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What happened to Joy?

Joy Waguespack had a lot of life left to live. Her mother, Carol, describes her as a talented woman who loved to sing and who brightened up her life in every possible way. The light that was her life though was dimmed forever on June 1, 2019 when somehow she ended up dead while in the care of a mental health facility in Baton Rouge.

"They called me,” said Carol Waguespack. “It was a Monday morning."

She remembers the call like it was yesterday. Her daughter was found unresponsive in her room. Carol was told to come to the hospital as quickly as she could, which would mean driving from her home in Chalmette nearly 90 miles to get to Baton Rouge.

“When we got there, you knew it was bad," said Waguespack.

This tragic chain of event started just days before with an outburst by Joy at her group home. The 43-year-old was arrested and taken to the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. Tonja Myles stepped in to help get Waguespack into a place better suited for her needs. That is how Joy, who was living with bipolar disorder, ended up at Seaside Psychiatric Hospital.

"Parish prison is not a place for the mentally ill,” said Myles. “Unfortunately, they end up there and they do the best they can but she needed something else."

Myles, who advocates for those with mental health disorders, tells WAFB’s Scottie Hunter that everything seemed like it was going to be fine. She said the group she worked with was able to ensure her that Joy would have a bed setup and ready to go once she was released from prison.

WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked Myles if Joy was back on the streets at any point after she was released from parish prison.

No. She was not back on the street. We call it a door to door so she was literally door to door from East Baton Rouge Parish Prison and to the treatment center.

Just three days after getting to that treatment center, Joy would lose her life.

The coroner’s report released to the 9News Investigators reveals her death was ruled accidental.

According to the coroner's report, she had a lethal dose of Ketamine, a drug used to treat depression.

After reaching out to Seaside, Myles says she was told the hospital did not give Joy the drugs and in fact, Ketamine is not even something they use at the facility.

WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked Myles how then was that able to happen.

That's the million-dollar question. The drugs that they said were in her system that were fatal, no one knows how it got there. That was my concern.

Joy’s mother says she knew something was off when she tried to call the facility but could never reach her daughter.

"Joy called me every day of her life except for the day she was in jail," said Waguespack.

Waguespack claims she tried the Saturday and Sunday before Joy died and both times staff told her that her daughter was sleeping. She says the worst part of the entire ordeal is that she still does not know exactly what happened and when.

"That's exactly what it is, not knowing,” said Waguespack. “You just want to know what happened to your child... you really do."

WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked if there is anything that would make the pain better.

Yeah, finding out what happened. It's not going to make it better though. It's not going to bring her back.

WAFB went looking for an explanation from staff at Seaside. After leaving several voice mails and even sending an email to the administrator at the facility, Thursday morning, an administrator said that they would not be able to comment on the case due to privacy laws.

WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked Waguespack if she believes Seaside owes her an explanation.

"Absolutely," she said. "Because they've never given me a reason. They never told me what happened. I just want to know what happened."

An administrator confirmed to WAFB that Ketamine is not prescribed by their physicians and the drug is not even stocked at the facility.

A source close to the investigation told WAFB they believe a third party, not the hospital, gave Joy the drugs. Her mother, though, does not buy that explanation.

“No, I don’t believe that,” said Waguespack. “She had to get it from Seaside.”

While Waguespack may never know exactly what happened to her daughter, advocates say cases like this serve as a painful reminder of why more needs to be done to protect some of the most vulnerable members of our community.

“We tried... we tried... and it wasn't what we wanted and we thought we were really saving a life but it just made me realize that we still have more work to do," said Myles. "We're going to make sure her life is not in vain and this happens to no one else."

Myles and Waguespack say this case is just one more perfect example of why the Bridge Center must come online as quickly as possible.

Copyright 2019 WAFB. All rights reserved.

Created By
Samantha Morgan
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