Patients say conditions at John George mental hospital were 'hell'

SAN LEANDRO (KTVU) -- After 2 Investigates exposed overcrowded and dangerous conditions inside an East Bay mental hospital, several former patients have come forward to say their experiences were even worse than what was captured on hidden camera.

One woman, who did not want her identity revealed, said she went to John George Psychiatric Hospital last year to be treated for depression after she mentioned suicide during a session with her therapist.

“I was feeling pretty depressed that day, I had a lot of stuff going on,” she said. “I slipped and said something about ‘Oh I wish it was over.’” Her doctor put her on an involuntary psychiatric hold.

She told 2 Investigates that she thought she might get the help she needed at John George, but instead was horrified by what she witnessed.

“I just can't say enough to say how scary this place was. You're in this room with - not six people - you're in there with every possible space of the floor covered with people who are drug or alcohol addicted. I was in there because I was depressed.”

The woman said John George staff medicated her after she arrived, but she did not know what type of drugs she was given. She said she spent a long night in a crowded room waiting for care, lying almost face to face with another patient, with nowhere else to go.

“It was terrifying,” she said.

“The staff members – I can understand why they’re terrified and how come they’ve gotten hurt so many times,” she added.

The former patient said she did not suffer any physical violence during her stay. But she said she was released from the facility the next morning without receiving any kind of treatment, and never saw a doctor or therapist.

“I went through it - it was hell,” she said. “You need treatment when you get in there. You can’t just be locked away.”

VIDEO: 2 Investigates John George Hospital -- Click here for Pt. 1 or watch in player below

Staff members who work at John George’s Psychiatric Emergency Service (PES) facility spoke to KTVU on the condition of anonymity and described the conditions as "inhumane" and befitting "a third world country."

2 Investigates obtained leaked hidden camera video that shows overcrowding so severe that patients are sleeping and eating on the floor, some of them moaning and crying out for help.

The video shows dozens of patients milling about a large room, some lying on mats, chairs, or makeshift beds. Others can be seen eating and drinking while lying on the ground, asleep along hallways, or curled up on the floor in corners.

The video also captures patients having outbursts in the middle of the crowded facility, while other patients, some asleep and some awake, sit or stand close by. Staff members and security can be seen at various points.

Dr. Joe Walker, Chairman of Psychiatry for Alameda Health System and Medical Director for John George Psychiatric Hospital told KTVU that the administration is addressing the overcrowding problems, but that a fix will take time.

"We take it as our highest priority to make it as brief as possible."