Garcia, Bonnie v. Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo
US District Court, Colorado, 2009CV359
This action was brought in federal court on behalf of Bonnie Garcia for the wrongful death and civil rights violations of her son, 21-year-old Joshua Garcia, against the Colorado State Mental Health Institute of Pueblo (CMHIP), the State of Colorado, and Mr. Garcia’s psychiatrist during his stay at CMHIP.
Mr. Garcia had a life-long history of struggles with Bipolar Disorder. In August, 2008 Mr. Garcia felt a manic episode coming on, sought help, and was placed at CMHIP for what he and his family thought would be safety and treatment. Shortly after his admission to CMHIP, Mr. Garcia was prescribed, involuntarily, several powerful psychotropic medications, many of which had the side effect of constipation. Despite this known side effect and despite his multiple complaints of stomach pain, Mrs. Garcia alleged that her son was not properly monitored or treated. Ultimately, Mr. Garcia was emergently sent out by CMHIP to the nearby Pueblo hospital, where he was admitted with severe dehydration and irreversible fecal compaction. Tragically, Mr. Garcia died in September, 2008 from, as listed on his certificate of death, Medical Misadventure, Acute Peritonitis, Bowel Obstruction and Bowel Perforation.
This important civil rights case shed significant light on the CMHIP’s system of involuntarily medicating patients, the due process rights of patients and their family members when a patient is subjected to involuntary medication orders, and the monitoring of patients on such involuntary medications. The case resulted in several positive changes and protections for patients at the State Hospital, including, among other things: the conspicuous posting at CMHIP in patient care areas of a document informing the patients that those who have an involuntary petition brought against them have a right to an attorney and a hearing before a judge; a policy change at CMHIP requiring that any patient on involuntary medications be on a bowel monitoring program; a policy change at CMHIP concerning family visitation of patients; a policy change at CMHIP that family members of patients be notified, consistent with privacy laws, of involuntary medication proceedings if the patient so wishes; and the provision by CMHIP of a patient advocate available to its patients.
To read more about this case and its significance, read the following articles and watch the following videos created by KMGH Channel 7:
- Conflict Questioned For Judge In Mental Health Cases
- Pueblo Mental Health Attorney Under Investigation
- Are Mental Health Patients’ Rights Properly Protected?
- State Mental Hospital Death Not Investigated