Rethinking Psychiatry
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News Release
70-year-old Grandmother Goes On Hunger Strike Over Failed Discharge Practices at Western State Hospital - 07/18/21

On July 4th, 70-year-old Vancouver resident Cindi Fisher began a hunger strike in protest of her adult child’s continued confinement at Western State Hospital. Cindi Fisher is demanding that Siddarta Fisher be put back on Western State Hospital’s discharge list and immediately released without restrictions. Siddharta had been removed from the discharge list without explanation.

 

Western State Hospital continues to be under investigation regarding failed discharge practices. Such failure is a possible violation of the Olmstead Decision, a federal Supreme Court decision that requires that people with disabilities receive care in the least restrictive accommodation whenever available. This means that people with psychiatric disabilities cannot be kept indefinitely in psychiatric confinement if a less restrictive accommodation is available.

 

  • On March 27th, 2020, Siddharta Fisher was arrested by police after experiencing a mental health crisis in Vancouver, WA.

  • In mid-April, 2021, Siddharta was determined to be discharge ready from Western State Hospital.

  • After weeks of the hospital not making progress towards discharge, Siddharta and Cindi Fisher took the initiative and worked out accommodations that would accept Siddharta and set up wrap around services from a local mental health agency that Siddharta had worked well with before. The hospital agreed to the plan, but still did not give Siddharta a firm date for release.

  • On June 28, 2021, after Cindi Fisher informed the hospital administration that she would commence a hunger strike based on what seemed like a violation of the Olmstead Decision, Siddharta was given a July 1 discharge date.

  • On June 30, 2021, less than 23 hours before Siddharta’s long awaited release, the discharge was blocked with no explanation before or at the time.

  • Cindi Fisher stated, “For the last 6 weeks, Sidd had such laser focus about getting discharged, and was so articulate about going home and what freedom would feel like. When Sidd’s long and desperately awaited walk to Freedom was revoked by Dr. Ziskind and medical director Dr. Waiblinger less than 23 hours before I was due to pick her up, it had a harsh and crushing effect on Sidd's mental health. She lost her clarity and hope.”

 

Because of structural inequalities, black and gender non-conforming people like Siddharta experience increased vulnerability to mental health crises, less access to quality treatment, and the least access to resources to continue care after discharge. Black patients receive more stigmatizing diagnoses for the same symptoms, higher doses of medication, and a higher likelihood of going to jail rather than a hospital for the same actions.

 

Western State Hospital has also been decertified, and defunded $53 million annually by Medicare due to the dangerous conditions that threaten both staff and patients, among other reasons.

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