100 Stories about 100 People. #82: Dan M.
Dan Morales is my hero. He was our former attorney general back in the early nineties. He also was sent to jail for corruption, but he helped me out of a bad situation so I still respect him. Morales helped draw up the Texas tobacco lawsuit and put a stop to affirmative action in Texas colleges. He is well known for those cases. What a lot of people didn't know is he put a stop to the abuses Texas psychiatric hospitals were engaging in back then.
I get hives. I have allergies rather bad and my symptoms manifest as whelps. It was much worse when I was a kid, but they pop up occasionally still. All my life I wanted to be rid of them. I knew what I was allergic too, and it was an extensive list. Cats, marijuana, roaches, aspirin, several types of grasses and pollens set me off. Dr. Roy came along and told me he could fix me up. There were cures, but they were all expensive and time consuming. So I was all ears when I told me he could help.
He gave me a quick interview, I went into my symptoms and all the ways they made me suffer. I would swell up so bad back then the itching would hurt. Made my social life a bit difficult. He kept asking me how the allergies made me feel. They made me feel miserable, it was a physical ailment with some pretty obvious symptoms. He finally told me he could help me and said I could be admitted to the hospital that very night for treatment.
So I was checked in this new hospital and I noticed everybody was in street clothes. They strip searched me and I asked about getting antigen shots for my allergies. I was then told I wasn't there for treatment of allergies, I was there for treatment of depression. I had been hoodwinked by Charter Hospital of Kingwood. It was a new scam back then, admit kids under any circumstances and then use Texas laws to keep them for several days and then charge their insurance thousands of dollars. I went in for allergies and discovered myself treated for mental illness. Turns out back then hospitals paid doctors to sent them patients, they had a headhunting bounty that sent a lot of people that weren't ill to the hospital just so the hospital could bill them.
I realized I had to get out of there quick. They took most of my possession but I had hid a Salvadorian quarter I kept for a good luck charm. It did its job, it was the same size of a quarter so the pay phone was fooled. I wasn't supposed to be able to use the phone. Part of the scam was you were kept incommunicado for three days so you couldn't get help. I got a hold of my girlfriend and gave her the details really fast. I told her get a hold of my father and get him down here as fast as he could. I had to hang up quickly when the nurses came around but I got my message out.
The next day my father was at the hospital and looking angrier than I had ever seen him. He wanted to know if I was there for drugs. No, they told him I was there for depression. He called it a crock, I don't have a history of depression. He ordered them to release me and they refused. He told them he would be back with his lawyer and they told him they had the right to hold me against my will per Texas law. He told them he would be back with the police. No idle threat, he was a police officer. They again told him they were holding on to me. He slammed his badge down and said release me now or explain to the FBI why they are holding his child against his will for a bogus reason. Bringing the Feds into it got me released immediately.
A week later a bill arrived for several thousand dollars for my overnight stay. I was livid, they scammed me, held me against my will and now they wanted my money? Well, that's all they wanted anyways. I refused in my return letter, telling them I would not pay for being lied to and stuck in a hospital that had no way of treating my problem. Last time I checked allergies were not a mental illness. They threatened to sue and I started shopping for a lawyer. A month later all hell broke loose and the news started reporting what happened to me was happening to people all over the state. The hospital was grabbing homeless people off the street and charging Medicare. Numerous teens were admitted and kept until their insurance ran out. I wasn't the only person that they did this to.
Finally Texas had had enough. Attorney General Morales jumped all over the hospital. It turned out a new law making drug treatment payable by insurance meshed with an old law letting psychiatric hospitals hold people against their will. Some hospitals got greedy and a lot of people suffered for this. The hospitals didn't go quietly, they fought the new law tooth and nail. Morales kept at it as the stories of abuses grew and grew. The legislature was fortunately in session during the crisis and the law was hammered through extremely quickly.
One day I got an official looking letter from Charter with another letter from the State of Texas. Turns out I didn't owe them anything. Turns out the almighty wrath of the Texas Attorney General's office is a very scary thing. The hospitals stopped snatching people off the street, and the people they did snatch didn't have pay for being snatched against their will. That hospital cost me my lucky Salvadorian quarter and ruined New Year's Eve of 1991 for me. But they didn't get a nickel from me. For that, Dan Morales is my hero.