Mankind Project of Houston settles wrongful death lawsuit; some mental health oversight required

Some months ago, I reported extensively on the Mankind Project with attention to their signature program, the New Warriors Training Adventure. My interest in MKP and NWTA was provoked by a Houston Press article detailing the suicide of Michael Scinto. Mr. Scinto had attended a NWTA and reported distress thereafter. His parents Kathy and Ralph Scinto believed his death was linked to his experiences on that weekend and filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of his estate in August, 2007.

In April, 2008, the case went to mediation and was settled. Although the parties to the dispute have signed a confidentiality agreement, the terms of the settlement are available for review on the Harris County, Texas District Court e-docs website. You will need to register (name, email address), verify your email and then change your password but the process is free. Once registered, search the name Scinto as Plaintiff and you will find all documents related to the case.

The terms of the settlement are found in a 20 page, May 20 document titled, Defendant’s Motion to Enforce Settlement Agreement. The Scintos and their attorney won $75,000 split roughly three ways. Furthermore, MKP of Houston is required to make some changes in procedure. The changes involves screening of applicants, disclosure of activities and means to exit the weekend. Anyone who registers can preview all of the court documents for no cost. I summarize the highlights here:

-MKP of Houston agreed to have its pre-New Warrior Training Adventure Adventure questionnaire reviewed by a licensed mental health professional for recommendations about how it can be improved. However, the MKPH board must approve changes before they can be implemented.

-Each application for the NWTA must be screened by a mental health professional who has personal knowledge of the weekend. The screener shall determine whether the applicant shall be accepted or not with the decision written on the application.

-The following changes will be made within 30 days of a required MKP of Houston Board review of the website:

1. Change the website to provide adequate information from which potential applicants can make an informed decision about whether to attend the NWTA.

2. The website shall disclose that a mental health professional will screen applications to determine suitability for participation.

3. The website will need to disclose that people who wish to leave the NWTA are free to do so.

4. Applicants will be told that the NWTA may involve optional nudity and certain elements of Native American traditions.

-MKPH agrees to develop a written protocol which will allow any participant to leave NWTA safely with MKPH assistance. Participants requesting to leave shall be allowed to do so immediately unless the action would result in further risk of harm. Once a request is made, the participant is not required to do any other activities unless the participant changes his mind.

As far as I can tell, this settlement is only applicable to MKP of Houston with no requirement that MKP elsewhere implement any of these points. Given the lawsuit involved a wrongful death charge as well as claims of performing psychotherapy without a license, I would say these changes are minimal, but important. I think they are valuable and provide recognition that some form of oversight, minimal though it is, is important. While I suspect that MKP of Houston will have no problem getting a mental health professional to perform this screening function, I would recommend any mental health professional performing this duty check first with his/her liability insurance carrier to make sure such a

review is covered activity.

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  • David Blakeslee

    Thanks for the update, Warren.

    Informed consent seems reasonable.

    I am turning 50 this year…and it seems to me for all of our safety needs we are losing the opportunities to be surprised and learn.

    NWTA helped me see how angry I was at men and authority by creating an environment where my assumptions would come forward quickly. I am forever grateful, because it has helped me move past those assumptions and toward collaboration.

    I have a deeper respect for what other men have overcome, contributed and created. I still have a long way to go…

  • Alex Zelonisa

    In my opinion, this settlement is very weak to the point of being useless. David, I have no idea what being 50 has to do with safety. I am not so interested in safety as I am honesty and awareness. For a group that claims an interest in “clearing,” “getting it” and awareness, they excell at keeping people in the dark. I welcome this little ray of light and hope others will find the truth about MKP.

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  • robert joseph

    A $75,000 settlement for a wrongful death claim with confidentiality breached by the decedent’s family only means that there was virtually no liability and a “cost of defense” was paid to close a chapter on a disturbed man’s death. To interprete the settlement in any other manner is to not understand the legal system and insurance companies.

  • Chester Thomas

    Robert – The family didn’t want money. They wanted changes made to MKP. They got some of those changes – and they took less money in order to make those changes. They were hoping to protect others from suffering the way Michael did – they didn’t care about the money. You obviously have no clue – just trying to make MKP look good, huh? Guess you enjoy dancing nude with a bunch of men while the leaders play games with your mind. You don’t even know you’re being played. I feel bad for you.

  • Kagirion

    Chester does not understand the legal system or insurance companies.

    Then decides to be a paranoid fool.

    Good post, Chester.