“It is almost always the cover up, rather than the event that causes trouble.”
Howard Baker, Former White House Chief of Staff
And it is the mental health and the very life of our most vulnerable that matters the most. But to those with a financial interest alone, it matters the least. And if we do not surely speak out and take action against those would seek to profit from that reality we bear the shame for that.
On March 5, 2019, a federal court in California rendered its industry-changing decision in the case of Wit, et al v. United Healthcare, et al. Patrick Kennedy, former representative from Rhode Island and mental health advocate stated, “This ruling is the Brown v. Board of Education for the mental health movement.”
Brown v. Board of Education was a unanimous US Supreme Court decision rendered in 1954 holding that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional.
The future will determine whether the Wit decision has the society changing impact Brown did. We do know that the Wit decision overshadowed any other immediate news stories regarding mental health.
This includes a very disturbing story first published on March 6, 2019 and which then received wide distribution the next day when a Chicago Tribune writer authored a column on the events at the heart of that story.
I had previously written about the allegations of sexual assault perpetrated by a Michael Jacksa at Timberline Knolls which occurred during the spring and summer of 2018. The article appears here:
The article details the ugly reality that predatory sexual interaction between therapists and patients is much more prevalent than what we are led to believe. And if the Jacksa matter ended with the facts as known, him pleading guilty then being sentenced to a jail term, we could attribute that tragedy as an isolated incident. And we could probably assume that Timberline Knolls could not possibly have known beforehand or taken steps to lessen the likelihood of it happening. After all, at the time, Timberline Knolls stated that they have a “zero tolerance policy for any activity that endangers the physical or emotional wellbeing of a resident.” Or … do they?
Law enforcement conducted its investigation. And 2 + 2 did not equal 4. And the coverup began to unwind.
Questions and Concerns
Treatment centers get their reputation, operational mandates and marching orders from their Chief Executive Officer who ostensibly does the bidding of the board of directors. For example, like him, dislike him, respect him or not, there is no doubt that Dr. Ken Weiner is the face of Eating Recovery Center. So too, Dirk Miller is the face of the Emily Program. And whereas in the past, I have questioned certain practices of these organizations, there is no dispute that these gentlemen are the strong, guiding rudders for their organizations. And that is certainly worthy of respect.
With Timberline Knolls, there is no face of their program. In 2018, a former employee wrote the following: “In five years, they [Timberline Knolls] have had 4 medical directors and 5 CEOs.” On its face, this statement seemed a bit outlandish. But, research disclosed that Timberline Knolls had the following Chief Executive Officers:
Dr. Kim Dennis – 2013 (who left and started Suncloud Health)
William Parsons, Jr. – 2016
Colleen Kula Hopkins – 2017
Sari Abromovich – 2018
Rob Turner, PhD (who although appearing as CEO on the Timberline Knolls website, on his Linkedin profile, does not list his affiliation with Timberline Knolls but does list himself as a Division President for Acadia)
There may be others whom I missed. On Mr. Turner’s Timberline Knolls page, he describes the job duties for which a CEO is responsible: “As CEO, Dr. Turner is responsible for the operational and functional well-being of Timberline Knolls. He has primary responsibility for the development, implementation, and achievement of the strategic business plan in conjunction with routine operations to include: quality of care, staff development, maintenance of licensure and accreditations, financial performance, and continuous performance improvement.”
Any respected CEO has their own unique vision for the company entrusted to them. Implementation of that vision may take time. It could involve changing the corporate environment and attitude. Trust must be established with other officers. So, how is any company supposed to establish consistency, vision, ideals and a reputation of excellence when your leader is changing every year? A revolving door of CEOs conveys just the opposite message … that you are a company adrift with no resolve or purpose. This naturally leads to dissension, dissatisfied employees and turnover. All the while, the internet is replete with former employees of Timberline Knolls expressing these very attributes. And dissatisfied, disgruntled employees make mistakes … which could lead to tragedies.
The Chicago Tribune article contains many alarming facts and information apparently gleaned from the police investigation and contained within the reports generated. One such statement is: “In early July, when Timberline staff discovered journal entries by a patient that described her sexual encounters with Jacksa, they confronted the woman in his presence, police reports show.” [emphasis added]
First, the employee who authorized the “internal investigation” to include the predator being present with the victim when she was asked to relive the horrific experiences should be keel-hauled. The accepted standard is to not permit the alleged predator to be present when the victim is giving her account.
The article states that the date of “early July” is allegedly the first date upon which Timberline Knolls knew of the abuse. Or is it?
On the website, glassdoor.com, employees can make anonymous reviews of their workplace. Now, I tend to look upon most reviews with a skeptical eye. Many people do not like their workplace, or immediate supervisor and websites like glassdoor.com give them an outlet for their frustration. But, one review of a former Timberline Knolls employee was poignant. This employee stated: “The management, cuts corners in health care, does not support staff when horrific things happen.” [emphasis added]
The date of this post? June 18, 2018. This date is prior to the date referenced in the article and leads one to speculate that Timberline Knolls knew that it had a horrific problem even earlier. Because of its significance, the webpage containing this allegation is attached at the end of this article.
Of great concern, one article published in the Legal Herald dated August 24, 2018 states, “Investigators believe that Jacksa assaulted a 29 year old female patient during two counseling sessions between May and late June 2018.”
If the date of the former employee’s post is accurate, that is June 18, 2018, and Jacksa was permitted to prey upon patients until late June 2018, we are drawn to the inescapable conclusion that Timberline Knolls KNEW Jacksa was a predator … and continued to allow him free access to his victims.
Further, if the date of this post is accurate, then we can only draw one of three logical conclusions. (1). Timberline Knolls knew of Jacksa’s reprehensible conduct before early July and either took no action or covered up this information; (2). The employee is making reference to another horrific incident which has not been brought to light, or (3). The employee is lying and it is just a random and bizarre coincidence that the predatory nature of Jacksa was exposed 2 – 3 weeks after that posting. Of the three, I submit that possibility 3 is the least likely. Regardless of whether conclusion 1 or conclusion 2 is the truth, both cast grave doubt on the credibility of Timberline Knolls. And questions must be asked whether Timberline Knolls is complicit in the damage done to the victims of these heinous crimes.
Another disconcerting statement in the Chicago Tribune article was as follows: “The administrator explained to police that administrators of individual Acadia facilities “have to contact corporate with these matters and corporate tells them to investigate and investigate more before they are allowed to call police,” according to a Lemont police report released to the Tribune under open records laws.”
Spokesman for Timberline Knolls, Gary Mack [who, as an aside, should never be allowed in the same zip code as a microphone ever again] then refuted that statement and said the administrator of the facility is expected to contact law enforcement on any criminal matters. One is left to wonder which policy is applicable, the statement given to investigators during an on-going criminal investigation or a statement made by a spokesman with the time and opportunity to “spin” a story? If one believes the first statement (when obstruction of justice and hampering an on-going investigation charges could result in criminal liability), then the parent company, Acadia finds itself embroiled in each investigation. And for Timberline Knolls … that is a tremendous liability.
Recent Acadia Lawsuits
Acadia Healthcare owned entities have been involved in these recent lawsuits and disputes:
West Memphis, AR: Ascent Treatment & Outpatient Clinic. In June 2017, four employees were charged with manslaughter after a 5-year-old boy died. The following month, the child’s family filed a wrongful death suit against Ascent (owned by Acadia), the employees, and its corporate entities for $135 million. KARK reported that: Ascent Children’s Health Services CEO Dan Sullivan admits some employees didn’t follow correct protocol and were fired.
Philadelphia, PA, Belmont Hospital. In a one-week period in 2017, two suicides occurred at the facility. A lawsuit charges that the facility lacks sufficient and appropriately trained staff. The State cited the facility for lack of staff and lack of facilities that would prevent suicides, among other things. When state inspectors visited in November of 2017, they declared a state of imminent danger.
Fort Myers, FL, Park Royal Hospital. In 2017, the location’s top physician since 2012 resigned, citing the decline of the facility under Acadia. He said: “Ultimately, it became a matter of principle over passion, and the former was non-negotiable for me.”
The hospital risk physician told regulators that she had:
… walked into a hot mess of an organization.
According to a report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Federal inspectors back them up, saying in a report that the facility is:
… too short-staffed to properly supervise patients, ignoring their complaints, and had poor quality control procedures in place.
Sexual assault against patients is alleged to have occurred as well.
New Baltimore, MI, Harbor Oaks Hospital. The facility has been accused of rampant patient and staff abuse, and allegedly inflates staff to appropriate levels only when a visit from the Joint Commission is expected. A month-long news investigation by WXYZ of Detroit, MI, found:
… a pattern of assaults on staff dating back years, repeated allegations of physical and sexual abuse involving patients.
Ada, OK, Rolling Hills Hospital. An alleged cover-up attempt at the hospital by not reporting the deaths of patients to the facility’s governing body. A lawsuit from one of the victims, Shannon Archer, highlights the conditions of neglect. This patient was admitted for alcoholism, but suffered permanent brain damage when, allegedly, a patient violently grabbed her from behind, grasping her hair and viciously slammed her head into the concrete floor. The other lawsuit, which involves an unnamed minor, alleges denial of critical emergency medical care, as well as multiple sexual assaults against children.
According to the Archer complaint, there was no supervision or security present at the time of the incident due to the understaffed personnel. I was made aware that the Oklahoma Department of Human Services apparently ordered the removal of all ODHS children from the facility.
Investigations by health inspectors from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services revealed over 50 pages of violations ranging from unqualified staff to infection control deficiencies, patient rights, and maintenance issues. What we found most alarming were the instances of restraint and seclusion violations where adolescents were left unmonitored in seclusion rooms.
[Thank you to Penn Little for the above information and his on-going research into Acadia Healthcare]
An article published on February 13, 2019 by CCHR International, a group touting itself as a mental health watchdog group details numerous instances of abuse, substandard facilities, poor oversight and understaffed facilities. This article can be found here:
In addition, Acadia’s operations in the UK is being investigated by Parliament as allegations of abuse, of treating their patients like “cash cows,” as allegations of physical and psychological abuse run rampant.
Acadia’s and TK’s Statements
On Friday, March 8, 2019, Timberline Knolls released two statements regarding the Chicago Tribune article. I will not painstakingly dissect the statements but have attached them at the end of this article. It would appear as if one statement is addressed to referring providers and interested third parties in emails. The other statement was released on Timberline Knolls website for public dissemination. However, there are a few obvious questions regarding the statements.
The most obvious question is why the necessity of two separate statements?
Regardless, in its statement, Timberline Knolls makes reference to many upgrades and improvements in its security procedures. For that increased security, I am sure the patients and their families are grateful. And yet, one cannot help but wonder why those security measures were not previously implemented. As part of its corporate responsibilities, if Acadia and/or its general liability insurer performed annual inspections of its properties to determine if they were as safe as possible, shouldn’t those security measures, at least in part have already been implemented? After all, the health, safety and welfare of its patients should be, must be of paramount importance.
Another obvious question and admittedly, this may be minor, is wondering the reasons why one statement was released under Acadia Healthcare’s name and one statement was released under the name of Timberline Knolls. At the bottom of the statement emailed to third parties, it notes that it was released under Acadia’s name and its corporate address.
Acadia and Timberline Knolls are very much still in the briar patch. The issue of the date of the former employee’s posting about the “horrific event” must be exhaustively investigated. If the date of June 18, 2018 is accurate, and the “horrific event” refers to the abuse of its patients, and a patient was abused in late June 2018, then Timberline Knolls management knew of the “horrific event” prior to the date it represented to investigating law enforcement authorities, Timberline Knolls has a major liability and credibility issue and wrongful concealment of criminal activity could be involved.
Timberline Knolls also needs to stop playing musical chairs with its top executive officers. Having rotating chief executive officers is a recipe for confusion amongst employees and dissension amongst corporate officers. Vision is lacking and a treatment facility is left adrift.
The reality of one final disturbing conclusion absolutely must be faced. That is, Timberline Knolls knew it was employing a sexual predator. It knowingly exposed our loved ones to this reprobate. Our loved ones were harmed by this predator. When confronted with these facts, Timberline Knolls then concocted a scheme in an attempt to cover up its own wrongdoing. And now, this cover up has been discovered. The criminal activity does not just involve one warped person. It involves an organization.
And now, it is up to an industry to determine what to do about that organization.