State officials have shut down admissions to a south Charlotte psychiatric hospital where children say they were sexually and physically abused, according to newly released documents.
Investigators determined conditions at Strategic Behavioral Center put patients in “immediate jeopardy,” says a letter to Strategic from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. That means the state is recommending Strategic not receive money from Medicaid, a joint state and federal health insurance program for the needy that covers the cost for most of Strategic’s patients.
Strategic is one of 37 licensed psychiatric residential treatment facilities in North Carolina where patients get round-the-clock care for severe mental and behavioral conditions.
The 60-bed facility located on Sharon Road West near South Boulevard cannot accept new patients until problems are fixed, DHHS said.
DHHS spokesman Cobey Culton said in an email that officials visited the hospital as recently as last week and more sanctions could be imposed, including a possible financial penalty.
The moves come after the Observer made inquiries about accusations of mistreatment and a New Year’s Day incident in which 10 patients – as young as age 12 – shattered a window and escaped the hospital.
On Monday, the chief executive officer for Strategic’s Charlotte hospital said in a written statement that the hospital is working with the state on an improvement plan and retraining staff.
“Our highest priority is to provide safe, high-quality care to our residents,” Orvin Fillman said. “It is important to note that the DHHS recommendation on ending participation in Medicare and Medicaid would not go into effect if we submit a satisfactory improvement plan, which we fully intend to do.”
Articles published Friday detailed allegations from patients, including a girl who says she had sex with a staff member. In another case, a teen said a hospital worker called patients “b---hes and dumba---s” and slapped him in retaliation for being spit on.
A North Carolina mom also said workers at Strategic put her teen daughter in a “protective hold” at least 38 times during a five-month period. Research shows physical restraints can cause unnecessary trauma to patients who are already struggling.
In a letter to Strategic dated Feb. 6, DHHS said the hospital’s failure to secure doors and provide proper supervision helped lead to the New Year’s Day escape and an assault on staff.
Strategic did not communicate to its staff the patients’ histories of violent behavior or escape attempts, the letter said.
The hospital “failed to implement policies and elopement precautions thereby creating an unsafe environment for the delivery of safe resident care,” DHHS said. “As a result, residents destroyed wooden furniture and made weapons which placed residents and staff in an unsafe environment.”
Strategic is owned by a Tennessee company that runs mental treatment centers in six states, including three in North Carolina.
Clasen-Kelly: 704 358-5027