The Black Politico

Orlando politics and more -- from a black perspective

Self Medicating: A broken healthcare system leads to patient power

Last spring, a south Florida man fought against Florida’s marijuana laws and won his argument to be able to treat himself with medical marijuana.

Jesse Teplicki, a severe anorexic, told a south Florida news channel, this case is about medicinal marijuana and that he was going home to celebrate his legal win by, smoking a “fat one,” as he described it, before dinner. Prior to using medical marijuana Teplicki would get sick simply at the sight of food. However, he has found a way to successfully use the marijuana he grows in his own home as treatment for his condition. Even though marijuana is, for the most part, illegal in Florida, Teplicki’s Attorney Michael Minardi was successful in convincing a jury of Teplicki’s peers that Teplicki was within his rights for growing 46 plants in his home for his medical condition. They found no reason to believe he was selling the plant for monetary gain.

This case is also about the right to choose what happens to our bodies on the inside as well as on the outside. As we embark on an election season, many people are fighting for or against a woman’s right to choose what happens with the health of her body and her right to choose whether to have an abortion or not.

Teplicki had no medical records in ten years which clearly means he has not been seen by a “traditional” doctor in a decade yet he has successfully treated a severe condition without the frustration of using health insurance and bouncing from doctor to doctor. According to the Power To the Patient advocacy group, statistics show most people have gone to an average of 6-7 doctors before they actually get a diagnosis. That is an unacceptable way to treat illness. Even though many are suffering with aches, pains, mental conditions, lupus, sickle cell anemia and more, there is a frustrating system patients must go through in America in order to be diagnosed and treated. Being properly treated is even harder.

Frustration is growing amongst patients and Teplicki is a patient who has power, determination and gained even more after his historic legal battle. Most of all, he had a passionate attorney when it comes to medical marijuana. Attorney Michael Minardi told us this lawsuit seems like it happened so long ago, yet, the groundbreaking trial ended this past March and Attorney Minardi is set to battle yet another similar case on August 24th in Osceola county.

Using medical marijuana for some people is not just a recreational move. There are several reasons why people turn and self-medicate and a broken medical system is where it all starts. Going to a primary care doctor with a problem means that you will most likely be sent to a specialist. It may take a while for a patient to get an appointment because being a new patient to an office means completing more paperwork and getting insurance approval. This can prolong the process patients have as they suffer with whatever medical condition they are battling. Meanwhile, the fight for medical cannabis is going on right alongside the right for women to choose and medical marijuana is looking like it could become legal in 2016.

However, some are arguing that the only amendment to the law that is on the ballot is the one proposed by Attorney John Morgan of Morgan and Morgan. Others are trying their hand at proposing an amendment that claims to encompass a plan that legalizes marijuana that is similar to states like Colorado and California however, those amendments are still in the petition phase while Morgan’s amendment will be on the 2016 Presidential ballot.

As for Teplicki, the jurors in his case clearly sided with him agreeing patients who need medical marijuana may use it to treat their illness.
Teplicki plans to file a civil suit however the judge was sure to stand up in court and tell him not to push his luck and to be careful with his actions in the future.Medical cannabis in Florida

Civil Rights Leader Julian Bond passes away at age 75

Social Activist and civil rights icon, Julian Bond, passed away on Saturday at the age of 75.

Bond was more than an icon during the civil rights movement of the 60’s but also was the man who helped shape the way white people and black people relate to each other in America. Bond helped define the civil rights movement which was about demanding change for people of color. On Sunday, the Southern Poverty Law Center, which Bond is the founding President, issued a statement of Bond’s death. The statement read, “Not only has the country lost a hero today, we’ve lost a great friend.” The post also stated, Bond suffered a brief illness and passed away on Saturday night in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

What made Julian Bond great was that he stood firm on his demand for equal rights for black people and he told the story of civil rights with such charisma and class. He made sure to create and help charge organizations with the same goals and objectives that he worked hard to develop with other black leaders, so that the mission could be a successful one.

In response to the news of Bond’s death, President Obama issued a statement from The White House, stating, “Julian Bond helped change this country for the better. And what better way to be remembered than that.”

Bond was also a student of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr at Morehouse College and helped lead one of the very first college sit-ins. From leading boycotts to leading his state, Bond was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965, where he would carry out civil rights equality in a different capacity.

Bond championed equality in America with a blueprint that is used still today by different groups trying to achieve the equality in America, too.

Julian Bond’s impact to this country was equally advantageous to whites as blacks regardless of what many in white America feel or felt at that time. The Southern Poverty Law Center called Bond a “visionary and tireless champion for civil and human rights.” The SPLC goes on to state, “With Julian’s passing, the country has lost one of its most passionate and eloquent voices for the cause of justice. He advocated not just for African Americans, but for every group, indeed every person subject to oppression and discrimination, because he recognized the common humanity in us all.”

What a beautiful way to be immediately associated, remembered and recognized.

The life Bond lived and what he accomplished gives each of us the same blueprint in which to work. Equality today must come in the form of economic opportunities, equal pay for equal work, an increase in 7 and 8 figure contracts for minority businesses and so much more. The kind of change that was made in race relations in America during the 60’s is so critical to the way we live today. Our Social Activists in our local communities help make and create the change we wish to see and feel as a community an ultimately a country.

Our elected officials as well as the appointed ones are expected to enforce this change just the way the leaders like Bond did during the most charged movement in American history. We certainly still have boundaries put on us and barriers put in our way but collectively, we can choose to be as active in our communities as we can in order to achieve greatness for our country and our families for generations to come.

One mother’s fight against Florida’s prison system

One Mother’s Fight Against Healthcare in Florida’s Prison System
By Rhetta Peoples

When you listen to Barbara Jackson talk about the horrific details of her son’s last days in prison, you would think she was the one who has suffered 17 years behind bars in a private prison in Florida. Jackson is a direct beneficiary of all the hurt, anger and stereotyping a mother can bear as a result of her son’s incarceration. However, Barbara Jackson, is no inmate. At least not as we would consider one to be. She is incarcerated though by the circumstances surrounding her son’s health care in prison. Barbara Jackson is the mother of a Delvin Jackson, who was incarcerated at the Lake Butler Correctional Facility in north Florida. Delvin was locked up for non-violent crimes. Last September, he started to have stomach problems and went to see the nurse. The nurse gave him Pepto-Bismol. Each time he complained, the facility treated him as if he was making it up and his treatment routinely became cheap doses of antacid.

Barbara Jackson, Left and Cynthia Harris, Right. Photo courtesy of The Florida Sun newspaper

Barbara Jackson, Left and Cynthia Harris, Right. Photo courtesy of The Florida Sun newspaper

Even as he lost weight, was unable to move and had his stomach surgically removed, his mother would sit and visit with him while he lie shackled to a bed with prison guards laughing in the background at whatever show happened to be on television during their visitation time.

Then came the death of Delvin Jackson.

He died shackled to his bed of cancer in Florida’s privatized prison system. When Jackson requested her son come home to die, “The first panelist denied his leave because they said he had a kidnapping charge. No where on his record was there a kidnapping charge,” Jackson said. The board determined they would review the case in 90 days however Delvin died before the case could come back up for review. The panel appears to have been deliberately indifferent and didn’t provide the time out for someone in his condition, especially when he was convicted of non-violent crimes. Jackson said, “My son died an agonizing death when he was shackled in the hospital bed.”

But, what some may have thought was the end proved to be the start of a new movement.

Barbara Jackson decided she would fight for answers and for a change in policy and procedure. Jackson schedule a time to meet with her House Representative and told the story of how hard it was for her son to get decent healthcare and attention. As she continued to speak with Representative Jason Brodeur-(R), she choked back tears and at times, just let them roll down her face, as she described the horrific condition he was under during his last days.

LaWanna Gelzer, President of the local chapter of NAN said, “Prisoners—their bodies—are property of the state.” But, what does this have to do with patient and family engagement? Those who are imprisoned have not only lost their rights but their families have no say in their medical treatment and even end of life options. Prison is big business especially when privatized so why wasn’t Jackson afforded better attention to his health? During Jackson’s medical treatment the facility ended family visitation because they said Delvin was in “possession of narcotics.” We did a bit more digging and found the narcotics he had were his pain pills that were legally prescribed to him by the prison’s preferred hospital for his condition. After having his stomach removed, Delvin could not digest the medicine and he told his mother he did not like the way the pills made him feel. As a result, he refused to take the medication which Jackson says made the nurses angry. However, he was confined to a bed with shackles and the only narcotics he had were the pain pills he refused to take.

According to Jackson, this could have angered the nurses and reports show from this point on, his visitations were denied. However, there is no possible way, Delvin Jackson, could have been possessing and/or selling narcotics when in the final stages of cancer. This begs the question, why were his family visitations really suspended? Was there something prison administrators were keeping from the family?

Jackson was told she had two options after the death of her son. She could either have him cremated or she could have him buried there in the prison graveyard in north Florida near Jacksonville. Bringing Delvin’s body home for a funeral and burial was not an option. Her rights were described as being terminated as a parent even though she signed no rights over to the state or the private prison either for that matter. Delvin Jackson was never a threat to anyone else’s safety especially while he battled stage 4 cancer. Representative Brodeur said, “Certainly when patients reach a certain level of health, it moves from becoming a safety risk to just being compassionate.” What Jackson wants is to develop a plan of action, a bill, that can be presented to Brodeur’s subcommittee that will change the way inmates are currently treated. Part of her mission is to develop a patient and family Bill of Rights. What happened to Delvin Jackson may be happening to another non-violent offender in custody right now. Inmates may be suffering more punishment at the hands of the privatized prison system in Florida.

Community activist, Cynthia Harris has a professional background rooted in Criminal Justice and Social Work. Harris said, “Delvin Jackson was in the care, custody and control of the State of Florida prison private system. I worked for the Department of Corrections from 1995-1997 before it was privatized. During this time inadequate medical care, nursing and staffing shortages and hundreds of pending lawsuits claiming inadequate medical care was and still is a factor.” Harris added, “It is highly unusual to deny the request of a family to receive the remains of family members incarcerated upon their demise. If a family is willing to incur the expense of transporting the remains to a place of their desire it should be their right to do so.”

Brodeur gave Jackson a pathway to getting started. “First contact the Department of Corrections for his medical records. That will get you the evidence you need to get some answers,” Brodeur said. Being the mother of an incarcerated child is difficult. Jackson said, “I have been outcasted, just like my son.” With tears streaming down her face, Jackson continued, “And, when he died, we were still treated like trash.” According to Jackson, the private prison offered her no other option with her son’s healthcare, end of life decisions and sadly enough even the burial of his remains. Harris added, “Offering the family two choices was cruel and inhumane punishment and why should the family be punished as if they also participated in a crime.”