Monday, January 1, 2018

Homeless Veteran "They wouldn't help me."

Turned away at Bedford VA hospital, a life lost
Veteran's suicide adds to questions about response, policies
Lowell Sun
By Todd Feathers
UPDATED: 12/30/2017

He sought care at VA hospitals in Arizona, Wyoming, and South Dakota. About three years ago, Earles decided to move to Massachusetts.


BEDFORD -- Byron Wade Earles sat hunched over, his head resting in his hands, by Building 78 of the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital.
The nurse who rushed out to help found him bleeding and despondent.

"They wouldn't admit me," he told her, according to an account of the incident in Earles' medical records. "They wouldn't help me."

As the nurse spoke with him, Earles took out a knife and began to cut his throat.
Byron Earles, a homeless Army veteran,
tried to commit suicide on Nov. 7, 2016
after the Bedford VA hospital s mental
health clinic denied him admission.
He died by suicide two months later.
(PHOTO COURTESY OF PAUL EARLES)

The 44-year-old Army veteran had arrived at the Bedford VA mental health walk-in clinic on Nov. 7, 2016 -- days after being discharged from the Brockton VA -- asking to be admitted to the hospital because he was thinking about hurting himself and others.

The Bedford clinic turned him away, according to a portion of Earles' medical records obtained by The Sun, because a mental health worker did not believe his account of a recent suicide attempt and suspected he wanted to escape the cold.

Maureen Heard, a spokeswoman for the hospital, said Earles left of his own accord after a psychiatrist suggested he seek a homeless shelter. Hospital administrators declined an interview request, but Heard said several clinic policies changed as a result of the Earles incident.

While Earles didn't die that day -- two VA police officers convinced him to drop the knife so the nurse could treat his wound -- he did die by suicide two months later, on Jan. 6, after walking out of a counseling session at the Bedford hospital.
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