Treating & Inflicting Sexual Assault, at the same Time?
Company Purports to Be World’s Largest Healer; Facing Widespread Accusations of Its Own
As the #MeToo movement empowers long-silenced survivors of sexual assault, the world’s largest standalone treatment provider in trauma-centered behavioral health, Acadia Healthcare Co, Inc., faces numerous allegations of inflicting such abuse on their patients.
Described in criminal and civil complaints, the abuse was allegedly carried out either directly by Acadia’s staff members or by patients in incidents facilitated by the negligence of staff members. The most-cited reasoning amounts to cost-cutting in a healthcare market where reimbursements see increased scrutiny. For-profits like Acadia face a tall task of requirements to boost growth in hopes of keeping their Wall Street financiers happy.
The cruelest irony is that Acadia’s own website language, obviously written to attract business, warns ominously that while the network strives to help treat patients, “…others will suffer from ongoing distress that can hinder their ability to continue functioning appropriately on a daily basis. When this is the case, individuals may feel at a loss as to what they can do or where they can turn in order to find relief from their suffering.”
Officials of Acadia (Nasdaq: ACHC) have not responded to several requests for comment. The company operates over 500 facilities in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Last month, the Chicago Tribune published an article headlined, “6 women sexually abused by a counselor at women’s rehab center Timberline Knolls, prosecutors say”. (Located in Lemont, Illinois, Timberline Knolls was purchased in 2012 for $90 million by Acadia Healthcare). The author of the article, David Jackson, described allegations by women who said a mental health practitioner named Michael Jacksa assaulted them, adding, “Former patients told police that Jacksa subjected them to rape, forced oral sex, digital penetration, and fondling beneath their clothes. He faces 62 felony charges.” Mr. Jacksa is currently in county jail.
Jackson’s account also describes how two women “disappeared” from Timberline Knolls last year. One of them, Grace Cho, was found dead shortly after she vanished from the facility. The cause of death was ruled a suicide; a wrongful death claim filed by her estate in the Cook County, Illinois court states that Cho died while on suicide watch. The other, an unnamed 17-year-old girl, was found alive in a man’s closet in Bridgeview, Illinois after allegedly hitchhiking with truck drivers.
(Incidentally, Acadia Chairman Reeve Waud is the chair of the Illinois State Police Merit Board; he calls himself “Head of the State Police”. Make of that what you will.)
Allegations like these extend beyond Timberline Knolls to across the United States. Cases stem from fondling to the outright rape of patients — carried out by other patients or staff.
- Several miles north, at Acadia’s Harbor Oaks Hospital in New Baltimore, Michigan, a young man was sexually assaulted twice, according to an investigative report by Ross Jones of local channel Fox 47.
- In 2016, in Florida, Acadia staff member Benjamin Bland was sentenced to a five-year prison sentence for similar actions while “caring” for patients. The Naples Daily News said officials at the company claimed he lied on his résumé to obtain a job at their subsidiary, Park Royal Hospital. The same Naples media outlet also reported that the lie gave Bland, “access to nearly a dozen mentally ill women who said he sexually assaulted them within the hospital’s walls.”
- Also in 2015, a former Acadia staff member, 40-year-old Yzaguirre Washington, pled guilty to sexual assault regarding a 16-year-old girl at Acadia’s Cedar Crest Hospital in Belton, Texas. A news report described the incident as consensual sex with the girl about one month shy of her 17th birthday, which is the age of consent in Texas. Sentencing Mr. Washington to 10 years of deferred adjudication and registration as a sex offender for life, Judge John Gauntt said, “You breached the trust that was given to you. Even if it had happened another 36 days later, you still would have breached that trust.”
- On March 27 of this year, the headline on New Mexico’s KOB4-TV report reported, “Multiple lawsuits claim physical and sexual abuse at Desert Hills, Acadia Healthcare.” One alleged, “inappropriate conduct between a former nurse at the facility, 54-year-old Archie Horner, and a 14-year-old” female patient. The news report states that Horner told the girl in a text message that her anti-suicide vest looked “sexy”. Another text said, “That’s ok to be nervous but let me hold you close. Let me run my hand through your hair. Let me touch your skin.”
- That same week, the new Mexico plaintiffs’ attorney, Mr. Joshua Conaway, told me via telephone they were filing a suit alleging rape of a 17-year-old girl who was a patient at Acadia-owned Rolling Hills Hospital in Ada, Oklahoma. Another lawsuit filed by the guardian of an incapacitated former patient at Rolling Hills alleges negligence and cites instances of sexual assault at the same rural facility. It also claims (in line 21 of the complaint), “after receiving additional reports of sexual assault, Defendants Rolling Hills and Acadia ordered its employees to remove security cameras and to destroy video surveillance footage.”
- Assaults have occurred against young boys, too. In early 2016, a Child Protective Services complaint described an incident in which a 16-year-old boy at Detroit Behavioral Institute (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Acadia) claimed to have had sex with a 14-year-old boy; according to the complaint, facility staff, “were aware of the allegations, but said it was not a problem because the children had consensual sex.”
- A sexual-impropriety suit filed against Seven Hills Hospital, an Acadia facility just south of Las Vegas, alleges that in November 2016, a male patient exposed himself to a female patient and masturbated in her room, leaving her “completely traumatized and terrified.”
How can victims of sexual trauma be helped if so-called healers inflict it? #ThemToo?