As­sault at hospi­tal probed

Sex­ual at­tack on girl oc­curs at psych fa­cil­ity with past problems

The Dallas Morning News - - Front Page - By SUE AM­BROSE Staff Writer sam­brose@dal­las­

Dal­las po­lice are in­ves­ti­gat­ing the ag­gra­vated sex­ual as­sault of a 13-yearold girl at Timberlawn, the psy­chi­atric hospi­tal in East Dal­las that has a long record of safety problems.

Of­fi­cers were called to the hospi­tal on Sa­muell Boule­vard on Mon­day evening, a po­lice spokes­woman said, adding that she could not re­lease de­tails be­cause of the na­ture of the of­fense. No one had been ar­rested in the case.

Timberlawn’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, James Miller, would not speak to a re­porter. He is­sued a state­ment say­ing, “The care and safety of our pa­tients, in­clud­ing their pri­vacy, is Timberlawn Be­hav­ioral Health Sys­tem’s top pri­or­ity.” Miller said the hospi­tal was co­op­er­at­ing with in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

The Texas agency that over­sees hospi­tals will look into the mat­ter, said Car­rie Wil­liams, spokes­woman for the Texas Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Com­mis­sion. In 2015, the agency threat­ened to shut­ter Timberlawn for safety vi­o­la­tions, and it cur­rently has the hospi­tal on pro­ba­tion, she said.

Uni­ver­sal Health Ser­vices Inc., a cor­po­ra­tion that trades on the New York Stock Ex­change and is val­ued at $10 bil­lion, owns Timberlawn. A spokes­woman for the com­pany, the coun­try’s largest for-profit provider of men­tal health ser­vices, did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

Timberlawn treats pa­tients as young as 12 for se­ri­ous con­di­tions in­clud­ing de­pres­sion, trauma and anx­i­ety, ac­cord­ing to its web­site. The sprawl­ing 100-year-old hospi­tal, shaded by tall trees and an­chored by a stately white farm­house, has 144 beds. Timberlawn did not re­spond to ques­tions about how many pa­tients it was cur­rently treat­ing.

In the last three years, a string of pa­tients and staff mem­bers have been put at risk at Timberlawn. Two have died.

Last year, a pa­tient tack­led a doc­tor and slammed her head against the floor. She died two days later. In 2015, hospi­tal in­spec­tors found that two pa­tients had had a sex­ual en­counter and oth­ers had been vi­o­lent. Dur­ing one in­spec­tion, the staff couldn’t ac­count for the where­abouts of six pa­tients.

In 2014, a wo­man who had told staff mem­bers that she was sui­ci­dal was left un­ob­served. She hanged her­self with a sheet and died.

A Dal­las Morn­ing News anal­y­sis of hospi­tal in­spec­tion data last year found that safety problems have plagued more than a quar­ter of Uni­ver­sal Health’s 154 hospi­tals that re­ceived fed­eral funds to treat the poor and el­derly. Thir­teen of those hospi­tals are in Texas.

Health of­fi­cials shut off Timberlawn’s fed­eral fund­ing in 2015. Texas or­dered Timberlawn to sur­ren­der its li­cense and fined it $1 mil­lion.

But as is cus­tom­ary, the hospi­tal was al­lowed to ap­peal.

Timberlawn’s fed­eral fund­ing was re­stored. The state health agency cut its penalty to $193,000 plus pro­ba­tion a year ago, its spokes­woman said, be­cause of the work the fa­cil­ity had done to im­prove pa­tient safety.

If health in­spec­tors find de­fi­cien­cies dur­ing the three­year pro­ba­tion pe­riod, the state could again sug­gest re­vok­ing the hospi­tal’s li­cense, which runs through Au­gust 2019.

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