An Interview with Kerry Paulson, Managing Partner of Hanbleceya Treatment Center

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Kerry Paulson, managing partner of Hanbleceya Treatment Center – San Diego and Seattle was asked by the South King Media Reporter Jack Mayne to amplify his company’s decision to establish facilities in Normandy Park. These are the questions put to Paulson and his full and complete replies.

Question: Does Hanbleceya plan to continue operations in Normandy Park and expand as earlier planned despite the objections of some local residents?

Paulson: “We do plan to continue operations in Normandy Park, and are really hoping to get the opposition groups within the city involved in mutually building a community agreement. The objections from the community are understandable given the lack of information about mental illness and consequently, the perceived threat that arises from that misinformation. There is a fear of the unknown about how the community members’ lives might be affected living amongst mentally ill people. That being said, a major aspect of our philosophy at Hanbleceya is that people only heal as much as they are allowed the space to step into a functional role. For our clients, this means that their recovery is greatly contingent upon both the structure and health of the therapeutic community within Hanbleceya (consisting of staff and clients), but also the opportunity to integrate into the community at large. For that reason, we are thankful and very much looking forward to working together with the Normandy Park community in the future.”

Question: Is there truth to the charge the company was not forthcoming on its activities at the early phase of obtaining housing and services?

Paulson: “On advice of counsel we do not disclose the location of client housing which puts us in a precarious position. Initially, we bought the houses and put staff from San Diego who were moving to the Seattle area into those houses. Once we started getting clients, the clients moved in and the staff procured their own housing in other areas of the city then moved out. It’s also important to understand that federal privacy laws protect our clients and we have to be constantly aware of their right to confidentiality.”

Question: What is your view on the Facebook pages of the opponents?

Paulson: “It’s a very sad reality. Some of our clients will read those pages and no doubt feel scared about the amount of attention and focus being placed on a part of their medical reality. Many of these clients have delusions and paranoia about being followed, monitored, and intruded upon in some way. Creating Facebook pages and writing messages on sidewalks with arrows pointing to their house saying, “mentally ill people live there” is essentially providing proof that the delusions about persecution are real.

Think of a small child that’s afraid there is a monster under the bed. Loving parents spend time trying to prove to the child that there is safety in the room and no monster under the bed that is going to pop out and torment them in the middle of the night. Imagine the outrage that would come of a parent that hid under the bed and jumped out from under it in the middle of the night as the effect would naturally be that the child would be tormented and terrified by the evidence that something very scary was indeed under the bed. Writing endless blogs online and scribing messages in chalk on the sidewalk in front of the houses of these clients is essentially the same thing as acting like the parent jumping out from under the bed. No-matter the motivation behind the action, the result is that of terror and confusion for the person that struggles with keeping clear in their mind the difference between reality and fantasy. One of the best freedoms in this country is that of free speech. However, with every word said, printed or immortalized online, there is a person that is affected. It is easy to get into a ‘mob’ mentality with online posts as there is no face-to-face interaction. Who is monitoring these sites to verify that what is said is even accurate? Fear breeds more fear rather than less. It is too bad that people that are motivated actively seizing the opportunity to improve themselves, their quality of life and ultimately the effect that they have on the world around them are being criticized and picked on because they have sought out professional help to assist them in achieving that goal. Rather than be scared of these people, there is something inspiring about that fact that most people would likely benefit from being around them a bit more often.”

Question: A state representative, Dave Upthegrove, has said: “Very interesting and important issue in Normandy Park. We need to make sure we have quality care opportunities for people with mental health challenges and substance abuse problems, but it needs to be done with appropriate oversight to not only ensure the interests of the public are met, but also the interests of the patients. Appropriate oversight of this for-profit business does not currently exist, and I am thinking that the Legislature probably should step in and close this loophole. Thoughts?”

Paulson: “Actually, we are regulated by the Department of Health (DOH). The owner and Clinical Director are required to be licensed by the state and have rigorous requirements they must follow to keep their licenses. When Dave alludes to ‘appropriate oversight’, I’m not sure exactly what he means. We own houses then rent rooms to the clients. The clients are in treatment voluntarily and have been thoroughly assessed by our clinical team, over 2-3 days, before being admitted. They do not meet criteria for hospitalization or institution and have usually been referred by a treating psychiatrist or other facility once the appropriate stability has been attained and there exists a need to step down their treatment to a lower level. I’ve heard residents say that these clients need a babysitter, which is very sad to hear. They, like all of us, are just trying to do their best to have a healthy, productive and happy life. I wonder how the community would react if a regulatory body said that all mentally ill people living in houses need government oversight. This would cover maybe 25 percent of the population. I don’t think this legislation would be very popular not to mention it would be quite expensive to implement.”

Question: There are concerns as expressed by some in Normandy Park about suicides and potential crime in the neighborhoods where the homes are or will be available. Your comments?

Paulson: “It is clear that safety is valued by all those involved in this situation. At Hanbleceya, monitoring, encouraging and providing safety is one of the pillars of the therapeutic planning and containment process. Part of being human is having strong feelings about situations and impulses to relieve those feelings. Our clients, who are actively in treatment, have support and opportunity to take care of their feelings in healthy and safe ways. This is not to say that an attempt at suicide is not possible or that someone making an impulsive decision in anger can never happen, but the likelihood of this being higher in our therapeutic population than the mentally ill population in Normandy Park is unlikely. Knowing that the reality of suicidal ideation for those struggling with certain types of mental illness can be high, Hanbleceya staff members scan for signs that a client may be moving in a direction of self-harm and attempt to intervene long before a client acts on a threat. It is possible for suicidal ideation to be kept secret, which makes early intervening difficult. For this reason, the Hanbleceya culture relies heavily on peers to ask for help if someone is acting in a way that is not safe or in their best interests. Once alerted to a potential safety issue occurring, Hanbleceya staff members intervene as quickly as possible so that safety is either preserved or restored.”

Question: Do you have any other comments, thoughts or reactions?

Paulson: “Yes.
“1) Prior to last month, in my 7 years with Hanbleceya I have never received a single phone call from a reporter or news station. Not until recently did I realize what a challenge it is to be in an interview with a seasoned reporter for an extended period of time and say everything perfectly. I learned how human I am this past Sunday (when the Seattle Times article was published). We at Hanbleceya – the clinicians, the support staff, the administrators and our dear clients – are here for one reason: to support the full and healthy recovery of those who voluntarily choose to be in out treatment facility. It’s easy to read articles, to listen to reporters, and to hear rumors, then believe the information as if it were true and accurate. I would like to invite all the readers of this blog to listen to reason and make your own judgment. Hanbleceya has been treating mental illness since 1979. We have an excellent reputation with many renowned facilities throughout the U.S. and the experience of our senior clinical staff speaks for itself. We are good at what we do, and yet we work in an industry where there are no guarantees and a tremendous amount of stigma attached to it.

“2) Here’s a brief look at the required structure for each of our clients (typically between 50 and 65 hours per week):

A. 18 hrs per week of individual, group, and family therapy;
B. 10 hrs per week minimum of work/school, usually volunteer job or community service works initially;
C. 9 hrs per week of peer social activities (once daily and twice a day on the weekend). These activities include meeting at Starbucks, going for a walk together, riding their bikes, meeting for lunch, etc. They are encouraged to use public transportation once they have demonstrated appropriate knowledge of the system.
D. 6 hrs per week of supervised activities at the office (twice per week) playing board games, watching a movie, bonding with other peers, etc.
E. Working out at the gym two times per week minimum (Normandy Park Athletic);
F. Weekly house meeting at the office where the clients get support for making sure they have scheduled (upcoming week) and completed (the previous week) the following tasks: learning the local bus routes, weekly household chores, weekly meal planning, and weekly grocery shopping. This is also a time to help them in learning how to resolve any conflict that inevitably happens when one has roommates.
G. Taking their prescribed medication in front of staff who witness, log and report each dose to the office. This happens every morning and every evening, 7 days per week. Afternoon meds, if required, are taken at the office and witnessed by staff then logged.”

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15 Responses to “An Interview with Kerry Paulson, Managing Partner of Hanbleceya Treatment Center”
  1. school psychologist says:

    Mr. Paulson: Thank you for your articulate explanations. You have provided your clients with a powerful advocate voice.

    I truly was disturbed by the biased nature of the ST article, which fed on fear and misinformation to promote interest. The King 5 interview was even worse (a commenter there, after viewing the interview, expressed concern that the Hanbleceya clients might “escape”)! Big city media outlets should hold their staff more accountable for fair reporting. Shame on them for exploiting this situation to promote an agenda and their careers.

    This blog has helped correct the misinformation (thank you B-Town) by giving you an opportunity to expand and explain (in a non-threatening situation) where the ST did not.

    I believe you are doing good work and know that your clinical psychologists and social workers are all licensed by the state and adhere to professional ethical conduct codes. Hang in there and know that your good work will overshadow the fears fanned by irresponsible, sensationalized journalism.

    I really do not think DOH and DSHS want to violate the Fair Housing Act or limit civil rights of the disabled. I have written my legislator to request restraint and compassion when they are asked to find a “loophole.”

  2. NP resident says:

    Thank you for posting this in its entirety! Like the above commenter, I am far more impressed with our ‘hyperlocal’ media than the big city media outlets. Keep up the good work!

  3. Guest says:

    Since the City of Normandy Park does not have home owners associations (HOA’s), then there is no legally enforceable process involving zoning to exclude these residents from their recovery homes.

    Where I live, there are numerous HOA’s with very strict rules, and these recovery homes would be excluded by HOA rules.

    Furthermore, since these are privately owned homes with no business activities taking place, then no laws have been broken.

    One would need to establish HOA’s in the entire City in order to exclude these facilities.

    That would be the only legal way to exclude these home based treatment centers using traditional Eucledian zoning and other considerations.

    However, this process of delineating boundaries for HOA’s would take years.

    Indeed, the City of Normandy Park has never established appropriate zoning standards for its unique characteristic neighborhoods.

    However, to initiate a process of HOA delineation within the City would be a very unkind, and uncompassionate action, until the residents are recovered and relocated.

    Furthermore, mental illness is very common, and patients with various conditions deserve our love and support.

    The local Seattle media and certain Normandy Park residents, and even City Officials, have made rude and unkind statements to the media concerning these folks on their journey to recovery.

    And, people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder do NOT have rates of violence higher than the general population. They also commonly are gifted with superior higher order brain functions (intuition, creativity, artisitic and musical skills) compared to the rest of us.

    In closing, I am glad that home based treatment centers exist. I have never heard of this, and I know that the patients would much rather live in a home with a private yard, compared to a 10 story condo or hospital.

    Those individuals who are protesting should be ashamed of themselves since the patients will feel afraid of Normandy Park residents, and lose their self esteem.

    In fact, the Normandy Park individuals who are protesting are guilty of hate speech. This is in violation of Facebook regulations, and clearly, Facebook should remove their account(s) – Hate Crimes, Hate Speech, Wikipedia –

  4. Living near NP says:

    I hope this helps understand better and can welcome all humans.

  5. school psychologist says:

    An important source for ethical mental health reporting is very close to home at the University of Washington School of Social Work. The site is worth a visit:

  6. DasKapital says:

    What happens after the Insurance Money runs out? How much compassion then?

    Your investors are promised 15% + ROI

    Churn those clients!

  7. Np dad says:

    Can you not be compassionate and also want regulation and oversight? It seems like for the money the families are paying, they deserve to have someone without mental illness living in the homes to provide the prescribed safety net for clients and community alike. Seems that would be the best solution but of course that would bring in oversight because it would be seen as a more traditional group home.

    if it was my loved one and a psychiatrist suggested 24/7 care, I would demand it from the provider or find another program.

    C’mon Hanbleceya, help our community to welcome you and follow the advice of your consulting psychiatrists. Sure it will cause you to make fewer dollars but it will better fit your mission. Unless, of course, I’m not understanding your mission. Does 24/7 care somehow harm your patients?

    I for one would welcome a home next to mine if I wasn’t expected to provide the “night shift” of oversight that a psychiatrist recommended. It’s not that I’m non-compassionate but I have other duties than ones imposed on me from a company bent on maximizing profits under the guise of providing alternative care. Not only that I’m not trained in dealing with mental illness. Besides that, by law, I’m not allowed to know any of the details about the patients particular ailments, cues, normal vs aggravated behaviors which might help me know when they need help from a therapist. An actual hanbleceya employee in the home could provide that type of service.

    Or should we rely on untrained and information blinded neighbors?

    • school psychologist says:

      NP dad,

      Here is the issue that many NP residents don’t see (yet). There is the false assumption that people who have been diagnosed with a mental illness are not capable of living on their own, not capable of living cooperatively together, and pose a risk to the community in which they live.

      Don’t rely on information gleaned from quotes from the ST story. Don’t assume all the facts were shared there. Be skeptical.

      You also make assumptions about the company that are based on fear, not fact. You are ascribing motivation to them (profit mongers), but do you really know what is in their hearts and minds? They have the support of the Treatment Advocacy Center in VA, a national mental health advocacy organization. They have the support of NAMI Greater Seattle. These other voices are just beginning to be heard.

      How do you feel when people think they know what is in the NPC’s hearts and minds by attributing your motivations to bigotry and hate?

      You all will soon be hearing from mental health advocacy and consumer groups, who will do a good job of increasing awareness and reducing irrational fear.

      Providing 24/7 supervision may be antithetical to self-determination and growth and it may not be needed with these clients. You assume it is needed and you assume that it will provide you all with increased sense of security.

      The mentally ill live among you now, but you are not aware. Are you going to demand that they get extra supervision? Where does it end?

      I understand your concerns, but keep an open mind and let the investigation unfold. You have quite a battle on your hands because you are asking the state to treat a protected class of citizens living in their own homes differently than they do other mentally ill residents of your community. This will be a long haul legally and not easily solved.

      B-Town Blog: Please continue to follow this story as your excellent reporters are presenting multiple points of view in a way that will let your readers make up their own minds. Thank you!

      • Np dad says:

        Are you contesting the quote from the psychiatrist hired by the company that many of the patients that he met with did indeed need 24/7 care? Until that quote is officially contested with evidence, I’ll take it as fact. So far, I’m not impressed with Hanbleceya’s efforts at assessing patients when professional counsel is sought but then ignored. Please give us some names of other reputable psychiatrists who can defend your judgement.

  8. school psychologist says:

    NP dad: Yes. I would like to hear more from this doctor before I make up my mind. Journalists can be masters at taking quotes out of context. It happens all the time. I really doubt, however, that we will be hearing from this psychiatrist publicly again.

    I would recommend that everyone keep their emotions and accusations under control until we learn more from an official investigation. Although, this will be very difficult because we are talking about adults living in their own rental homes and participating voluntarily in a treatment program they trust. It is very difficult to invade their privacy and take away their right to make decisions for themselves, especially based on public misperceptions that the mentally ill, as a class, cannot be trusted to take care of themselves without 24/7 supervision. As far as I can tell, there has been no formal complaint filed by a client.

    There is a fierce legal fight brewing, I predict. Hanbleceya, quite frankly, has the weight of civil rights for the disabled on their side.

    • Np dad says:

      Again, I’ll be looking for professional psychiatrists going on the record that differ from the psychiatrist that you are assuming was taken out of context. I am not afraid of people suffering from mental illness.

      Another question, can I get on the waiting list to rent a room in one of the homes? If not, why?

  9. school psychologist says:

    Good morning, NP dad:

    Any psychiatrist who is not treating these clients directly cannot comment on their care publicly as if they had first-hand knowledge without violating their professional ethical guidelines. I don’t know about retired psychiatrists who are no longer licensed to practice. Most would choose to be cautious, I would think. And any psychiatrist as a direct treatment provider cannot provide public statements about a specific patient without a signed release of information. I would be cautious making a general statement at all.

    Heck. I would never have talked to this reporter in the first place. 🙂

    It is my concern, as a long-time news consumer, that this ST article (and the King 5 interview) did much more harm than it did public good. You all got snared into a “Let’s You and Him Fight” game that the media so seems to love nowadays. False villains were created where possibly none exist. Generalizations were made about the mentally ill and fear was heightened rather than reduced. There is a little bit of truth in all sides of this story, I suspect, but I don’t think all sides were fairly presented. Journalists must compete with news-as-entertainment now, which places some of them in a conflict-of-interest situation they have never had to face before. Do I turn my back on professional ethics to save my job and remain competitive? It’s happening. Read “Losing the News” by Alex Jones (when you get through with all the other stuff being thrown at you and your neighbors right now).

    Who keeps the media accountable if their readers will not?

    If I were a NP resident, I would take a deep breath and do a lot of listening. You will be hearing other sides to this story, other experts, and consumer advocacy groups. And you will eventually hear from DOH and DSHS. Lots of information to take in and evaluate. Don’t rely solely on a newspaper article.

    Be assured that, If the psychiatrist has specific concerns about patient mistreatment or safety, he is a mandatory reporter and would have used other means (not the ST for sure) to report the neglect or abuse. If he is using only the paper to do this, he is risking being in trouble with his licensing board. That is another reason why I am skeptical about the significance of his statement.

    Someone might choose to comment in a general fashion, but they would probably preface any public statement with a disclaimer something like this: “I am not treating any of these patients myself. However, in general, current research shows…..blah, blah, blah…….” You see this all the time on TV interviews and doctors who do not preface their opinions with such disclaimers face severe criticism from their peers, if not professional ethical violation complaints.

    You ask a good question about renting a room at one of the homes. Are the rooms available to people who are not Hanbleceya clients? I am sure this will be answered through legal means eventually.

    I am no lawyer for good reason. 🙂 What a legal mess this appears to be. I am a person who has worked with mentally ill children and have advocated for them and their families throughout my career. I am interested in the outcome of this conflict because it may impact future treatment options in this state. The government cannot help my students much any longer, so private treatment options are a hope on the horizon.

    No matter where this goes, the community and the media should keep the welfare of the Hanbleceya clients in their hearts and minds first.

    Best of luck to you all.

  10. school psychologist says:

    By the way, NP dad, if someone in your community suspects that these clients are being neglected or harmed in any way, a report with Adult Protective Services can always be filed.

    • Np dad says:

      Thanks for your insight. In my heart and mind, the patients’ welfare shares #1 priority alongside the welfare of the community at large. Both are important to consider. So i think at this point, the laws crafted by elected officials over the years need to be tweaked to bring great programs like Hanbleceya under their wings so everyone can breath easier.

  11. NP resident says:

    I just wanted to come back here to give ‘school psychologist’ and “Np dad’ a huge digital high 5 for having a civilized discussion on the internet without resorting to personal attacks. You disagreed, but managed to listen to each other and actually respond thoughtfully, as opposed to reacting emotionally. It’s an internet miracle folks!! Way to go! 🙂

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