“Patient suicides, restraint deaths, falsifying records, and patients sexually assaulted are just some of the alleged abuses in UHS behavioral facilities that state authorities or the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has investigated.” — Jan Eastgate, President CCHR International
By CCHR International
November 17, 2015
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported the ongoing Federal criminal investigations into about 20 psychiatric facilities owned by Universal Health Services (UHS), the nation’s largest operator of inpatient behavioral health facilities. Federal authorities have been requesting documents from UHS facilities since 2012, investigating potential billing fraud. In March, the criminal frauds section of the U.S. Department of Justice expanded its investigation to include UHS’s corporate headquarters in Pennsylvania.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, UHS had $3.27 billion in net patient revenue in the nine months ending on Sept. 30, 2015. According to the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council, UHS owns 4 of the top 5 most profitable psych facilities in Pennsylvania, two of which are under federal investigation (Roxbury Treatment Center and The Meadows).
The Citizens Commission on Human Rights International alleges the psychiatric profits are at the expense of patient safety and has filed complaints to state and federal legislators and agencies about UHS behavioral facilities, including those in Pennsylvania. Jan Eastgate, president of the mental health rights group says: “Patient suicides, restraint deaths, falsifying records, and patients sexually assaulted are just some of the alleged abuses in UHS behavioral facilities that state authorities or the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has investigated.”
CCHR found that at least three UHS psychiatric facility staffs in recent years have been convicted of sexual or other abuse of patients or child abuse, with two staff serving a combined 35 years in jail.
This year alone, UHS has regularly made headlines over its psychiatric sector:
November 12: The Patriot Ledger in Massachusetts reported on the completion of a state investigation into the death of a patient in her 20s at UHS’ Pembroke psychiatric hospital in August this year, the outcome of which is still to be announced. A previous article said that Pembroke reported 7 patient deaths this year.
November 6: UHS reported that the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services had demanded that seven of its mental hospitals return $4 million to the state for fiscal year 2011 payments made to the hospitals. UHS could face the same repayment demands for 2012-2014—potentially $16 million total.
September 9: A lawsuit on behalf of five plaintiffs was filed at Cook County Court, Illinois against UHS’s Rock River Academy, alleging sexual abuse and rape by staff. One girl alleged staff “intentionally administered psychotropic drugs which they used to keep her in a semi-conscious state so that she could be more easily manipulated and sexually abused.”
August 31: CMS terminated UHS’s Texas Timberlawn Mental Health center’s contract due to uncorrected deficiencies and patients put at risk. CMS inspectors found Timberlawn workers had falsified records to avoid scrutiny in a patient-harm case.
31 June: UHS reported that Texoma Medical Center in Texas was faced with Medicare/Medicaid termination stemming from failures to comply with conditions of participation. Texoma entered into an improvement agreement with CMS, thereby abating potential closure because of Medicare/Medicaid funding cuts.
June 23: Congressmen Joseph P. Kennedy III and Danny Davis jointly wrote to CMS requesting an update on the status of its investigation into UHS. A press release stated there had been “troubling allegations of misconduct, negligence and employee intimidation” at UHS facilities. Further, “Additional reports detail claims of violence, sexual assaults, patient runaways and lack of security staff at UHS facilities in Illinois and Ohio, as well as company efforts to threaten employees who speak up about these conditions.”
April: Rock River Academy in Illinois closed after the Department Children and Family Services (DCFS) refused to send juvenile wards there. Rock River had the highest rate of youths manually restrained by staff in 2014 among the 52 residential treatment centers measured by the DCFS.
CCHR also found dozens of psychiatrists working at or affiliated with UHS facilities are among the top 25 prescribers of psychotropic drugs.
 “ Firm under federal probe owns 4 of 5 most profitable Pa. mental hospitals,” Philly.com, 17 Nov. 2015, http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20151117_Firm_under_federal_probe_ owns_4_of_5_most_profitable_Pa__mental_hospitals.html; “Feds widen fraud probe of Universal Health Services to include headquarters,” Healthcare Finance, 1 Apr. 2015, http://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/feds-widen-fraud-probe-universal-health-services-include-headquarters
 Chris Burrell, “State finishes investigation into death at Pembroke Hospital,” Patriot Ledger, 12 Nov 2015, http://www.patriotledger.com/article/20151112/NEWS/151117836; Chris Burwell, “State investigates death of patient at Pembroke Hospital,” Patriot Ledger, 18 Sep 2015, http://www.patriotledger.com/article/20150918/NEWS/150915535.
 Harold Brubaker “Pa. wants Universal Health to return $4 million in Medicaid payments,” Philly.com, 6 Nov. 2015, http://articles.philly.com/2015-11-08/business/68091040_1_disproportionate-share-payments-uhs-hospitals
 Lorraine Bailey, “Severe Abuse Alleged at Illinois Home for Girls,” Courthouse News.com, 10 Sept. 2015, http://www.courthousenews.com/2015/09/10/severe-abuse-alleged-at-illinois-home-for-girls.htm
 Timberlawn Mental Health System v. Sylvia Mathews Burwell.
 Reese Dunklin, “Judge rules regulators can stop funding Timberlawn psychiatric hospital,” Dallas Morning News, August 13, 2015, http://www.dallasnews.com/news/metro/20150813-judge-rules-regulators-can-stop-funding-timberlawn-psychiatric-hospital.ece; Timberlawn Mental Health System v. Sylvia Mathews Burwell, in her official capacity as Secretary, United States Department of Health and Human Services, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas Dallas Division, Case No. 3:15-CV-2556-M, August 13, 2015. Barbara M.G. Lynn, U.S. District Judge Decision; http://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/timberlawn-mental-health-system-faces-closure-after-cms-finds-major-safety-problems
 UHS Inc, Securities Exchange Commission filing, 31 June 2015
 http://kennedy.house.gov/sites/kennedy.house.gov/files/06.23.15.UHS%20Letter.pdf; http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/rtc/ct-psychiatric-provider-investigation-watchdog-met-20150623-story.html
 “CONGRESSMAN KENNEDY PUSHES HHS ON INVESTIGATION INTO MENTAL HEALTH NETWORK,” Joe Kennedy Press Release, 23 June, 2015, https://kennedy.house.gov/media/press-releases/congressman-kennedy-pushes-hhs-on-investigation-into-mental-health-network
 “Center for troubled girls will close, cites decision by DCFS,” Chicago Tribune, 28 Jan. 2015, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/rtc/chi-youth-treatment-rock-river-20150128-story.html
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