ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) – After spending six days searching for a loved one, a Creve Coeur family found her at the Larry Rice New Life Evangelistic Center in downtown St. Louis.
What was initially a happy reunion turned upsetting when family members of 72-year-old Dorothea Ewing learned employees at DePaul Health Center sent her there by taxi.
Ewing’s family says she is a paranoid schizophrenic and was off her medication when she drove herself to the hospital. The family filed a missing persons report and braced for bad news.
“We were afraid we were going to receive the worst phone call possible,” said Rebecca Ewing, Dorothea’s daughter-in-law.
Instead, a family friend saw the elder Ewing at the shelter a week later. According to shelter volunteers, Ewing’s case isn’t unique. People arrive by taxi day and night at the shelter’s doors.
“It happenes 24/7,” said volunteer Jamie Sheppard. “Sometimes we end up calling 911 because they’re just not in good shape to take care of themselves.”
DePaul did confirm Ewing was treated in the ER and was not considered a danger to herself or others. Officials said they could not comment on the specifics of her case but did say their policy is to treat medical and social needs. They also said the patient makes the final decision before being sent to a shelter.
“The patient is always involved,” said Dr. Jay Moore. “We ask them what is it that you need? If they tell us they need help in terms of food or shelter or what-you-have-you then we start facilitating trying to make sure they have some place safe to go.”
Despite that assurance, Rebecca Ewing is still having trouble understanding how it happened the way it did.
“I definitely think that DePaul hospital dropped the ball even though they said my mother-in-law was alert and oriented she drove herself to the hospital,” she said. “If she wanted to go to the homeless shelter she would have taken herself.”
Ewing’s family is meeting with DePaul Friday to find out more about exactly what happened.