My first year as a publishing tycoon: 26,234 hits and growing

(Cake courtesy Jewel, Cityline Plaza, Moline)

DavidHeitz.com turns a year old today! As a gift to myself, I’ve turned the ads on.

I have to pay the Internet bill somehow.

I love the “Live Mas” Taco Bell ones flickering on the cannabis content the best. I’ve seen one for Hyundai, too…even one for LEGOLAND!

And then there’s the matter of the above-pictured pastry. I told the gals at Jewel to check out DavidHeitz.com and come up with something fitting for its first anniversary.

I think they did an incredible job. The scales of justice are, well…the icing on the cake.

Let me tell you how much fun my website has been for a 47-year-old who landed his first paid newspaper job three decades ago. The internet has created an almost completely level playing field in the world of publishing.

My “printing press” is this website, which costs about $400 per year. My “circulation department” is Facebook – a much, much, much, much bigger annual cost. But worth it.

Sometimes I get a remarkable algorithm on my stories on my Facebook page without ever even spending a penny. With almost 4,600 Facebook followers alone, it happens now and then.

And, I have a message that people find interesting.  Sharing it has paid dividends already. Often, writing about what happened to me is a way of simply feeling like I have done something regarding all the nonsense I’ve endured the past three years. The word “dirty” doesn’t even begin to explain it.

The truth is coming out now. Anyone who pays one iota of attention should be picking up on a few things and connecting some dots.

Had I not had this site and my Facebook page, I don’t know my claims of abuse ever would have been investigated. But I’m pretty sure they have. Honestly though, I have no idea where things stand. Nobody in their right mind would ever tell me something they don’t want reported.

I know how things are beginning to look, however.

At the end of the day, a member of the Rock Island County Board told me to take my story of what happened in the jail to the local news media and scream it at the top of my lungs. I knew that wouldn’t get me anywhere.

But this site has. I think.

A worldwide media presence

Do young journalists still dream of owning their own newspaper? I never did, but only because I never even fathomed it a reality.

I never could have guessed that by middle age, I’d be a bonafide publisher cranking out copy from the comfort of my own home. Delivering it, in fact, to consumers of my content on their phones, tablets and laptops. Even being able to decide who, where, and what interests I want to target with each post. I have followers (quite a few in fact) in several African nations due to all the HIV reporting I used to do, as well as a few in the Netherlands, and bunches in the UK.

I also have followers of my blog in Albania, Qatar, South Korea and Germany. And Australia. How could I forget Australia?

This is a dream newspaper on steroids!

Working on my book, writing about issues nobody else wants to touch…it gives me tremendous purpose. Purpose is key to my happiness in life. As long as I have purpose, I really don’t need much else.

My purpose is to shed light on the truth regarding certain topics. Those topics include medical cannabis, elder care, mental health, sober living, and public corruption.

I wrote my very first blog post on Aug. 9, 2016. You can read it right here.

Things are better now than they were a year ago. I always said to my therapist, “Imagine how things are going to be when everyone finds out that everything I have said happened to me are proven true. It will be like living it all over again, but maybe worse, because there may be even more to all of this that I don’t remember.”

It’s a real and frightening thought, given it took a year to remember the initial assault in my basement. When I did remember it, it was in an extremely disturbing manner.

And now everything is adding up. I’m still holding out faith in law enforcement and the justice system.

And I’m glad I turned the ads on.

Keep circling back, and thanks so much for playing a part in making my site successful!

Chapter 11: My life as a reporter for the Quad-City Times

Copyright David Heitz

The lead story on my going-away page of June 6, 1991, said it all.

“BELCH, BELCH, BELCH: Dave Heitz answers his last phone call at the Quad-City Times.”

Indeed, the headline referenced my already well-established drinking problem. What’s worse? I wasn’t even old enough to drink yet. But I’d certainly had lots of practice working at the Quad-City Times during the previous five years.

Going out with Times staffers post-deadline in the 1980s and 1990s, I never got carded even once.

Nope. Not even once. Pat McGuire’s had been great fun for me since my freshman year of Augustana College.

Augustana College is another chapter of this book altogether.

No institution has shaped who I am today more than the Quad-City Times newspaper in Davenport, Iowa. No place even comes close.

And I’m proud of that. I don’t really have a choice!

Strange and chuckle-able as its name may be (what’s a Quad-City?), the community the newspaper serves is anything but a laughing matter.

Q-C already has caught Hollywood’s eye

Few people have heard of the Quad-Cities. A few have heard of Davenport, the largest city in the Quad-Cities, and where the Quad-City Times is located.

The community comprises four cities that straddle the Mississippi River on both the Illinois and Iowa sides, and many smaller, outlying burgs. Eventually, the metropolitan area trickles off into cornfields in all directions, although Des Moines and Chicago both are within a three-hour drive.

What goes on in this town is the stuff Hollywood films are made of. Indeed, “Road to Perdition” starring Tom Hanks, based on the novel about notorious Rock Island gangster John Looney, already was a blockbuster hit.

From Lexa Luther, to Billy Blowhard, to Lois Lush, our cast of characters knows how to make news, even if it usually never gets covered. We’ve got dirty politics, what certainly appears to look and smell like organized crime, and a drunken news reporter on duty somewhere, 24/7.

And it’s always been this way, even if the players in the various roles have changed through the years.

Check out excerpts from Chapter One: Dad and I reclaim the property

Lord knows I filled the role of Lush for many years. And Lord knows I have known the Lexas and the Billies. Smart reporters do their time here and get out, or move on to some other profession locally.

Smart reporters do not get sucked into the swamp.

Problem is, I used to get so drunk I didn’t even care about the things I saw and heard. I wasn’t the first Quad-City reporter to ever get to that point and I won’t be the last.

From Milan skunks to skunk weed in Milan

The most disturbing part about the news media in the Quad-Cities, at least every time I was a part of it (which spanned 25 years on and off), is how everyone looks the other way about official things gone awry.

I certainly got that impression throughout every tenure I had at the Quad-City Times. The commandments were clear:  Doth not question authority, doth not protest too much, and doth never take a competitor’s name in vain.

Consider the tertiary headline on my going-away page, after the “BELCH, BELCH, BELCH” banner and the secondary head, which referenced my poor driving skills.

“When things reek bad, call on Times reporter, skunk expert, Heitz” may have secured my place in Quad-City Times lore even more than the Klindt interview.

From the story on my going-away page, which sadly has some true parts to it:

“When the skunks stormed Milan, Dave Heitz scooped the competition and sniffed out a front-page story. He basked in the glory of his story. Job offers flowed in from around the globe. Even Geraldo called.”

But then the smart-aleck author takes a turn for the true. “Next day came the call that would threaten his job security and make him sorry he ever uncovered that skunk scam. ‘Hey is this the skunk reporter?’ sneered a disc jockey.”

Indeed, 97X, I believe it was, had called me while I still was in bed wanting to talk about a story I had written about skunks terrorizing a Milan neighborhood. I apparently didn’t handle it properly on the air or represent the Quad-City Times well.

I was in college, remember. Augustana College. Another chapter.

“After several high-level meetings, it was decided that Dave could keep his job,” the author of the story on the faux front page pictured with this chapter wrote. “But sadly, his career never rebounded.

“That’s why he’s fleeing the skunk-infested Milan beat. He’s heading to the L.A., where the freeways are free of the varmints that ruined his reputation.”

Ha!

I never realized until I wrote this how ironic it is that now I go to Milan for “skunk” weed. As a qualifying medical cannabis patient in Illinois, my dispensary is in Milan.

Read more: I legally bought weed today in Milan, Ill. Thank you, Lord

The notorious James Klindt ‘killer tacos’ interview

Always take no for an answer from public officials, and then politely run along. That’s the message I always got while working as a reporter for the Quad-City Times, at least if you wanted to keep your job.

My problem was, I always had a very difficult time doing that. And I still do. And I got to where I decided that unemployment was better than going in every day and pounding out happy stories all the while drowning in the community cesspool.

That’s not to say the newspaper doesn’t produce some fine scoops now and then. For sure, it does, and I am forever grateful for every community newspaper that exists. I know how badly they are needed, even if the days of doing impactful journalism are few and far between. Everywhere.

The biggest feather in my cap during my tenure at the Quad-City Times probably was landing the only post-prison interview convicted killer and former Davenport chiropractor James Klindt ever gave.

Years of warming the bar stool at Mary’s on 2nd Street paid off when a sizzling tip led to my explosive story: “Klindt finds new life, career in taco stand.”

I interviewed Klindt in my Ford Taurus. You can check it out by clicking right here.

The story ended up going out on the wire and even was translated into Japanese. Jay Leno had a ball with it, too.

Klindt killed his wife before dismembering her body with a chainsaw and then dumping it in the Mississippi River.

The Halloween party featuring Clarence Thomas – in black face

Through the years, the Quad-City Times has seen characters aplenty come and go. Newsroom alumni I have worked with through the years have gone on to become members of Congress, a mixed martial arts tycoon convicted of tax evasion, multiple healthcare PR divas, a spokesman for a far-right think tank, porn stars, clergy, an assistant district attorney, and much, much more.

Lots of people leave the news business, but stick around and do different things.

Most of the time that’s fine and dandy, but sometimes it gets “icky sticky makes me sicky.”

But then, newspaper people are known for their shenanigans.

At one Times party in the late 1980s or early 1990s, a staffer came dressed as Clarence Thomas – in black face – with pubic hair taped atop a Coke can.

At another, everyone was drunk at a going away party for an editor. There was marijuana, booze, rifles, and bows and arrows everywhere. No harm no foul, right? Everyone was having a grand old time. A hunter was showing off his hunting tools like hunters do.

Still, what a scene. I was driven home (I think) by a photographer who still works at the Times. I threw up on the way to my apartment, just as I had thrown up at the party.

The editor was the coolest guy on earth. I called and offered to clean up his apartment the next day, and he totally laughed the entire incident off. Very gracious.

Burning it at both ends has been a hallmark of the news business for many years. Drugs and alcohol have claimed thousands of journalists’ lives and careers.

It’s important to remember how these sorts of stories typify the fraternity that exists among news people. In this same context, it’s very important to remember that mainstream news people are still people. For me, it’s why the current “holier than thou” and “fake news” narrative is aggravating.

Nobody is completely objective. Nobody. You can strive for it, sure. But it’s not part of the human condition, and I never have felt comfortable with the Fourth Estate making that claim.

Do you want to get your news from a person or organization who admits their slant (and knows your objectives in terms of information seeking), or do you want it from organizations that claims “objectivity” when it’s not even humanly possible?

We find out when staffers leave the Times who they really are. Sometimes it’s rather startling.

My first ‘stakeout’ at Moline mayor’s house

For me, the Quad-City Times was a grand escape from a miserable life. My mother and father had just divorced, and I had moved in with my cousin (and was paying rent) my senior year of high school.

At the time, everyone marveled at how I held my head high. I performed in all the plays and the musical my senior year on top of editing the student newspaper, working on the yearbook, and working part-time at the Quad-City Times.

In reality, this overachievement was a quest to be affirmed by someone, someplace, something. The Quad-City Times gave me that, and there is no way I ever can be anything but eternally grateful.

I was the biggest little suck-up on earth during my first two tours of duty at the Quad-City Times. It served me well.

I remember being sent to my first “stakeout.” One editor in particular had a fascination with the Moline mayor. One night, she sent me to his house to take down all the license plate numbers of the cars parked outside. She said she wanted to know if he was violating the open meetings act by having council members meeting at his house.

Other staffers say she may have had other intentions.

I didn’t care. It was a stakeout, and it was exciting. And I figured I must be very, very trustworthy and important to be sent on such an assignment.

In retrospect, I wonder if I was being used. It’s sad that I feel that way. But things have happened since I left the Quad-City Times that make me look at the place a lot differently. It will forever be an incredibly strong trigger.

I realized this when I got a car for the first time in three years. Seldom do I ever venture to the Iowa side of the river anymore, but when I have, just driving past the building makes me start to have physical symptoms of anxiety.

It’s too bad, but it is what it is.

Read excerpts from Chapter 5: My dad’s bizarre brain disease

Me and Sioux See had so much fun

One of my best friends at the Times during the early days was Sioux See. Sioux See and I had great fun.

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We were about the same age, and found the Quad-City Times a fascinating place to work part-time. We would gossip and giggle about all the different personalities. Sioux See was incredibly insightful and smart. She picked up on realities about the Quad-City Times long before I did.

And she was right about so many things. Things that still hold true.

Book coming fall 2018!

Sioux See and I would giggle uncontrollably at times. We all did.

For a while, there was an editor in charge at night who would write up a note at the end of the shift. She kicked butt and named names and then she slid the note under the editor’s door.

Sioux See and I figured out that when she printed out the note, it briefly became visible in the system for anyone to see. We would type in “FE, AmCity” – oh yes, I have worked on newspaper systems that old, even VDT terminals prior to the birth of the PC – and we would find the file and read it.

We were true journalists. We still are. Even when you’re not fully feeding the fire, it never goes away. It always keeps burning.

What is EMDR and why am I undergoing this unusual mental health treatment?

Editor’s note: I dropped out of EMDR after only a few sessions. I did not trust the therapist, who seemed to be trying to put words into my mouth. She also wanted me to abstain from medical cannabis two days before each session, which I deemed a wholly unreasonable request. Finally, if you are the victim of a violent crime, they will throw out your testimony if your memories vis a vis the crime are tampered with via EMDR. We never got past my childhood Florida trip, when my morbidly drunk dad threw the empties into the flatbed of his truck with no AC as we barreled down the interstate.

This was going to be the blog that “kicked butt and named names,” so to speak.

But after seeing Dr. Lash at Southpark Psychology a couple of times, I don’t feel the need to do that.

Besides, if I gave everything away now, nobody would buy my book. So maybe I will only give away a little bit.

I have begun a mental health treatment known as EMDR, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. It took me a long time to decide whether to do this. Because my trauma involves being the victim of multiple crimes – at least I considered them crimes and reported them to authorities – I wasn’t sure whether it would be a good idea to tamper with my memories.

In a nutshell, once you have this done, if you ever are called to testify about a crime, they essentially declare your testimony null and void.

That’s fine with me. I’m never going to be called to testify about anything anyway because the people who hurt me clearly are untouchable.

What is EMDR?

What is EMDR, you ask?

It’s different. Click here to get the full explanation from the EMDR International Association.

From the website:

“Processing does not mean talking about it. Processing means setting up a learning state that will allow experiences that are causing problems to be digested and stored appropriately in your brain.

“That means that what is useful to you from an experience will be learned, and stored with appropriate emotions in your brain, and able to guide you in positive ways in the future. The inappropriate emotions, beliefs, and body sensations will be discarded.

“Negative emotions, feelings and behaviors are generally caused by unresolved earlier experiences that are pushing you in the wrong directions. The goal of EMDR therapy is to leave you with the emotions, understanding, and perspectives that will lead to healthy and useful behaviors and interactions.”

Can you see why I signed up?

The treatment, I think, is more important than the process, which is intense and a bit unusual. It’s difficult for people like myself not to rant, but that’s not how this works.

The process involves following LED lights in such a way that it literally frees your brain so that you can look at things differently.

It may sound strange, but scientific research has proven the efficacy of this treatment.

Dr. Lash speaks passionately about how she got into EMDR. She was at the APA Convention in New York City and EMDR founder Francine Shapiro was giving a presentation that had spilled outside of the ballroom.

This was back in the 1980s, and Dr. Lash pushed her way inside as opposed to being content to just listen in the overflow, where a monitor and speaker also had been set up.

I am incredibly grateful to have access to this kind of treatment, especially in the Quad-Cities, where mental health services are abysmal for most people.

Check out my portfolio of paid articles about mental health

Story about jail heat gets me steaming

The trigger that pushed me over the edge and caused me to see Dr. Lash is the story making the rounds lately about the Rock Island County Jail’s broken air-conditioning system. Check out Chris Minor’s report for WQAD-TV 8.

These worthless politicians for decades have been irresponsible and corrupt with taxpayer funds. Now the county is broke. There are still almost 30 members on that board and they have repeatedly demonstrated their incompetence to the taxpayers.

All of them, as far as I’m concerned.

Are we supposed to feel sorry for them that they have opened themselves to litigation? They’ve done it repeatedly. It would be interesting to know just how much they’ve paid out in settlements in just the past 10 years, actually. I chose not to go that route and share my story instead.

I was held two years ago in that jail, stripped naked in solitary confinement, on no charges at all. My story never has changed one bit.

You can read about it here.

And here.

Despite GPS evidence and phone calls by pastor, no justice

I essentially want to re-process what happened inside the jail to create a different reality. It’s so haunting I need it wiped from my memory.

While my story of what happened inside the jail is extremely complex, several damning facts have emerged that those close to the case understand adds much credibility to my entire story.

If anyone in authority cared about what happened to me in the Rock Island County Jail, they would have called my pastor by now to confirm what we know to be true: She called my phone at least twice while I was held in the jail on no charges at all, and a Spanish-speaking person answered.

Check out my paid portfolio of addiction/recovery reporting

We also know from the GPS history of my phone that it left the jail. You can see it for yourself in my blog post regarding what happened in the jail.

Why was the phone on, why wasn’t it in a locker, and how can anyone think anything about my story doesn’t ring true with these two pieces of evidence alone?

I don’t mean to put the pastor in a bad situation, but look what I have been put through. To say or do nothing is not the right thing to do.

Check out my paid portfolio of reporting on matters of public health

She ministers to pillars of the Rock Island County establishment, including a Rock Island County board member who I also have known quite well for many, many years.  The board member not calling to apologize to me on behalf of the county is wacked as far as I am concerned.

But again, all of them are worthless as far as I am concerned. The entire county government is a systemically corrupt malaise from the view I have.

Disgraceful county owes me, pastor apology

The pastor has been a wonderful person to my entire family, a faithful spiritual adviser, and trusted friend. The entire county board should apologize to her, too, as far as I’m concerned. For multiple reasons.

To the best of my knowledge, they have done absolutely nothing about any of this but stick their heads in the sand.

Some people actually say I should take personal accountability for what led to me being taken to that jail.

To them – and there really are only a handful of dishonest people who still are trying to play that card – I suggest they take care of the heaping pile of stink on their own side of the street, and not worry about people who have finally challenged their rapidly crumbling influence.

I could play the victim and succumb to the terror of what happened the two days I was held inside that filthy, incredibly unprofessional, God-forsaken jail. Some would say I have, but I don’t buy that. Someone playing the victim would have done just that and kept their mouth shut.

I’ve shared my story with the proper authorities. Now, I’m doing EMDR.

And I have faith it’s going to help me rewrite the history of how the trauma I experienced inside that jail affects my life from this day forward.

Besides, my story already has a happy ending.

DavidHeitz.com tallies 20,000th hit before its first year live

Late yesterday, my website tally topped 20,000. You can see it right here on the home page. Scroll to the bottom of the home page on the left-hand side. I’ve made the count visible.

I launched the site last August with this blog post. In it, I talk about my book, which WILL get written eventually.

But in many ways, the website already is the book. I’m making the book harder than it is. I’ve been chronicling the entire caregiving journey in columns for several years. Because Healthline Contributors and Caregiver Relief no longer are live, and gave me permission to reprint, many chapters of the story already are written and now exist on my site.

Then there are the pieces I have written exclusively to the site, with the most viewed post ever being, hands down: What really happened in the Rock Island County jail while I was held two days on no charges at all, emotionally tortured, and kept away from my sick dad? Finally, my tell-all.

While I won’t divulge specific numbers, suffice it to say that column has the most hits of all the pages on my site. By far. Way far.

Jail post most popular, but what about the next top five?

The next five posts behind it, in order of hits:

Chronic Lyme hornet’s nest still buzzing at physician conference in San Diego

Village Inn corporate HQ, famed pot hotel next-door neighbors in Denver

I legally bought weed today at this dispensary in Milan, Ill. Thank you Lord.

It’s the mother of all triggers, but it’s my courthouse, too: Why I’m here today

First year without dad: When it’s down to just you, you better like you. Thank God, I do. Or, “What happened to me when I was held in the Rock Island County Jail naked, for two days, on no charges at all? Part II”

Website doubles as online portfolio of paid work

Publishers already have expressed great interest in my book, and they love authors with social media followings. All told, I now have about 8,000 followers across various social media platforms, including more than 4,200 on Facebook.

I also use my website as an online portfolio of my paid writing work. Click to see my:

Celebrity interviews

Addiction/recovery portfolio

Mental health/wellness portfolio

Dementia, aging, caregiving portfolio

Public health/infectious diseases portfolio

At any rate, I just wanted to celebrate this YUGE milestone with all of you this Monday morning.

Twenty thousand hits before the first year, even.

I see good things ahead!

Obamacare: Poster child for government bloat, incompetence and inefficiency

dome

(Photo courtesy Pixabay)

I wonder how many people who are marching in the streets in favor of keeping Obamacare have purchased insurance off the Marketplace.

I have. For the past three years, in fact. And the year before that, I had coverage under the Medicaid expansion, which is the only part of Obamacare that I think is worth fighting to keep. It’s a matter of public health.

My Congresswoman, Cheri Bustos, recently said on the floor that repealing Obamacare won’t “make America great again,” it will “make America sick again.”

She’s great at sound bites. Cheri spent a decade as our local regional health system’s PR queen. She even offered me a job there once as corporate writer.

I’m not going to get into the scare tactics Cheri used in that minute-long speech I linked to above. It makes me sad that our local politicians think we Quad-Citians are fools that just gobble up their spoon-fed gobbledygook.

But I will tell you what my experience with Obamacare has been, speaking both as a health journalist and as one of the “hardworking Americans” Cheri represents in the 17th Congressional District (the one bordering scandal-plagued Aaron Schock’s district).

In 2014, I greatly benefited from Obamacare under the Medicaid expansion. I was working, but had just gotten back into the workplace after taking time off to care for my elderly father. I was being paid $75 per story for Healthline News. It took a while to build a name for myself as a health reporter and attract new, better-paying clients. The Medicaid expansion was a great thing, because it allows working people, with a modest income, to have affordable (free) healthcare.

I had to also apply for food stamps to get it (which I did not want or need, but that was part of “the rules”). One could argue the $12 per month in food stamps that came along with my Obamacare was inconsequential, but $12 per month times 12 months in a year times how many Americans (?) adds up fast. Why force acceptance of a benefit that someone doesn’t even want or believe that they need? That makes no sense and is a waste of money.

My first Marketplace plan offered little more than a monthly bill

The second year, 2015, I was making a little more money, and I purchased a Blue Cross Blue Shield plan off the exchange. Technically, I could have stayed on the Medicaid expansion, and the food stamps, once business write-offs were figured into my 2015 income. But I was proud to be off public assistance (although grateful that I got it when I needed it, and I don’t think anybody should be stigmatized for taking food stamps or Medicaid).

In 2014, I survived what I believe was an attempted homicide (it’s on the books as an assault) that left me with a PTSD diagnosis. The diagnosis was made almost exactly one year to the date of the assault, when I had a flashback of the incident. I immediately reported all I remembered to police, along with some other pertinent information. It’s not unusual for people with PTSD to have memories suppressed for a year or even longer, and it’s also not unusual to recall them around anniversary dates.

The flashback itself led to another horrifying experience – being stripped naked and thrown in the Rock Island County Jail on no charges at all, for two days. Congresswoman Cheri’s husband is our sheriff (he was appointed to the elected position after the previous sheriff was forced to resign in disgrace; it’s widely believed the previous sheriff was framed, allegedly for harassing a woman).

You can read about how and why I ended up in jail here. I’m still waiting for a public apology from the County of Rock Island.

Read more: Officeholders of elected positions in Rock Island County routinely not elected

The hospital system Cheri worked for, by the way, recently opposed construction of a psychiatric hospital in nearby Bettendorf. A board that grants “certificates of need” declined Strategic Behavioral Health’s request after both hospitals claimed we had enough beds with more on the way. This, despite testimony from the Scott County sheriff (on the other side of the river, who said he’s supposed to be running a jail, not a mental hospital), and numerous mental health advocates. Everyone here who is honest who works in mental health knows that our system on both sides of the river are a disgrace that are costing lives, even if they won’t admit it out of fear of losing their jobs. Those who claim otherwise are simply fooling themselves.

No, instead we just throw scared people with PTSD in jail around here and hold them there two days on no charges. Naked. In solitary. And taunt them in ways that will make a great book someday. I’m excited to get started on it!

Is this Rock Island County, or Soviet Russia? I’m still not sure sometimes.

The board that denied the “certificate of need” for the psychiatric hospital includes a retired employee of the hospital system Cheri worked for. His name is Bob Lundin. I always thought he was a nice guy when I did business with him as a reporter for the Quad-City Times. But talk about a conflict of interest. Most news reports never even mentioned he was retired from UnityPoint Trinity, which opposed construction of the hospital along with Davenport’s Genesis Medical System. You can read all about that outrageousness by clicking here. The board is comprised of several people with strong ties to both hospital systems that monopolize our community.

Outrageous.

At any rate, my first year on my own with Obamacare cost me, gosh, about $150 per month I guess. My premium is about double that now. Not much more or less than what people who have coverage through their employer pay, I imagine. I’m just one person, of course. No dependents.

So that first year that I had Obamacare off the exchange, BCBS paid for two psychotherapy visits related to my PTSD diagnosis. I paid the rest, at a cost of $280 per month. You hear about how Obamacare has expanded mental health and addiction treatment access. That’s true to some degree, but it’s a charade in many ways, too. Just look at my situation. President Trump vowed last night to expand access to addiction treatment services. I hope he keeps that promise.

It goes without saying that I did not want Blue Cross Blue Shield for 2016 (although I have them now and so far it’s a great plan). But check out this piece I wrote in October 2015 – Blue Cross Blue Shield tried to enroll me again for 2016 even before open enrollment began. The buck-passing and jacked-up-edness (I just made that word up) involved in that incident was nothing short of hilarious.

Gross incompetence: Marketplace can’t find records of my insurance

The third year I had Obamacare, I purchased United Healthcare Silver Compass, considered a top tier plan, off the marketplace. UHC was a disaster from day one (although UHC was not always directly to blame…the state and federal bureaucracies created screw-ups, too). My pharmacy benefit got screwed up at the state level, but was rectified after I wrote about it. Click here to read that piece. Sadly, not everyone has a platform like I do. I wonder how many people have lost hundreds or even thousands of dollars due to ACA screw-ups, regardless of whether they were performed at the state or federal level.

Now, as I file my taxes for 2016, the exchange is claiming I did not have insurance for October, November or December and will have to pay a penalty. IN FACT, I got an email from the exchange in September (see below) telling me that if I was on target to make more, or less, than I thought I was going to make when I applied for my 2016 Marketplace insurance, that I needed to let them know.

aca1

Because I am honest (to a fault…at least that’s what my brother always said…”David, you tell on yourself”) I called the exchange and told them I was indeed having a better year than I expected. They assured me that I would continue to have the exact same UHC Silver Compass insurance, but that my subsidy would drop considerably. You can make up to $52,000 annually and still qualify for a subsidy.

Well, that’s not exactly what happened. They canceled Silver Compass and gave me a different UHC plan (that was substandard to Silver Compass and nothing but problems…co-pays went up, etc.). And yes, my subsidy plunged. Which was fine. My income was higher than I previously thought.

Let me tell you something else. All those jokes about “the death panels” that never happened? My psychologist had to have regular telephone conferences with the UBH (United Behavioral Health) psychologist to discuss the details of my case, as they felt my twice-weekly cognitive behavioral therapy sessions for my PTSD were unnecessary.

I am involved (as a victim) in two very serious criminal investigations (which I am certain involve all the same villains). I did not like my insurance company knowing my business. To me, this is somewhat akin to the death panels. Whatever happened to HIPAA? Actually, a personal injury lawyer here in Rock Island told me once that “HIPAA is a myth” and, in fact, doesn’t mean a darned thing. I can hear all the hospital employees launching rotten tomatoes at me now…I’m just saying what he said! And he has been known to get people lots of money!

So today the Marketplace told me they have no evidence of me being insured October through December. Therefore, my 1095 statement (which shows your subsidy and proof of insurance, and is required with your tax return) only will show the Silver Compass insurance of January through September. So in theory, I will have to pay a penalty.

Below, you will see the email welcoming me to my new plan in October. All my premiums were paid, each of the 12 months of 2016, and never was I uninsured.

aca2

Yes, Obamacare created jobs. Bureaucracies. More AFSCME employees. More layers of nonsense.

I wonder how many rainforests have been destroyed with all the paperwork associated with Obamacare. UHC pulled out of the 2017 exchange, and now I have BCBS again (and this time, so far, an AWESOME plan, paying 100 percent of my twice-weekly CBT sessions at the psychologist and $0 co-pay on my blood pressure and other meds).

But even though UHC pulled out of the exchange, I recently received a five pound, “Welcome to United Healthcare 2017!” book in the mail.

I could go on and on about the mailings, which never make any sense at all. And I’m a writer. It’s like they’re written in Chinese. Plus, they email you, too. Keeps people employed I guess, on your taxpayer dollar! Inefficient, “job-creating” bloat.

Two parties, two beauties representing 17th, 18th Congressional Districts

Lastly, let me talk to you about the 17th Congressional District. We are a polite people. A simple people. Hard-working people. We don’t talk much about politics. We generally believe what our politicians do simply has to be honest and what they tell us all true (though that confidence is fast, fast eroding around here).

The Quad-Cities is mired in corruption, as you can read here. And here. And here.

The Congressional District right next door to us (the 18th Congressional District) once belonged to Aaron Schock. But the dashing young GOP Congressman now is facing criminal charges for using taxpayer money to decorate his office like Downton Abbey, among other things.

Peoria (the 18th Congressional District) is much like us simple folk in the Quad-Cities and Rockford – hard-working, mannerly, trusting. Too trusting.

Like Shock, our Congresswoman is a beauty – voted 8th most beautiful person on Capitol Hill, in fact! Yes, it’s true! You can read about it by clicking here.

It’s fine to not talk politics out of politeness. But please pay attention to your politicians and what they’re doing. Don’t blindly vote for one politician or another. And hold their feet to the fire. Always. Participate in the process. Dig beneath official news reports, because most of that comes from press release rewrites from the politicians themselves. Local media outlets have been slashed to the bone and don’t do the type of old-fashioned watchdog reporting anymore that is so essential to keeping our corrupt politicians honest.

Please. Ask questions. Call their offices when things upset you. Let them know you’re watching their every move as it pertains to honesty, ethics and being lawful.

I sure do.

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A prayer that my Scottish neighbor goes out singing like her friends back home

scottish-hospice

Editor’s note: This piece originally was written last year for Caregiver Relief. Special thanks to Diane Carbo. My neighbor died just days after this was written, presumably alone. Her nieces, who lived out of town, came to the funeral, a memorial service which was held several weeks later. The state seized her belongings to pay her bill at the county-owned nursing home, where her son, her caregiver and a veteran, had died just weeks before. Due to the dysfunction in the state of Illinois, her house (which she rented) still is not ready to rent again because of multiple delays in the state’s seizure and auctioning of her property.

By David Heitz

It’s politically correct in America to gush about how wonderful our country’s hospice programs are, and many of them are quite good.

But in Scotland, there’s a hospice that will totally change the way you think about caring for the dying. At Strathcarron, patients not only stay in their homes for as long as possible, but once a week they attend “day hospice” and truly celebrate life – even singing regularly (and with gusto, I may add) with other hospice patients and hospice staff.

Between belting out tunes that relay the stories of their lives and having their pain monitored, they also make good friends with others who are struggling with the reality that the end could be near.

The hospice hit U.S. shores last year in a documentary titled “Seven Songs for a Long Life” that debuted at the South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival in Austin, Texas.

You can learn more about the film and watch a trailer by clicking here.

The cast of characters is delightful – an elderly gentleman full of spunk who refuses to admit he is dying (he even refuses to sign a form crediting him an extra 100 pounds a week because he only has six months to live); a motorcyclist who had to leave the speedway when his MS became too crippling, but at the hospice learns to manage his pain; the mother of a 4-year-old daughter, who has a story that will break your heart but also inspire you with her courage and words of wisdom in the face of death; and Mandy, who is nothing less than the hospice nurse we want all of our loved ones to have in their final days.

The film’s cinematography is especially meaningful. It captures the beauty of the hospice, its people, and the Scottish countryside itself. My former next door neighbor is Scottish and spoke fondly of her homeland. Sadly, she recently became a ward of the state and was removed from her house and placed in a nursing home, just days after her son who cared for her died. Her son, a veteran, faced a long delay in seeing a doctor at the VA in Iowa City and eventually succumbed to cancer.

‘These patients are hungry for life’

As I watched the film, I thought about how wonderful it would be if my neighbor could be back in her homeland getting TLC at a place as wonderful as Strathcarron. Life sure doesn’t seem fair sometimes.

Amy Hardie, director of the film, told me there is no “day care” hospice model in the U.S.  The hospital in Scotland is funded in part by the U.K. National Health Service but still needs to fundraise a significant amount of money each year to stay open. It’s not easy in a working class area.

But the development director, a key cast member named Jim Brown, manages to pull it off by raising the needed 3.9 million pounds every year.

“It means that patients can stay at home, but know that each week they are coming in for a day where they will have expert medical attention by people they have got to know over months and often years,” Hardie told me in an email interview. “It is also a day where they meet with the same other patients who have a terminal illness, who are confronting their own mortality, but are often able to be kept pain free and mobile.

“These patients are hungry for life – they may know they are going to die of their disease, but there is life to be lived right up to the end, and hospice care is about helping them to make that life as fulfilling as possible – hence my role as film-maker in residence. No-one wants to be defined as a patient – singing was a potent way for the patients to show that they were more than patients. A song holds so much – the past, in the memories of when and where you sang the song, what the lyrics meant to you then – and also the present, when you sing, now, to the audience, connecting through the words of the song, an expression that goes beyond words; and somehow also the future, a promise of a future and a future when the song will remain, with you singing it, on the film, even if you are no longer here. It was the patient’s idea to sing, and they chose the songs. I was bowled over by the power and urgency of their singing. Each song shows how very alive they are, right up to the moment of death.”

Not all hospices are created equal

We hear so much these days about hospice not being what it used to be, no longer that sad, end of the road where patients are prepared for their inevitable deaths and given time to let that all sink in while being pumped full of morphine.

Today, people with various illnesses sometimes go on and off hospice several times. While they’re on it, they get music therapy, massages, spiritual support and other pampering. Their family is given support too.

But not all hospice providers are created equal, as I wrote last year in this piece for Caregiver Relief.

When my dad went on hospice the first time, he was nowhere near death. He was placed on hospice so that he could legally stay in his assisted living facility as opposed to being moved to a nursing home. He had become what is known as a “two to one” – meaning it took two employees at any one time to deal with him. He displayed outrageous behaviors due to his disease, behavioral-variant frontotemporal degeneration, or Pick’s, which you can learn more about clicking here. So having hospice workers come to the assisted living facility gave them extra help in caring for my dad.

Illinois law requires patients deemed “two to ones” be placed in nursing homes, and that is where my dad should have gone much earlier on in his illness. But hindsight is 20/20.

Just before filing this story, I called the nursing home where my Scottish neighbor was taken a few months back to check on her. “Sir, she is actively dying,” a terse nurse explained, quick to cut me off from speaking.

I became a little emotional and began to explain I was writing a piece about this film and that I had thought of Monica, since she is from Scotland. “Sir, I don’t mean to be rude, but…”

Yes, I know. You’re busy.

“Yes we are.”

Click.

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Praise God: Reunited with dad today after 108 days apart

reunion

Editor’s note: This column originally was published Sept. 1, 2015, for Caregiver Relief. Reprinted here with permission. Special thanks to the graciousness of Diane Carbo at Caregiver Relief. Dad died 26 days after this piece was written.

Praise God. I was reunited with my dad today after 108 days.

This photo is in the chapel of his new nursing home. He was born in this very building darned near close to 80 years ago, when it was a hospital.

Until a couple of hours ago, I never knew for sure if I ever would see my dad again.

Dad has frontotemporal dementia, and the last two plus years have been incredibly painful. You can learn more about my dad’s rare disease by clicking here.

I worked very hard to convince my brother to place my dad in the best-looking memory care facility I could find when it became painfully obvious that I could no longer properly care for him. Not only that, but the job of tending to him here and there over the course of 10 years, and then living with him full-time for one year, just about killed me. By the time dad went into memory care, I had quit my job, had a problem with alcohol that I could not shake, and wondered if life ever would get better for either one of us.

It did. I went to work as a health writer for Healthline.com two weeks after dad went into memory care. It has blossomed into a wonderful career in health reporting. Dad finally adjusted to the new place and actually did quite well there for a while. And I am now 15 months sober.

But when the facility changed hands several months ago, even shortly before then actually, things really began to deteriorate. I was not satisfied with my dad’s care. I complained a lot. When a new executive director was installed shortly before the change in ownership, it all went to hell in a handbasket. She and I never saw eye to eye.

And then the facility trespassed me. Me, the one who fought tooth and nail to get him in there in the first place. You can read all about that by clicking here. Sadly, it’s really not that unusual of a practice. I have heard from people around the country and around the world who have had the same experience.

It even has happened again, recently, in my own community, to a woman who goes to a church I formerly attended. She was barred from seeing her sister after complaining about the care she was receiving.

As for my story, it’s all water under the bridge now. Memory care is a social model; people who need medical attention or have special needs really have no business in such places. It was clear after six months that he did not belong there. But instead of moving him, we agreed he would go on hospice so that the facility could get extra help on Medicare’s dime.

That turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. You can read what happened by clicking here, if you do not follow my columns regularly.

So when I walked into dad’s new nursing home today – where he has a beautiful, two-room suite – he looked up and said, “Oh yeah, I know you.” He said to the nurse, “That’s my friend.”

He thought I was Sonny Coleman, an old friend of his. But then he remembered who I was.

It marked the first time my dad, brother and I had been together in what would have been two years this Thanksgiving. Even with his FTD, dad was doing pretty well today. He kept saying, “We’re all a bunch of losers.” He was trying to make a joke I think. The aphasia was pretty bad. He was stuttering and unable to come up with words.

But after a couple of hours he was doing better. When the nurse tested his blood sugar and it was 298, she had to give him an insulin shot. At first he started yelling, but she had just the right touch with him. She spoke to him while she injected him, and he just smiled at her and didn’t even flinch.

When it came time for dinner, they brought him tacos. He seemed content with that. He asked the CNA, “Is this a $5,000 taco?”

LOL.

After a couple of hours, I left. I told him I would see him tomorrow. He said, “I’m glad we’re back to that again.”

He has gone downhill a bit mentally since I last saw him, but physically he seemed more robust than I expected. I wasn’t too happy to learn the memory care facility had lost his teeth…again. But I know that the nursing home where he’s at is very much by the book, and they are going to make sure his needs are met to the letter of the law. I have no doubt whatsoever about that.

I’m at ease for the first time in nearly four months. I know it’s not going to be a cakewalk…moving someone with dementia never is easy. But he seems to sort of know what is going on and seems OK with it.

Before I left, he said, “Hey, I went to the foreman the last time I saw you. I did.”

A John Deere retiree, he makes lots of “shop” references. That was his way of telling me he wasn’t happy with what went down that day back in early May.

Thank God it’s behind us.

I can’t wait to see dad again tomorrow. Praise God.

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It’s the mother of all triggers; but it’s my courthouse, too. Why I’m there today

courthouse

Update: Court went well today and even seemed a bit amicable. I am ready to move on with my life. I appreciate everyone’s prayers and support during the past several years. God bless all of you for following my work. I hope it helps people. It certainly has been cathartic for me.

For people with PTSD, we must avoid “triggers.”

Triggers are people, places or things that can take us back to the traumatic events, or series of events, that led to our post-traumatic stress to begin with.

It’s why combat soldiers with PTSD don’t much care for fireworks, for example. For people who have been sexually assaulted, it may be the home of their assailant, or a hotel where they were assaulted that serve as a trigger. Simply driving past can immediately “trigger” symptoms of anxiety, fear, and rage.

For me, the Rock Island County Courthouse, pictured here, is the “mother of all triggers.” And I have avoided it entirely for the past 20 months or so, but today I am there, defending my right to what my father has left me in his estate.

I always say that I have “Caregiver PTSD,” and indeed that may be the title of the book I hope to write this year. My PTSD came as the result of several things related to caring for and advocating for my father, including:

A horrifying assault in the basement of my home the last time I ever took a drink, three years ago, this coming Memorial Day weekend. The assault was brought on after I began to post on Facebook that certain people were “murderers” for taking my dad off insulin when he still was eating five meals per day. That not only is inhumane, but it’s an offense a doctor could in theory lose their license over.

I was alerted to dad being taken off his insulin – in fact, I was told that all his meds were DC’d — by the former wellness director of the memory care facility where he lived. This did not jive with what my brother had told me earlier in the day, that the doctor had “doped dad up some more” (prescribed more medications) at the office visit that day.

So, when the memory care facility called to report dad collapsed during lunch and could not immediately be revived, I was suspicious, asked questions, and got answers. Then I downed some booze, massive amounts of booze, and the “murderer” posts began. Not to mention a phone call made to the doctor’s office. Dad was back on insulin the next day.

Read more: When a person with dementia goes on hospice, it doesn’t always mean they’re dying

Someone who I had every reason to trust showed up at my door when I began making the “murderer” posts on Facebook. He then took me to the basement, where the assault took place. This all has been reported to police, is on the books, and there’s a paper trail (or at least there should be) of this entire story.

Read more: Raped in 2007 and assaulted in 2014, I finally put down the bottle

Next, on the one-year anniversary of the above-described assault, when, while visiting my dad at the memory care facility (which had changed ownership since the insulin incident, and now was managed by what I can only describe as a vile and heartless woman), I thought I saw a “bad guy.” I had gone to police just a couple of days prior regarding some “bad guys” when a friend of mine’s body was pulled from the Mississippi River. I was on edge to begin with and thought people were following me on my walk to the facility that day. I even dialed 911 and also called the facility for help on my way there.

It’s not uncommon for people to exhibit paranoia, anxiety and fear around the time of PTSD anniversary dates. Did I “imagine” this guy was a bad guy, when in fact he simply might have been a maintenance man (as he was dressed as such)? I still don’t know the answer to that, and I may never know.

What I do know is that when I reported this “intruder,” the staff laughed at me, discredited me, and I started giving them a very loud piece of my mind. The next thing I knew, I was being stripped naked and thrown into a cell at the Rock Island County jail, a straightjacket thrown in behind me. The jail, staffed by thugs (including employees fired by a local bar for being lazy and/or drunk), mentally tortured me for two whole days while I was held there on no charges at all. That included one of the former bartenders from the tavern I frequented. The other one pretty much kept her mouth shut and answered questions honestly when asked by someone else who, in my opinion, had no business being inside that jail. I don’t care who she is. And I know what I heard.

Read more: Why Amber Ridge Memory Care kept me away from my dad, and how the state of Illinois reunited us

And all of this is very, very, very suspicious and not at all “conspiracy” to those who know the whole story, and by now, that includes many people. Will it all someday just go away? Just blow out to sea?

Returning to the courthouse with a sense of serenity

When I finally was “sprung” from jail by an officer associated with the agency I had relayed the initial “bad guy” information to, I was taken to the hospital (again, a place that forever will be a trigger, and I never will do business with again, even though they “forgave” the portion of my bill which insurance didn’t pay, and even apologized for how I was treated there, which is curious); and two days later, I had to go to the Rock Island County Courthouse and defend myself, pro se, against an order of protection filed by the wellness director of the memory care facility.

Read more: What really happened to me in the Rock Island County Jail? My tell all

Read more: What was the motive for what happened in the jail? My tell all, Part II

Mind you, my dad had nearly bled to death in his room from an unexplained injury two weeks prior to all of this (he told the hospice social worker, the ER doc and myself that he was struck by someone…’He got me!’ he said, and then started crying. Dad had gender dysphasia about three years prior to death (and total dysphasia the final months of his life) so a “he” often meant a “she,” but he frequently told me two workers in particular, one a man and one a woman, were rough with him).

The memory care facility nurse who called me at 5 a.m. was the one who said it appeared he had lie all night on the floor, given the size of the pool of blood, and reported that she herself had just come on duty. Rest assured I know who was on duty before her. Employees past and present have chirped like birdies.

I was hypervigilant every time I set foot in there, like any astute caregiver should be. But especially after that most recent incident, probably the third trip to the ER since he had gone in there 18 months prior. If you don’t police most elder care facilities, your resident gets substandard care. And that’s the truth. Period. Particularly in Rock Island County, where the incredibly incompetent Alternatives for the Older Adult is failing miserably in their assignment to protect our elderly.

So today I find myself at the Rock Island County Courthouse again, this time for a status hearing as it pertains to my father’s estate. By chance, it’s the exact same judge that I stood before for the order of protection, which was dismissed.

I have not seen my brother since a few weeks after my dad died. But my lawyer says it is imperative I attend the hearing or the estate could just drag on for months. It already has been 16 months as it is. And for the record, my brother and I did not end up in court (at least not initially) over a dispute between ourselves, but over a dispute with a third heir. My understanding is that my brother tried to resolve this at the last hearing, but apparently was given some poor advice that foiled this resolution, which I assume would have been amicable to all parties.

So, it will be good to see for my own eyes today what’s really going on, and to tell my side of the story, if asked.

I’m going to walk into that courthouse as if I own it, and with my head held high. As if were on assignment for the Quad-City Times, like the old days. I am going to remain calm and answer any questions the judge may have. And by the grace of God, my father’s estate will be closed, and this horrifying chapter of my life closed with it. (Although life has been bountiful with blessings during this hardship, too – my sobriety, career success, and more self-respect then I ever had had in my life. Nothing worthwhile in life comes easy!)

I have changed banks, grocery stores, restaurants – I rarely do business in Rock Island, where I live, because the odds of running into someone who is a “trigger” is just far too high. This entire county is stocked with extremely dishonest people, many of whom are community leaders and who I have known my entire life, but who I now know to be — well, frauds — to use Mitt Romney’s famed word to describe Donald Trump.

How dad and I reclaimed the family home

I already have reclaimed my family home.

When I bought out my brother’s half of the home when we inherited it when dad died, he asked, “Why would you even want ‘The House of Hell?’”

He called it that with good reason. As kids, the police frequently were at our house. Mom and dad used to beat the crap out of each other. Mom once pinned dad to the floor in the living room and held a steak knife to his carotid artery. I went downstairs screaming and a friend of my brother’s ran upstairs and pulled mom off dad. I often wonder what happened to that guy. I liked him.

My dad did abuse my mother. Mentally, especially. We didn’t know then that he was a very sick man with a rare brain disease that caused him to behave the way he did. What a horrid death he experienced. Pick’s, which you can read more about by clicking here, is a terrible disease.

Dad lost the house to mom in their second divorce in 1984, when mom was given six months to live. She died in 1995. My brother and I inherited the house and sold it; dad bought it again almost 20 years later, five years ago this June.

Shortly after mom had dad evicted from the home via an order of protection, shortly before the divorce, she moved in a man she met at Sweetwater Tap. I didn’t like it. I caused lots of problems.

And then she threw me out.

I was working at least 25 hours per week at the Quad-City Times then, as a junior in high school, and being paid a freelance rate on top of my hourly rate to cover the cities of Milan and Silvis for them. So, for a teenager, I was making good money. I paid my cousin room and board and lived with her my senior year.

Despite everything that happened in this house, it’s mine now. Mine and my dad’s, even though he no longer is with us. I even feel healed about all that happened with mom, even sleeping in the same room where she perished.

So today I reclaim my trauma, I own it, and hopefully, we all move on. Tragic as parts of my life story has been, I lead a very blessed, very privileged life. I cannot forget that. Not today, not ever.

This adorable old guy is my dad. And I may never see him again. Today I tell you why.

dad

Editor’s note: This piece originally was published July 14, 2015, on Healthline Contributors, which no longer is live. Reprinted here with permission from Healthline (many thanks to Healthline). The incident reported here came around the one-year anniversary of an attempted homicide (that’s my definition, it still was being investigated by police as an assault last I knew) that I survived the last time I ever took a drink. It left me with a PTSD diagnosis regardless, and such behavior as what is described here is not uncommon for people with PTSD around the time of anniversary dates because they serve as triggers.

 The facility never filed formal paperwork to trespass me despite what I originally reported (they simply had a high-powered Chicago lawyer send me two threatening letters saying they had), but I was told by a judge to “keep my distance” anyway. And I trusted her. I appeared before the judge because the wellness director of the facility filed a no-contact order against me (facilities routinely take such measures when they have a demanding advocate for a resident…I heard from people not only from around the U.S., but around the world when I wrote this). The no-contact order was dismissed and I represented myself (pro se).

 I’ve been told by several attorneys that I have a solid case against this facility, but I’m not sure I have the energy left to fight. I’m glad I have attorneys willing to take the case, as it is affirming regardless.

 I’m still fighting my brother just to get the inheritance dad left me in a simple “share and share alike” will for which there should be no confusion. What a never-ending nightmare that has cost me $5,000 in attorney fees thus far! To think it continues even 15 months after dad has been laid to rest. But I’m glad he’s resting, and I’m glad I have maintained my sobriety, I am grateful for a great career and for my self-respect back.

Still, Never. Forget. What happened on this day. I never reported it at the time, but this is what led to my being taken to the Rock Island County Jail, held on no charges at all, stripped naked and emotionally tortured for two days. To think that Strategic Behavioral Health recently was denied a license for a psychiatric hospital in the Quad-Cities! What happened to me is not at all unusual. Even the Scott County Sheriff testified on behalf of Strategic Behavioral Health for the need for this facility. The Rock Island County Sheriff, meanwhile, is married to Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, former executive for UnityPoint Trinity/Robert Young, which opposed the construction of the Strategic Behavioral Health facility along with Ken Croken on behalf of Genesis Medical Center, Davenport. Genesis and UnityPoint monopolize the market for psychiatric beds in the Quad-Cities.

 This piece had almost 18,000 page views on Healthline Contributors as of last month. Thank you for allowing me to share my story.

By David Heitz

This adorable old guy is my dad. And I may never see him again.

That’s because his assisted-living facility criminally trespassed me a little more than two months ago. This occurred after I reported an intruder while I was there – someone who I recognized as a “bad guy” from my past, whether right or wrong. When they laughed at me and discredited me when I made the report, I started yelling and giving them a piece of my mind, as I admittedly had done before.

I’m very protective of my dad. And they know that, because I would show up at the facility once, twice, sometimes three times a day, at all hours, to make sure he was being properly cared for. That’s the only way to know for sure whether a loved one in a facility is getting the care they are paying outrageous sums for. Any dedicated caregiver will tell you this is absolutely true.

I would walk in on the weekends and see residents sprawled out on the floor while the CNAs were downstairs, on their phones, fighting amongst themselves, or eating candy. On the weekends, it was an absolute free-for-all. Once, a resident and their loved one became locked in an apartment due to the door malfunctioning. Nobody answered when the emergency cord was pulled. Nobody answered the phone at the front desk. Nobody answered calls for help. That person removed their loved one from the facility, as have many others in recent months.

In the first threatening letter the facility’s Chicago law firm sent, they stated I had premeditated an attack of some sort, calling the police and the front desk of the facility before arriving. A simple review of the 911 tape of my call to the police department will prove that I called because I thought my life was in danger. My life had been threatened a couple of days prior to this visit, and I had been on edge. I thought I saw other “bad guys” while walking to the facility from the bus stop, so I called both the police and the front desk of the facility to make sure I got in safely. There’s a perfectly good reason why I thought I was in danger – that also is easily verifiable – and I am not “crazy.”

I’m not the power of attorney. As the guy not writing the checks from my dad’s account, I have been laughed at, discredited and disrespected ever since my dad’s facility was sold to one of the largest assisted-living chains in America. A handful of the CNAs, particularly those working on the weekends, have been anything but professional. They get by with … anything they want. And they know it.

From day one, when the new executive director was put into place, she painted me as mentally ill. Her latest slander against me came after I sent the local elder ombudsman to dad’s facility to check on his welfare since I have been unable to see him since May 4. A month prior, dad had landed in the emergency room, a deep gash to his face. Dad reported to the doc, the hospice social worker and myself that an employee at the facility had struck him. My dad repeatedly has alleged that one employee in particular, who struts around the place threatening other employees and disrespecting residents and their loved ones, has hurt him repeatedly. I have seen this employee be rough with other residents and be insubordinate to her superiors. When I report it, I am laughed at and discredited by the executive director, who is almost never there.

So, as I was covering the White House Conference on Aging yesterday, I received a second threatening letter from the Chicago law firm of the facility. It states: “(Facility) is advising you that it will not allow anyone sent by you or on your behalf to enter upon the premises of (facility) at any time. All visitors are being screened for this purpose, in order to maintain the safety and well-being of residents, visitors and staff. If someone comes on your behalf or at your request to (facility) that person or those persons will not be permitted entrance. In addition, no mail, packages, or other items sent to (facility) by you, on your behalf or at your request, will be accepted.”

This is called isolation. They have removed his advocate and are isolating him. Classic, classic elder abuse. I am one of the most gentle guys you could ever meet. I am 14 moths sober. I have God in my life. Everyone who knows me knows this.

Why do I write this? Because this sort of thing is being replicated coast to coast. I’m not one to roll over.

Elder care in America is a disgrace. When I met Joan Lunden last year after I interviewed her for this Healthline news story, I vowed to be an advocate for elderly people. I meant it.

Improving your life – even saving lives – is as easy as taking a walk

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Even before I became sober (which is the best thing I ever did for myself), my life began to improve when I began walking.

When I sold my clunker to a junkyard when dad entered a memory care facility in 2013, I had no choice but to start walking. Once, I walked all the way home from the grocery store carrying a 25-pound box of cat litter (well over a mile).

It didn’t take long before I got over my hang-ups about using public transportation, but usually I chose walking over riding the bus even then. At one point, about a year after I became sober, I no longer felt safe riding the bus and returned to just walking.

We know that walking is incredibly good for your health. Even before I stopped drinking, weight began to fall off of me when I started walking.

In February I decided to buy a Toyota Prius, so I haven’t been walking as much as I once did. I go to the gym now instead.

But when my therapist suggested a few weeks back that I start participating in charity walks to meet new people, I thought, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Why have so many Q-C LGBT people died?

A couple of weeks ago I participated in the Overdose Awareness Walk and blogged about that. I’m sure you all also have seen my pleas for sponsorship in the upcoming Out of the Darkness Walk benefiting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (Oct. 29 in Bettendorf) as well as the NAMI Walk benefiting the National Alliance on Mental Illness (Sept. 24 in Davenport).

I’m proud to say that as I write this column, I have raised $175 so far for the NAMI Walk and $170 for the Out of the Darkness suicide prevention walk. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all who have donated.

What’s even more meaningful to me, even beyond the fact that walking has greatly improved my health (my blood pressure is perfect these days!) and the fact that I’m helping raise money for good causes by participating in the charity walks, is that all three of these causes are near and dear to me.

In the Quad-Cities, the number of gay and lesbian people who have died of drug overdoses is staggering. I lived in Los Angeles for 12 years (and was a wild party boy) and only knew two people who OD’d. Here in the Quad-Cities – and we’re talking as far as back as six or seven years ago, even before the nation’s opioid crisis reached full tilt – I can think of several LGBT people who have OD’d.

Of course, overdose, suicide and, I’d surmise, even foul play sometimes are blurred when you don’t have the complete story. And on many of these people, I don’t. Simply put, there are lots of moms and dads who have lost children in this town; and lots of children who have lost moms and dads.

Brandon Ketchum puts a face to “20 per day” stat

And of course we know that 20 service people per day are committing suicide, which is not excusable. Our country needs to do a much better job of taking care of our service men and women, and that includes accommodating their mental health needs. That point finally was driven home locally with the untimely death of Brandon Ketchum, which even has caught the attention of local lawmakers, as reported here by Quad-City Times columnist Barb Ickes.

I know what suicidal thoughts feel like, although thankfully it is not something I have experienced since 2003. Many years ago, after returning to the Quad-Cities from Los Angeles, my depression was so bad that simply being awake was painful. I just wanted to sleep.

In June 2015, when I raised my voice after not being taken seriously when reporting an intruder at my dad’s memory care facility, I was thrown in the Rock Island County Jail on no charges at all. The reason they gave? They said I was suicidal.

Please start paying attention, folks!

While many of those who govern and have governed out of the county of Rock Island are famous for their lies and corruption, saying I was suicidal may in fact be the tallest tale they ever told. And everyone who was in the jail knows that whether they have chosen to tell the truth about it or not. Even the local mental health center deemed me “not suicidal” after one of their clinicians evaluated me inside the jail, but now those records are “missing.” The hospital also forgave the portion of my bill that Blue Cross Blue Shield did not pay (and not because of financial need).

What was going on that day was a PTSD-fueled anxiety attack that occurred nearly to the day of the one-year anniversary of an assault that could have killed me.

Sure, after two days in there I was weeping, but mostly for my community, and for the fact I thought they were going to kill me in there and that I would never see my dad or my cat again. Prior to that, I banged on the cell door and screamed for help for hours and hours and hours and hours. It was a horrifying experience I will never forget nor ever stop talking about so long as I can make a difference by sharing my story.

Watch for my book coming out next year. In the meantime, please consider supporting me in the NAMI Walk, or the Out of the Darkness Walk for suicide prevention.

Thanks, and happy Labor Day!