Orlando performer claims mistreatment by healthcare facility after suicide attempt

By : Jeremy Williams
Comments: 0

Update 3.27.15 at 3:07 p.m. EST: Danielle is being moved, and Equality Florida reached out to talk about how they’re helping and what are the larger implications for the transgender community.

Danielle Hunter, a local transgender performer, is claiming mistreatment from an Orlando healthcare facility after being admitted due to a suicide attempt. Hunter is in the process of being moved to a “non-hospital facility” on March 27, according to an Equality Florida spokesperson.

Hunter was admitted to Lakeside Behavior Healthcare on March 24 after being found by her roommate, fellow performer Roxy Brooks, in their home on March 20 and taken to the hospital.

“I came homeand I found her blue and unresponsive,” Brooks said.

Hunter remained unresponsive until March 22 when she woke up and told the hospital that if released she would attempt suicide again, said Brooks.

Hunter was moved to Lakeside for observation and that is when she claims she was removed from her bed and forced to sleep on the floor.

“She was removed from her room [March 25] and made to sleep on the floor in front of the nurse’s station,” Brooks said. “She asked why she was being taken out of her bed and made to sleep on the floor and the nurse told her ‘If you would like to be in a bed you can sleep in with the men.’”

Hunter has a Florida I.D. that lists her gender as female.

Brooks, along with many of Hunter’s friends and supporters, took to social media to spread the word of Lakeside’s alleged discriminatory actions.

“I have reached out to some very powerful people and we will get this situation resolved quickly,” Eddie Nickell wrote on Hunter’s Facebook page. “I will not allow some close minded nurse to step on my sister.”

Nickell is co-owner of Funky Monkey Wine Company and Divas Dinner Theatre, where Hunter is manager and entertainment director.

Rene Bionat, the operations manager of the Treehouse Theater in New York, expressed outrage on Hunter’s Facebook page.

“This is absolutely disgusting,” Bionat wrote. “When will the transgendered community be treated with respect? Shame on you Orlando! I really hope someone helps Danielle Hunter and she gets the proper treatment she truly deserves.”

Gina Duncan, Transgender Inclusion Director for Equality Florida, said what allegedly happened to Hunter shows the need for “education, awareness and proper transgender protocols” in the community.

“I think the most alarming thing is Danielle is such an icon in our community, and she’s been such a visible representative for the community and has given so much time and talent to supporting organizations and non profits, for this to happen to someone of that visibility and notoriety in Central Florida, for this to happen to Danielle shows it can happen to anyone,” Duncan said.

Todd Dixon is the Director of Government Affairs & Community Relations at Aspire Health Partners, which operates Lakeside. Hecould not comment about a specific patient but said they have a strict non-discrimination policy.

“We make every effort to accommodate all patients, especially transgender patients,” Dixon said. “We ask how they identify and what their status is as far as their transition.”

Lakeside is a crisis stabilization unit and does not have private rooms.

“Patients must be able to be observed at all times, but every effort is made to make a transgender patient comfortable and if accommodations can be made then we do so,” he said.

Although Dixon would not comment on Hunter specifically, he did review Lakeside’s policies, which may offer an explanation for why she allegedly slept near the nursing station.

“We sometimes will place a patient in an unused room if available but if we are at capacity that just cannot be done,” Dixon said. “We do have high observation rooms, which are not private rooms but are spaces we can use that offer privacy from the rest of the patients, but again, we cannot always use those rooms if we are at capacity.”

If a facility is at full capacity efforts are made to try and get a patient to another facility.

“Regardless of gender, sometimes we reach full capacity and a transport can be done but that does take time as the patient cannot be moved without a doctor’s written order,” Dixon said.

Dixon did say that as a last resort, patients can be placed in the community room if all other options are not available.

“The community room is near the nurse’s station so the patient can be observed throughout the night,” Dixon said. “A mattress is placed on the floor for the patient. We cannot use things like gurneys because, with the type of facility this is, we have to remove the potential for the patient to do harm to themselves.”

Duncan said the next step is to allow Hunter to stabilize, and then “letting her drive the bus” as far as filing complaints or taking legal action.

“[EQFL] are standing by to support in any way we can,” Duncan said, adding that there are a number of national organizations on standby to help should Hunter choose to take further action.

Jamie Hyman contributed to this story. 

Share this story: