My short bio: I'm Anthony Cormier, an investigative reporter from the Tampa Bay Times. My colleagues, Leonora LaPeter Anton and Michael Braga, and I just published a series of stories showing how Florida cut $100 million from its mental hospitals and let violence, death and misery spiral out of control. People ate out of the trash. Rodents crept on the beds. Patients swallowed razor blades, orderlies got stabbed in the face and the state knew all about it -- but chose to keep slashing budgets anyway. And when we asked for surveillance footage from inside the hospitals, Florida said no -- but we got the tapes anyway. They were so horrific, we had to warn viewers about what they were going to see. Here's the first part: http://www.tampabay.com/projects/2015/investigations/florida-mental-health-hospitals/cuts/

Here are those videos (warning: they are graphic): http://www.tampabay.com/projects/2015/investigations/florida-mental-health-hospitals/surveillance-videos/

My Proof: Here's me: https://twitter.com/cormier_times Here's me again (bonus Adventure Time t-shirt!):https://goo.gl/rDoWjx

Comments: 336 • Responses: 99  • Date: 

MKULTRA_Escapee189 karma

Thank you for your service. You have no idea how much this topic means to me.

As some of us know, psychiatric abuse was at almost unbelievably grotesque levels in the US and Canada several decades ago with the MKULTRA program.

Do you think this problem is limited strictly to Florida? Do you think there still may be pockets of human experimentation in psychiatry without consent?

Anthony_Cormier171 karma

Thanks. Two questions, two answers. One: There is no way this problem is limited to Florida. We saw legislatures across the country trim their mental hospital budgets. I would have to guess that similar things are happening elsewhere. Two: I'm going to get in loads of trouble for saying this, but I'm a natural cynic so whatevs. It would not surprise me if there were small experimental programs where patients are being treated without their consent. Disclaimer: I HAVE NOT SEEN ANY NOR DO I THINK THIS IS HAPPENING IN FLORIDA. But a few years ago, people would have laughed you out of the room for thinking the government was tapping our emails and logging our calls. Now? That's for sure happening #thankssnowden

Phylar62 karma

I have no questions. As a psychology student, and on the behalf of many, many families, I simply wish to thank you.

Anthony_Cormier42 karma

D'awww. Thanks. These patients deserve dignity. Best of luck with your studies.

Phylar22 karma

Not only these patients, but far more in nearly every state. Our expectation of lockup and forget, even for the mentally handicapped, needs to stop. Here's hoping your story and insight have more of an impact than any of us could imagine.

Keep doing good work. Gotta get back to studying! he says with Reddit a couple taps away

Anthony_Cormier10 karma

Study, man. Stay away from Reddit (says the guy on Reddit at 9:17).

TokenBlackKnight13 karma

Funny things is there's many flyers around Florida mentioning about psych homes being used for experiment purposes especially in your big named hospital that you would go to.

Anthony_Cormier14 karma

Send me one of those flyers. I'd be curious to see what they say.

iliketurtlesdurr1 karma

what medical journals would the results of these experiments be published in??

Anthony_Cormier1 karma

I don't know. If you see them, let me know. That would be crazy news.

cfisc-8 karma

Taping our emails and logging our calls? 8~3

Anthony_Cormier13 karma

Did I say taping? Meant tapping. Also, not sure about the little graphic at the end of your question. To each his own.

sjanss73 karma

How did you convince an editor to allow you to work on a story for a year?

Anthony_Cormier172 karma

Great question. The Times is no different than any other shop: resources are limited and time is scarce. But the editors here all came up as reporters; they know a good story when they see one. My ed, Chris Davis, is hands-down, no-joke the best in the business. And his thing is pretty simple: You report until the story is finished. It's fairly amazing that, in this day and age, there are folks willing to devote the time and the energy to nudging the world in the right direction. Also, we bribe our editors with beer. Lots and lots of beer.

dasamps63 karma

[deleted]

Anthony_Cormier84 karma

Not all of us. Journalism took a hit because most people don't want to pay for it anymore. There are many of us willing to stick around until they shut the lights off.

redditjanitor22 karma

Ok but you had to have written at least some other stories for publication in a year... right?

Anthony_Cormier105 karma

Nope. Just this. I know it sounds crazy, but this stuff takes FOREVER. Like, just building the database -- which we had to do by hand -- took three months or so. It was painstaking, because you can't make a mistake. One little tiny error and your credibility on these types of projects is shot. We're a methodical bunch; it's not for the journalist who needs a quick fix.

maxillo14 karma

What kind of beer?

Anthony_Cormier48 karma

PBR. I'm poor.

maxillo18 karma

Poor Hipster! If you get to San Francisco I will hook you up with some Racer 5.

Anthony_Cormier29 karma

Nah, no hipster here. All I know is I can get four tallboys for $3.97. But, being as you offered, I'll take you up on that offer next time I'm on the west coast.

Schizosbro44 karma

Are there any good things to say about mental health care in Florida?

My folks are moving down there and are thinking of moving my brother (schizophrenic, age 49) down there with him. Is that a really bad idea? (He's currently living in an adult group home in New York state.)

Anthony_Cormier65 karma

It's not all bad. There are tons and tons of good folks working in the system. Doesn't sound like your brother will be in one of the state-run psych wards, which is where we found the worst stuff. There are group homes and ALFs that actually care about their patients and do their very best to care for them. It's not all bad in Florida. Good luck. Give my best to your family; we rarely met folks who stuck by a relative with a mental illness. Most are abandoned, which always struck me as incredibly sad.

Schizosbro15 karma

Family is definitely important. I wish I had more time for him, but he's certainly not abandoned.

Anthony_Cormier18 karma

So good to hear. Mind if I ask: where are your folks thinking of moving?

Schizosbro11 karma

Probably a little north of Fort Lauderdale.

dontmovedontmoveahhh15 karma

I live there, I'm going into the field and moving out of the state because I can't find a place I'm comfortable working. I've only heard negative things from people who worked out of state and then moved here. The places that are decent are so few and far between. Everywhere seems to be for profit with poor training. I was told state facilities have more resources but clearly this isn't the case. I certainly can't speak for everywhere but from what I have seen I don't believe people who need mental services should move to Florida.

Anthony_Cormier5 karma

Unfortunately, you're not wrong. There are good people doing good work here, but you have to know where to look. We basically spend the same amount of money on mental health as we did 20 years ago -- not adjusted for inflation, either. Just straight up the same amount of money.

psychosus26 karma

My wife has worked for a mental health agency in Florida for almost ten years. The social support for the mentally ill in Florida is abysmal. It's underfunded and the cultural consensus is that it's a waste to help people.

I work for a Sheriff's Office in the Tampa area, but I am from Massachusetts originally. My personal opinion is that he's better off in New York. I see a lot of adults in my jail who are languishing in the system because they have no support from their family or community. It's very, very easy to get arrested here if you're mentally ill and very, very hard to get help if you don't have extremely strong support from friends and family.

Anthony_Cormier12 karma

That is so true. Once you're in the system, it becomes hard to get out.

tangerineswordfish44 karma

What made you want to become an investigative reporter? What do you enjoy most about your job?

Anthony_Cormier159 karma

I'm a cynic at heart. Plus I have problems with authority. I don't like bullies or fraudsters or cheats or people who rig the game. I thought journalism was a way to do something about it. I love that my job lets me stand up for the little guy and stand up to the powerful. Totally cliche and cheesy; but it's worth it.

n1ywb30 karma

I just decided to become an investigative reporter

Anthony_Cormier39 karma

Cool. Let me know when you publish.

Britany27418 karma

Me too, let's start an agency.

Anthony_Cormier18 karma

I'm down.

tangerineswordfish12 karma

Thanks for answering my questions! I don't think it's cheesy at all! Helping people like you're doing is really great!

Anthony_Cormier13 karma

Thanks. It's an awesome job and I'm so lucky to do it. There are a lot of people like me. Teachers and advocates and even folks in government who want the world to be a better place. The best of us try to make it happen.

redditjanitor35 karma

How did you actually get the videos? Govt often denies existence of videos, it would seem releasing videos later proves they lied to you originally? I'm interested in the journalistic mechanics here, not mental health or Florida specifically even... thanks

Anthony_Cormier71 karma

Hard work and a bit of luck. The hospitals denied us tons of info -- including the videos -- so we turned to local cops. They gave us reports but usually turned us down on the tapes. We finally found someone at a police department and prosecutor's office that would turn them over. If not for those folks, these videos would never have seen the light of day.

redditjanitor28 karma

Do you think local PD and DA will suffer political fallout from turning over tapes?

Anthony_Cormier56 karma

That's a helluva question. I would hope not, mostly because they weren't breaking the law or doing anything untoward. I'm not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but I do know how to read: and I don't see anything in the statutes that would prohibit their release. We felt, and continue to argue, that the interpretation by the state and other PDs is bogus.

MannoSlimmins13 karma

I'm not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV

Sounds like you need to call Crane, Poole, and Schmidt. I hear stuff like this is right up that Alan Shore fellas alley

Anthony_Cormier15 karma

Wow. A Boston Legal reference in an AMA on mental hospitals. You, friend, win the Internet today.

LetsGo10 karma

HIPPA concerns?

Anthony_Cormier31 karma

The release of sensitive medical information. Right now, there is a mother in Florida who cannot see what type of drugs her son was on -- even though he is dead and the autopsy showed 10 times the amount of Thorazine in his system. The hospital says state law and HIPAA prevents them from releasing this information to his mother.

Lukazade400029 karma

What did you find the most disturbing in the videos?

Anthony_Cormier82 karma

My goodness, where to start? Take the one where the dude gets knocked out and stomped while no one comes to help. Watch his feet. They are sticking straight up while the dude lands one kick after another to his head. Or the one where an orderly threw a patient into the wall. The guy cracks his head so hard that you can see another patient in the foreground grab his own head while someone else screams: "Oh my god!" Then there is the one of the two patients who attack a man who threw a bottle of urine on them. It was always super surreal and scary to me that the victim died -- that we are watching a man get killed. I've been a journalist for a long time. Those videos never got easier to watch.

redditjanitor38 karma

I refuse to watch, the story and the video descriptions are enough. Shit man, that's scary stuff...

Anthony_Cormier48 karma

I don't blame you. It ain't for everyone. But we needed to publish them, so the public could see what's happening in its name.

iliketurtlesdurr3 karma

why do prisoners get more funding per prisoner than mental health patients get funding per patient?

Anthony_Cormier15 karma

They don't. In Florida, it's something close to $100 a day for prisoners and $315 for a mental patient. The problem is, this state doesn't spend its money on the front end keeping people out of the mental hospitals.

nonchalant_taunt17 karma

Yeah I'm curious too. Did you watch them? Because I can't bring myself to. I've seen my fair share of deplorable activities/traumatizing events on the internet, but the abuse of the helpless makes my stomach turn. I am curious about the contents, but I just... I just cant.

Lukazade40009 karma

I started watching the first one but closed that tab pretty quickly. It's just too much for me. I'm fine with gore in movies, but whenever I see anything bad that's real, even if it's not that graphic, I nope the fuck out of there pretty quick

SmellsWeirdRightNow5 karma

Could you possibly link me the video? The link in OP'S post takes me to a 'page not found' page on the Tampa times website

Metlman132 karma

The one where the patient just stabs the worker out of nowhere and the others jump up to stop it is disturbing.

Anthony_Cormier2 karma

Wanna know something about that video? One of the two patients who saved the woman's life was in the psych ward because a few months earlier, he was charged with dismembering a paraplegic man and spreading his parts all over the woods.

Anthony_Cormier7 karma

They're pretty bad. But we set up a way to read the story and get the feel of the videos without having to actually see the violence: http://www.tampabay.com/projects/2015/investigations/florida-mental-health-hospitals/cuts/

azkaban_28 karma

What brought you to start the investigation for this story?

Anthony_Cormier57 karma

Another reporter was working on a piece about a guy who was trapped in a hospital for decades. We thought that was unusual and wanted to know more about it. That's how these things usually work. The first question you ask is: How often is that (insert weird event here) happening?

RadOwl18 karma

Just wanted to say I read your piece a few days ago (ran across it here at reddit) and thought the reporting was outstanding.

On that note, what are you going to do with your Pulitzer?

Anthony_Cormier13 karma

That's very kind of you. I'm way too modest to think about the Pulitzer, and I know there is so much great journalism happening right now in America that whoever wins will deserve it.

RadOwl5 karma

Well, you deserve it for that caliber of reporting. On top of that, it's a story that needs to be told.

Anthony_Cormier11 karma

True that. I'm just glad people are reading it.

bigpandas3 karma

I commend you and your colleagues for exposing your findings of abuse on some of the most vulnerable people in society.

Anthony_Cormier6 karma

Thanks so much. That is very kind of you.

hawtsaus5 karma

Did he get out?

Anthony_Cormier6 karma

He did.

nonchalant_taunt23 karma

I just graduated with a degree in creative writing, but now am starting to regret not pursuing journalism. Is there any way someone without a journalism degree can break into the field, even in a minor way?

Also, as a side note, both my parents are social workers/therapists and have told me some horror stories over the years. The awareness you are raising is crucial, and I want to thank you for the work you've done for those who have no one left to advocate for them.

Anthony_Cormier42 karma

Thanks for your kind words. True story: I had a creative writing degree and no journalism experience before my first job. In fact, the editor wouldn't even hire me in the newsroom -- he gave me a job throwing newspapers. And now I'm here. You don't need a degree to do this. All you really need are a deep sense of skepticism, a healthy distaste of authority and the ability to knock on a stranger's door and ask them to reveal their inner most secrets. If you can do that, you can be a journalist. Also, you have to not care about money or stability. Because those are in short supply nowadays.

nonchalant_taunt14 karma

It means so much to hear this. I've only just graduated, so my current job washing dishes at a brewery feels like vacation for me right now. But once I get antsy, I fully plan to take your advice. If any other pro-tips occur to you, please let me know.

Anthony_Cormier18 karma

Right on. Let me know if you ever need any advice. I'm not too hard to find.

Metlman1320 karma

How do you like working for the St. Petersburg Tampa Bay Times?

And are there other issues you would like to explore in a future report?

Anthony_Cormier52 karma

I love this newspaper. It's the last independent American newspaper. We have no corporate overlords. We do journalism in the public's interest. There is no quarter here. Shameless plug time. We're one of the few newspapers that can churn out multiple mega investigations during the same year. You really, really should read Failure Factories too:

http://www.tampabay.com/projects/2015/investigations/pinellas-failure-factories/5-schools-segregation/

As for what's next? I want to look at the power of Florida's judges. I got a feeling there's a lot of there there.

Metlman1311 karma

I have read Failure Factories. The Times does a lot of very good investigative journalism. In fact, I'd read Tampa Bay Times before I'd turn to other more dubious news sources, such as CNN or even some of the local stations like Bay News 9.

The only thing I think may be a little off are film reviews, but I don't really care because that sort of stuff isn't as important as local/state/national/international events.

Unrelated, but I've felt kind of bitter reading about the Toytown developments. Pinellas has a good chance to do something useful with that land, perhaps like building a community, a technical institute or perhaps a solar power facility to attract engineers and technology businesses to the area, yet the people voting on the proposals seem more and more likely to pick a spring training facility over something that would actually matter in the long run. It's sad because in a built out county like this, building space is increasingly hard to come by, and most other tiny plots become devoted to housing and apartments, with some shopping centers springing up.

Anthony_Cormier11 karma

Thanks. We try super hard. I'm fascinated by Toytown. I think there are many, many people who think like you and would rather see it be useful for the community.

StargateCommand7 karma

"There is no quarter here." Love that!

What other news outlets would you recommend? There must be one or two..... Right?

Anthony_Cormier13 karma

Absolutely. Propublica is the baddest thing going. The Center for Investigative Reporting is so, so good. The Marshall Project is super smart. And Buzzfeed, believe it or not, has a stable of incredible folks like Kendall Taggart. And, obviously, the NYT and WaPo should be daily reads. There is great journalism happening in America right now. We're just starting to figure out how to get it in your hands.

Anthony_Cormier5 karma

Thanks!

TheCenterOfEnnui3 karma

I read the failure factories story when it was published. I thought there were a few reaches there, to be honest. That said, the boy in the story, Cayton...is he doing any better?

Anthony_Cormier7 karma

I'm not sure, but I'll ask. That series was so, so difficult to do. I'm not privy to all the ins and outs, but I know that it landed with a wallop.

econommicalspence20 karma

Having stayed in a mental hospital myself for various issues, i can tell you all from first-hand experience. Everything in this post? Is true. I watched, daily, as patients...my peers...attacked staff violently. Outbursts. Cries, threatening murder and harm. I watched one kid suffering psychosis grab our staff leader by the neck and slam his head repeatedly into a staircase. 15 staff. It took 15 staff to subdue him.

I was in my unit room, top bunk, as i heard a cry for help from a female staff member. One of my peers had sexually assaulted her, then when she refused his advances, he bit her ear. Off.

But patients attack each other too. Apparently, two male patients had engaged in an oral sex act. One of those male patients began to tell the other patients about it, subjecting the other to harassment and torment. He came up to him during class time and punched him once, hard, in the face shattering his eye socket.

Violence and improper treatment is RAMPANT in mental institutions. I did well during my treatment, i helped however i could and i offered my condolences and my aid to those peers, patients and staff who needed it. I became a leader during my time there and probably saved a few lives too. I was discharged earlier than expected and was able to carry on with my life. To my knowledge? Most are still. there.

Anthony_Cormier13 karma

Oh my word. I'm so sorry. I hope you are doing well. If you ever need to chat, you can find me offline.

femaiden18 karma

Based on what you saw, how would you go about fixing the problem?

Anthony_Cormier50 karma

Couple things: We need more transparency. It's absurd that a mom can't get info about her dead son. We need more money. They cut $100m in just a few years -- which means there are fewer workers around to keep watch. We need a clear standard. It's always been nuts to us that Florida doesn't tell its hospitals how many people need to be on duty at any one time. Which means that orderlies are left alone with 15 or more dangerous mental patients. It's a recipe for disaster.

CosmicHerald22 karma

e things: We need more transparency. It's absurd that a mom can't get info about her dead son. We need more money. They cut $100m in just a few years -- which means there are fewer workers around to keep watch. We need a clear standard. It's always been nuts to us that Florida doesn't tell its hospitals how many people need to be on duty at any one time. Which means that orderlies are left alone with 15 or more dangerous mental patients. It's a recipe for disaster.

What we need is national standard of worker to patient ratio. Fuck this state by state bullshit. There are nursing compacts that let a licensed individual work with out difficulty in something like 32 states in the US. Each state has a different set of nurse practice requirements. We need a national standard of care.

Anthony_Cormier16 karma

Hot damn. Now you're talking real change.

femaiden5 karma

I can see how there needs to be some transparency, but that becomes very complicated with HIPAA.

Hope you guys get the funding. I was lucky enough to do a clinical rotation in a very good psych hospital and I really couldn't imagine that 15:1 ratio.

Anthony_Cormier6 karma

Such a great point! HIPAA, we find, has unintended consequences. It's interesting to see what Rep. Tim Murphy is doing with his mental health reform bill to address that, especially the notion that a mom or dad can't know when their adult child's next doctor appointment is.

Jortss16 karma

First, thank you for doing this Ama!

Second, how much damage to mental health resources would you say is a direct result of the Regan administration shutting down hundreds of mental health centers?

Also, it seems like reports, such as yours, illuminate issues that don't seem very far removed from the status of mental health in the 50's. Has the treatment of mental patients really come that far from the abuse recorded in the past centuries?

Anthony_Cormier20 karma

You're welcome! I think you're headed in the right direction. For decades, we have tried to privatize or shrink resources devoted to things like the mentally ill, child welfare and other social services -- especially in Florida. While we don't call the institutions "asylums" anymore, they operate in many of the same ways. Folks are left with no training and little to do. There is scant supervision. Some of these patients used to be able to take art classes, do woodworking, learn skills that they could use in the real world. In Florida, budget cuts meant all of those things went away.

ZZBC14 karma

As someone in the mental health field, who spent a year working in a child/adolescent psychiatric hospital, reading the descriptions of what is going on at these simultaneously breaks my heart and makes me so thankful for hospitals like the one I worked at. The kids had art therapy, dance therapy, musicians come in, a magician visit, a tape artist, time in the gym, and yoga.

Anthony_Cormier15 karma

I'm so glad there are folks like you working hard to let the ill and the disabled live a full life. Florida's mental hospitals used to have art classes and woodworking and life skills programs -- then the budget cuts came and those were all wiped out. Patients are parked in front of a TV for hours at a time.

redditjanitor9 karma

What ever happened with your governor's unofficial email problem? How did this go away without a peep, compare to Hilary... And how does it feel to have Skeletor as a governor?

Anthony_Cormier19 karma

How did it go away? We, AS TAXPAYERS, had to pay for it. No joke. For real. This happened:

http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/stateroundup/gov-rick-scott-agrees-to-pay-700000-to-end-public-records-lawsuit/2240461

How does it feel to have Skeletor as a governor? Man, I would get in sooooooooooo much trouble answering that one. Gonna just set it right there for now. lol

redditjanitor9 karma

I respectfully retract the question... good jobs are hard to find.

Anthony_Cormier3 karma

Well played.

redditjanitor9 karma

Do you ever fear personal reprisal from requesting a personnel record? I can imagine excessive police stops, maybe your house is closely monitored for code violations... does it happen to journalists?

Anthony_Cormier14 karma

Yes, it happens. Mostly it's harmless stuff, like posting your home address or your kid's schools to the internet. It's meant to scare you. My friend at the Times got a subscription to Jet magazine after he reported on failings of African-American schools.

PattynSuicide8 karma

What happens now that you've exposed this abuse? Are the hospitals/orderlies being slapped with lawsuits? Are there any responses at all from these hospitals?

Fantastic article and the website is top-notch btw. Thank you for your part in exposing these atrocities.

Anthony_Cormier15 karma

Thanks so much. That's very kind of you to say. We're only two weeks in, but we are already starting to see movement. The state wants answers from the people in charge. Congress is considering changes that would make it harder for the hospitals to hide the problems. And patients/families are trying to figure out what their next step should be.

NoOtherStream7 karma

First of all, thank you for putting the time and energy into investigating and getting this information out there to the people. We need more reporters like you.

I spent a lot of time during my teenage years in and out of psychiatric hospitals. Some private, some public. Some good, some terrible. I had originally planned to go into psychology in order to make a difference in the field, but life took me on a different path.

So my question for you is, what do you feel (having seen what you have) is the best way for the every day person to help bring about change in the mental health field and the treatment of those with mental illness?

Anthony_Cormier13 karma

Getting folks help on the front end. I think we waste an enormous amount of money warehousing them in asylums and prisons. What I don't get about American health care is this notion that only the richest among us deserve decent treatment. Those with mental illnesses, I believe, deserve an equal shot at a productive life, and too often we mistake their ailments for character flaws -- like they choose how their brain functions. It's absurd.

gentlydownthedrain6 karma

How many incidents are you aware of from your investigation? Across how many facilities?

On a scale of 1-10, (10 being the worst) how bad is it at this moment in time?

Do you see it getting better anytime soon?

Do you think this investigation of yours helped or hindered in any way?

Anthony_Cormier15 karma

More than 1,000 incidents over five years -- but likely many, many more because Florida doesn't even keep track of all the fights, escapes and injuries. Right now, we're trying to chase down a case that left a man dead -- but that the state won't tell us about. I'd prefer not to do the scale, but will say this: It's bad. Like, worse than it's been in a while. Violence doubled since the cuts began, which is a decent barometer. I hope we've helped. Folks in the Legislature are certainly listening. The head of the hospitals division was called out last week by a senator who demanded a list of emergency solutions by the beginning of December.

Spaceman4u4 karma

Have you paid up on your Long-term Care insurance?

Anthony_Cormier8 karma

That is my favorite question of the night. Yeah. Paid in full.

jacobpayne4 karma

I read your story and it has lots of information which make me sad.

How close of you being in an 'accident' do you think you are? ^(and I know that you think about this)

Anthony_Cormier13 karma

Sorry it made you sad. At least we made you feel something. As far as accidents go, I drive the speed limit and watch my step.

Frolic_acid4 karma

Have you ever played Outlast? If not, you probably should... (or shouldn't).

debeeme2 karma

I'm a mental health therapist. This game scares me so badly that I have been hiding in a closet on the first floor for like 6 months and can only play it for a couple minutes without turning it off.

Anthony_Cormier2 karma

Great. Just ... great. Now I feel like the Internet is daring me to play it.

Anthony_Cormier1 karma

Someone else just sent me a link! I hadn't heard of the game before. Now I'm dying to play it.

PrematureRedditor3 karma

Do you plan to continue to write updates? I hope it continues to receive attention until some positive changes are made. What are the chances this becomes an election topic?

Anthony_Cormier14 karma

We will. We're keeping tabs of what's happening in the Florida Legislature -- we expect the person in charge of the hospitals will have a report about what can be done by December. Not sure if it will be an election topic, but it should be. Mental health affects so many parts of American society -- from homelessness to drug abuse to family structures. And we, as a nation, are failing at it.

ColoradoScoop3 karma

What do you see as the solution to this problem? Is it mostly just a funding issue, or do you believe different approaches to the problem are needed?

Anthony_Cormier8 karma

Funding is the first step. Transparency is the second. And I think Florida needs standards. California, for instance, just instituted statewide standards for the number of workers on duty. That's a step in the right direction. There simply should not be a single orderly walking a ward with 15 mental patients; it's dangerous for the orderly and for the patients. That's how people wind up dead.

Kvantftw3 karma

Hello, here in British Columbia a while back we had a de-institutionalization movement where all the mental health hospitals were shut down partly because of abuse like what's mentioned. We now use a bunch of group homes with 5-10 adults and a workers that come depending on the need. Do you think this is better than what the U.S. has?

Anthony_Cormier3 karma

A lot of people think that community-based care is part of the solution. I think what most experts will tell you is this: there needs to be a continuum of care where people can get the meds/therapy/help they need when they aren't in trouble with the justice system.

goldenplover2 karma

Do you know whether the problems you uncovered in Florida are at all unique, or whether other states have created/are facing similar issues?

Anthony_Cormier2 karma

I only know that Florida has these issues. It would not shock me, considering budget cuts across the country, that this was happening elsewhere.

dolphinesque2 karma

Thank you for doing this story. Wow. This is so disturbing.

Are you ever in fear? I mean, if you rub the wrong people the wrong way, can't they make life really difficult for you? I read stories of journalists going to jail or worse, and I wonder how it is journalists have the courage to keep on doing what they do. It is so desperately needed, and yet can be so dangerous.

I hope you keep exposing things like this. It's horrific to see (I couldn't watch), yet I never knew about people being treated this way and I am glad you exposed it.

Anthony_Cormier2 karma

Look, this job can be no joke. I know that I'm doing an AMA today and Jason Rezaian is in an Iranian prison. There are foreign correspondents right now trying to get into Syria. There are international journalists being threatened by drug cartels. There is so much danger in the world and so many brave journalists trying to do it well.

redditjanitor2 karma

Is Florida ready for the next big hurricane? Has your gov cut preparedness dollars too?

And where does the cut $100 million go? If he cuts this, cuts that, yet budget is rising, where is the new spending going? That may be a good infographic...

Anthony_Cormier7 karma

Great questions! I'm not sure about emergency preparedness but I'm sure as heck going to check with the reporters in Tallahassee who do. About the cuts: they happened in 2008, at the beginning of the recession, when Florida faced an almost $4 billion shortfall. But revenues have returned and the hospitals budgets have not. They are not a constituency anyone cares about, sadly.

RollinsIsRaw2 karma

Real Question ( sorry Im a cynic) Were you actually suprised at what you saw? Or did it just confirm what you already expected?

Anthony_Cormier11 karma

I was pretty shocked. We didn't know it would be as bad as it was. We heard that things were not going well on the inside and that budget cuts may have caused problems.

SiftinThruALThsDrkns2 karma

Who has openly retaliated towards you as a result of what you made public?

Anthony_Cormier9 karma

No one during this story. But a few years ago, we did a series of police corruption and folks put my tag number, driver's license and home address on a site for cops. That was no fun.

iliketurtlesdurr4 karma

if anything, I think employees inside florida's mental healthcare system are happy that you are bringing light to the issue.

Anthony_Cormier6 karma

I hope so. They need help.

ashu29823 karma

[removed]

Anthony_Cormier8 karma

Nothing. Just empty threats. The goal is to shake you, maybe make you think twice. It doesn't work.

partanimal2 karma

Oh god, I don't think I even want to know more about this. But mad props to you for exposing it, that was very brave.

Here is my question:

As a young person (child, adolescent, etc.) did you have a role model of someone who would stand up to abuse and corruption?

Anthony_Cormier6 karma

This is such a thoughtful question. I was legit poor as a young man, like only rice and beans in the house for baby, and lived in the hood. I don't live there anymore but I didn't forget what it was like. Folks need somebody to speak for them, and I'm lucky I have the chance to do so.

torzir2 karma

Will any of the people in the videos be prosecuted? I'm not watching the videos, so I don't know how clearly you can see them.

Anthony_Cormier5 karma

I don't blame you for not watching them. They are clear. In one of the videos, two patients were charged with murder. They beat up an older patient one night near supper. The hospital didn't separate the men. The next morning, the victim got mad and poured urine on the men. The video shows him being stomped to death. The man who stabbed a female orderly was charged. Those are the only two, I think.

PermTrouble2 karma

You hyped for Fallout 4?

Anthony_Cormier15 karma

Nah. That one doesn't do it for me. Trying to save my pennies for a PS4. I want Battlefront, the new Batman and Last of Us (had an xbox and never got a chance to play it :-/)

nonchalant_taunt6 karma

Just got a PS4 after saving for ages. Here's a friendly tip- get Witcher 3, the Wild Hunt. It will give you endless things to do when Batman pisses you off because it's really hard sometimes.

Anthony_Cormier8 karma

True! Thanks. Those games are always super hard. The last one was kinda bunk and I didn't even finish it.

sodappop1 karma

If you get a ps3 you can get two of those games and the system for super cheap?

It's kind of stupid my comment, trying to be helpful, as removed for not being a question? I understand that they want as many questions as possible, but it's like they don't even know reddit? Sometimes the best threads go off topic?

Anthony_Cormier4 karma

It's called AMA for a reason, right? I want that ps4 because I don't want to keep worrying about whether I'll play the newest games. I can't imagine what Battlefront is going to be like. Could it really be that good?

sodappop2 karma

You don't have to take my advice, dude... But I stand by that a lot of times off topic posts can be helpful/funny/worthwhile ;)

Also, I can totally understand, as I'm like that myself. Trying to decide if black ops 3 is worth buying on ps3.

Anthony_Cormier2 karma

The best of these AMAs are when people are real. I loved that question. I'm no gamer but Blacks Ops looks dumb. The trailer is just a Rolling Stones song and a bunch of jumping around. Not for me.

wet-paint2 karma

Are you surprised? I don't mean the degree of depravity you saw, but that it was allowed to happen?

These people are still hidden away from society, in a place where society throws money at the powers that be, just to take away the problem of such poor psych patients, and get it out of sight.

Are you surprised that the people in charge decided to play by their own rules?

Anthony_Cormier12 karma

No. No I am not. The longer I work in journalism, the more cynical I become. The game is rigged against the vulnerable, the poor, the ill and the downtrodden. Anybody who tells you otherwise is either a fool or a liar.

no8d5713 karma

It really makes me sad to hear that and I guess sometimes I was trying to fool myself that it wasn't the case but you are right.

Anthony_Cormier6 karma

But we can fix it! All is not lost! The world is worth the fighting for.

Shugbug19862 karma

Do you think we also need to look into prison conditions? We're seeing more and more stories pop up about just how poorly people are treated there.

Anthony_Cormier4 karma

Absolutely. Florida prisons took deep cuts just like the mental hospitals. The Miami Herald has done tremendous reporting on horrific conditions there.

Qwarthos2 karma

Wow how could it get so bad? I know my state was bad in the 70s and they actually closed a hospital and made a huge push for different treatment. And I thought the people simply being restrained all the time was bad. I can't imagine if it was like Florida.

Anthony_Cormier2 karma

It got this bad because Florida doesn't give a damn about these patients. Out of sight, out of mind. Plus our government is all about privatizing services and giving fewer and fewer resources to the poor, sick and vulnerable. Oh, and it's not like posey vests and restraint beds have gone away -- they still use them. At one hospital, inspectors found a patient strapped up for three weeks without anyone at the hospital knowing why. A doctor rushed over and was, like, oh, yes, you're right inspectors -- this guy shouldn't be restrained for three weeks. Infuriating and sad.

bonville2 karma

Hello! Thanks for doing this AMA. I have a B.S. in Psychology and my thesis for my major was on mental health reform, with a proposal for reformed institutions. What do you think would solve our mental health care problem in the US if government money was not an issue?

Anthony_Cormier2 karma

Thanks for reading. Standards of care, for sure. Why is it that Florida has half the guards on duty as New York? And then, we need to find a way to link services to patients once they leave the hospitals. I know it's difficult to get people to take meds or show up for treatment, but we aren't even offering it. We just dump them on the streets, close our eyes and cross our fingers.

iam_colinwood2 karma

Yeesh. You weren't kidding about the videos being graphic. I had to turn the second one off.

I have three questions about your process/research:

Where did you find the information about things like the raw chicken and roaches in the cake?

What was your interaction with state officials like? Do you get interviews or do you just deal with PR reps or is everything through FOIA requests and you just rely on documents? How does all that work? The reason I ask is that I report regularly on government stuff (govtech.com) and even when we're presenting government officials with awards and things I find it very difficult to get straight answers or anything resembling truth during my interviews. I'm not even trying to get dirt and everyone I talk to is paranoid about saying the wrong thing. It would seem to me that from an investigative angle, it would essentially be impossible to get what you need.

What impact do you hope to make with this report and is this something you think about when you're working?

Congratulations on the story. I'm reading it now and it's interesting and sad.

edit: Ok, just finished reading and saw the "About the data" section, which answers a lot of my questions. Sounds like a lot of work compiling all this.

Anthony_Cormier5 karma

We hope that the people in the state's care receive better treatment. It's so difficult to get the government to notice. We think about it all the time; we're just a bunch of blather without impact.

Anthony_Cormier4 karma

We got one hour with the two men in charge of mental hospitals. One hour after we spent 18 months pulling records and investigating.

Anthony_Cormier4 karma

Lots of great questions. Gonna try to answer them in order. Raw chicken and roaches come from the Agency for Health Care Administration. They inspect all hospitals, not just the psych wards. Those documents were filled with all kinds of problems that, over and over again, didn't get fixed.

Anthony_Cormier3 karma

Glad you got to the geekbox. This was uber complicated to put together. Hit me up offline if you want to know more.

UncleTogie2 karma

Would it surprise you to find similar conditions in institutions in other states?

Anthony_Cormier2 karma

Nope. Not at all. I hope other journalists look into the conditions in their states. With the recession, lawmakers all across America made budget cuts. The vulnerable usually took the brunt of them.

superg19991 karma

What kind of education did you need to become an investigative reporter?

Anthony_Cormier5 karma

Just a college degree. It doesn't matter what you study, although good writing skills help. But I know folks who studied a bunch of different things -- computer science, history, language -- and later moved into journalism.

NorFear1 karma

Burger king or Mc donalds? Be honest!

Anthony_Cormier5 karma

Damn. Neither. Except for breakfast. McDonald's for sure.

Promethiug1 karma

My first thought was "Florida? I'm not surprised." Does that surprise you?

Anthony_Cormier5 karma

Nope. I'm from here. This place is weird and there are so, so many idiots.

geak781 karma

Do you know of anything in the pipeline to actually fix this in Florida and across the US?

Anthony_Cormier1 karma

There is a congressman from Pennsylvania, Tim Murphy, who has a bill before a committee that is at least trying to change our mental health system. I'm not sure it's perfect, but you can tell he actually cares about the ill. A lot of people talk about these problems and few actually do enough to fix them.

pcarson921 karma

My main concern: is anything actually going to change?

Anthony_Cormier5 karma

Good question. It looks like there's some movement in that direction. The stories were submitted before a congressional subcommittee and it seems like the Legislature is trying to get answers. We measure our success in impact, and it seems like the series is going to get some.

CosmicHerald1 karma

Is there any link at all the the overwhelming presence of Scientologists in Florida and the decline of mental health?

Anthony_Cormier4 karma

That's totally loaded and I have no evidence suggesting it is so.

DaltonThomas1 karma

You remind me of Miles Upshur from Outlast, how do Asylums back in the 1940s and 50s contrast in what we see today?

Anthony_Cormier3 karma

I don't know that reference. Prolly I should. Could you shoot me a link? I don't know enough about the old days to speak fluently about them, but I know that there have been broad changes in medicine -- both good and bad.

Empigee1 karma

Are any of the abusive orderlies exposed by the tapes being charged criminally?

Anthony_Cormier6 karma

Yes. Definitely some. Thing is, those videos don't mostly show abuse -- they show neglect. Florida has neglected its mental hospitals and now no one is safe on the inside.

the_seamstress1 karma

Did anything happen to improve things after you published?

Anthony_Cormier3 karma

Not yet, but it's only been two weeks. It's clear, though, that congress and the state legislature want change. In a month, the guy in charge of these hospitals has to show the senate why the system is busted and what they're going to do to fix it.

Snowbank_Lake1 karma

It's terrible to know this kind of thing is still going on... Seems like something you read about in the history books. Were you surprised to find out this was still an issue?

Anthony_Cormier5 karma

A little. I had the same idea as you: that we got rid of asylums and that this kind of violence didn't exist anymore. Look, I think it's reasonable to expect that patients will try to harm themselves or others. What is difficult to argue against are two patients left alone so long that one man gets knocked unconscious, stomped in the head and his attacker has enough time to take a break -- then come back and choke the victim again. That ain't right and it's the state's fault that it is happening.

IAmTheQ1 karma

Those videos were disturbing. Why would anyone keep working there? Weren't the employees scared for their safety?

Anthony_Cormier4 karma

They are absolutely terrified. Thing is, these hospitals are quite often the largest employer in town. The oldest, and largest, institution is in Chattahoochee -- a tiny little dot of a place on the Georgia border. There simply aren't that many jobs up there.

Lepew1-2 karma

Reading through your list of articles, there seems to be themes of gun control, criminal behavior in banks, the Koch Brothers, and other very popular lefty themes.

(1) Is it your personal lefty bias, or the paper's lefty bias that leads to these themes being chosen?

(2) Have you ever gone on one of these assignments and found something did not fit your lefty narrative? Did you report it? Please give an example.

(3) What is your take on CNBC's debate and the more recent Politico hatchet job on Ben Carson? Do you think biased reporting and debates serve your profession?

Anthony_Cormier11 karma

Preface: Not sure you're looking at the right clips. But I'm down to play this game. 1. You'd be really surprised to know the personal politics of journalists. We aren't a bunch of pinko bastards like the public thinks we are. That said, we choose stories based on a couple criteria: Does the public need to know this information? Will our reporting help someone in need? Can we do it while being fair and accurate? Will our effort somehow nudge the world toward being a more verdant, just place? 2. Isn't the left all about unions? In 2011, we tackled one of America's largest and most powerful unions -- the Police Benevolent Association and its role in allowing bad cops to keep their badges. 3. I didn't pay attention to the debate, although I'm not sure I'd ever want to be a moderator for one. It's just an icky position where you, as the journalist, can't win. I will say this, though: I find it hilarious that men competing to be the leader of the free world are afraid of being bullied by journalists. Not a good look.

ImOpeningAWingJoint-13 karma

It doesn't make economic sense to keep mental violent people alive does it ?

Anthony_Cormier13 karma

No it doesn't. We should kill them and turn them into food for the rich. That the answer you're looking for? Most of these patients need help. They can be rehabilitated. They can be productive members of society. But, in Florida, they are kept out of sight, out of mind.