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NY Health Dept Releases Report on "Medical Mystery"; Can Conversion Disorder Be Cured?

Aired February 3, 2012 - 21:00   ET


DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST: Here we go.

Now is there finally some hard evidence to support doctors` diagnoses of the twitching and tic-ing teens? We`re on the case in Le Roy.

And another elementary school teacher is under investigation. You will not believe where he works.

Plus, Jessica Alba needs my help. I`ll do my best.

Let`s get started.

Good evening and thank you for joining us.

We have news about a Los Angeles Area Elementary School teacher and it`s not good. He has been arrested for - you`re not going to believe the behavior. We`re going to get into it. And there`s a connection between this and the disturbing case we told you about last night which was almost too much to report. But we`re going to get to later in the show. Please stay with us.

First off, breaking news tonight in the medical mystery in Le Roy, New York. The EPA just announced - get this - they are going to remove the barrels from a site - this spill site we`ve been reporting about, the derailment site not far from the high school.

And the New York Department of Health released a report tonight, they did not find that there`s a conclusion that there was no infectious or environmental causes from what`s happening to a cluster of people in Le Roy. I`ve read the report. It`s pretty good.

We have two stories here. We have teen girls and an older mom - older woman rather suffering from possible conversion disorder. The school is not being upfront with parents according to parents about what is happening, leaving some parents to pull their kids out of school.

Joining me tonight, first of all, Erin Brockovich`s Associate, who`s been conducting his own test in Le Roy, Bob Bowcock. He`s been with us through this story. Bob, how do you feel about the barrels getting moved?

BOB BOWCOCK, ERIN BROCKOVICH`S ASSOCIATE: Oh, I think it`s great news and I applaud the - both the senators from New York, as well as the local congresswoman. Sometimes it takes action from the top down to - to get the regulatory agencies to react.

PINSKY: It seems pretty cool. I mean, we`ve been reporting this story. There are those toxic drums alongside of me here.

Do you think perhaps, Bob, they found something when they tested those drums?

BOWCOCK: Perhaps.

You know, I`ve been suspicious that they would find anything from the very beginning. You know, TCE is a volatile compound, so it`s going to - it`s going to evaporate. It`s going to go right back out into the environment. And most of the barrels that we`ve had observed were almost about half full because of just the weather activity on them, they`ve leaked out.

So, you know, I would be suspicious if they actually found TCE. However, in reading the report that you just referred to from the New York Department of Health where they`re actually finding the five parts per billion in the water and the rock quarry, indicates to me that the levels are so high that perhaps there are actually, you know, remnant levels found in - in the barrels as well as in the water.

For water to have five parts per billion in a surface water setting like that, it`s pretty remarkable, because this is the type of chemical that wants to vaporize, that`s why it`s called a volatile organic. It wants to go into the air, it wants out of the water. So for the state to actually find it in the rock quarry is an interesting finding for me.

PINSKY: And again, our concern is that it has concentrated somewhere, and that the floods last summer somehow brought them out.

Joining us, I`ve got a mother who`s concerned and wants help and answers. Melissa Cianci and our HLN Correspondent Jim Spellman in Le Roy.

Now we know about the barrels. What about the EPA report, Jim?

JIM SPELLMAN, HLN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the New York Department of Health report, we got a preliminary report from the state that they`re doing on these cases. And it says what they said all along that they believe that this is conversion disorder and that there are no environmental issues at play here.

It gives us a glimpse into their methodology. They`ve looked at several samples, water, and did mold studies. We knew about those, but they`ve (INAUDIBLE) with medical histories from the affected students to conclude that they could not find any indication of environmental causes here.

What`s less clear is whether that report, the preliminary version when the entire thing comes out whether that will ease parents` fears and concerns here about these fracking wells on site or about that EPA site or about some other unknown elements that may be at play. Whether that`s going to, you know, makes those parents feel better, just not sure yet, Drew.

PINSKY: Well, Jim, I`m glad you`re standing there with a parent so I can ask that very question.

I read the report, too, and it was well done. It was fairly complete. I mean real pros working on it for sure as those who were treating the girls in New York.

There two - two leftover unanswered questions which is could TCE be concentrating somewhere and then having come up in the flood. They did not explain anything like that, and the fracking issue that you bring up, Jim, as well.

So, Melissa, is it reassuring to hear the New York State Department investigation has revealed no reason for the school to shut down?

MELISSA CIANCI, CONCERNED PARENT IN LE ROY, NY: That is reassuring, but we still have not seen as parents any documents. It would be more reassuring to us as parents to see it in writing, to see it ourselves, and the school has not done any of that.

PINSKY: So you feel like the administration needs to be a little more transparent and more forthcoming. Is that right?

CIANCI: Correct.

PINSKY: Let me - speaking of that, the control room will help me out, before I read the New York State Department`s investigation, I`m not sure I will have a chance to, we sort of discussed it. We said it`s, you know - I want to show you a letter from the school now we brought the school up. Yes, if you would -

I have an e-mail from the school superintendent to a parent concerned about his child. It says "Hi, Don. As a matter of fact, we did have conversation with Bob Bowcock." And Bob, I`m going to let you respond to this in just a second.

"Bob Bowcock, we just spoke to him yesterday. We asked him to submit his work plan (proposal) for testing so that we could share it with Leader, that`s an organization I guess they`ve hired to do the environmental investigation, and he refused to do so. We were advised by Leader that this is the standard procedure that people follow when they want to collaborate in these matters. If and when he decides to share his plan with Leader, we will ask Leader to consider his plan and advice on how best to share the information."

Bob, did you - it is from Kim Cox, the superintendent of the school. Did she talk to you yesterday?

BOWCOCK: No, I have not spoken with Miss Cox at all. We did try to correspond via e-mail this afternoon because I was as perplexed from receiving that e-mail as anyone would be.

You know, it`s - we`ve been asking from the get-go to be collaborative. I`ve asked on the show every night this week to, you know, to reach out. There are, you know, three or four other areas of science that we`d like to look at above and beyond what even the Department of Health has looked at or reported on. And so we`re always asking for a seat at the table.

As far as sitting down and drawing up a work plan, we`re happy to do that. I mean, I`ve spoke publicly about the areas that I`d like to look in, the storm water system, the gas wells, whether or not the material that the swamp was filled in with was material from the spill site rock quarry. We want to look at all that stuff. And I`d be happy to speak with Leader.

Unfortunately, Miss Cox, the superintendent of schools, is not transparent at all. As a matter of fact, she communicates almost in a bizarre fashion, you know, through e-mails that frankly just don`t make any sense. You know, she has my information -

PINSKY: Jim - yes. You`re very measured and careful, we are on television. I would think you`d be - some of the stuff she said - that would make me angry if I were you. Can you hear me? I`m sorry, I called you Jim. Bob, I meant. I was talking to Bob. I beg your pardon, Bob.

BOWCOCK: You called Bob Jim. OK.


BOWCOCK: That`s all right. Yes. I like to, you know, Erin and I do over, you know, a hundred of these site visits yearly. I`ve never encountered a conflict such as this. I like to be, you know, measured and calm about these types of things, but if you`re going to ask me straight, yes, I`m probably a little bit above irritated at this point in time. You could call it pissed off.

PINSKY: I wish I could tell.

BOWCOCK: You could call it pissed off, yes.

PINSKY: I want to go back - I want to go back to Melissa. Melissa, I have spoken to your daughter. How is she doing? Everything going OK with her?

CIANCI: My daughter is doing fine, it`s just we are not getting answers. The school is not communicating with us as parents either. Not only not are they not communicating with Erin`s team, they are not communicating with us. We have no idea what`s going on.

SPELLMAN: And, Dr. Drew -

PINSKY: I just - Jim, I`m going to interrupt you. I think tonight there`s a meeting with the school, is there not, where they`re going to present to parents the findings of the New York Health Department, is that accurate?

SPELLMAN: It`s going to be tomorrow morning they`re going to have their meeting. It will be the first time that anybody in the media or the public is going to be able to speak with Superintendent Kim Cox. And I just have to jump in here, Dr. Drew. She puts out these very bizarrely worded e-mails blaming Bob Bowcock and Erin Brockovich, blaming the media for making - blaming the media for making the girls` conditions worse.

Now, you know, we are big kids here. We can take media criticism. But what the parents are telling me is it`s the lack of communication from the school that they`re concerned is making their daughters` condition worse, and that only by speaking to the media and advocates like Bob Bowcock and Erin Brockovich do they feel like they have a chance to get any of that kind of response.

And that`s not only from the parents of the affected children, people walk up to out satellite truck, they talk to us at lunch and they tell us this every single day of the week we`ve been here, Dr. Drew.


PINSKY: That they appreciate you being there and keep up the good work. Is that what`s basically you`re getting from the town?

SPELLMAN: Yes, from the vast majority of the people. Not only that, not openly keep up the good work and, you know, that sort of thing, but help us find concrete answers. Help us get the information we need. Help the tests get done.

PINSKY: Well and my hope is that we will rule out serious stuff going on here, just by a lot of questions. And let`s make - let`s make sure that this is conversion. Let`s make sure that these kids have not had a toxic insult and let`s make sure no one else is at risk.

Coming up - thank you, guys. Thank you, Jim. Thank you, Melissa. Thank you, Bob.

We`re going to talk to a doctor next who says he knows how to cure conversion and how to treat it in any event.

And later, your Doctor`s Orders for the week, Jessica Alba stops by and Ross Matthew, Ross, the Intern, helps me with all the prescriptions. Stay tuned.



LISA PARKER, SUFFERS FROM "MEDICAL MYSTERY": I fainted and hit my head on my bedside. And then I ended up punching myself in the face with my phone. I got better for awhile actually. I didn`t have any vocal problems. It was basically just a little facial tic, and then I ended up blacking out at one point.


PINSKY: The EPA has announced they are removing barrels from a toxic site in Le Roy, New York, 40 years after they ended up there following a train derailment at that vicinity.

And the New York Department of Health says the causes of symptoms on a cluster of citizens are not environmental, not infectious, not toxic.

Joining me, president in the American board of medical hypnosis, Dr. Laurence Sugarman; and Dr. John Sharp, a psychiatrist in Harvard Medical School. Dr. Sharp is known for his "The Emotional Calendar," the book. And Environmental Lawyer Shawn Collins is also with me, and our HLN Correspondent Jim Spellman.

Jim, we mentioned the meeting tomorrow morning. Is there any other breaking news?

SPELLMAN: Well, we got this preliminary report from the New York State Department of Health and now this meeting tomorrow where the school officials are expected to release more information about an independent study they have done.

Still the question remains whether it`s going to unite this town that has become so divided over these goings-on in the last week or so. Take a look.


SPELLMAN (voice-over): People suffering from the mystery illness in Upstate New York have been diagnosed by doctors as having conversion disorder, a condition brought on by stress that is often associated with exposure to some sort of trauma.

Thirty-six-year-old Marge Fitzsimmons, the only adult to come forward with symptoms, says doctors have linked her conversion disorder to childhood trauma.

(on camera): How old were you when that trauma occurred?

MARGE FITZSIMMONS, DIAGNOSED WITH CONVERSION DISORDER: The first one I was in fourth grade and the second one I was 14 years old.

SPELLMAN: And even this many years later, doctors told you it could be impacting your health?


SPELLMAN (voice-over): And police documents indicate that one of the first students to show the tic-like symptoms was involved in a traumatic episode where a person close to her family committed suicide in the family home.

But some of the students involved say they have no significant traumatic events in their lives and don`t accept the conversion disorder diagnosis.

(on camera): Did that make you feel like they were - like the doctors are telling you it`s all in your head?


TRACI LEUBNER, SUFFERS FROM "MEDICAL MYSTERY": I kind of thought it was a cop out.

SPELLMAN (voice-over): Many other people in this closed-knit community aren`t buying the conversion disorder diagnosis either, and fear there may be an environmental cause.

The school says test results show no environmental link. This parent of a high school student who`s not affected didn`t want his face shown on television. He said the school has not provided the information parents need about possible environmental causes for the problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Until the school is willing to work with us as parents and as a community as a whole, I feel that it would be in my daughter`s best interest to take her right out of the school.

SPELLMAN: He says today was his daughter`s last day.

The New York State Health Department has also said test of water samples show nothing out of the ordinary. The National Institute of Health has offered the affected students an opportunity to be involved with on- going clinical trials for conversion disorder. And some activists say that without all the environmental data, doctors can`t accurately diagnose conversion disorder.

JUDY BRAIMAN, EMPIRE STATE CONSUMER PROJECT: I`m very much offended and shame on those doctors that gave them that - that diagnosis because they didn`t have all of the information in, and it is a rather sexist remark, and most of the people are young women.


PINSKY: OK. Dr. Sugarman, do you - do you accept the diagnosis of conversion, and if so, do you have any suggestions on how these girls ought to be treated?

LAURENCE SUGARMAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN BOARD OF MEDICAL HYPNOSIS: Well, I`m not involved in the case and so I prefer - certainly this fits with conversion, but I think what I`m hearing that really bothers me, is the either or stuff. You have to rule out one thing.

People have to cope. If somebody has even PANDAS or even toxic or immune cause, they need skills to help them put up with this and cope. So I think the notion of saying it`s one thing or the other and we have to treat one or the other is a mistake. We treat people. We don`t treat labels and conditions.

PINSKY: I - I completely agree. And this is something we`ve been sort of chatting about as the story has unfolded. And, you know, that`s why we`ve been asking for a very thorough investigation. I as an internist, whenever I saw conversion, I always just kind of kept looking, kept looking to see if there was something else precipitating, contributing to causing, adding to the case.

But in the meantime, assuming provisionally conversion treatment recommendations from you, from anyone - not anyone - but in general with this condition?

SUGARMAN: Well, right. And it`s important to understand it`s the person, not the condition, so how does the person have this. I think the link of saying you have to have a post-traumatic problem, a childhood injury is - is a mistake. Certainly it helps, but people have conversion disorders without that, and people have conversion disorders with infections and with toxic exposures, so I`m going to stress again, it`s not either or.

But your question, the first issue, the fundamental issue is the therapeutic trusting relationship with a healthcare provider so that you can begin to develop some skills. And what I`m hearing is that lack of trust and communication in the system is a toxin itself, it`s a poison itself. That breaks my heart to hear.

I think the notion - but after developing that kind of trusting relationship, the critical issue is to help people understand that this is in your head and in your body.

PINSKY: Right.

SUGARMAN: That nothing is just in one place or the other. And all of the time we develop conditions, we develop reactions that don`t feel that they come from inside of us, but of course they do.

PINSKY: I`m running out of time. Thank you, Dr. Sugarman. I have just a couple of minutes to talk to Shawn Collins and ask you as an environmental lawyer, what have we got going here? There are these things that we have come upon in the course of this investigation. What are your concerns?

SHAWN COLLINS, ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY: Well, my concerns are twofold. One is we`ve got a 35,000 gallon spill of a carcinogenic chemical, TCE, 40 years ago that still hasn`t been cleaned up. It seems like we`re just beginning now to clean it up. A very thorough investigation needs to take place in this community to find out how far that`s gone.

The first case I ever worked on, a 300-gallon spill of TCE wiped out a groundwater aquifer a half of mile wide and three miles long. This is an enormous spill probably has produced devastating effects in that community.

The other thing is that there needs to be a thorough investigation of the soil, the air and the water that comes into contact with the students at the school. I haven`t seen it yet. That needs to be done.

PINSKY: Thank you. We`re going to get Dr. Sharp in my next segment.

Coming up, another teacher sex scandal in Los Angeles. We`re going to try to figure out what has been going on in an elementary school there.


PINSKY: All week we`ve been talking about conversion disorder, what it is, how to treat it.

Dr. Sharp, I want to go out to you. I missed you in that last segment. How do you feel treatment ought to be best approached? You`ve heard Dr. Sugarman`s talking about creating that trusted therapeutic alliance and having that support.

But I`ll tell you what, before you answer the question, one of the most common features of conversion is that the people you`re trying to treat and their family typically reject it and get angry with you, that`s how I know I`m dealing with conversion in fact most of time.

DR. JOHN SHARP, PSYCHIATRIST, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL: Right. And react in exactly the same way that we`re seeing these families react. So what Dr. Sugarman was starting to explain is that the kind of concern about the environment is toxic, not having trusting relationship with treating therapist or school is toxic.

I talked to Dr. Mechtler today, he said that his patients who are in closest contact with his group are doing the best. Those who are calling in at night, those who are coming to see him once or twice a week, those who are engaged in a meaningful therapy, those are the ones that are getting better. And that`s what we want to see all the girls get.

PINSKY: So Dr. Mechtler was, again, the neurologist that made the original diagnosis. He is seeing some of these girls and so one of the things that they`re saying they`re getting better. But we want to encourage these girls to continue and more of them like needed to see Dr. Mechtler and his team.

Now, one member of his team blames the media for making some of the others worse. Watch this.


DR. JENNIFER MCVIGE, DENT NEUROLOGIC INSTITUTE: Before this hit the media at all, they were getting - most of them were getting about 50 to 100 percent better. Once it hit the media and there were some individuals on like the "Today" Show and other media outlets, when you see the girls that have gone on, their symptoms became worse. And then others that saw their friends in the media became worse as well and then questioning, you know, maybe there is another cause.


PINSKY: So Dr. Sharp, did - in spite of the fact of us uncovering something that might be really significant for that community, did the media attention make the symptoms for these girls worse?

SHARP: Well, the media attention actually divided the girls into two groups. I was, again, talking to Dr. Mechtler today. Those who have gone more through the cameras and away from the doctors, you know, are not doing as well. Now, they may have a slightly different condition psychologically.

What he wants is to really be available and, you know, what we`ve done is to set up for him the additional support of the group in Rochester, the group in Columbia and also nationally, so if there`s any consultation that`s needed or required, everybody can avail of it.

But I`m more and more confident that Dr. Mechtler is absolutely on the right track. And what people need to do is to get into that trusting relationship that Dr. Sugarman was talking about and really work that to their therapeutic advantage.

PINSKY: And part of that trusting relationship is no one will drop the ball on the possibility of there being other toxic influences. Hopefully now with the drums being moved from the toxic site, the New York Health Department saying that there`s no on-going issue for the school, the school now apparently tomorrow is going to be meeting become more transparent. Things can start to kind of glue back together, and that toxic doubt and negativity can begin to be expunged from the community.

I`ve only got about 20 seconds. What are your last thoughts?

SHARP: Yes. I think things can get better over the next few weeks. And one thing I`m looking forward and trying doing is to get some kind of a better spreadsheet, some kind of a sense of the connection, how this kind of went from one person to the next, I think we`ll be able to do that.

PINSKY: Excellent. Thank you, Dr. Sharp.

Next, another teacher scandal - what is going on - in Los Angeles school? We`re going to try to sort it out after the break.

If you want information about any of the stories we`re covering and many other stories as well and check out the top 10, head on over to And we`re back with more after this.



PINSKY (voice-over): Coming up, an organization that promotes breast health, one of the most powerful advocacy groups in the world, says no to Planned Parenthood. The result outraged that in hours reverses policy and allow some funding to be restored. We`ll tell you what the controversy is all about and how it affects you.

But next, a second teacher has been removed from duties at the same school that employed the alleged abuser we told you about yesterday, the man charged with sick and disturbing crimes. What is going on?


PINSKY (on-camera): Los Angeles County Sheriff`s Department has arrested Martin Springer. He`s a 49-year-old teacher charged with lewd acts upon seven-year-old girls. He`s being held tonight on $2 million bail. The sheriff`s department said this about the arrest today.


CAPT. MIKE PARKER, LOS ANGELES SHERIFF`S DEPARTMENT: Since Wednesday morning, sheriff`s investigators interviewed several people, including suspect Springer. Meanwhile, suspect Springer was suspended and removed from the classroom by Los Angeles Unified School District officials.

Suspect Springer has been under surveillance by sheriff`s detectives since yesterday. As a result of the ongoing investigation by sheriff`s special victim bureau detectives, suspect Springer was arrested this morning for lewd acts upon a child.


PINSKY: Springer taught at the very same school where another teacher we`ve been reporting on, Mark Berndt, allegedly photographed his students in bondage and doing all kinds of -- just I can`t even repeat what he was doing. More of his students are coming forward tonight. Some are saying this whole phenomenon could go back decades.

Joining us to help me sort this out, Nadine Martinez Rodriguez. She was actually one of Berndt`s students and sharing her reflections with us. We also have Dr. Ramani Durvasala, a clinical psychologist, and Brian Claypool, he is the attorney for one family whose little girl was nine when her photograph was taken by Berndt. Brian, can you help us make sense of what`s going on in this school and what kind of action you think ought to be taken?

BRIAN CLAYPOOL, ATTORNEY FOR ALLEGED VICTIM OF L.A. TEACHER: Well, first of all, I think this is a systemic institutional failure. From what we`ve learned, we believe that there were other members of the school that were either participating or enabling Mr. Berndt to carry out these predatory acts on the kids.

We learned that my client`s daughter, she was lured into a classroom by Mr. Berndt in an after school program. So, she wasn`t even in his class. He would go after class, and then go over the after school program, and then pick out pretty little girls, and then, he asked one of the staff, hey, have those girls come on over into my classroom, and then, they`re escorted over into his classroom.

PINSKY: Wow! Ramani, you had some concerns about these sorts of systemic failures in the administration as well, no?

DR. RAMANI DURVASALA, PH.D., CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: It`s infuriating to me, because it is a systemic failure. And what ends up happening is it`s almost like institutional denial. And it`s either done, you know, sort of, from a place of colluding with a perpetrator or sort of passive denial. This can`t be happening in our system.

So, people almost turn a blind eye. This ends up re-traumatizing the very children who are traumatized, because their very reality is being denied.

PINSKY: Brian, is this an indictment of the varying forces that are at work in a school system? In other words, are there unions that prevent or employee laws that prevent administrators from doing their job or they just can`t follow their instincts when they think there`s a problem once they go down the X, Y,Z menu of what they`re supposed to do? They just can`t -- they`re not able to go further.

CLAYPOOL: I think it`s the latter. I think they can`t follow their instincts. I think it is a form of denial.

PINSKY: They don`t follow their instincts or they can`t because of the various laws that encumber them.

CLAYPOOL: They can`t follow their instincts.

PINSKY: So, their laws are in place that prevent them from, what, charging an employee with something that they may suspect harm kids?

CLAYPOOL: Well, I think there`s a concern for that, because, then, you run into issues of, you know, possibly being sued for defamation and impugning somebody`s character.

PINSKY: You`re shaking your head yes.

DURVASALA: These environments are so risk averse. That may be all good and well, but from my chair as a psychologist, the number of traumas that have been perpetrated because people were afraid of bringing risk upon their organization is horrifying. These traumas stay with these children for a lifetime.

PINSKY: She makes an excellent point, Brian. How do you respond to that?

CLAYPOOL: Yes. I agree with that, but one thing I feel a little differently about this than others, I really think this goes beyond denial. I really believe that there were some folks within that school enabling and facilitating Mr. Berndt to do this.

For example, my client`s daughter was also pulled out of her original -- like she`d be in a classroom. And at one o`clock in the afternoon, she get a note say, hey, you`re supposed to go to Mr. Berndt`s Office. And then, she`s escorted by school --

PINSKY: Let me go to a student who was in the class when he was in fourth grade. Nadine, you shared stories with us before about the weird things that Berndt was doing in the classroom. Were you aware of any collaborators, Nadine?


PINSKY: Did it seem at all like other teachers were sort of sharing his, I don`t know, whatever he was up to? You guys had -- speaking of instincts, did the students ever about teachers the same way?

RODRIGUEZ: No, it was just him.

PINSKY: And you would said to us yesterday, other peers of yours in the classroom had reported to the administration concerns about this guy and the parents went to the administration. When was that?

RODRIGUEZ: That was during the time we were in his class. The children had went to the principal. I don`t think anyone`s parents were ever involved. It was kind of --

PINSKY: What year was that?

RODRIGUEZ: It was 19 -- I`d say 1991, 1991.

PINSKY: And Brian what she told us was that the kids were accused of lying. Dr. Durvasala, I mean, can you imagine, they`re traumatized and then they`re accused of double victimization.

DURVASALA: And what we have done is now we`ve really, you know, sapped them of their ability to listen to their instincts in the future. In the future, they`re going to doubt themselves. Children are wired to please. And when they feel like they`ve let down their elders or parents or their teachers, they will do whatever they can to not do that again, including hold back a trauma and report it.


CLAYPOOL: Yes. In fact, Dr. Drew, I believe the student that reported the alleged abuse in the early 1990s was told, quote, "don`t -- stop making up stories."

PINSKY: Yes. You`re lying.


PINSKY: Here`s what the Los Angeles superintendent, John Deasy, had to say about former elementary school teacher, Mark Berndt.


VOICE OF JOHN DEASY, L.A. UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT: The day that it was brought to my attention, we removed him from his assignment, which was last January, January 7th I seem to recall, and then, we worked with the investigation and the police in this matter.

I find it absolutely despicable. That`s why we removed him instantly and that`s why we moved to fire this despicable person.


PINSKY: Brian, here`s the part I can`t understand. I mean, I like those words despicable, disgusting, and unbelievable, but what I can`t understand is why somebody like this was allowed to be continued to be exposed to kids for a year. How is that possible?

CLAYPOOL: Well, it shouldn`t have happened. And I don`t buy into Deasy`s comments. He`s acting like he`s -- he can`t believe this could happen, and gee, we`re going to try to fix the problem now. The fact of the matter is they knew about Berndt a year ago. They still allowed these kids to be exposed --

PINSKY: That`s my question. How is that possible? What`s the defense for that? What are they going to tell you in a courtroom and there you , you know, how did you allow this to go on. And Dr. Durvasala, you`re shaking your head no. Unfortunately, I have to go to break. Brian, I hope we`ll have you guys both back to talk about this again. This is a story that`s not going to go away and it disgusts me.

Next, the last 24 hours have been quite a fight for some funds for breast cancer screening, and that is next.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On behalf of Planned Parenthood, we just want to say that we`re enormously grateful that the Susan G. Komen For The Cure Foundation has clarified their grant making criteria. And we look forward to our continued partnership around women`s , and very specifically, around women`s breast health.



PINSKY: And tonight we have developing news. The Susan G. Komen Foundation announces plans to restore funding to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screening funds. Just yesterday, the foundation was planning to cut funds for breast cancer screening nationwide. Take a look at this.


PINSKY (voice-over): The Susan G. Komen Foundation has raised close to $2 billion globally to fight breast cancer. The group accustomed to accolades for its life-saving efforts recently harsh criticism for its plans to cut funds to Planned Parenthood, funds used for breast exams.

MANY have supported the foundation in the past accused the foundation of bowing to pressure from pro-life groups. They say Komen executives succumb to bullying from aggressive right-wing campaigns, and that`s why the foundation distanced itself from Planned Parenthood and cut funds for life-saving breast exams.

Tonight, supporters who are threatening to abandon the foundation are relieved and thankful at the group`s change of heart.


PINSKY (on-camera): Nancy Brinker founded the Susan G. Komen Foundation in 1982 after her sister died of breast cancer. She said this earlier today.

Quote, "We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of save women`s lives. We have been distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons. They were not. We will continue to fund existing grants including those of Planned Parenthood. We sincerely hope that these changes will be welcomed by those who have expressed their concern."

Joining me on the phone right now is Oscar and Grammy winner, Melissa Etheridge. She, herself, a breast cancer survivor. Melissa, do you welcome the foundation`s latest announcement?

VOICE OF MELISSA ETHERIDGE, MUSICIAN/BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR, LOS ANGELES, CA: Yes, I do. I think it really is important that they step up and understand that breast cancer research and helping women, you find it early, it`s much more important than the political atmosphere that we have today.

PINSKY: That I think would be most people -- certainly my concern is that that women suffer because of politics. Melissa, do you have anything to say about that?

ETHERIDGE: Yes, I do. When it`s clear that the lower -- the people with, you know, the poor people out there that really benefit from Planned Parenthood, the women that can`t afford, you know, a mammogram once a year or twice a year like myself, that they`re the ones that wait long, a long time anyway, and they`re the ones that end up with the disease being stage four, and they`re the fatalities.

So, it`s really this critical area of Planned Parenthood, you know, the service that they provide that really keeps a lot of women alive.

PINSKY: And Susan G. Komen, as well. I mean, we talk about the safety net, those of us that are in medicine. This is part of the safety net, guys. This is why we don`t have people sick in the streets because of organizations like both of these guys, Planned Parenthood and Susan G. Komen. And to have them had at odds, I find heartbreaking. Melissa, you agree with me on that?

ETHERIDGE: Yes, I do, because one thing I`ve noticed after the eight years ago when I was diagnosed and being in the public eye, a lot of people come up to me. And so many people have been touched by breast cancer, either themselves or someone they love. It`s almost everyone.

And, I think that, obviously, the money that the foundation has raised, that people are concerned and they want to give their compassion in form of dollars to help keep women healthy and women alive, and when it falls in the dark lines of, you know, where do we go with the money and the political sides of it.

And these are important issues, you know, Planned Parenthood is doing an important thing out there, and they do come under fire. But keep that away from your breast cancer screenings that keep women alive.

PINSKY: There you go. Melissa, thanks for joining us. I think your message is -- and I applaud you for bringing it here tonight and that is that let`s help women. Bottom line.

ETHERIDGE: Thank you for what you do. And thank you for helping women.

PINSKY: Thanks, Melissa.

Now, joining us at this point is Sarah Howard. She`s vice president of public affairs and communication for Planned Parenthood and the (Inaudible) affiliate in California. Jeanne Monahan with Family Research Council, she`s the director there for Center of Human Dignity.

Now, before we talk to them, I want to read a portion of a statement Jeanne released. It reads in part, quote, "It would be heartbreaking for women who suffer from breast cancer if Planned Parenthood has bullied Komen. Women deserve the best. Komen should stay focused on saving lives, not supporting the nation`s largest abortion provider. Planned Parenthood is putting their abortion ideology above the health of women."

So, Jeanne, you, yourself, are not happy with the foundation`s reversal.

JEANNE MONAHAN, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Well, actually, just to set the record straight, I think the jury is still out on whether or not there`s been a reversal. Really, Komen has come out with two major policy decisions related to grant funding this week. The first have to do with being more results oriented.

We`ve learned in the last year that Planned Parenthood does not directly provide mammograms to their clients, but they actually refer out for mammograms. The National Institute of Health says that, you know, manual breast exams are not necessarily effective in screening for breast cancer. Mammograms are what`s necessary.

So, one of the things that Komen has decided without actually needing Planned Parenthood is that they are going to have grants that are more results oriented, more output oriented rather than input oriented. That has not changed. There`s nothing in the statement today that says that that`s changed.

Secondly, they said that they will no longer have grantees. They won`t fund people that are under federal investigation or criminal investigation. Today, they clarified that it`s only criminal investigation. Unfortunately, Planned Parenthood can take that one off their list as well.

So, I think the jury is still out, and the weeks and months ahead will help us to know what Komen really means by this statement. It`s pretty nuanced in my opinion.

PINSKY: Well, if what I read is accurate, they are, in fact, not funding those affiliates. Planned Parenthood is a group of what we call them franchise almost?


PINSKY: The ones that are under investigation are being excluded and the rest are being included. That`s what I read from Susan G. Komen. So, that, I think, is out. But tell me about the results orientation. Are you telling me that I, the physician, should not be advising and educating patients on self-breast examination? Is that the point you`re making?

MONAHAN: Listen, I`m not going to argue with you as a physician on these things, but what I`m telling you is that the National Institute of Health says that mammograms are necessary for breast cancer screening, and that manual breast exams are not necessarily the best screening mechanism. You can fight with the National Institute of Health on that one.

PINSKY: So, let`s go to Planned Parenthood and see what they say about this. So, if you refer out for a mammogram, you may not be eligible for these funds it sounds like? Is that accurate?

HOWARD: You know, I can`t really speak to that, Drew. What I can say is that, you know, Planned Parenthood across the country provides over 750,000 screenings a year. And that includes manual and mammography.

PINSKY: So, combine its manual and -- and mammograms, whether they referred out or actually done -- frankly, I would rather you not do them on your grounds, because that is such a rarified skill now to really do mammography well. That needs to be a major health institution, not just Planned Parenthood. So, that`s my opinion. Are they mostly referred out, are they mostly done out from Planned Parenthood?

HOWARD: You know, again, I can only speak to what we do locally and what we do here is we do have a partnership to provide mammography.

PINSKY: You have somebody just mammogram as their career. There`s a radiologist that does mammography, because that`s highly contentious thing in itself is making sure people are adequately skilled to give good results in mammography. So, that doesn`t make sense to me, either --

MONAHAN: But wouldn`t you agree then it`s the best --

PINSKY: Go ahead.

MONAHAN: Wouldn`t it then be the best thing to grant out with those organizations that are the experts in mammography? I mean, why go through a middleman? It just creates extra, you know, extra layers --

PINSKY: I tell you why, because I`ve been working with young people for years, and I know how they trust Planned Parenthood and how they go there for their healthcare and trust it when their educated and sent out. The Planned Parenthood actually released a statement.

It says, it reads in part, "The outpouring of support for women in need of life-saving breast cancer screening this eke has been a testament to our nation`s sincerity. This compassionate outcry in support of those most in need rose above political, ideological, and cultural divides. What these past few days have demonstrated is the deep resolve all Americans share in the fight against cancer."

PINSKY: I think, Jeanne, the one thing we can all agree on is that we all want to help women. Is that -- all three of us sitting here on camera, yes, we agree on that?

MONAHAN: Absolutely.

PINSKY: OK. I think (inaudible). The rest of it, how we do it, how to fund -- I love both these organizations and to see them fighting really breaks my heart. I mean, you guys both do so much for women, so much -- I get emotional, I think, about what you guys do. And doing so much for women`s health, it would be great if everyone rode in the same direction. We found some way that we can do that. Wouldn`t it? Everyone agree of me?

MONAHAN: Absolutely.

PINSKY: OK. I got to go, "Doctor`s Orders" is next. Why does Jessica Alba need my help? It`s not mammography. Find out what it is after the break.


PINSKY: It is time to switch gears and head into "Doctor`s Orders." We examine some unusual news items of the week and I offer prescriptions for what ails these people and the stories. I`ll get to my special guest shortly, but first, we`re going to begin with the question from Jessica Alba. She needs my help.


JESSICA ALBA, ACTRESS, HONEST.COM: Hi, Dr. Drew. This is Jessica Alba from There was just this report not too long ago that there`s really high toxic levels of arsenic in apple juice and grape juice that, I mean, who`s drinking juice? Our kids. How do we sift through all that information and how do we empower each other with that information?


PINSKY: All right. I`ll try to keep this short, but two things. One is, they weren`t toxic levels in the juice. They`re just a little higher than they should be, not going to hurt anybody. Keep taking the juice. Number two, talk to your doctor. That`s how you empower yourself.

And number three, whenever somebody says there`s a toxin affecting you, have them go ahead and sketch out the formula for that toxin just so we can understand the biology. That`s all I`m saying. Help me out tonight -- thanks, Jessica, by the way.

PINSKY: -- help me out tonight is Ross Mathews. You know him as the late night intern on "Tonight Show." They said in this (INAUDIBLE), so the "Tonight Show" intern.

ROSS MATHEWS, TV PERSONALITY: Yes. That`s how I got my start.

PINSKY: Are you still known as that?

MATHEWS: No. I finally got a last name. I`ve been on the "Tonight" for 10 years, and about three years ago, they finally gave me Mathews as the last name.

PINSKY: All right. We got a lot of (ph) stories. We get right to it here. First of all, a sex shop in Brooklyn wants to make things easier for customers. They will deliver your sex toy via bike messengers as soon as you order. Isn`t that nice?

MATHEWS: Yes. If you needed that bad, I guess, you should call them up, and they bring on over.

PINSKY: My point is really? You can`t wait -- someone has to get on a bicycle and bring it to you? Listen, if you need that kind of -- something like that so fast, how about getting off your butt and doing some exercises or riding a bike yourself.

MATHEWS: Because by the way, if you do, they`ll exercise and grab your bike and you`re going to be better in bed.

PINSKY: Thank you, Ross. Very practical advice.

Now, a man in Thailand was arrested with 10,000 pair of women`s underwear in his car. That`s not all. He had 10,000 more in his home. There is a -- isn`t that a nice picture? Police say he`s been a collector for more than 30 years. Ross, is that something you pass your time doing?

MATHEWS: No. Listen, I`m all for collecting, but panties --


PINSKY: I say doctor`s orders. If you`re OK with this, it`s OK to embrace the fetish, but maybe we need to set you up on a reality show. Instead of animal hoarders, we`ll have animal print hoarders.

MATHEWS: That`s funny.

PINSKY: That is funny, right?

MATHEWS: A little leopard.


PINSKY: OK. Finally, here`s something most men might be interested in. A recent poll suggests that women would rather have sex than watch the Super Bowl, this Sunday, of course. So, Ross, the lesser of two evils. They hate sex -- no, they Super Bowl more than sex. I know you`re a heterosexual man`s man, love football.

MATHEWS: Sure. No, I do love football, though. I grew up watching football, but I will tell you, my partner, Salvador, hates it. So, I`m doing, you know, what all gay couples should do, I`m sending him off to happy hour. While I watch Super Bowl with my friends, he`s going to have a White Wine Spritzer.


MATHEWS: It`s about common ground.

PINSKY: Doctor`s orders. I`d say take Ross`s advice. He`s got a good -- send your partner out for a Wine Spritzer.

MATHEWS: And then have sex later.

PINSKY: Where are you going to watch Super Bowl?

MATHEWS: My house. I`m having friends over. People are going to have healthy snacks and all of that. Little Jenny Craig action.

PINSKY: And where can we see you next?

MATHEWS: I`m on "Chelsea Lately" every week. I`m guest hosting for her now.

PINSKY: Fantastic.

MATHEWS: And tweet me at Hello Ross.

PINSKY: And you lost 40 pounds.


PINSKY: So, when you need a sex toy, you get on that bike and ride for it.


PINSKY: Well done, Ross.

MATHEWS: I`ll go -- you know what, I`ll go around the block if you know what I mean.


PINSKY: All right, guys. I`ve got to say goodnight. Thank you for letting us goof around here at the end of the week, but we`re going to following some very important stories this week, and we will continue to do so next week. Thank you, Ross. Thank you all for being here, and we will see you next time.