An Interview with Kerry Paulson, Managing Partner of Hanbleceya Treatment Center
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?
“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.”