Showdown over Judge Colin’s grandson has surprise witness

The showdown between the family of beleaguered Circuit Judge Martin Colin and the woman who gave birth to his grandson is slated for this Friday morning.

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Kacie Herrick

Colin, his wife Elizabeth Savitt and ubiquitous courthouse psychologist Stephen Alexander — a surprise witness — are scheduled to testify in what could be an all-day affair at the South County Courthouse in Delray Beach.

Among the myriad of issues, is a motion made by Matthew Colin — son of the judge and father of the 1-year-old child — to jail mother Kacie Herrick.

Her crime? She took her son to a pediatrician near her home in Coral Springs rather than near the judge’s residence in Atlantis.

Matthew Colin, the basketball coach at Wellington High School, lives with his father and Savitt.

Judge Colin and Savitt  play a primary role in caring for the child, often picking up the child from Herrick and returning him to her, according to pleadings.

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Palm Beach Circuit Judge Martin Colin

Colin and Savitt were the subject of The Palm Beach Post’s series, Guardianship: A Broken Trust that outlined vast conflict of interest for the judge and numerous complaints from families about Savitt in her guardianships. Savitt operated in the very division where her husband sat on the bench.

In the wake of the series, Chief Judge Jeffrey Colbath transferred Colin out of the Probate & Guardianship Division and to the central courthouse. His wife’s cases were also moved to the North County Courthouse in an effort to mitigate the appearance of favoritism.

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Professional guardian Elizabeth Savitt. She is married to Circuit Judge Martin Colin.

Savitt still works as professional guardian where accusations from families are still are rampant.

In the meantime, the judicial power couple are involved in Matthew Colin’s ongoing disputes with Herrick over the care of their child. Herrick’s attorneys — Tracy Belinda Newmark and Natalie S. Kay — say it is a rarity for the child to sleep in the same bed two nights in a row.

Her attorneys hope that Herrick can get approval of a proposed parenting plan that will allow her to move out of Florida to Maine where her parents live and away from Judge Colin’s family.

The case is being heard by Judge Alfred Horowitz of Broward County after Herrick said she could not get a fair hearing in front of one of Judge Colin’s colleagues in Palm Beach County.

Her motion finally succeeded in the wake of Palm Beach Post’s investigation that found numerous complaints by families against Savitt as a guardian died a quick death in front of Colin’s colleagues on the Palm Beach Circuit bench.

Another issue to bubble up in the paternity case is Matthew Colin’s surprise witness of Dr. Stephen Alexander, a psychologist who specializes in providing expert witness testimony to defense parties in multitude of cases. He is also married to one of Judge Colin’s colleagues: Circuit Judge Karen Miller.

Herrick’s attorneys said in a motion to strike Alexander from the proceeding that Matthew Colin attempted to disguise the psychologist by listing him as a lay witness. Alexander has never treated Herrick and appears to have no bearing on the parental issues, the mother’s attorneys say.

“Father has not even provided the most general information regarding the subject area about which the expert witness intends to testify,” the motion states.

Paging Dr. Owl: FAU gets accreditation for surgery, ER residency

Florida Atlantic University’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine in Boca Raton is busting since graduating its first class of would-be doctors last year.

The latest is that it has received initial accreditation for university sponsored residency programs in general surgery and emergency medicine.

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FAU has received initial accreditation for university sponsored residency programs in general surgery and emergency medicine.

It’s a big deal for the up-and-coming medical school.

Spokeswoman Gisele Galoustian says the emergency medicine residency is the only such program in Broward and Palm Beach counties. The surgery residency program is one of only three programs between the two counties.

The six-year general surgery training program is based at Boca Raton Regional Hospital, the primary site for the program, as well as Bethesda Hospital East, Delray Medical Center, St. Mary’s Medical Center and West Boca Medical Center.

The three-year emergency medicine training program is based at Bethesda Hospital East, the primary site for the program, as well as St. Mary’s Medical Center and Delray Medical Center.

All five hospitals are member teaching hospitals in the FAU College of Medicine Consortium.

“FAU’s general surgery program has been approved for a total of 45 clinical positions and up to seven positions for a unique value-added year of scholarship and research, making this program one of the largest in the nation,” according to an FAU news release.

 

Syphilis sufferers now must face penicillin shortage

Drug giant Pfizer says it is experiencing “an unanticipated manufacturing delay” in producing the penicillin type used to treat the sexually transmitted disease Syphilis. Pfizer is the producer of the medication and the shortage comes just as the STD is making a comeback.

Pfizer wrote to consumers that it would be providing just one-third of the usual monthly demand until July, according to a story by National Public Radio.

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The bacteria Syphilis, in a photo courtesy of the National Institutes of Health, is on the come back — and to make matters worse penicillin is currently in short supply by its manufacturer, Pfizer.

“Bicillin L-A” is the recommended treatment for people with syphilis and the only one available for pregnant women who are infected with or exposed to the STD. Syphilis is caused by a bacterium and like other bacteria, such as the one that causes strep throat, this type of penicillin is the cure.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has asked that health care providers save the drug for people with syphilis, especially pregnant women. “And the real tragedy is that it is a treatable infection,” says Dr. Sarah Kidd, a medical epidemiologist with the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention.

 

Erin Fox, director of the Drug Information Service at University of Utah Health Care, says it’s hard to plan for drug shortages.

“Almost every hospital has a set plan for how they deal with drug shortages. The surprise that happens on a daily basis is ‘What product is going to be short?'” she says.

Pfizer says the crisis should be short-lived and the supply should be back to normal in July.

To read NPR’s full report click here.

Judge’s wife wanted fees paid from stroke victim’s trust, IRA

Carla Simmonds, a Delray Beach nursing administrator and mother of two, decided two years ago to get in shape by attending a “boot camp workout.”

But after a vigorous session in February 2014, Simmonds suffered a life-shattering stroke caused by a leak in her carotid artery that triggered a massive blood clot in her frontal lobe. Doctors were forced to temporarily remove half of the 47-year-old’s skull to contain swelling so her brain did not dislodge from her spinal cord.

Simmonds was left unable to speak and with the mental capacity of a 4-year-old. All she could do was cry. Years of recovery awaited.

Daniel Schmidt, a former boyfriend and retired Merrill Lynch financial planner from Boca Raton, stepped up, taking her into his home and guiding her on a remarkable recovery.

But the court system also ended up putting the stroke victim in the hands of professional guardian Elizabeth “Betsy” Savitt, the wife of embattled Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Martin Colin.

The judicial power couple were the subject of a series of reforms handed down this year by the chief judge after The Palm Beach Post’s series, Guardianships: A Broken Trust. The newspaper’s investigation showed how Savitt took tens ofthousands of dollars in feeswithout prior court permission from seniors in her guardianships and compiled a litany of complaints from families of her wards.

All of Savitt’s guardianship cases were moved to the north county courthouse to avoid any appearance of favoritism toward the judge’s wife.

Savitt, though, is still drawing complaints about her fees in the handful of guardianship cases she has left. When families ask her to resign, she has demanded fees upfront for her and her attorney Ellen Morris. The judge’s wife insists they also agree not to sue or pursue litigation against her.

In the Simmonds case, Savitt, a former tennis pro, attempted to draw fees from the stroke victim’s $640,000 trust, which wasn’t part of the guardianship money, and then wanted to drain her $46,000 IRA to pay fees for about one-quarter of its worth.

But Schmidt stood in Savitt’s way. Simmonds before her stroke had given him her power of attorney.

To read the whole story on The Post’s website, click here.

 

Scientists fear Okeechobee algae bloom with spread

Scientists worry that a large toxic algal bloom in Lake Okeechobee could spread through man-made canals to coastal estuaries like the Indian River Lagoon, according to a story published by Health News Florida.

Paul Gray of Audubon of Florida said he bloom likely will spread as water managers send large amounts of water from the rain-swollen lake to the estuaries. Lake O is a last ditch backup water supply for the city of West Palm Beach.

0010216A 071505 tc met river el 1 A view from the North Fork of the St. Lucie River shows fresh algae blooms off the shoreline Friday afternoon, July 15, 2005. The South Florida Water Management District held a media briefing and aerial tour of the conditions in Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie River today, July 15, at 1 p.m. at the Witham Field Airport, 2555 SE Dixie Highway, Stuart.  (Erik Lunsford/The Palm Beach Post) NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION OUTSIDE COX PAPERS. OUT PALM BEACH, BROWARD, MARTIN, ST. LUCIE, INDIAN RIVER AND OKEECHOBEE COUNTIES IN FLORIDA. OUT ORLANDO. OUT TV. OUT MAGAZINES. OUT TABLOIDS. OUT WIDE WORLD. OUT INTERNET USE. NO SALES. ORG XMIT: MER0507151724509064 ORG XMIT: MER0706181400405571
A view from the North Fork of the St. Lucie River shows fresh algae blooms off the shoreline in 2005.

 

“When you open the gate to flow water out of the lake they just flow right along with it,” Gray said. “And they tend to stay at the surface so they can stay viable all the way down the canal and into the estuary.”

Gray said it’s too soon to know how heavy rain this week impacted the bloom.

A toxic bloom of the same algal species three years ago gripped the southern Indian River Lagoon, prompting advisories that people stay away from the water.

And there is more evidence these algal blooms could be affecting humans in ways we are only now beginning to understand.

The Palm Beach Post in March published how algal blooms have been tied to ALS, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s. Blue-green algae produce a toxin called BMAA that has been linked to the neurological tangles in the brain that are the hallmark of these neurological devastating disorders.

 

Is Delray Beach’s proton therapy the best cure for cancer?

The city of Delray Beach was so excited that its local hospital will soon have a new cancer cure, it sent out a press release on Tuesday: “Delray Medical Center to Offer Proton Therapy”

And what’s not to like about the state-of-the-art, Star Trek looking device that cure’s cancer – especially those affecting children.

Well, the Wall Street Journal calls it an “expensive and controversial cancer treatment.”

Proton-beam therapy uses positively charged particles to kill tumor cells. Unlike traditional radiotherapy using X-rays, protons treatment minimizes the damage to surrounding healthy tissue.

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Delray Beach Medical Center is getting a proton-beam therapy machines, such as this one in the Czech Republic (Associated Press )

 

Proton-beam therapy centers can cost up to $200 million to build. The cost can be justified for childhood cancers and a small number of adult ones – such as brain tumors at the base of the skull – the jury is still out on cost-effectiveness for most common cancers, the Journal reported.

A 2013 study estimated that for prostate cancer patients, proton therapy cost $32,000 per treatment, versus $18,000 for traditional radiotherapy.

The Delray Medical Center Proton Therapy Treatment Center is estimated to cost approximately $53 million and is scheduled to open in 2018.

The city says the therapy is particularly effective in treating solid cancer tumors including tumors of the brain, spine, head and neck, lung, prostate, colon and some breast tumors.

“Due to its precision and lack of long-term side effects, proton therapy is widely used to treat children,” according to the press release.

In the past five years, proton-beam therapy rooms world-wide have nearly doubled worldwide.  It is also a great marketing tool, giving hospitals more prestige, according to the Journal’s story. Expect a billboard near you soon to tout the treatment at the hospital willing to make the investment.

“We are looking forward to offering this innovative treatment option at Delray Medical Center,” said Mark Bryan, CEO of Delray Medical Center is quoted in the city’s press release. “It is always our goal to incorporate new technologies and techniques that will make treatment safer and less invasive for our patients.”

Proton International out of Louisville, Ky., is going to build the proton therapy treatment center in Delray Beach.

“This will assure local residents won’t have to travel to gain access to this treatment which will reduce the stress and disruption on families,” said Chris Chandler, the company’s CEO.

To read all of the Wall Street Journal’s story click here.

Cancer savior or scam artist? Canada investigating local health guru

Brian Clement, of the West Palm Beach-based Hippocrates Health Institute, says he can cure cancer with wheat grass suppositories and a diet of raw vegan food.

Health Canada is investigating Clement over allegations he is selling unlicensed health products in its country, according to a story by The Hamilton Spectator.

Clement’s products are sold mainly online from his Florida base.

6/12/00 - Brian R. Clement (cq), director of the Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach, photographed on the lush grounds of his in-residence health facility. (For "Pioneers of the New Century") BRUCE R. BENNETT/Staff Photographer
Brian R. Clement, director of the Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach, photographed on the lush grounds of his in-residence health facility in 2000.

Health Canada spokesperson Maryse Durrette told the newspaper the department has not licensed any the LifeGive brand products Clement is offering for sale during an Ontario tour due to wrap up this week.

Clement gained notoriety in Canada when two Native American girls with leukemia abandoned chemotherapy in Hamilton in favor of his treatments. One died early in 2015 and the other has returned to chemotherapy.

An Internet survey of a sample of the 218 health food stores in Hamilton and area found none carrying the brand.

And Canadians are none too happy that Clement was touring the area recently.

“He doesn’t play around with acne or the common cold,” says Joe Schwarcz, director of prestigious McGill University’s Office for Science and Society which investigates potentially fraudulent therapies. He spoke to Hamilton newspaper in a separate story.

“He targets people who have cancer. The things that are offered at the Hippocrates clinic have no scientific basis. Not only is there no evidence, but they are not scientifically plausible,” Schwarcz said.

A  call to Clement for comment by The Palm Beach Post at his office in West Palm Beach wasn’t immediately returned.

Gov. Scott re-appoints two members of Health Care District Board

After a drama-filled year for the Health Care District, Chair Philip Ward and board member Nancy Banner weathered the storm to get new terms courtesy of Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott announced the  re-appointments on Monday. Both were originally appointed by the governor in October 2011 and continued in their capacity on the board after their terms expired last year.

Ward is president and managing partner of Ward Damon, a multi-disciplined law firm which he co-founded in 1987. He succeeded Carol A. Roberts as board chair last year.

The governor’s office said Ward is appointed to a term ended in September 2018, while Banner’s new term ends in September 2019.

The Health Care District has 1,200 employees and runs Trauma Hawk, Lakeside Medical Center in Belle Glade, primary care clinics and school nurses, among other services.

Last year, the board refused to give then CEO Dr. Ron Wiewora a vote of confidence and he abruptly resigned. The district also weathered several audits – including one by the State Auditor General. It also found itself challenged by the sheriff’s office for control of Trauma Hawk.

It seemed to be courting further drama when it considered for the open CEO position at least two officials from scandal-ridden Broward Health – the public health system in that county – but ended up choosing in March internal candidate Darcy Davis.

Survey: Living wills of Incapacitated seniors ignored in guardianship

The South Florida advocacy group that pushed lawmakers to pass current reforms in adult guardianship asked its membership about their legal experiences. The finding gives a snapshot of a very broken system that is very lucrative for a handful of professionals and their attorneys.

The foremost finding of survey is that in more than three-quarters of cases judges ignored advanced directives of seniors and instead appointed a professional guardian, thus rendering carefully planned living wills moot.

Retired Hollywood physician Sam Sugar, who co-founded Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship, said the survey went out to 285 members and that he received 67 responses from throughout the country.

His group says many professional guardians appointed to oversee the lives of incapacitated adults – a majority of them seniors with dementia – often take financial advantage of these vulnerable citizens and work with attorneys to drain assets and property. As plenary guardians they have complete control over their assets.

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Dr. Sam Sugar, co-founder of Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship.

In the meantime, the family of these so-called wards find themselves powerless because judges are often complicit and allow the ransacking of the senior’s life savings. The problems in adult guardianship can be found nationwide as more baby boomers live longer their heirs and are more vulnerable to dementia and other degenerative diseases.

The Palm Beach Post in its series, Guardianships: A Broken Trust, revealed the incestuous nature of guardianship and how money from the savings of incapacitated seniors flowed into the household of Circuit Judge Martin Colin through his wife, professional guardian Elizabeth “Betsy” Savitt.

Palm Beach County Chief Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath  — in a series of reforms announced in the wake of the series —  transferred Judge Colin out of the Probate & Guardianship Division. Colin announced his retirement.

His wife’s cases were all moved to the North County Courthouse to prevent an appearance of favoritism by Colin’s closest colleagues but she continues to operate.

Judge Martin Colin presides over a hearing on Thursday, August 20, 2015 at the South County Courthouse in Delray Beach. Judge Colin's wife Elizabeth Savitt, who is a professional guardian, was simultaneously participating in a hearing in another courtroom with Attorney Sheri Hazeltine. (Madeline Gray / The Palm Beach Post)
Judge Martin Colin presides over a hearing. (Madeline Gray / The Palm Beach Post)

 

Elizabeth Savitt appears at a hearing with Attorney Sheri Hazeltine to discuss attorney fees for Albert Bach on Thursday, August 20, 2015 at the South County Courthouse in Delray Beach. Elizabeth Savitt is the wife of Judge Martin Colin and also a professional guardian. (Madeline Gray / The Palm Beach Post)
Elizabeth Savitt appears at a hearing  (Madeline Gray / The Palm Beach Post)

The Florida Legislature in the last two years has passed reforms to give the state its first regulatory authority over professional guardians and to hold them criminally accountable when they defraud the wards in their care.

Sugar said ignoring pre-need directives is a violation of due process for the incapacitated seniors and “spits in the face of our American notions of fair play, civil rights and justice.”

“This racket is unfettered, growing, predatory, and operates with absolute impunity because of the involvement of elected judges who function without supervision or monitoring or juries,” Sugar said.

In a landmark case, the Fourth District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach last year ruled that pre-need directives must be followed by the judge when determining a guardian.

The questionnaire also found 30 percent of guardianships are switched from public to private guardianship and back.

“This tactic is used by abusive guardians and their attorneys to maximize their cash flow since in many public guardianships for destitute individuals are prohibited from selling any property the ward might own,” Sugar said. “In switching back and forth between public and private guardianship the predators guarantee that they will take every possible dollar from every possible source.”

More than 80 percent of those who sent in survey said they believed the judge who appointed the professional guardian were improperly influenced. About 65 percent of respondents believe the judge was responsible for the abuse in their cases.

Nearly 50 percent said their loved ones were isolated from their family by professional guardians and over-medicated.

All the results of the AAAPG survey can be found by clicking here.

 

A vicious bug is running through this Lake Worth Elementary School

It’s not exactly the plague but some vicious bug is running through Barton Elementary School in Lake Worth that has health officials perplexed.

About 15 teachers and students a day are coming down with a bug that causes nausea, abdominal cramps and diarrhea and other symptoms.

“We have not identified any organism or any culprit,” said  Tim O’Connor, spokesman for the Health Department in Palm Beach County

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A letter was sent to parents asking to obtain a stool sample of their ill child from the family physician., asking it be inclusive of testing for the highly contagious Norovirus.

The Health Department also delivered stool kits to the school nurse in case parents want to bypass the doctor.

In the meantime, officials are telling students and teachers to wash their hands with soap and water and for any ill child to remain home until symptom free for 48 hours.