Is Someone You Know a Suicide Risk?

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How to Identify If Someone Is at Risk of Suicide

Suicide affects everyone. It is not restricted to a specific demographic, race, gender, or age group. The pain and suffering it causes within communities are universal. It can be a difficult topic to discuss, but treating it as a taboo subject increases the stigma around it, and can prevent those with suicidal thoughts from seeking help. Building awareness and breaking down that stigma is a key factor in ensuring those who need help, get help.

It’s More Common than You Think

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, some statistics indicate suicide is a cause of death in the United States. Not only is it a routine occurrence, but there is also no single cause for suicide. Instead, there usually is a variety of contributing factors, such as combined stressors, health issues, and other problems creating a feeling of hopelessness and despair. The majority of attempts are conducted by people experiencing some form of depression or mental health disorder. For about every 25 attempts, there is a death.

Recognizing the Signs

Though it is difficult to recognize yourself as at-risk, it is possible to do so. If you have suicidal or harmful thoughts, have a sudden loss of interest in activities that used to bring you joy, you might be at risk. Other indicators include difficulty sleeping or eating, a sense of feeling trapped, hopeless, or without a reason to live. If any of those issues sound like your own personal struggle, it’s crucial to get help. You can contact a suicide hotline and talk to someone any time, day or night, at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433), or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). 

It’s necessary for friends, family members, and communities to recognize the signs someone is in trouble as well, and take action if so. If someone you know talks about wanting to die, talks about feeling hopeless or a lack of reason to live or assembles the means for death such as weapons or pills, they are at immediate risk.

Other serious risks include talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain, being a burden to others, an increase of substance abuse, sudden mood swings, and sudden withdrawal from normal activities. 

What Can You Do?

If you suspect a loved one or someone you know is considering hurting themselves, it is important to approach them with love and keep an open mind. Experts recommend addressing your concerns directly.  Ask them if they are thinking of harming themselves, speaking gently and without judgment. Express your concern and assist them in seeking help. If you believe they are in immediate danger, stay with them, remove any harmful objects, and call 911.

Another way you can assist is to help your friend or loved one determine if psychological evaluations or depression screenings are covered by their insurance policy. For example, if your loved one is a senior enrolled in a Medicare Advantage program, they have access to one free depression screening every year. Medicare also covers certain counseling programs, which can be benefits for seniors who are struggling with the symptoms of depression.

The Role of Alcohol and Substance Abuse

According to Psychology Today, those with substance abuse are six times more likely to commit suicide. The rate of depression, the most common factor in suicides, is two to four times higher among addicts. Many people turn to alcohol and substance abuse to help cope with depression. In others, the abuse may be what triggers the depression. Drugs and alcohol can create a false illusion of help, while actually creating more problems that can deepen someone’s mental health issue, thus driving them closer to suicide.

Accepting Treatment

No one should be ashamed of seeking help. Treatment programs typically require people to recognize they cannot recover alone. The first step toward recovery is admitting oneself into the program. Once there, those in treatment receive around-the-clock treatment. Patients receive multilayered support and treatment, including isolation and protection, guidance and therapy for their mental health needs, and group meetings to share their experiences.

Suicide is preventable, and it’s important to break down the stigma surrounding it. Learn to recognize the signs so you can take appropriate action when there is a problem. Do not hesitate to get the proper help for yourself or someone else.

Melissa Howard

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Broward Health Criminal Sunshine Case: What leaders did wrong!

A few days ago, I attended and videoed a 43-minute status hearing on the alleged sunshine law violations of Broward Health former commissioners Rodriguez, Capasso, Robinson, and current commissioner Ure as well a former Broward Health corporate counsel Barrett before the honorable Judge Pole in Broward County Court. 

This multiple sunshine cases and its companion case relating to the alleged improper termination of former Broward Health CEO Paulene Grant is particularly important because not only are taxpayers paying all the attorneys on all the sides of this litigation, but the combined legal cost of these cases are in the millions of dollars.  Millions of dollars wasted on making a meaningless point that could pay for medical services in our community instead are flowing into the bank accounts of a few well-connected attorneys.

As I begin this article, there is a very important distinction between the current governance of the Broward Health seven-member Commission which is all new except for Commissioner Ure, and the current leadership of the senior enterprise management which is similarly new.   Unfortunately, this litigation is a very expensive and on-going legacy mess left for the current governance and leadership to ‘clean-up.’

In brief, here is some context to the story.

Pauline Grant
Pauline Grant

You will recall that in late 2015, Dr. ElSinadi then the CEO of Broward Health allegedly committed suicide.  Subsequently, some ‘acting’ Broward Health CEO’s were appointed and terminated.  One such CEO was Paulene Grant, the affable and competent CEO of the Broward Health North hospital in Pompano Beach.  Before Ms. Grant’s appointment as acting CEO for the Broward Health enterprise, an anonymous tip came into the tip line that alleged that Ms. Grant was getting a kickback from some physicians for putting them on a call list rotation for work at Broward Health North.  But this kickback was not a bag of cash, or direct but indirect as part of her overall incentivized compensation package as a senior executive at Broward Health.  The argument essentially was that in return for the physicians bringing in business to the hospital she managed – the hospital did better financially, and she thereby received a performance bonus.

Lynn Barrett
Lynn Barrett

So nothing happened with this “tip” for about nine months when, coincidentally, acting CEO Grant began to object and ‘push-back’ on some corporate counsel’s conduct and ‘initiatives.’  At that point, counsel Barrett initiated an ‘independent’ investigation into Ms. Grant by hiring an attorney on 8/24/16.  In retrospect, it appears that counsel Barrett took this action both without authority or the knowledge of the Board of Commissioners.

On November 16, 2016, Barrett’s ‘independent’ investigation concluded with the determination that there was a probable ‘reportable event’ related to Ms. Grant’s past conduct.  The finding of a ‘reportable event’ is significant because based on the 2015 settlement with the Federal Government, not only must the issue be reported to the government – but by the terms of the settlement, the person responsible for a reportable event may not have Broward Health employment.  But Ms. Grant was the acting CEO of the entire enterprise, so what now?

An important distinction that Counsel Barrett and her household of captive attorneys would fail to explain to the Board of Commissioners over the subsequent weeks is that it is the Board that decides legislatively whether an event is reportable – not a private attorney on counsel Barrett’s private mission.  In fact, in somewhat clearer hindsight, the allegations of kickback violations were likely unfounded or at worst so remote as to be a nullity.

But back to the story.

At this point, Ms. Grant knows nothing of the investigation nor its findings.  Only Counsel Barrett and the attorney she hired has this information.  But now, counsel Barrett has a problem – who will replace Ms. Grant as acting CEO and be ‘supportive’ to Barrett’s ‘leadership?’  ( I will not get into the multiple machinations Council Barrett used to hopelessly muck up the national search for a permanent Broward Health CEO costing hundreds of thousands of dollars because that’s a whole other article).

Cultivating close relationships with Broward Health Board, counsel Barrett carefully served equal portions of insight and information to the hungry Board members.  A particularly close friend was Commissioner Beverly Capasso.

Now the Sunshine case begins to take root.  The starting point for the prosecutors is something called ‘specific intent.’  Counsel Barrett ‘specific intent’ is to get rid of acting CEO Grant who is too independent and replace her with friendly Commissioner Capasso who had some experience as a CEO at Jackson Health previously and importantly at the time was Barrett’s good friend and ally.  So that’s the end game, the Board appoints Capasso to replace Grant.  Of course, before that happens, Grant has to be unceremoniously escorted out using the Federal Corporate Integrity (CIA) as the sword thus creating a leadership crisis.  Acting CEO Grant still knows nothing of the investigation nor its orchestrated findings.

Here is how it should have happened.  Barrett as Board’s counsel would ask the Chair to call an emergency meeting of the Board so that she and others could present the findings of the Grant investigation, answer questions and afford the Board the opportunity to take prudent action in public. 

But that is not what happened. Instead, Barrett and friends hatched a convoluted process whose sole purpose looked like it was to insulate Barrett legally and allegedly violated both the spirit and the letter of the open government sunshine laws.

What did happen is presented in Barrett’s motion to dismiss the indictment against her.  Here she explains, without providing dates – that she ‘relied’ on Mylka Raizen, allegedly one of Barrett’s best friends and past legal partner and Kevin Hyde both lawyers of the firm of Foley & Lardner to advise her.  This itself is interesting because presumably, Foley & Lardner’s client was Broward Health and not Lynn Barrett.  Among the questions that will probably never find an answer is to what the extent was Ms. Raizen and Mr. Hyde were co-conspirators with Barrett in the alleged sunshine violations and Barrett’s scheme to replace Grant with Capasso.  I’ll call Ms. Raizen and Mr. Hyde Barrett’s pals.


Click here to download Barrett’s motion to dismiss.

So, Barrett’s pals allegedly advised Barrett to hire a Mr. Selden to accentuate the crisis with the purported ‘reportable event’ in private (read not open to the public) briefings to Board Commissioners which would take place immediately after the commissioner’s received their briefing from the so-called independent investigation on the orchestrated findings.  Of course, Barrett, her pals, her ‘independent attorney, and of course Mr. Selden had to discuss the matters that were about to be briefed in the private meetings either directly or indirectly amongst themselves.  To think otherwise would make no sense. Then came the private meetings with commissioners. These private meetings occurred in odd places; Weston Hotel, Mario’s Catalina restaurant, on the phone, etc..  These private briefings constitute what the State Attorney alleges are ‘de facto meetings’ in violations of Florida’s sunshine laws.

How can anyone objectively determine what happened at these private briefings?  One really can’t rely on the testimony of those in attendance because why would they incriminate themselves?  How could one characterize a careful manipulation with a specific intent?  How does one describe a wink, a nod, a smile?

As it turns out – it’s not so hard.  We’ve all heard that the “proof of the pudding is in the tasting” or that if there is “no snow on the ground when you go to bed, and snow on the ground when you wake up – then sometime during the night, it snowed.”  The proof of a de facto meeting is in the perverse spontaneous board unanimity in the public meeting that follows.

Notably, the briefings could and should have been conducted in one public meeting.  Instead, the Board meeting following these so-called briefings strangely uniquely proceeded without comment, question or debate, the Broward Health Board terminated Acting CEO Grant, appointed Commissioner Capasso as acting CEO and authorized the reporting of the so-called independent “orchestrated’ reportable event.  Without comment, question or debate.

A reasonable person could reasonably deduce that something was decided before the public meeting in violation of the spirit and letter of Florida’s sunshine laws, but the improper conduct was not equally shared by the five people ultimately indicted.

Rocky Rodriguez
Rocky Rodriguez
Christopher Ure
Christopher Ure

I have known then Chair Rocky Rodreguez for over 35 years, and I know that he would never knowingly violate what he understood was his public trust.  Similarly, Commissioner Ure, a relative newbie public organization board member has a right to depend on the instructions from Broward Health’s corporate Counsel – Lynn Barrett.  I do not believe that any reasonable person would believe that either of these lay people – Rodreguez or Ure had the ‘specific intent’ to violate their public trust.  Accordingly, the State Attorney should drop their case against these two in exchange for their truthful testimony and cooperation.

Linda Robson
Linda Robson

Commissioner Linda Robson, also indicted was an appointed member of Florida’s Ethics Commission, an attorney, and her firm has and continues to do some work for Broward Health.  Ms. Robson should have know better!  The State Attorney should let Linda Robson plead no-contest with adjudication withheld, provided she agree not to serve on a public board for some time.

Beverly Capasso
Beverly Capasso

Commissioner Beverly Capasso became the acting CEO of Broward Health and materially and financially benefited from the improper Board conduct.  As acting CEO she was to sow the seeds for the District’s current Rennaissance.  Although she was likely an unwitting pawn in Barrett’s game – she was to become a serious miscalculation for Barrett.  Acting CEO Capasso was to act entirely in the best interests of Broward Health and the community as was the ultimate undoing of Barrett at Broward Health.  For this, and the leadership she boldly put in place, Capasso deserves both forgiveness and our thanks.  Like Robson, the State Attorney should let Ms. Capasso plead no-contest, with adjudication withheld, in exchange for her truthful testimony and cooperation and agree not to serve on a public board for some time.

Now we come to Barrett.  I would hope that the State Attorney throw the book at her, not only before the courts but also in front of the Florida Bar as well.  An example and perhaps new law should result in Florida that improper conduct by public board legal counsel cannot be tolerated.  That said, there is some tricky issue in prosecuting Ms. Barrett – and so our thanks should go to the State Attorney and Assistant State Attorney Tim Donnally in particular in their part in protecting the public interests from devious and manipulative attorney conduct.

The case raises an interesting question about legal advise given privately to sunshine board members.  Presumably, the same or consistent advice given to each board member might presuppose a predictable result in a public meeting.  My understanding is that private advice which resulted in a predictable result in a public meeting does not necessarily offend the Sunshine laws provided that there was no polling or disclosure of other commissioners comments.  If I’m right, then Counsel Barrett could have simply given her advice directly to Board Members, and advocate for Capasso’s appointment as a permissible legal action.  Done.  Lawful.  Instead – Counsel Barrett and her commission clients are indicted for sunshine law violations.

As to Barrett; “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!” (Sir Walter Scott, 1808).

On October 31, 2018, Broward Health corporate counsel Lynn Barrett was terminated by a unanimous vote of the Broward Health Board of Commissioners.


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Slack tide comes to Broward Health

Broward Health will start 2019 with a political and practical slack tide, a short period that is completely unstressed.  This period occurs before the newly elected state and local political, and governmental forces are settled with their organizational transitions.  

I followed Broward Health’s activities generally since 1996 and intently since 2011.  Never during that time have I seen a time where there was a greater opportunity to affect the structure and future of the organization and its role in our Broward Community. 

The reason for my optimism comes in several parts.  First, the now six members of Broward Health’s Board of Commissioners, appear to be not only competent – but also independent from any of the county’s aging political infrastructure.  While the Board does not have significant public policy experience or even passing institutional knowledge of public entities – the core members are enthusiastic to learn and work well together.  More important, through my direct and significant conversations with the core of the Board, I can report that each one desires to serve the community in the best way they can irrespective of any external pressure.   In short, they take their oversight responsibilities on behalf of the Broward community seriously.

I continue to reference the core board, that is the four members who comprise the super-majority that voted to terminate Broward Health’s former counsel Lynn Barrett.  Simultaneous with the vote, the Governor appointed a new member who together with resigned commissioner Wellins opposed the termination.  Then the Governor appointed another member who was sworn in at the December 12th meeting.  These two newly appointed members of the Board are the new kids, and although I have not had the opportunity to visit with them yet, I believe they will fit in well and will add value to the strongest and most competent Board I can remember.

Second, it is this Board that at their December 12th meeting appointed Mr. Santorio and by extension his team, to lead the organization in effect wisely choosing stability over another period of transition for Broward Health.  Mr. Santorio leads a young team of unencumbered fearless, energetic, competent folks – almost all of them new to both the organization and to Broward.  This newness is both a strength and a weakness.  This management team will need to operate at a high and independent professional level within both an awareness and an appreciation for the community of Broward.  No small task, but I think they can do it – with our help.

From my conversations with the Board and the management team, I am convinced that there is no short-term possibility of diminishing Broward Health’s presence or footprint in Broward, in fact – just the opposite is true.  The entire strategic plan is to reinvest into the community by expanding Broward Health’s lines of service proximate to the community needs.  This strategic plan is contrary to the consistent past rumors of some well-connected political players efforts to monetize and sell off some selective district assets.

Third, with the political changing of the guard in Tallahassee coupled with the nearly completely appointed Broward Health Board (for the first time since 2015), there should be a period of much-needed stability on the Board.  But like all things political – this appointment stability is measured in months and not years.

Fourth, both the Board and senior management has come to understand compliance in the context of a modern hospital system.  Here compliance is as much about changing governmental regulation as it is about creating a foundation for the multi-faceted organizational relevance to the community, the district’s taxpayer owners, and the mission of public health.

It’s time to come back to Broward Health.  It’s time to engage in your hospital system.  Socrates once said that “it goes a long way to make a man trustworthy, to trust him.”  It’s time to trust Broward Health (but verify!).  During this slack tide – that’s what I’m going to do!

Because the slack tide does not last, my message to Broward Health for 2019 is the three do-it rules;  Do it, Do it right, Do it right now.  I’ll be paying attention!  Stay tuned.

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Ding, dong. Broward Health’s Wicked Witch is Dead – The Dan Lewis Report

Beginning just before the September 26 Board meeting, things began to change at Broward Health precipitated by the completely unfounded and unprecedented, personal attack against Commissioner Klein by corporate counsel Lynn Barrett.

Change, primarily because Chairperson Klein had the temerity to exercise his oversight responsibilities and question Corporate Counsel Barrett.

Click for the rest of the story …….)

Source: Ding, dong. Broward Health’s Wicked Witch is Dead – The Dan Lewis Report

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Broward Health – Vote for anyone but Rick Scott

How do you hold a Board, that is politically appointed by the Governor, accountable? Embarrassment without a credible threat of removal goes just so far for Board members who too often care little for their reputations.

Since 2012, I have attended most Broward Health Board meetings, and been writing articles published here and in my blogs and My writings have tried to expose, cajole, persuade, embarrass, and inform the Broward Health Board and senior leadership to do a better job. But each time, I come back to accountability.

Of course, the obvious answer is – you can’t hold the Board accountable, but you must hold the Governor accountable. Some would argue that Rick Scott did not create the problems at Broward Health, but I would counter that he certainly could address and correct them.

Instead, Rick Scott appointed inexperienced political hacks to the Broward Health Board. Then he suspended some members of the Board. Then he opened an Inspector General and an FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) investigation into Broward Health (both continuing today after close to three years). Then he refuses to appoint a full complement of Board members in effect crippling the ability of the Board to assemble a quorum for necessary meetings. For over a year, there were only four of seven board members. Now there are five of seven Board members appointed. Insult to injury against Broward Health, one of the recent Board appointments appears to have been selected specifically to protect Broward Health’s legal counsel who is responsible for hiring law firms that coincidentally support Rick Scott. Just recently, Foley & Lardner LLP, one of these law firms has even been rumored to be pushing Governor Scott to appoint another ‘friend’ to the Board to shore up the increasingly exposed and embattled Broward Health legal counsel’s ‘protection.’ Of course, it should come as no particular surprise that Foley & Lardner’s projected fees for the 2018-2019 fiscal year from Broward Health are ‘budgeted’ at over two million dollars. That’s a lot of candidate Rick Scott support!

Regardless of your political persuasion, if you care about the health of your family, your friends or yourself – and you live north of 595 in Broward County – you simply cannot give your vote to Rick Scott. He must be held accountable for the cavalier manner in which he has politicised and monetized his gubernatorial responsibilities to Broward Health and our community. There must be consequences for his irresponsibility that has risked the health of our families and our community just for his personal and political gain.

For Senate, vote for anyone but Rick Scott. Let that be a consequence of how he has screwed up Broward Health while Governor for thousands of your friends and neighbors.

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Read the latest Broward Health Articles

Read the latest Broward Health articles on the Dan Lewis Report, or click the headlines below.  All original content about Broward Health will now be published on the Dan Lewis Report and for a time be linked on this BrwdHealth site.


June 20, 2018.  This morning, there was a three-minute status hearing in front of the Honorable Judge Zeller on the trial of the indicted Beverly Capasso – CEO, Lynn Barrett – Corporate Counsel, Commissioner Christopher Ure, and ex-commissioners Rocky Rodriguez and Linda Robison on alleged violations of Florida’s Sunshine Laws. (See numerous past articles for more details) The hearing was continued until September because a permanent judge has not been assigned to the case and there are multiple motions pending judicial ruling. Chief Judge…



June 20, 2018.  In the sometimes bizarro world of Broward Health, breaches of ethics and a Civil War is brewing just below the surface.  One side is Lynn Barrett, Broward Health’s Corporate Counsel. Remarkably it appears the other side is CEO, Bev Capasso, recently emboldened by her loosely negotiated employment contract.  Broward Health’s Board of Commissioners seems to split among the two camps.  Then there was the appointment of the newest Board member, Commissioner Ray Berry.  He was impressive at his first set of public meetings…


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Grand jury witness fired by Broward Health sues claiming whistleblower retaliation

By Dan Christensen, 

“A former Broward Health executive secretary has filed a whistleblower suit against the hospital district, alleging she was fired after testifying before the grand jury that indicted her boss, President/Chief Executive Officer Beverly Capasso.” …

“Gov. Scott and Broward Health”

“Scott has a long and tangled relationship with Broward Health. In addition to having the exclusive power to appoint its board members, he was an investor …”

Click to read the full story at …

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May 2018 Broward Health Marathon Board Meetings – The Dan Lewis Report

5/30/18 Broward Health Marathon Board Meetings A lot is going on at Broward Health.  Some of it is good.  Some of it, not so much.  Probably the biggest news for a public oversight perspective is the Governor’s latest appointment of Ray Berry.  While the Governor still needs to appoint two more commissioners to the Board, based on the performance of Commissioner Berry in his first public meetings at Broward Health – the Governor appears to have made a good choice…

See the full story with meeting videos & agenda packet excerpts: May 2018 Broward Health Marathon Board Meetings – The Dan Lewis Report

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Taxpayers’ tab for Broward Health’s lawyers (not counting defense of indicted leaders)

By Dan Christensen,

…The taxpayer’s tab for Broward Health’s lawyers this year is nearly $1 million more this year than in 2017, with annual legal expenses now budgeted at more than $6.1 million.

…A request for information about Broward Health’s in-house attorneys led the district to identify  seven in-house attorneys with base annual salaries ranging from $91,500 to Barrett’s $340,000. Barrett’s four top lieutenants, with titles of senior associate general counsel, draw base salaries of $239,000, $222,000, $175,000 and $165,000.

…The salaries of those attorneys, who also stand to collect a bonus of 17.5 percent of their salary this year if a recently proposed management incentive plan is implemented, total about $1.3 million, according to Broward Health’s information. But the 2018 budget for the general counsel’s office is $2,156,966, or more than 60 percent higher, indicating that salary hikes for in-house are in the works…

Read the complete story: Taxpayers’ tab for Broward Health’s lawyers (not counting defense of indicted leaders)

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Broward Health goes dark; Gov. Scott clams up

By Dan Christensen, Florida – Things are getting stranger at Broward Health. On Friday, the taxpayer subsidized public hospital system began refusing to provide requested public information. On Monday, the governor’s office declined to explain why Rick Scott hasn’t suspended indicted district leaders.

…”The decision by Broward Health to no longer answer the public’s questions comes on the heels of news earlier this year that the district was demanding thousands of dollars in administrative and legal fees before allowing public access to records about its lawyers and legal costs.” …

Read the full story: Broward Health goes dark; Gov. Scott clams up

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