Joseph Henry’s father Randy hopes that telling his son’s story will prevent other tragic deaths. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Joseph Henry’s father Randy hopes that telling his son’s story will prevent other tragic deaths. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Death leaves many questions in parents’ minds

PORT ANGELES — Joseph Daniel Henry had unmedicated schizophrenia when he was released early from a Sedro-Woolley drug treatment center in mid-September.

By the time he was discharged, he had not had his medication for a week, court records said.

The 31-year-old Clallam Bay native jumped to his death off the Tumwater Truck Route bridge Oct. 4, just a few weeks later.

“I feel that the mental health system failed him,” Joseph’s father, Randy Henry of Sequim, said Thursday.

The sky was sunglasses-bright the afternoon his son died.

Joseph, tattooed with the word Jesus on his right forearm and the word Christ on his left forearm, placed his shoes side by side against the base of the 4-foot, 6-inch railing, pointing west, before launching himself 100 feet to the highway below. He carried 29 cents and a Peninsula Behavioral Health pocket calendar in his jeans.

“Someone jumped off the western most 8th Street bridge,” was the call to 9-1-1 at 3:32 p.m.

Port Angeles Police Officer Luke Brown, a former Clallam County jail corrections deputy who saw Henry lying splayed out, recognized him as a former jail inmate who had been placed on suicide watch “on different occasions,” according to the police report.

Henry should have had his medication with him when Pioneer Center North let him go in mid-September, said his parents Randy Henry, 58, and Judy Brown, 55, of Sekiu.

“Joe was not an angel, and Joe had a long arrest record, but I think that at that point in time that he took his life, I think the system failed him, the mental health system and the court system, because the courts, I feel, didn’t do enough to be assured he had what he needed over there [at Pioneer Center North],” Henry said.

‘I want to know what happened that they sent him back, if he started getting out of control, what his mental state was when they decided they were going to release him, and if he had a bad mental state, why did they just release him to the outside.

“It makes no sense to me that they would just turn him loose without his medication.”

Peninsula Behavioral Health supplied Henry with medication, according to court records.

Dates are from court records. Officials at neither Peninsula Behavorial Helath nor Pioneer Center North would discuss specifics of his case.

Wendy Sisk, CEO of Peninsula Behavioral Health, said she is prohibited under federal law from providing information about PBH clients.

“We share care with primary care providers and abuse treatment providers,” Sisk said.

Pioneer Center North is run by Pioneer Human Services, a Seattle-based public-benefit, nonprofit corporation.

Like Sisk, Pioneer spokeswoman Hilary Young said she could not discuss specific clients.

“Pioneer Center North is a substance abuse facility, not a mental health facility,” Young said.

“If someone comes in with mental health concerns and is on medication, typically they come in and they have the prescriber or referent that will make sure they’ve got their full amount to be able to take them through the length of their stay.

“But ultimately, if they are not on their medication, and they are not stable enough to deal with substance abuse treatment, we are not equipped to treat them for other disorders.”

Henry was a client of Peninsula Behavioral Health, according to records of proceedings in county Mental Health Court, a jail-cost-saving, court supervision program under the auspices of Superior Court.

“[Henry] should be at Pioneer Center North,” according to the minutes of his final Mental Health Court hearing Sept. 22.

“He was released due to not having his medications.

“Upon his return, he is going to PBH.

“He needs to get more medication from PBH.”

Henry’s next mental health review date was set for 11 a.m. Oct. 13, nine days after he took his life just seven blocks from Peninsula Behavioral Health.

Henry was at Pioneer Center North under the terms of a March 23 Superior Court pretrial diversion agreement.

He had been charged with a Forks-area residential burglary and car prowl.

A Superior Court order mandated that he report Aug. 23 to Pioneer.

“Joseph was discharged from Pioneer Center North due to a lack of access to medications for a week,” according to a Sept. 20 PBH Client Progress Report.

“He will be attending an outpatient COD [Co-occurring Disorders] treatment group while looking for another inpatient treatment option.”

A person with a co-occurring disorder has a substance abuse problem and a mental health disorder.

According to an April 13 PBH Client Progress Report, Henry had huffed — inhaled — gas fumes and smoked marijuana and methamphetamines.

That led to his eviction from the Arlene Engel Home assisted living facility in Port Angeles and subsequent homelessness.

“Client should be enrolled in a chemical dependency treatment program due to his frequent use of substances,” the report said.

Randy Henry last saw his son Sept. 19, two weeks before he died, at Olympic Stationers in downtown Port Angeles.

“I said, ‘What are you doing here? I thought you were in treatment,’” Randy recalled.

“He said, ‘They mixed up my medication, and they sent me back.’

“I doubted it, because with his drug history he had, you couldn’t always believe Joe.”

His son’s eyes were wide, similar to when Joseph was hospitalized 10 years ago for odd behavior his father attributed to drug use.

Joseph was clean drug-wise but was diagnosed with schizophrenia, Randy said.

Brown said she talked to her son while he was at Pioneer Center North in late August or early September.

“He sounded well, he sounded good, he sounded happy,” Henry’s mother said.

But in a letter she received from him about 10 days later, around mid-September, he oddly wrote his middle name as his first name.

Brown said her son’s medication did not follow him to Sedro-Woolley.

“I don’t know how that happened,” she said.

“It seems like it was something he knew that he needed to be on.”

Sisk said treatment facilities such as Pioneer Center North typically reach out to prescribing facilities for refills when drug center patients run out of a medication.

“Generally, treatment facilities will not discharge a patient due to lack of access to medication or lack of access to care,” she said.

“They discharge because of an inability to meet that patient’s needs.”

Sisk said PBH has averaged 20 to 40 admissions to Pioneer Center North annually, although the total has dropped.

The center has scaled back its capacity by about one-third due to lack of qualified clinical staff, Young said.

About 35-percent to 40 percent of clients are on medication during their stay, she said.

Young said the staff does not prescribe or administer medication, although clients are sometimes reminded to take it.

They come to the medication room when they need to, Young said.

“Not everyone needs a reminder every time,” she said.

“We monitor that closely.

“If they run out, we work with the referent to get their refills.”

Henry’s father feels guilty for not realizing earlier that his son had schizophrenia and that he used drugs to deal with it.

“Now I question the mental health issues, how much of a part did his mental health play in all this stuff,” Henry said.

“He wasn’t an angel, but he didn’t deserve to not be treated, either.”


Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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