The Dad Who Won’t Give Up
A father named “Jeremy” and his persistence (as well as Twitter Account): is singlehandedly reforming the world’s broken mental healthcare system.
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM — In 1907, my grandfather saw Geronimo, the great Apache warrior, confined to his cell as a ‘prisoner-of-war’ at Fort Sill in Indian Territory, USA. That wasn’t a government operation. However, some crafty U.S. soldiers had figured a way to use their famous prisoner to supplement their government paycheck.
Sadly, it appears not much has changed. One hundred thirteen years later, Americans still warehouse people for money. In such a case involves “Bethany,” an 18-year-old autistic English woman. Three years ago, as a minor, Bethany was locked-away and secluded for two years by a British National Health Service (NHS) private contractor in what is called an ‘Assessment and Treatment Unit’ (ATU). Following a transfer in May 2019 (something her parents have no say over), she was further isolated by an American company, in allegedly far worse conditions. In addition to seclusion, Bethany was allegedly restrained and unnecessarily medicated. Her release only came as a result of her father’s fierce advocacy.
Acadia Healthcare Company Inc. (Nasdaq: ACHC), as well as Universal Health Services (Nasdaq: UHS), are U.S.-based companies that have for-better-or-worse, invaded the United Kingdom. However, for the same reasons Justin Bieber is famous, these companies are mostly infamous to Brits or Americans.
The following outlines three additional key, vital facts:
- Both of these companies combine to embody the largest, most prominent mental and psychiatric care network in the world.
- Their combined total market capitalization is roughly £12.07 billion.
- They both entered the U.K. market using bank debt (and lots of it) roughly a half-decade immediately after commercial insurers couldn’t find data to support their effectiveness. Moreover, rampant fraud led insurers to lose trust in those ineffective providers as well.
Cases like Bethany’s are plentiful and appear to have begun, in mass, simultaneous to the entry of those two particular U.S.-based publicly-traded giants, Acadia and UHS. On January 14, 2020, UHS received specific scrutiny from the BBC related to these incidents. However, only their subsidiary (Cygnet) was called out by name.
Jeremy and Beth
Arguably, the most conspicuous of those many uncountable stories is either that of “Jeremy” and his daughter, “Bethany,” or the horror depicted in an undercover BBC report from May 2019 at UHS’s Whorlton Hall (procured through the Cygnet buyout). While the latter speaks for itself, Jeremy began an advocacy campaign by taking to Twitter and has made tremendous waves.
Thanks to Jeremy’s clear voice, soft tone, and captivating presence, as promised by the U.K. health secretary, MP Matt Hancock, Bethany was released from the Acadia Healthcare-owned unit just before Christmas 2019. This, after nearly three years in total seclusion, with the majority occurring at St. Andrew’s, another private hospital contracted with the NHS. The tail-end of solitude for Bethany happened in the custody of the very Acadia Healthcare that terminated their former CEO following the fallout from Jeremy’s testimony to Parliament in December 2018.
MP Hancock bookended that media-provoked promise with a(n) (equally and involuntary) public apology to both Bethany and her father. Both admonitions occurred on live television and were featured the following day, November 10, 2019, in The New York Times.
Of course, in that same interview, Sky News claimed (and Hancock didn’t refute) that Acadia admitted to being “inadequately prepared, or suited to meet Bethany’s needs.” In fact, in an interview, last week in Birmingham, England, Jeremy said, “They were a facility geared toward personality disorders, and Bethany is autistic; it was an inappropriate referral.” Jeremy also believes the NHS is “being leached by U.S. firms because they know that they can come here and make money out of our disabled children.”
Unlike St. Andrew’s Hospital, where Jeremy was able to talk with his daughter on a limited basis through a six-by-six hole in the door, Acadia had no such breach in the same style door. According to Bethany’s father, at that particular Acadia-owned facility, “there was no hand-holding. When I phoned Beth, they would place a mobile phone on the floor at the bottom of the door, and Beth would have to lie on the floor and speak to me under the door.”
In the U.S., Acadia Healthcare has yet to publicly address claims of insider trading or a missing teacher/mom-of-two from their flagship center. They’ve failed to address allegations and arrests surrounding sexual assaults of children and vulnerable adults.
However, in a CPS report from a Detroit facility, site-level staff told officials that sex between two 14-year-olds in their care was “OK because it was consensual sex.”
In a statement geared toward Acadia’s director Reeve Waud and CEO Debra Osteen, Beth’s scorned father said:
“Use some of your horrifically gained profits and go out and buy yourself some humanity.”
Like Bethany, various other family members report seclusions of their children as well. The bulk of extreme cases don’t stem much further back than two to three years. This is about the same time when both UHS and Acadia Healthcare entered the market. UHS purchased Cygnet for £200m in 2014 and began to grow their footprint from there. Acadia, on the other hand, came in stealthily, taking on enormous new debt, which totaled £1.15 billion to purchase The Priory Group in 2016.
At the same time Acadia bought The Priory Group, their insiders were dumping stock, a process that began in August 2015. That was the same month another U.S. healthcare provider, AAC Holdings (Nasdaq: AAC) (delisted in 2019 from NYSE), was indicted for murder. Hindsight suggests the murder indictment, which didn’t result in a conviction, was the black swan event that exposed significant fraud and abuse stemming from United States legislation passed in 2008 that required insurers to pay for these disorders; therefore, many treatments are unproven and costly. Nonetheless, American insurers and the government had to give mental health conditions the same level of financial backing as they would, for instance, for a patient needing treatment for a broken leg.
As for the stock dumping, the Acadia insiders (i.e., directors, officers, and board members) dumped about £770 million in less than a week in August of 2015 and continued to do so even while negotiating the Priory deal. By 2018, they had dumped it from 30% down to 2%.
Big banks that also have significant stakes in Acadia’s credit obligations quickly bought it all (at slightly lower prices). To their credit, with their investment in the roughly $3 billion in debt, interest rates either rising or flat, and only $50 million in cash on Acadia’s books, a default with 3,000 children isn’t a good idea financially or morally.
Acadia’s model began to see far less commercial insurance compensation and the big hole created could only be filled by entitlements offered by the U.S. government Medicare/Medicaid programs, and: The British NHS.
Acadia needed the easiest buck for the least amount of bang (labor). The full faith and credit the U.S. economy holds in the U.K. (and vice versa) were given to UHS, as well as Acadia.
Credibility came despite big red flags, as evidenced by the following examples:
- Most of the leadership of Acadia had settled a $60 million fraud settlement in a similar, previous venture called Psychiatric Solutions.
- UHS has been facing various federal probes and investigations since 2015, according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Of course, these weren’t just probes. Thes full-scale investigations resulted in significant consequences.
- In 2019, Acadia paid £13 million ($17 million) to the U.S. Department of Justice to settle a civil fraud claim.
- Also, in 2019, UHS reached a gargantuan £97 million ($127 million) settlement agreement with the same government body.
It’s no surprise that healthcare providers in the U.S. are stretched thin in the last two years, thanks to President Trump’s large scale rollback of government spending in exchange for healthcare services. Today, Jeremy, the victims, the NHS (slowly but surely), and U.S. insurers are looking for more effective alternatives.
“people these days care more about their animals than they do about disabled children…My daughter spent six weeks in a cell with a biro embedded in her arm. If that had been a dog in a cage, Twitter and Facebook would have had a meltdown.”
Author’s Note: You can follow Jeremy on Twitter. His handle is @JeremyH09406697.