The Darwin Exception

because it's not always survival of the fittest – sometimes the idiots get through

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It’s Not Illegal to be Crazy

Posted by thedarwinexception on October 26, 2007

 Now, I am obsessed, and a little mad and quite confused. I don’t understand the way social services works, I guess, and I don’t understand the way services are provided – or not provided – to people who need them.

And now I am consumed with trying to find out, and find someone who can answer my questions. The odd part is that I don’t even CARE, really, it’s just that I don’t understand why no one seems to be able to address the problems and issues, and when I don’t understand something I see it as a challenge.

Let’s go back to the beginning and see how I’ve come to this point.

So the bizarre zombie lady is using a gas grill as her heat source. She also clearly has mental issues, since money does not seem to be the issue when it comes to the question of “gee, how come you don’t have any fucking lights or running water?” She is convinced that this is a vast conspiracy by National Grid to shut down her precocious and revolutionary invention which will power the village through the miracle of microwaves/solar rays which all have to do with the painter Vermeer.

My concern and the reason I am sticking my nose into this whole mess is that by the end of the winter one of two endings will be seen: either she will have asphyxiated herself or she will have blown up half the street with the fumes form the gas grill, which are quite apparent when I take the dogs out on a cold night and she is running the thing. Legitimate concern? Maybe, maybe not, but one I am pursuing since I can’t seem to get anyone to listen to me.

My first call was to a woman named Pam at Comlinks. This is a community service agency which helps with things like “I can’t pay my heating bill and my kids are going to freeze”. Or “They are going to shut my lights off and I have no source of income”. They also do things like provide new furnaces and weatherization to seniors and low income households. Great agency. And Pam was quite helpful, she listened to me, said that she wasn’t sure *what* could be done, and it didn’t help that I had only sketchy information and didn’t know zombie lady’s last name or how old she was. But Pam gave me the number for Adult Protective Services, and said I should call them and let them know what is going on. Maybe they could help. So I called, got an answering machine, and left a message. No one called me back, so I kind of just let it slide. Fuck it, you know, I had already told Comlinks my concerns, I had the woman’s name and the date I called, if my house blew up, well, at least I could say “it was on record that I had concerns about this – no one intervened, I shall sue you all.”

Then Lorraine left a comment on the blog that said “call code enforcement” and I thought “hmmmm…you know, I actually *know* the guy in the code enforcement office, maybe I should.:” When we installed our woodstove, we had to get a permit to do that. Cost us like $50 – that was so the code enforcement guys could come back and inspect the woodstove to ensure that it was installed safely and correctly – so that there wouldn’t be a fire hazard and wouldn’t be a health issue with fumes rolling back into the house – they needed to make sure the pipe was a certain distance from the eaves, that the pipe was appropriate and up to the job, and that little things like the hearth in front of the stove was the correct width and distance away from the front of the woodstove. These guys seemed like the perfect people to call – if they were so concerned with my woodstove which was installed by a licensed and competent person, surely they would be concerned and interested in someone who was circumventing the whole “health and safety” issues they worked to enforce by just plopping a gas grill down in her living room and calling it “heat”.

So I called the guy in the code enforcement office who had come by our house three or four times during the installation of our woodstove to do inspections. He said “Well, there really isn’t anything we can do – we can’t just walk into her house…” And this kind of pissed me off. I mean, they were right up our ass when we were installing the woodstove. And I don’t understand how they work – so if I *hadn’t* gotten a permit, there would have been nothing they could do? They couldn’t just walk into my house and say “we need to inspect this woodstove?” That seems like a loophole. One that would have saved me $50, too.

The guy was nice, and tried to be helpful, but it was kind of like his hands are tied. He said “Well, if you actually smell smoke, we can go in then…” And I said “well what about gas fumes?” But no, that doesn’t count. And, of course, if I have to wait until I smell smoke, well, I’m thinking it’s going to be too fucking late at that point. Although I suppose if she resorts to burning her curtain rod vines, I can call them then. But the guy from code enforcement did say that he could call the police and tell them my concerns and have them do a “safety check”. So there was that, anyway.

About two hours later, there was a knock on the door, and it was the code enforcement guy. He said that, unfortunately, he had called the police and they told him that there was nothing they could do. They had already been to her house last year when someone else called with similar concerns about the fact that she had no apparent heat source, and that she wouldn’t let the police in and that since she seemed to be in no apparent danger, there was nothing they could do, legally. Although the police *had* called Adult Protective Services last year, and they had made a visit and she had refused help.

Now, I didn’t realize that Adult Protective Services “help” was something that you could refuse. I asked the code enforcement guy “What do you mean ‘refused help’ – can she do that? She’s not in her right mind, how can they just let her ‘refuse help’?” And the code enforcement guy said “well, it’s not illegal to be crazy.” Which is all fine and dandy, she can be crazy all she wants to be – but damn, isn’t it illegal to put MY body and property in danger by building up flammable gas fumes in her house? Can she just have like a nuclear stockpile in the back yard or a case of fucking dynamite in her basement? Is that legal as long as she can answer the door and say either “You can’t come in unless you smell smoke” or “I am in no immediate danger?” Seems fucking fishy to me.

So I looked up “Adult Protective Services” to see what they were all about and what their scope and mission seemed to be – and sure as shit, they can’t do a whole fucking lot.

I found their “scope” statement, which includes the following:

In providing services to impaired adults, it is required for Protective Services for Adults to work with agencies dealing with aging, medical and mental health, legal issues, and law enforcement. Services available by Protective Services for Adults include:

  • Investigation and assessment of the adult’s needs and risk of harm
  • Counseling for the victimized adult and their family
  • Advocacy and case management services including arranging for medical and mental health assessments, applying for benefits and assuring coordinated delivery services
  • Finding alternative living arrangements, including providing emergency room and board for up to 30 days
  • Financial management services, including serving as representative payee¨ Homemaker and housekeeper chore services, within specified limits
  • Crisis interventions, such as securing access orders, involuntary protective service orders and orders of protection
  • Long-term legal interventions, such as pursuing guardianship

I’m thinking that zombie lady should fall under their “Crisis interventions” – and that APS should secure an access order to gain access to her house and see the extent of her mental impairment on the way she is living – with no furniture, no running water and no electricity. And “involuntary protective service order” sounds really good.

They also had a FAQ on their site which included this information:

What if the elderly or impaired adult refuses help?

Competent adults have the right to exercise free choice in deciding whether to accept services. If an adult appears to be capable of understanding the risks and chooses to stay in an abusive or neglectful situation this can be a difficult decision for others to understand. PSA will offer services and try to convince the adult to accept help. If there are questions about the adult’s mental capacity, then a mental health evaluation will be pursued to determine if court-ordered interventions should be provided.

So, I’m thinking a mental evaluation is in order. Right? I don’t know why that wasn’t pursued last year, because clearly, it’s only gotten worse. But as long as she can seem clear and lucid for the amount of time she’s refusing help, I don’t think that APS is going to do anything further.

But, that’s where we stand – the police know she’s a fucking lunatic, but they can do nothing. Adult Protective Services say that she refused help, so that’s the end of what they can do, and code enforcement can’t go in and inspect her illegal and dangerous “heat source” unless and until there’s like smoke rolling out the vine covered windows.

And in the meantime, I’m still concerned that she’s going to either asphyxiate herself or blow up half the fucking street. And I’ve run out of agencies to call or someone who can do something about it.

Like the code enforcement guy said – It’s not illegal to be crazy. Just fucking irritating to the people who you blow up.

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32 Responses to “It’s Not Illegal to be Crazy”

  1. Holy Toledo said

    Welcome to government! Kim, I had a feeling you would run into a brick wall but I wasn’t sure about NY since I live in Ohio. I think I told you I have a close friend who worked for APS. Zombie Lady is the classic case they *deal* with. And they’re very difficult. Yes, it is not illegal to be crazy. Back in the 60’s, the laws were different. Authorities had a lot more leeway in putting people like ZL in mental hospitals. Then came the money saving revolution which was championed by groups I’ve forgotten the names, that it shouldn’t be “easy” to commit people. Husbands/wives/people pissed off, etc could pick up the phone and have someone’s ass thrown in the state hospital which cost the states a lot of money to run these outfits. Sooooo, the state decided they would have “community mental heath centers” and it’d cost a lot less and the local people could foot the bill more or less. Now here’s the kicker. Crazy people don’t have to take the medicine that keeps them functioning in a sane manner. There is no cure for mental illness. Sooooo, no one can force ZL to take drugs and not be crazy. Consequently, jails became a dropping off point for a lot of loonies. But to get someone commited to a state psych unit requires a probate judge to order it done and this can only be done if a psychiatric evaluation is signed and delivered to the judge. This is very difficult to do even for APS workers. You want to know why? Because no shrink in America is going to visit ZL and she damned sure isn’t going voluntarily to have an eval done. She’s not that crazy. Oh, another thing about crazy is it comes and goes. Very few people are totally whacked out all the time. There will be periods of sanity which I find incredible, almost like the whole thing is one big manipulation or CHOICE! Geez, I feel bad sharing this with you, Kim. I’m serious. I really do. But this ole gal has been done some rocky ass roads in her lifetime. If it were me, I’d write a letter to the health department giving the whole story of what steps you’ve tried and I’d send a copy of the letter to every fucking elected official in Malone City, the county and the state. She is a danger to the community, meaning YOU and I wouldn’t let it rest until everyone in Malone, the county and the state know you know. Lastly, I wish you love and I’m not being sarcastic. You’re a good person. I’d help if I were closer.

    Sue

  2. a Busby said

    Try calling the fire dept. If you can smell the gas fumes, they just might try to locate where the smell is coming from.

    Hope someone does something. The poor woman seems to need help.

  3. Veronique said

    The SMELL OF GAS doesn’t count? When I was growing up, we had gas into the house, and one day we smelled it. Outside in the front yard. And you betcha the gas guys were there toot sweet to repair a cracked pipe. Because a cracked pipe leaking gas is, you know, dangerous.

    So it seems a little disingenuous for the police to say, gosh there wasn’t any smoke WE JUST SMELLED GAS.

    As far as APS, I dunno. I want the option to be as eccentric as I like, but I also want someone to give a shit if I do something outrageously stupid and potentially deadly, like RUN A FUCKIN’ GAS GRILL IN MY LIVING ROOM.

    Jesus wept.

    V.

  4. Amy said

    Do you have any contacts at any local churches? Maybe if you brought her situation to the attention of a church, they could help out? A lot of times churches will have funds for people in that sort of situation as part of their community outreach programs. They might be able to get her heat turned on or something.

    Churches have their own sort of bureaucracy, but it tends to be more navigable than government bureaucracy.

    Ironic that the only person in Malone who isn’t getting some sort of government assistance is the one who actually needs it!

    I know… Call the SWAT Team! 🙂

    Love,
    Amy

  5. september said

    Kim, I would hire an attorney to write a letter to put the city administration on notice that you will sue for damages and mental stress if she blows up the neighborhood. Seriously, this just might get their attention. Get your neighbors to sign on too. It really does sound like a hazzardous situation. And politicians don’t like law suits.

    Good luck.

    September

  6. oh my Kim…seems like a lot of red tape. Here in NYC we have a 311 telephone number which goes to the Mayor’s Help Desk. You call (and you can do so anonymously if you wish), state the problem and then they get the appropriate agencies involved.

    If your county doesn’t have such an agency, go to your local phonebook and call EVERY STINKIN agency listed, especially HAZARDOUS CHEMICALS, then go for RODENT HAZARD and whatever else it takes.

    I know this is sooo frustrating…and don’t kid me…you do care (even if just a tad). Heck, I’m even starting to worry about Zombie Lady.

    Have a great weekend.

  7. Kathy said

    I’d call the fire department, and tell them you smell smoke.

  8. 2BReal said

    I agree with Kathy – call the fire dept. and tell them you think you smell smoke. The problem more than likely will be her letting them in, but they are the ones who need to know about the hazard.

  9. Patti said

    I understand the frustration. Dealing with mental competency and the whole community mental health crisis goes on in every city. Because it used to be SO easy to slap anyone in a facility, the rules are now skewed the other direction. Although she is eccentric and may pose a health hazard, she doesnt quality for emergency forced evaluation. Its a hard road to protect the client vs protecting the community. Alot of people who could use help dont get it. On the other side, we dont put people away forever who deserve to live their lives. I know none of this makes you feel better, but it may help you understand that the agency really does hear you, they are just powerless at this time to act.

    Patti

  10. D.F. Manno said

    You could move to have her involuntarily committed to a hospital.

    I’m not familar with current N.Y. state law, but I’ll describe the process in Pennsylvania. A person files a petition with the Mental Health Court in which he states that the person in question is both mentally ill and an _imminent_ danger to herself or others. If the court accepts the petition (usually pro forma), the police will pick the person up and take her to the hospital for 72 hours, During that time there will be a hearing at which the court will determine if she is to be held longer. The person filing the petition will need to appear at the hearing and testify why he believes the person is mentally ill and a danger. If the court finds against her, the judge will order her committed either for a specified length of time or until the doctors determine that she is no longer a danger.

    (This is known as “3-oh-2-ing someone,” because Section 302 of the state’s Mental Health Act covers involuntary commitments.)

    Needless to say, this course of action bears some risk. People who are 302’d are rarely grateful for the intervention, and may come after those who sought the commitment. Since you’re living next to her, you’d be an easy target.

    Also, they’re not going to keep her until she’s cured, only until she’s no longer an imminent danger. There’s no guarantee that she will take her meds/follow her course of treatment upon discharge, so she may return to her prior behaviors. Ideally, Adult Protective Services will be involved after her discharge, or an ICM (institutional case manager) will be named for her and will follow her case.

    It’s a tough decision for you to make, and you’d have to decide if it’s worth it. I just thought I’d provide the information.

    D.F.

  11. Leslie said

    Kim-

    I know the village police weren’t much help, but have you considered the State Police? They have a whole different set of criteria that they work by, Just a thought-

    Leslie

  12. skweekie said

    It’s not only government agencies that refuse to get involved. An elderly neighbor of mine lost all her money to her alcoholic son. He withdrew her money down to the last $70.00. The bank (Chase) knew he was doing it, but since his name was on the account they couldn’t do anything. Several of us went down to the bank and told them that she had Alzheimer’s, but it made no difference to them. They said she had to come down to the bank and change the paperwork. Of course her son was not going to allow any such thing. It took half a year to get protective services to do anything. By the time the County Guardian took over, she had nothing.

  13. Veronique said

    What would happen if you just paid her electric bill to get it turned back on, sort of “jump-start” it, so to speak? Don’t tell her you paid it, just pretend the electric company realized she was right about whatever it was she had an issue with, and now she can pay her bill since she “won” the argument.

    V.

  14. A.D.A. said

    Crisis interventions, such as securing access orders, involuntary protective service orders and orders of protection
    Long-term legal interventions, such as pursuing guardianship

    Did that block?

    APS can do a guardianship, and they can pursue invountary commitmentment.

    Generally the standard for involuntary commitment is “danger to self or others”. The fact that APS visited her last year is GOOD, because repeated visits are not unusual, and the “client” doesn’t generally improve as time goes on. Your neighbors probably don’t want a fire, either, so have them come over and smell the fumes and also call APS.

    Anyway, I think PA’s system sucks. Anyone can call you in and the police can get into your home without a warrant, so if you didn’t put out for Rocky and you lived in PA, she could just make up a bunch of cr*p and find some gullible cops.

    This is America, where you can be eccentric and live unbothered, until someone discovers the 150 cats, or – in this case- the propane grill and no running water.

    APS is the right route.

  15. Val Dalton said

    Wow Kim that’s just crazy. I hate how people dont give a shit about other people anymore. Poor crazy lady.

    BTW are you giving out candy for halloween. We are going as Peter, Lois and Stewie from the Cartoon The Family Guy. LOL We made Lukes costume and to make his head football shapped we took a nerf football and cut it in half, painted it and attached it to a head bad lol, you gotta see it!

  16. BTW are you giving out candy for halloween. We are going as Peter, Lois and Stewie from the Cartoon The Family Guy.

    Yes! I bought a bunch of peanut butter cups – I bought 12 which should mean I’ll have about……11 left over.

    Last year we didn’t have any kids come, and the year before that we had 2 – but I always buy candy, anyway, since, you know, I can always eat it myself, if I HAVE to. And I keep hoping for that huge parade of cute little kids in costumes.

    In Florida I used to buy like $100 worth of candy and by 8:00 we were digging around for change to give and then turning the lights off 15 minutes after tht when the change ran out. I miss that although I hated it then.

    Bring the cutie by – I’d love to see him.

    Kim

  17. What would happen if you just paid her electric bill to get it turned back on, sort of “jump-start” it, so to speak? Don’t tell her you paid it, just pretend the electric company realized she was right about whatever it was she had an issue with, and now she can pay her bill since she “won” the argument.

    You know, I actually thought about this – calling the electric company and explaining the situation to them and seeing what I could do – but the problem is that 2 months after I paid it, it would be shut off again because she refuses to move her mailbox to the front of the house so she can have mail delivered. Without getting bills, she’ll just be convinced that this is furtherance of the vast conspiracy.

    Of course, I could then explain it to the mailman and convince him to walk around the back of the house, and deliver her light bill, but I’m not sure I want to run around after her explaining to people that she’s nuts and to make concessions for her – how long do I have to do that? And I also really don’t want to confront her with her delusions and knock them down or make them untenable. I’ve heard that the worse thing to do to these people is try to convince them with hard evidence that their delusions aren’t real – when you challenge the validity of the delusions psychotic people can get really unpredictable.

    Of course, I am not a psychiatrist, so I don’t know how well my soap opera definition of “delusion” holds up.

    Kim

  18. Katprint said

    Do you know if she owns or rents the house? You can generally check with the County Recorder to find out who the legal owner is. If she is a renter then you can contact the owner/landlord to let them know what is going on because they probably doesn’t want their property destroyed in a massive explosion, and you can also remind them that if they negligently fail to abate this nuisance (legalese for putting a stop to this harmful situation) then they will be liable for any personal injuries or property damage that results from the foreseeable gas fume explosion. Depending how meanspirited you feel, you could mention that you believe they are already liable for personal injuries resulting from your long term exposure to these fumes and that you are shopping around for a lawyer but that quick action on their part will resolve the entire matter without the need for litigation.

    Also you may be able to find out what homeowners’ insurance company insures the property (generally every mortgage requires such insurance) and send them the same letter, then let them put pressure wherever it is needed. For example, if the insurance company threatens to cancel the landlord’s insurance policy thus putting the mortgage in default, then maybe the landlord will suddenly see the benefit of paid utilities like power, water and gas being included in the rent.

  19. Do you know if she owns or rents the house?

    She owns the house – probably paid cash for it – it was listed at $18K last year, she no doubt paid less than that. I also highly doubt there is insurance on the house – when she was cutting the tree down and I was worried it was going to fall on my house I jokingly said to her “Can I get a copy of your insurance policy to see if this is covered?” and she looked at me with bewilderment and said “what is this insurance policy, no?” When I told her it was a form of payment in case the house burned down or someone got hurt on the property she said “oh, house is cheap, no insurance.”

    Kim

  20. Veronique said

    I can’t remember anymore, is the gas grill like a Weber or something? An outdoor grill that you’d use on the patio, right? And usually they have stickers on them saying something like, “Do Not Use Indoors or In Enclosed Areas Extreme Hazard Danger Danger Warning!!!1!” right? So it seems if you know for a fact someone IS using their outdoor grill in an enclosed area like their //boggle// living room, this is an issue for the fire department.

    I dunno. What an awful situation. I can understand not wanting The Man to be able to take someone in just because they do not conform to expected norms, but with your neighbor, I keep coming back to death by carbon monoxide via the gas grill, which definitely goes beyond simple eccentricity.

    V.

  21. AtwoodLady said

    Kim,
    I just received in the mail today info from my gas company which said in part “our pipeline network is the life blood of our community. We all need to do our part to keep it safe and secure”

    Then it goes on to what to look for:

    Smell – an additive called Mercaptan is added to natural gas and gives off the smell like rotten eggs

    Sight – look for dry spots, discolored soil or dying vegetation that could indicate a leak.

    Sound – A leak can make a high-pitched whistle or roar as it escapes (good god, hope you don’t experience this)

    Safety – leave area and call for help.

    Maybe contacting the gas company would give you some different results.

    Like September, I think contacting the fire department is also a good idea.

    NV

  22. Susan said

    The fact is, “Neighbor Lady” is free to set fire on you and everyone else until and unless she’s hospitalized. In my job as a discharge coordinator, I come across people who don’t want help. However, when they become ill and live in sub-standard housing, the state takes over and they’re assigned a legal representative. You need to find a legal “hole” in her bid to be independent.
    When do her rights prevail and your rights for a sanitary neighborhood prevail? I’d continue appealing through the health board (there must be a law against no running water/sanitation)and your local town council. In the long run you’ll save your sanity,life and become “Malone, Citizen of the Year”!

  23. noor b said

    a blogger named “sprocket” has compared me with your looney neighbor.

    Can I bring it one here?

  24. noor b said

    never mind kim, just delete my previous post.

    just forget about it, she’s an idiot and is not worth the attention.
    She’s a very angry person, because she got banned from CTV, because of her own actions, I did not “ban” her, the moderator of CTV banned her, I did not, and is now blaming me for it, she has posting my full name and address on the internet, she’s posting persoanl information about me, and is harrasing me, she’s hurtfull, and she’s full off it.She, for some reason is taking it out on me.

    I better stop now…………………:(

  25. a blogger named “sprocket” has compared me with your looney neighbor.

    Why would she do that? Do you have a grill in your living room?

    Kim

  26. noor b said

    Okay Kim, very funny.

    Thanks a billion.

  27. houdini said

    i would think twice about saying that sprocket has identified you to anyone, on the internet or otherwise. you ‘outed’ yourself on the CTV boards, not sprocket. she has NEVER given me any personal information on you and she would give it to me before anyone else.

    i do think you are delusional as there is no information posted about you anywhere. she did however tell her side of the crippled daughter saga on her blog yesterday. you didn’t come off looking like anything more than the crazy #hit you posted above.

    and just so you know, i have seen the things you have said about me at Refugees….seems not ‘everyone’ over there is enamoured with your rantings since they sent it to me, laughing about how nutty you seem to be. i feel truly sorry for you.

    dini

  28. Everyone knows that Dini and Sprocket are constantly causing trouble over on the CTV message boards. Its about time that Sprocket got banned, and Dini, I hope you are the next one to go.

  29. Sprocket said

    Ah me. Sometimes you just have to shake your head, woefully.

    Your full name and address is available on a search of Google white pages. Maybe you should talk to your phone company provider about that, instead of blaming that on me and my blog.

  30. noor b said

    Ah Sprocket now I understand, the white pages contacted you, and they gave you my address.
    How clever! 🙂

    Now I have to shake my head “woefully”.

  31. spring roll said

    Noor B…

    Where did she post you’re full name and address on the internet? I didn’t see it on her blog, was this on a board somewhere?

    Are you her “stalker”? Just askin…

  32. Maisey said

    Yikes Noor, where was your name and address publicly published?

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