Stevie Ryan was a rising influencer and television personality when she took her own life in 2017. After a bit of a rut, she recommitted to her career earlier that year. She had been under the care of Gerald Baltz, a nurse practitioner who had been providing her with psychiatric care and prescription medications for two years. At some point, the two decided to pursue a romantic relationship outside of work. Just three months later, Ryan committed suicide.
Now, the nurse practitioner is under investigation with the California State Board of Registered Nursing.
Looking for Help
Stevie Ryan was once one of the hottest internet celebrities in town. She grew up just outside of Los Angeles learning how to perform for the web during the late 1990s. She eventually bought a web cam and started making her own videos just as YouTube was taking off around 2006.
“Since I was young, I’ve been a total camera hog,” she said during an interview around the same time.
In her late teens, she was desperate for her big break. She even reportedly crawled under a fence to sneak onto a Moby music video. She soon found success playing the character Little Loca in her videos, an 18-year-old fast talking Latina from L.A. The character made her a star on the web, but it also attracted plenty of controversy as people took issue with the idea of a white woman playing a Latina.
She later started in her own show, “Stevie TV”, on VH1. After two seasons, the show eventually got canceled, which sent Ryan into a wave of depression and anxiety.
About a year later, Ryan started going to Gerald Baltz for help. At the time, he was just six years into his career. Records show he has four nursing degrees in California, including one that allows him to provide psychiatric-mental health care and two for operating as a nurse practitioner, according to filings with the state’s Consumer Affairs Department. He also has active licenses in Colorado and Washington.
Baltz continued to care for Ryan for two years before eventually pursuing a romantic relationship with his patient. Records show that he violated the rules from the start. On the intake form, Baltz left out key information about Ryan and her health history.
The state board of nursing also says that he diagnosed Ryan without “clear documentation” to support his findings. Legal fillings also show that Baltz “failed to include the formulation of the diagnosis or clear rationale” for medicines he prescribed her.
As a nurse practitioner, Baltz was under the supervision of a local physician, who later admitted that he didn’t do the required chart reviews of Baltz’s work.
The allegations said that after two years of the provider-patient relationship, Baltz started flirting with Ryan and eventually asked her for her phone number while she was still under his care.
“We just exchanged numbers and he had a meltdown over it being unethical,” Ryan texted a friend in April 2017.
Documents also show that around the same time, Baltz issued Ryan 10 prescriptions, including those used to treat depression, schizophrenia, and bi-polar disorder.
“Saw my doc. He said DO NOT go to the hospital,” Ryan texted a friend in an undated message, according to the accusation. “He’s putting me on new meds AGAIN … But he is so hot … like FINE … I think I’m dating my doctor now.”
Around the same time, Baltz tried to address the ethics of the situation, texting Ryan, “I’m a healer, it would be unethical for me … not you. I took an oath!!” He later added, “If I did anything to harm you it would not only be a dick move but cause 10 years of school and work to disappear for me,” according to the documents in the accusation.
Reports suggest that Baltz referred her to another provider at the clinic Insight Choices when they started dating, but Dr. Julie Cantor, who until 2020 was a longtime lecturer on medical ethics and other topics at the UCLA School of Law, says that’s not enough. “They start a relationship and he’s still working at the same clinic and she gets treatment at the same clinic — that still strikes me as problematic. In terms of a treating relationship, those power dynamics are still in play.”
The Search for Justice
Baltz is still under investigation with the state board of nursing. A formal complaint was filed against him in June 2020. The filing included pages of text messages shared between the two that demonstrate their illicit relationship. The messages also detail their romantic relationship and Baltz’s instructions to Ryan that she delete evidence of their correspondence.
Ryan’s friends and family members want to see Baltz stripped of his nursing license. Her parents also filed a wrongful death suit against Baltz in 2018.
“That’s what made me so furious — that he’s still practicing,” said Yuni Kim, a friend of Ryan’s. “She had ineffective…healthcare.”
Baltz is denying the allegations that he is somehow responsible for Ryan’s death. His attorney, Melanie Balestra, says, “There is no way that anyone can realize the amount of pain [Ryan] was in or what caused her to decide to take her life,” Balestra said. “To blame one person is unconscionable.”
If the allegations are found to be true, Baltz may lose his license to practice in the state. According to the American Psychiatric Association, “sexual activity with a current or former patient is unethical.” However, the American Psychology Association says that providers should wait at least two years before dating a former patient.
Either way, it may not look good for Baltz, but it remains unclear if his actions contributed to Ryan’s decision to take her own life.