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Former patients of Lansing's Sparrow Hospital come together to share stories of alleged mistreatment

Sparrow Hospital
WKAR File Photo
WKAR File Photo

An East Lansing resident is alleging she was the subject of mistreatment during a stay in the psychiatric emergency department at Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital

Lucinda Gleespen says during a visit last year to the hospital’s psychiatric department, she witnessed several staff members make fun of other patients. She says she was stripped, searched and prohibited from contacting loved ones during her stay.

"This was not my first experience at a psychiatric ER, so I knew that this was not the standard. I knew that there was potential for patients to be taken care of in a safe way that preserves more patient dignity," she added.

Now, Gleespen has launched a website after learning from other community members that they too had negative experiences at Sparrow.

“I decided to create this group so that people could share those stories and also share alternatives that they have found to be better than Sparrow so that people can know before they go to Sparrow what they might encounter.”

Since its launch, more than a dozen people have shared their experiences with Gleespen through the website's contact form.

In one of the stories, a former patient says they were involuntarily admitted to Sparrow for 29 hours last December.

"I was harassed by fellow mental patients with no repercussions, I had to sleep in a fold up chair most of the night until a bed opened up," they wrote. "It took my family over 8 hours to learn any information about me. I was deemed involuntary even though I checked myself in."

The website also offers visitors alternative options for receiving psychiatric care in the area.

"For people looking for something close to Lansing, McLaren of Greater Lansing has a much better reputation than Sparrow. But a lot of people have also recommended directly reaching out to the hospital and scheduling a time to come in so that you can avoid the ER entirely," Gleespen added.

Gleespen says she would like Sparrow's staff to receive more training to ensure they know how to work with patients in a kind and respectful manner.

"I think that Sparrow needs to really look at the way that they deal with patient safety compared to other hospitals and see if there are ways that they can further preserve patient dignity and patient experience," she said.

In the coming weeks, Gleespen says she’s planning to meet with officials at Sparrow to discuss how they can improve.

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for the hospital said the organization is continuing to work daily to identify solutions for behavioral health patients.

The full statement from Sparrow sent to WKAR reads as follows:

Due to patient privacy, we cannot discuss a specific case but health systems across the country have been overwhelmed by behavioral health patients. The United States is facing a behavioral health crisis and Michigan is no exception. There are record numbers of behavioral health patients waiting in hospital emergency departments throughout the state due to a lack of community resources and access to specialized mental health care. Data from the Michigan Health & Hospital Association shows that hundreds of patients in hospitals and specifically in Emergency Departments are awaiting a bed at a behavioral health facility.

E.W. Sparrow Hospital, home to the only adult inpatient psychiatric facility in the Lansing area, is taking a proactive approach by deploying RNs who are trained in psychiatry and working vigorously to place behavioral health patients in mental health facilities or other appropriate places of care.

Sparrow will continue to work daily to identify solutions for behavioral health patients in our communities and is working to learn from this patient’s experience.

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community.
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