Citizens Commission on Human Rights International is alerting state legislators across the country about increasing allegations of sexual abuse, physical assaults and battery of children and teens being treated in the nation’s $50-billion a year for-profit behavioral industry. Letters already sent to thousands of government representatives in recent months have cited numerous psychiatric hospitals treating “troubled teens” that have been violently restrained and sexually and physically assaulted by staff.
The worrying increase in reports of such abuse has prompted CCHR to document this long-term risk to children to inform legislators of a long-term safety problem that needs urgent legislation to protect children and youths. Taking one behavioral hospital chain as an example, the group listed over 70 incidents of horrific abuse. Of these, at least 32 related to child sexual abuse, including several convictions of staff responsible; about 18 abuses involving seclusion rooms or restraints use in children as young as 6, leading to at least three deaths; other wrongful deaths; assault, including breaking a patient’s arm and fracturing the nose of another; and, at least five suicides that may have been prevented.
The same company that owns hundreds of behavioral hospitals in the U.S. and UK, has closed about 20 of its facilities since 2012 in the wake of exposure of shocking abuse and allegations of fraud. There are calls already to close another facility in Virginia which has come under scrutiny in light of 20 former child patients recently making accusations about the facility, its medical director and a psychotherapist practicing there.
In October, 2020, a registered nurse who had worked at the facility, called for it to be shut down after she said she witnessed child abuse, according to CBS 6 News. “My soul will not allow me to continue employment within a facility where children are knowingly abused without appropriate action being taken,” read the resignation letter the nurse sent to the hospital’s CEO. “Under no circumstances is abuse against a patient, much less a special needs child, appropriate in any fashion!”
CCHR says systemic abuse of children in the behavioral industry has been brought to the attention of state and federal authorities for decades and the latest exposure should send a strong message to them about the continued lack of oversight and accountability that has put “troubled teens” at risk. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) rarely shuts off funding to hospitals, despite repeated allegations of abuse. Exclusion from CMS contracts also does not appear to be a prevalent action which could prevent fraud and abuse. Yet, “Exclusion is an important tool in our ongoing battle against health care fraud,” said Maureen R. Dixon, Special Agent in Charge of the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services earlier this year.
Dixon was referring to a behavioral clinic in Pennsylvania owned by a different company and which provided outpatient psychiatric and psychotherapy mental health services to individuals, including to low income patients. It billed Medicaid for services never rendered and for falsely inflated services and created false patient progress notes and billing sheets. The facility was excluded from CMS reimbursement for 25 years and fined $1.65 million. U.S. Attorney McSwain said that the settlement “represents our commitment to holding accountable those who engage in fraud….”
Yet, larger behavioral hospital chains are not being held fully accountable, CCHR says. The Bazelon (mental health law) Center pointed to one private psychiatric hospital company that it alleged continues to “commit the same violations again and again,” and their “record of repeat violations seems even more alarming when considered in light of some of the company’s statements and its increasing role in our mental healthcare system.”
About one-third of that company’s Behavioral Division’s revenues are derived from taxpayer dollars, such as Medicare, TRICARE, and Medicaid.
CCHR continues to demand state and federal patient and fraud protections by implementing far stronger penalties for abuses, including CMS program expulsion and criminal accountability for patient assault and damage in the behavioral hospital industry.
CCHR is a mental health watchdog responsible for more than 180 laws that protect patients from damaging psychiatric practices. DONATE to support its work here: https://www.cchrint.org/cchrint-donate/
 “Sexual abuse alleged in $127 million lawsuit against children’s hospital in New Kent County,” Richmond Dispatch News, 20 Oct. 2020, richmond.com/news/state-and-regional/sexual-abuse-alleged-in-127-million-lawsuit-against-childrens-hospital-in-new-kent-county/article_48f551ed-0c7f-5736-aac6-5c05562faca6.html; www.cchrint.org/2017/06/05/uhs-under-investigation/
 Laura French, “$127M lawsuit filed against doctors, Cumberland Hospital for Children for alleged sexual abuse,” CBS 6 WTVR, 20 Oct. 2020, www.wtvr.com/news/problem-solvers/problem-solvers-investigations/127m-lawsuit-filed-against-doctors-childrens-hospital-for-alleged-sexual-abuse; “Residential Youth Treatment Facility for Medicaid Recipients in Marion, Virginia Agrees to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations: Will Pay $6.85 Million to Settle Allegations of Providing Substandard Adolescent Psychiatric Services,” DOJ, 28 Mar. 2012, www.justice.gov/opa/pr/residential-youth-treatment-facility-medicaid-recipients-marion-virginia-agrees-resolve-false
 “‘Shut it down’: Virginia hospital under investigation isn’t safe, nurse says,” Becker’s Hospital Review, 7 Oct. 2020, www.beckershospitalreview.com/patient-safety-outcomes/shut-it-down-virginia-hospital-under-investigation-isn-t-safe-nurse-says.html
 “United States Obtains $1.65 Million Resolution for Fraudulent Medicaid Billing Against Behavioral Health Clinic in Northeast Philadelphia: The Clinic Will Also be Prohibited From Participating in Federal Healthcare Programs,” U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of PA, 6 Jan 2020, www.justice.gov/usao-edpa/pr/united-states-obtains-165-million-resolution-fraudulent-medicaid-billing-against
 Amicus Brief Bazelon Center (Mental Health Law), Supreme Court of the United States, pp. 4 and 22, www.scotusblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/15-7bsacJudgeDavidL.BazelonCenterForMentalHealthLaw.pdf
 Amended Class Action lawsuit against UHS, in U.S. District Court Eastern District of PA, 29 Sept. 2017, www.saxenawhite.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Universal-Health-DE-Amended-Complaint.pdf
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