| Columns |

Couple Learns About Miami Psych Units the Hard Way

Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Miami and help keep the future of New Times free.

Having no health insurance sucks. Just ask Cecil Gamarra. Three years ago, the soft-spoken 42-year-old noticed his young Haitian wife beginning to change. She stopped sleeping and would vanish for days at a time. Sometimes she'd mutter things about people who didn't exist -- and places she'd never visited. 

Doctors soon diagnosed her with mental illness. She was prone to paranoid delusions and severe depression, they told Gamarra. "I think she felt isolated," he says, trying to understand. "She's a country mouse from Haiti, and her family is too far away to help."

Three weeks ago, it got bad. Gamarra, who lives in Little Havana, took her to the crisis unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital. As he recalls, she was promptly transferred to New Horizons Community Mental Health Center because she had no insurance. He says, "I told them specifically to please contact me when they discharged her."

They didn't, he says. Within a day, the busy facility sent her packing. She hopped on the first bus she saw and went missing.

Gamarra frantically called the cops and tracked her down. He found her "in worse shape than when [he] checked her in," he says. The following day, cops Baker Acted her, he says. It's not the first time she's been in and out of Miami facilities. "She goes through the exact same system over and over."

New Horizons doctor assistant Patricia Chase could not immediately answer questions about the center's release policy. But it's clear the problem is bigger than the health center. Mental health units in Florida are slammed because the state waits until people are deep into their illness before addressing the problem. (Read about it here.)

Says Gamarra: "I just don't know what to do."

Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.