Cart Ahead of the Source
Juvenile Court Judge Ina Gyemant is so upended over a press leak about a probe into a Youth Guidance Center suicide that she's asked the city attorney to uncover the unidentified source of the leak. In June, the source told SF Weekly that the state Juvenile Justice Commission had found serious misconduct on the part of YGC Director Ed Flowers and the Juvenile Probation Commission (which is separate from the Justice Commission) following an attempt and subsequent suicide by Aldo Mallorga, a minor drug offender (see "Political Suicide,"June 5). YGC officials allegedly failed to investigate the events leading up to the suicide. Now, Gyemant has put on hold the question of how the system failed Mallorga while she tries to flush out a press source. Great priorities.
Horse of a Different Color
Last week, the Chronicle's Laura Evenson and Sam Whiting sifted through pop culture anecdotes for "Hip, Chic and Lethal," an overwrought report on heroin as resurgent scourge. The Chron's Chicken Littles should have consulted SF Weekly Editor Emeritus Jack Shafer's "Smack Happy" posted July 19 in the on-line journal Slate.
As Shafer points out, it's not "a growing segment of the population" that's addicted to heroin, as the Chron staffers suggest, but the media itself. Shafer cites studies from the DEA and the National Drug Control Study that say the addict population not only remains stable, but that heroin actually has become less pure in recent years.
If heroin chic is sexier than heroin data, Evenson and Whiting at least could have gotten their facts right. As the duo dredged the predictable list of celebrity casualties, they stumbled at least twice. After missing the date on River Phoenix's death (Oct. 31, 1993, not November 1993), they compared his overdose to John Belushi's. Yes, Phoenix had the makings of a "speedball" in his cooling blood, but the L.A. coroner's report said that marijuana was also present. And ephedrine. And Valium. (Read: Phoenix was a novice junkie.)
Then there's Kurt Cobain, who the writers say killed himself because he was "despondent after failing to kick heroin." Cobain's depression was far more complicated. If he was despondent over any one thing, it was the press.
Another Chron-ic flub came last week in a report that an annual study of California nursing homes rated 12 Bay Area facilities among those with the highest number of violations, which resulted in 19 deaths last year. What the paper stopped short of reporting was equally frightening: More than 375 nursing homes in California -- twice the national average, per capita -- received "deficiencies" for improperly physically and chemically restraining patients. According to the report, released by the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, the use of chemical restraint on those spending their golden years in the Golden State's nursing homes jumped 12 percent in 1995 (physical restraints increased by 2.4 percent).