attorney have declined to comment.) Police are holding him on charges of illegal possession of firearms as well as possessing child pornography, which they found on computers seized from his home after Taylor disappeared. Police also confiscated chains, a machete and a hatchet.
Just as Taylor might not have known about Fawley's dark side, her parents were unaware she lived a sort of secret life on the Internet. Outgoing and confident in person, she showed a different side on her blog. "I've drifted so far from all of my old friends, and I don't think anyone noticed I was gone," she wrote about a year ago. She revealed she was referred to as "jailbait--by bad boys" and wrote she was afraid of "boys" and "men." "Who I'd like to meet?" she posted this summer. "Someone who is kind."
At first glance, Ben Fawley fit the bill. "He had a vitality about him," says his former roommate Mike Cino, 22, who knew Taylor from her hometown of Vienna, Va., and introduced Fawley to her. But Fawley's Web postings reveal an obsession with Goth imagery and an interest in younger women. His screen name was "Skulz" and he called himself the "Goth Web master." He and Taylor posted comments on each other's sites. "This very attractive girl climbed up into my bunk," Fawley wrote in April. Taylor, under the screen name "tiabliaj"--jailbait spelled backward--replied, "Well, I was curious." Certainly millions of teenagers keep blogs much like Taylor's, but looking back her father, Matt Behl, 52, owner of a swimming pool company, is aghast that someone like Fawley had access to his daughter's innermost thoughts. "It's not like hiding a diary under the mattress," he says. "Parents need to be keenly aware of what their kids are putting out there."
At the same time, Fawley's Web postings provided police with their biggest break. They showed some of Fawley's photos to people they questioned, one of whom, his ex-girlfriend Erin Crabill, recognized a house near her parent's home where she had gone with Fawley. Police searched the area, 75 miles east of Richmond, and found a decomposed body half buried in a ditch off a dirt road. Dental records confirmed it was Taylor. "I was in Washington, D.C., when Chandra Levy disappeared," says Richmond Police Chief Rodney D. Monroe. "This case definitely struck a chord with me. We've narrowed our focus, and at the same time, we're continuing our aggressive investigation."
Last week her parents made funeral arrangements for the girl who would have turned 18 on Oct. 13. "We were in the funeral home and I kept thinking, 'We should be looking for wedding dresses, not making plans to bury her,'" says her father. "Now I won't be able to tell my grandkids stories about their mom. She was taken away too soon."
COPYRIGHT 2005 Time, Inc.
A HOPELESS FEELING THREAT OF MORE PROGRAM CUTS PUTS MENTALLY ILL, PROVIDERS ON EDGE.
Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO); 10/17/2005; Brand, Rachel
Last summer a therapist at Boulder Community Mental Health Center gave Octavia Tryon a surprising message.
"They told me I was one of the people in better shape who comes in here," recalls Tryon, who has bipolar disorder. "Someone had to get the ax."
Tryon is among the hundreds of severely mentally ill patients who got kicked out of Colorado's community mental health centers in recent years. Some, like Tryon, found other therapy. Hundreds more are unaccounted for. They could be in jail, homeless, dead or in other states.
And that, mental health advocates say, is a symptom of a cash-strapped system in shambles after years of budget cuts. It's also a system, critics say, that lacks accountability or much motivation to admit its failures.
During the past four years, the state has cut per-patient spending on mental health treatment for indigent people through Medicaid by one-third, even as the caseload went up by two-thirds. The average payments fell from $569 to $378 per Medicaid recipient per year.
State mental health funds for the working poor declined a net $5.1 million, or 25 percent, according to the Legislative Council.
At the same time, Colorado has participated in a national trend toward moving people out of mental hospitals. The average daily patient count at Fort Logan and Pueblo Mental Health Institutes has dropped 24 percent since 2000, from 708 to 539.
"It used to be, if you saw someone who was very sick with mental illness, suicidal, you sent them to hospitals," said Dr. Ed Farrell, medical director of the nonprofit Stout Street Clinic, which cares for the homeless using state, federal and private funds.
"Now what you hear is, they are not going to kill themselves right now, so we're not going to admit them," he said.
If Ref C doesn't pass, advocates and providers say cuts could get even worse.
"These shortsighted policies are penny-wise, pound-foolish to the extreme," said Dr. Dave Iverson, a psychiatrist who works in the Denver jail.
Victor Smith, 47, suffers from severe depression, AIDS and has lost his eyesight. The threat of losing what little help he gets exacerbates his black moods, he said.
"You just feel like it's hopeless. There's just no reason to keep fighting, no reason to keep on struggling. You just want out of it," he said.
It's difficult to track what happens to people who don't get care, but horror stories abound.
Farrell describes a man who showed up at the Stout Street Clinic recently for help after being sent home from a suburban hospital with no follow-up plan.
"He (had been) admitted with severe depression, thoughts of killing himself and hallucinations," Farrell said. "He was discharged after a two-week inpatient stay - just given prescriptions to fill, no way to pay for the medications."
Farrell doesn't blame hospitals or overcrowded mental health care centers. If they cared for every person who came to their doors, they'd go under.
Debra Kupfer, acting director of the state's Division of Mental Health, said people are usually put on a waiting list at community mental health centers unless they require urgent care.
But once a person reaches the depths of suicidal thoughts or the wilds of paranoid delusion, it takes longer to recover.
"It is not only devastating to the community, it can result in more costly services being provided," she said.
Today's Medicaid policies half-fulfill a vision for mental health care developed in the 1990s.
The idea was to deinstitutionalize the mentally ill and provide them with low-cost community alternatives, such as peer counseling, support groups, family education, mentoring and employment guidance.
Lawmakers endorsed the plan in 2000, but when the economy faltered in 2001, preventive care became optional.
Mental health centers slashed programs. At the same time, mentally ill people were released from institutions, only to flood jails and prisons.
Even the less severely ill are affected.
Diana Dilka, a 59-year-old grandmother in Eckley, is on Medicaid and manages her schizoaffective disorder through psychotherapy and medication. But she can't always manage the stigma of being mentally ill in a 200-person town, she said.
Recently neighbors called the sheriff's office to report Dilka for supposedly abusing her grandchildren, she said. They had heard Dilka's 9-year-old granddaughter scream after catching her finger in the door.
The Yuma County Sheriff's Office said it found no wrongdoing.
"I live under that kind of stuff because people have an idea about people with mental illness, that they are dangerous, I guess," Dilka said.
If she had a support group, she says, she could have called a peer to share her hurt, anger and frustration.
"There was no one to call," she said. "I ended up taking an extra dose of medication just to calm down. That's all you really have out here is your meds."
Isolated mentally ill people often need someone to visit them, said John Klein, director of the Centennial Mental Health Center, the only mental health center for 10 counties in eastern Colorado.
But that's unaffordable these days, he said.
His center treats 1,200 indigent patients a year on a budget designed for 300 people. Wait lists stretch three weeks long, and staff members haven't had a raise in two years.
Mental health services in Colorado have a complicated structure. In some counties, mental health centers share top administrators with "Behavioral Health Organizations," contractors that exist solely to manage Medicaid mental health dollars.
The entire system depends on Medicaid. Center administrators are happy to ask for more money, but reluctant to criticize the state or say the centers have failed to deliver services, which would indicate a contract violation.
"There's no accountability for that money," said Patrice Marqui-Hilker, Larimer County advocate for the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill Colorado.
"I know there is no case management," said Marqui-Hilker. "The majority of seriously mentally ill, it's mainly maintenance. That's not conducive to recovery."
Patient confidentiality laws further shield centers from scrutiny. Nobody keeps track of patients who are turned away. And clients are unlikely to speak out on their own, partially because of their illnesses.
"There are very few consumers who have enough self-worth to take an independent view," said Dilka.
For people like Victor Smith who struggle for services every day, fighting for care can be overwhelming.
The possibility of further cuts sinks deep into his bones.
"Some days it's tough to get out of bed because you just don't know what's going to happen," he said. "It starts to feel like this time there's a lot of people out there that just don't care."
Mental health budget cuts
These are some of the ways the state has saved money on mental health services in the past four years:
* Waiting lists: Grew from 143 people seeking access to community mental health clinics in 2000-01 to 400 in 2004-05.
* Indigent patients: Hundreds were denied services because they were deemed too "healthy" for care.
* Medicaid caps: Outpatient visits were set at 35 a year, and hospitalization at 45 days.
* Tighter rules: The average daily occupancy of state mental health institutes declined 24 percent after changes made.
* Limited admittance: Mental health centers now try to treat patients in groups, not individually. They turn away clients who aren't "in crisis" - suicidal, having lost their jobs, arrested or homeless.
* More incarcerations: The number of mentally ill people in prisons has risen from 3 percent to 18 percent in the past 14 years.
Sources: Department Of Corrections; State Budget Documents; Colorado Behavioral Health Care Council
COPYRIGHT 2005 Rocky Mountain News. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of the Dialog Corporation by Gale Group.
New Poll by Lifetime Television, Entertainment Industries Council Is Impetus for Effort to Disseminate Information About Human Trafficking Via TV, Movies.
AScribe Law News Service; 10/17/2005
Byline: Entertainment Industries Council
LOS ANGELES, Oct. 17 (AScribe Newswire) -- The Entertainment Industries Council, Inc. (EIC), is launching a new effort to encourage film and television producers to incorporate accurate depictions of "human trafficking" in entertainment products, according to Brian Dyak, EIC President/CEO. This comes on the heels of a new poll conducted by EIC and Lifetime Television that shows that 55 percent of Americans believe that human trafficking is a major problem within our borders, and 45 percent actually feel it is happening in or near their own communities.
Dyak points to Lifetime Television's two-part miniseries, "Human Trafficking," starring Academy Award and Golden Globe Award-winning actress Mira Sorvino and Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actor Donald Sutherland, as an example of programming that helps raise further awareness of the battle to rescue victims enslaved in America. The miniseries premieres on Lifetime on Oct. 24 and 25 at 9 p.m. (ET/PT).
The story is a tough, uncompromising drama about the brutal realities behind the international trafficking and brokering of women and children for sex. The miniseries and poll, and an extensive public education initiative (including PSAs, viewers' guide and college campus events), were all developed with the help of a wide range of anti-human trafficking advocates and are a part of Lifetime's Emmy Award-winning campaign "Stop Violence Against Women."
"Lifetime's 'Human Trafficking' is an important film that demonstrates the entertainment industries' proactive role to educate and advocate for public policy addressing critical health and social concerns," said Dyak. "Television programs and movies can drive awareness for the need to regulate human trafficking and the violence associated with the atrocities of this practice," said Dyak.
Added Meredith Wagner, Executive Vice President, Public Affairs, Lifetime Entertainment Services, "We hope this research, as well as our miniseries, will help further drive the message that Americans care about this issue and want our government to take action to protect victims of abuse."
The hope is that productions dealing with this issue will raise awareness among the viewing public of this little known yet widespread societal problem. EIC will disseminate information on the issue through briefings it holds regularly with production companies and Hollywood's creative community, and printed materials it disseminates throughout the industry.
The new poll, which was conducted in conjunction with Equality Now, the International Justice Mission, Tahirih Justice Center, Vital Voices, Polaris Project, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the National Domestic Violence Hotline, comes at a critical time since the House and Senate have both passed The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005 (IMBRA). IMBRA was inspired in part by the murders of two young women in Washington State, Susanna Blackwell, a Filipina, and Anastasia King, a native of Kyrgyzstan, by husbands they met through brokers.
"One of the strongest tools we have in the fight against human trafficking and the international marriage broker industry is public education. Once people are made aware, and those suffering learn they have options, chances are significantly greater that victims will be helped and lives saved," said Tahirih Justice Center Executive Director Layli Miller-Muro.
The Entertainment Industries Council, Inc., a non-profit organization, was founded in 1983 by leaders of the entertainment industry to bring the power of the industry to bear on health and social issues. Among the issues EIC addresses are: drug, alcohol, and tobacco use and addiction; firearm safety and injury prevention; sun safety; human trafficking; terrorism and homeland security; mental health, including bipolar disorder; and HIV/AIDS prevention. EIC's websites are located at http://www.eiconline.org/ and http://www.prismawards.com .
CONTACT: Henri Bollinger, (000)-000-0000
About Lifetime Entertainment Services: LIFETIME is the leader in women's television and one of the top-rated basic cable television networks. A diverse, multi-media company, LIFETIME is committed to offering the highest quality entertainment and information programming, and advocating a wide range of issues affecting women and their families. LIFETIME Television, Lifetime Movie Network, Lifetime Real Women, Lifetime Home Entertainment and Lifetime Online are part of LIFETIME Entertainment Services, a 50/50 joint venture of The Hearst Corporation and The Walt Disney Company.
COPYRIGHT 2005 AScribe
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The Warning Signs Of An Impending Bipolar Disorder Manic Episode
Bipolar disorder - as the name implies - involves two distinct set of symptoms. One set throws the individual down into the depths of a massive depression. The other places the individual who suffers with bipolar disorder at the top of a peak manic episode.
Most everyone can eventually recognize the warning signs of an impending depressive episode related to bipolar disorder. More likely than not, individuals with bipolar disorder try very hard to avoid it.
However, for many individuals with bipolar disorder, it's more difficult to recognize the signs of an impending manic episode. After all, a manic episode of bipolar disorder can be mistaken in some cases - especially in the very early formation -- for the lifting of the corresponding mood swing of the depression.
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