Showing posts with label Dallas VA Medical Center. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dallas VA Medical Center. Show all posts

Saturday, March 7, 2020

51-year-old man seeking psychiatric care shot at Dallas VA under investigation

Family struggling with questions after VA police shoot and kill Army veteran at medical center in Dallas

Dallas Morning News
By David Tarrant
Mar 6, 2020
January shooting during confrontation with 51-year-old man seeking psychiatric care remains under investigation by the Dallas Police Department
Dallas police squad cars park outside the Dallas Veterans Affairs Medical Center near where a man was fatally shot by hospital police Wednesday night.(Metro News Service)

On a Friday morning in early January, two cops showed up at Donovan Ashcraft’s house.

The 23-year-old from McAlester, Oklahoma, was at home with the mother of his new baby.

“Do you know Donald Ashcraft?” one of the officers asked him.

Donovan’s father, a 51-year-old Army veteran from Oklahoma City, had struggled with mental health issues for years. He’d been arrested months earlier for threatening violence with a knife. Donovan hadn’t spoken to his father since last summer. Now he feared the worst.

“Is he dead?” the son asked.

Yes, the officers told him.

Officers fatally shot the Army veteran on the night of Jan. 8 after he allegedly refused to drop a knife at the Dallas VA Medical Center.

Donald arrived at the southeast Dallas hospital seeking help "for psychiatric issues” and was seen holding the weapon, according to police statements. When he tried to walk away, VA officers followed him, trying multiple times to disarm him. “The man attempted to attack VA police with the knife, causing VA police to fatally shoot him,” according to the statement issued by the medical center.
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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dallas VA hospital forced to care for ex-Marine after CBS News asked questions

Injured Vet Turned Away By VA Hospital In Dallas
By Jack Douglas Jr. and Jason Allen
CBS 11 News
September 24, 2012

CROWLEY (CBSDFW.COM) – Justin Trivett says he is in excruciating pain. And he certainly looks the part, as he lays flat on the floor, cushioned only by a pool float – in a room that use to be for his newborn child – until his back went completely out.

It is in this corner, inside his home in Crowley, where the ex-Marine spends his hours, within reach of pain pills, still waiting for the Dallas VA Medical Center in Dallas to help him.

So far, after nearly three weeks, the pills are about all Trivett says he has gotten from the Department of Veterans Affairs, despite seeking some sort of relief from the VA’s health care facilities in Dallas, Fort Worth and near Granbury.

“That’s their answer to everything … dope ‘em up and send ‘em out,” the 27-year-old Trivett told CBS 11 News in an exclusive interview.

He said weeks have passed since he was told a VA back specialist would be in contact with him. That didn’t actually occur until an hour after a CBS 11 News team went to the VA hospital in Dallas to ask about Trivett’s care.

A hospital spokesman then followed up by emailing a statement to CBS 11, indicating it did not feel Trivett’s level of pain warranted immediate assistance on the day he went there — assisted by family members because he could not walk into the hospital on his own.
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Monday, March 8, 2010

5 Tour Iraq Veteran faces unemployment and cancer

Soldier faces most frightening fight of his life


Posted on March 7, 2010 at 10:00 PM

Updated today at 2:14 PM


CARROLLTON - Sgt. Andrew Hampton parachuted into Panama in 1989 and survived five tours in Iraq but there's little the U.S. Army can do to prepare him for his next fight.

"I just want to see my son grow up," he struggled to say, while fighting back tears.

Last week, doctors at the Dallas VA Hospital diagnosed him with gastric cancer. It's Stage 2, they told him, in the back of his stomach.

"Before this cancer, I was doing well," the 43-year-old reserve soldier said.

Facing the unknown now is unnerving. For Sgt. Hampton, a modest man, asking for help is almost humiliating.

"I...," he paused and looked away, "I cannot repay anybody right now."

After serving as a military policeman up until 2008, Sgt. Hampton returned to Iraq as a security contractor, after he was unable to find a job in North Texas. But he collapsed there in January.

He was placed on an emergency medical flight back to North Texas and now doctors here won't let him return.

As if the medical problems he faces aren't worrisome enough, bill collectors haven't been very forgiving.

"The way I'm going to pay the bills is through prayer," the single father said. "That's all I can do."

Sgt. Hampton is awaiting unemployment benefits.
read more here
Soldier faces most frightening fight of his life

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Veterans waiting over a year for surgeries

Veterans waiting over a year for surgeries

08:19 AM CDT on Tuesday, April 7, 2009

DALLAS – When the statue of Saddam Hussein fell in downtown Baghdad on April 9, 2003, Steven Farmer - a Marine corporal - stood a few feet away.

"My unit actually took the hand of it," he remembered. "We spent all night chopping it up and distributing it out to our Marines."

He still has a rectangular piece from the statue of the deposed dictator.

But, Farmer brought back something else - Planters Fasciitis, which bring severe pain in his heel. He got it from wearing and running in boots.

"I've been using my cane for three to four weeks now," he said.

Having just turned 30, he recently had to resort to a walking cane for his left foot.

"It makes me feel really, really old," Farmer said.

Managing a retail store, Farmer gets around the best he can.

Dallas' Veterans Affairs Hospital promised to perform surgery, but the doctors admitted that there was a wait of one year to 18 months, he said.

"When they asked me to go to Iraq, I didn't ask them to hold on,” Farmer said. "I packed up, said goodbye to my family and friends and I was off serving my country. Now, it's time for me to get help with my problem so I can go on and live my life and they're telling me to hold on."

Farmer's not alone.

News 8 discovered dozens, perhaps hundreds, of veterans are lined up for non-emergency surgery.
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Veterans waiting over a year for surgeries
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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Vet Says Dallas VA Medical Center "Worse Than Hell"

Vet: VA Psych Ward 'Worse Than Hell'
April 16, 2008
Dallas Morning News
The voices in Jack Edenburn's head began soon after he returned from Vietnam. They told him to end it all.

He ignored them for almost 40 years, until the day he stood at the railroad tracks near his Lancaster home, fantasizing about stepping in front of a train. That's the day he went to Dallas VA Medical Center. And some days, he says, he regrets that decision.

"Imagine hell," he said of his five days in the psychiatric unit, "then think worse."

Patients soiled with feces and soaked in urine wandered aimlessly, screaming, rolling delirious on the floor. One woman, he said, removed ceiling tiles and crawled into the space above the day room.

"I was more traumatized after five days in the VA than I was when I was admitted," said Edenburn, who works in the mail room of an insurance office. "And remember, I was suicidal when I went there."

Officials for the VA North Texas Health Care System say more than $250,000 has been spent in the last six months to improve safety on the ward, part of the VA hospital on South Lancaster Road.

But after four patient suicides in four months -- including those of two men who hanged themselves during treatment in the 51-bed psychiatric unit -- hospital officials effectively closed the ward two weekends ago.

Investigators from the Department of Veterans Affairs ordered patient records and other material after the latest suicide on April 4. They are expected to tour the hospital and begin assessing its safety next week.

VA officials in Washington declined to comment Tuesday.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, both Texas Republicans, called on Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Peak to investigate the deaths.

"Our nation's veterans have made tremendous sacrifices to ensure our safety and defend the freedoms we hold dear," Cornyn wrote. "These men and women deserve the best medical care America has to offer. As you would agree, we must not tolerate anything less."

Chris Demopoulos, a 58-year-old Marine Corps and Vietnam veteran, was released from the Dallas VA on Jan. 22. The next day he hanged himself from the second story of a La Quinta Inn in Plano.

His body was discovered by Pat Ahrens, a friend he had met in the veterans hospital. Two nights later, Ahrens, a 50-year-old landscaper and Air Force veteran, backed his silver Lincoln Navigator into an oversized storage unit on 14th Street in McKinney.

Family members said he swallowed handfuls of pills and washed them down with Bacardi and Coke. He died later that day.

Larry Johnson, a 55-year-old Air Force veteran, hanged himself using a modified wheelchair while he was a patient in the psychiatric ward on Feb. 5.

Two months later, another patient committed suicide at the hospital by attaching a sheet to a door frame and tossing a noose over the other side of the door.

A local psychiatrist who finished his residency at the Dallas VA said it's difficult to predict what mentally ill patients like Demopoulos and Ahrens will do once discharged from a hospital.

"But when you have suicides on the unit, where people should be checked every 15 minutes, that's well within the control of the VA," said the physician, who requested anonymity out of fear of professional retribution. "When that happens once, that's really a problem. And then it happens again, that's really unconscionable."

He said the psychiatric unit does not meet the safety standards of other hospitals because of its age.

As recently as a few months ago, he said, most patients were cared for by resident physicians, the least experienced psychiatrists on the unit. The attending physicians, he said, only meet with patients at admission -- never during their treatment, and they do not personally make the decisions about when patients are ready for discharge.

Dr. Catherine Orsak, head of mental health for the VA's North Texas health system, said attending physicians see patients at least three times during their stay, including at discharge.

She said the age of the 68-year-old facility presents risks to suicidal patients. Door knobs, shower curtains and power cords can be used in hanging deaths. Windows can be broken, and even pencils can be instruments of self-destruction.

"It's a challenge in an older facility and in older units to maintain the highest level of care," Dr. Orsak said. "And yet we've put a lot of money and energy into it."

She pointed to the more than $250,000 spent in the last six months.

"We thought we had completed everything we had identified," she said. "The point is to identify risks and then determine how significant that risk is. It seems there is always something else to do."

Dr. Orsak has said she does not know when the psychiatric ward would begin admitting patients again. So far, she said, about 50 veterans have been moved to government hospitals in Waco and Temple, as well as Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas and private treatment centers such as Green Oaks and Timberlawn.

Ray Daniel, a 35-year-old veteran of the Persian Gulf War, said he has been going to the Dallas VA psychiatric unit since he was discharged from the Army in 1998. He estimates he has been admitted to the ward 20 times.

He said care has improved over those 10 years.

Nurses are more respectful, he said, and doctors seem less rushed and more focused. He said his psychiatrist called him last week.

"He told me they were getting real concerned about me and they were thinking about coming and getting me and putting me back in," he said. "They've been calling a lot and checking on me and making sure I'm all right, and I appreciate it."

Daniel said if someone wants to end their life, there's not much doctors can do. He said the beguiling voices are always in the back of his mind.

"There are times I want to give up, man, and end it all," he said. "I have those thoughts and I understand how those vets feel -- no one cares, I served my country, and sometimes they feel worthless. I feel that way sometimes, too; I feel used."

When the depression comes, Daniel said, he takes medicine and fixes his eyes on his children.

"I'm not saying I'm better than these guys," he said. "All I'm saying is there's a reason to live and they need to hang in there."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Dallas VA closes psych unit after 4th suicide of year

Dallas VA closes psych unit after 4th suicide of year

Published Tuesday, April 15, 2008 at 3:50 p.m.

DALLAS — The fourth suicide this year among mentally ill patients treated at the Dallas VA Medical Center has led the hospital to close its psychiatric ward to new patients, and investigators from the national Veterans Affairs office are expected to arrive next week to assess safety.

Joseph Dalpiaz, director of the VA North Texas Health Care System, ordered the shutdown after a man hanged himself April 4. The hospital stopped admitting patients to its 51-bed psychiatric unit the next day; 10 previously admitted veterans are still being treated there.

Dalpiaz "decided he wanted to ... give us some time to assess the environment of care and make sure things were as safe as possible in our patient unit," said Dr. Catherine Orsak, head of mental health for the VA's North Texas health system.

She said the hospital has increased staffing and checks to ensure the safety of the patients still being treated.

In January, two men who met in the hospital's psychiatric ward committed suicide days after being released. In February, a veteran in the ward hanged himself on a frame attached to his wheelchair.

Orsak said the hospital has spent more than $250,000 the past six months to eliminate suicide risks. Door knobs were replaced, shower curtains and plumbing were retrofitted, and light fixtures were modified to remove rigid outcroppings veterans might use in hanging themselves.

Shirley Bemps, whose husband committed suicide in the psychiatric ward in February, said she blames doctors for his death.

"If he was a high-risk patient like they said, he should have been watched and monitored," Bemps said. "They haven't called me to offer condolences. They won't even respond to me. I just feel cheated."

Orsak said she did not know when the psychiatric unit would reopen to new patients. In the meantime, she said mentally ill veterans are being treated at VA hospitals in Waco and Temple and nearby private treatment centers.