Rock River Juvenile Academy Closed and Sued Over Rape Allegations—Citizens Commission on Human Rights Warns of Psychiatric Abuse

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Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) is responding to the recent closure and lawsuit filed against a Universal Health Services (UHS) psychiatric facility and is calling for employees, patients and their families to contact CCHR. CCHR, established by The Church of Scientology, is the preeminent mental health watchdog for families and industry personnel.

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Rock River closed in April following a Chicago Tribune and Department of Children and Family Services investigation which found the adolescent girls admitted there had suffered severe abuse during their stays.

On September 9, 2015, a lawsuit was filed against Rock River Academy for adolescent females in Chicago, IL alleging sexual abuse and rape by staff (Case No. 2015-L-009253, Cook County Circuit Court, Illinois, Filed 9/9/2015).[1] Rock River, a Universal Health Services (UHS) psychiatric facility, was forced to shut down in April after the state Department of Children and Family Services stopped placing juvenile wards in the facility.[2] UHS is one of the nation’s largest psychiatric facility chains and currently has 21 of its facilities under federal investigation.[3] Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), established in 1969 by The Church of Scientology and eminent psychiatrist, Prof. Thomas Szasz, is calling on any patients, family members or mental health employees to contact CCHR for assistance.

The lawsuit against Rock River was filed by five plaintiffs and alleges that staff “intentionally administered psychotropic drugs which they used to keep her [one of the plaintiffs] in a semi-conscious state so that she could be more easily manipulated and sexually abused.”[1]

Rock River closed following a Chicago Tribune and Department of Children and Family Services investigation which found the adolescent girls admitted there had suffered severe abuse during their stays.[4] According to Courthouse News Service, the investigation found that:

  • The Rockford Police Department fielded more than 700 reports “concerning victimization of girls under DCFS’s care including rape, aggravated battery and sodomy at the Rock River Academy,” during a four-year period, according to the complaint.[5]
  • The rate of physical restraints at Rock River was nearly eight times the median for all Illinois facilities.[5]
  • Coupled with Rock River’s very high rate of dispensing psychoactive drugs, wards of the facility had the second-highest rate both of self-inflicted wounds.[5]

The U.S. Department of Justice and Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services has been investigating Rock River and other behavioral facilities within UHS for “alleged fraudulent billing practices to Medicare and Medicaid, but it has expanded its criminal investigation to include the company’s headquarters in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania,” reported Healthcare Finance News.[6]

A second UHS psych facility, Timberlawn Mental Health Service in Dallas, lost its U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid funding earlier this year due to the hospital’s failure to correct deficiencies that placed patients in “immediate jeopardy.” Court records reported that a patient’s suicide had “triggered a series of state and federal inspections.” The funding is being restored pending a reapplication for participation in the CMS program.[7]

In May 2015, Mr. Dieter Waizenegger, Executive Director of CtW Investment Group wrote to UHS about being “deeply disturbed by the developments at UHS over the past year” especially the “risk of enforcement action” being “unnecessarily high.” The company had also written last year about this, to which UHS responded that it “has never had a facility lose its license or Medicare/Medicaid certification.” [8] Barely three months after the May 2015 letter, a letter signed by Timberlawn system CEO Shelah Adams said Timberlawn would close its operating units and all affiliated programs.[9] UHS then negotiated a deal to continue under conditions of compliance.

Jan Eastgate, president of Citizens Commission on Human Rights International (CCHR), a mental health watchdog, said its group is calling on more concerned employees, patients and their families to contact CCHR with any information or for assistance.

(Those wishing to provide information can fill out the form here—all information is kept in strict confidence.)

CCHR’s research of Medicare Part D prescription costs in 2013 by a sample of 45 psychiatrists who have been or are affiliated with UHS psychiatric facilities showed that an astounding 33 (73%) ranked among the top 25 prescribers of psychotropic drugs in their respective states, including antipsychotics and antidepressants.

About Citizens Commission on Human Rights: CCHR is a non-profit, non-political, non-religious mental health watchdog. It works to eradicate abuses committed under the guise of mental health care and enact patient and consumer protections. A Special Rapporteur report to the United Nations acknowledges CCHR for the many laws it has helped achieve protecting individuals from abusive or coercive mental health practices. Congressional resolutions have commended CCHR for “safeguarding others from abuses in the mental health system.”

Read the full article here.

References:

[1] Case No. 2015-L-009253, Cook County, Illinois Circuit Court, Filed 9/9/2015, https://w3.courtlink.lexisnexis.com/cookcounty/Finddock.asp?DocketKey=CABF0L0AAJCFD0LD; Lorraine Bailey, “Severe Abuse Alleged at Illinois Home for Girls,” Courthouse News Service, 10 Sept. 2015, courthousenews.com/2015/09/10/severe-abuse-alleged-at-illinois-home-for-girls.htm
[2] David Jackson, Gary Marx and Duaa Eldeib, “Center for troubled girls will close, cites decision by DCFS,” Chicago Tribune, 28 Jan. 2015, chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/rtc/chi-youth-treatment-rock-river-20150128-story.html
[3] United States Securities and Exchange Commission, Form 10-Q, Universal Health Services, Inc., For the quarterly period ended June 30, 2015, ir.uhsinc.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=105817&p=irol-SECText&TEXT=aHR0cDovL2FwaS50ZW5rd2l6YXJkLmNvbS9maWxpbmcueG1sP2lwYWdlPTEwNDIxNzA1JkRTRVE9MCZTRVE9MCZTUURFU0M9U0VDVElPTl9FTlRJUkUmc3Vic2lkPTU3
[4] David Jackson and Gary Marx, “Violence at Rock River Academy: ‘I was getting punched, kicked,’” Chicago Tribune, 2 Dec. 2014, chicagotribune.com/news/ct-youth-treatment-rock-river-met-20141203-story.html; David Jackson and Gary Marx, “We felt caged: Seven stories of Rock River Academy,” Chicago Tribune, 2 Dec. 2014, chicagotribune.com/news/ct-rock-river-case-files-met-20141203-story.html.
[5] Lorraine Bailey, “Severe Abuse Alleged at Illinois Home for Girls,” Courthouse News Service, 10 Sept. 2015, courthousenews.com/2015/09/10/severe-abuse-alleged-at-illinois-home-for-girls.htm
[6] “Feds widen fraud probe of Universal Health Services to include headquarters,” Healthcare Finance, 1 Apr. 2015, States Security and Exchange Commission, Form 10-Q, Universal Health Services, Inc., For the quarterly period ending June 30, 2015, pp. 13-14, services.corporate-ir.net/SEC/Document.Service?id=P3VybD1hSFIwY0RvdkwyRndhUzUwWlc1cmQybDZZWEprTG1OdmJTOWtiM2R1Ykc5aFpDNXdhSEEvWVdOMGFXOXVQVkJFUmlacGNHRm5aVDB4TURReU1UY3dOU1p6ZFdKemFXUTlOVGM9JnR5cGU9MiZmbj1Vbml2ZXJzYWxIZWFsdGhTZXJ2aWNlc18xMFFfMjAxNTA4MDcucGRm.
[7] 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; Reese Dunklin, Judge rules regulators can stop funding Timberlawn psychiatric hospital,” The Dallas Morning News, 13 Aug 2015, dallasnews.com/news/metro/20150813-judge-rules-regulators-can-stop-funding-timberlawn-psychiatric-hospital.ece; Jessica Huseman, “Timberlawn psych hospital’s funding at risk after patient hangs herself,” The Dallas Morning News, 5 Jun 2015, dallasnews.com/investigations/20150605-timberlawn-psych-hospitals-funding-at-risk-after-patient-hangs-herself.ece; "Deal with feds lets Dallas area’s Timberlawn psychiatric hospital stay open," The Dallas Morning News, 16 Sept. 2015, dallasnews.com/news/metro/20150916-deal-with-feds-lets-dallas-areas-timberlawn-psychiatric-hospital-stay-open.ece
[8] Letter from Dieter Waizenegger, Executive Director of CtW Investments to Mr. John H. Herrell, Lead Independent Director and Chairman of the Audit Committee Universal Health Services, Inc., P.O. Box 61558 367 South Gulph Road King of Prussia, PA 19406, 8 May 2015, ctwinvestmentgroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/CtW-to-John-Herrell-UHS-5-4-15-final.pdf.
[9] Bill Hethcock, “Troubled Timberlawn psychiatric system to close Dallas, Garland hospitals and lay off 160,” Dallas Business Journal, 31 Aug. 2015, bizjournals.com/dallas/news/2015/08/31/exclusive-troubled-timberlawn-psychiatric-system.html

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