By CCHR International
The Mental Health Watchdog Group
March 1, 2017
The Oregon Health Authority rejected an application from Universal Health Services (UHS) to build a 100-bed psychiatric facility in Wilsonville. UHS owns the largest chain of psychiatric institutions in the U.S. Critics in Oregon raised questions about the quality of care at these facilities, with one in every ten of them currently under and a multi-federal criminal and civil investigation into possible billing fraud.[1] The Citizens Commission on Human Rights International, a 48-year mental health watchdog, has filed thousands of complaints about UHS behavioral facilities to Federal and state authorities, including opposing company applications to build more institutions. CCHR applauded the Oregon Health Authority’s decision.
A UHS spokesperson said the company would appeal the decision, stating, “We have worked for more than a year to demonstrate our ongoing commitment to the community….” However, concerns about UHS’s level of commitment in its behavioral sector have brought recent U.S. Congressional criticism. In December 2016, Senator Charles Grassley, head of the Senate Judicial Committee wrote to Health and Human Services (HHS) asking for information regarding the on-going investigations into UHS and “serious questions about patient safety” at UHS behavioral hospitals.[2] On December 22, HHS’s Office of the Inspector General said the information being requested must remain “secret” due to legal constraints, such as “judicial rules related to qui tam [whistleblower] complaints under seal, grand jury proceedings, and other similar issues that would require our confidentiality.”[3]
A UHS application to build a facility in Rocklin, California was also rejected last year. The Rocklin, California police chief recommended that UHS be denied a permit to build the psychiatric facility which was only 600 feet from a High School. A resolution was posted on the city’s website stating: “Based on the information available, most particularly the analysis prepared by the Rocklin Police Department, in conjunction with the preponderance of written testimony received from the general public, the site proposed…does not provide sufficient separation for adequate response times in a worst case scenario and would potentially allow registered sex offenders to temporarily dwell within 2,000 feet of a school.”[4] A majority of patients at the Rocklin facility would have been involuntary patients.[5]
UHS’s psychiatric division has also drawn opposition to UHS building an 80 bed psychiatric facility in Stuart, Martin County, Florida. [6]  Approval was given while five of UHS’s behavioral hospitals in Florida were under federal investigation and amid allegations of its facility’s abuse of Florida’s involuntary commitment law, The Baker Act.
In December 2016, a BuzzFeed News report also revealed that UHS uses involuntary commitment laws, such as Florida’s Baker Act to detain patients.[7] A former patient also told Action News Jax in Jacksonsville, Florida that she was detained in a UHS facility under The Baker Act and held longer than the allowed 72 hours. Her insurance company was billed thousands of dollars.[8]
A list of 54 police investigations into UHS’s now-closed National Deaf Academy (NDA) in Mount Dora, Florida between 2008 and 2014 revealed 15 calls involved alleged battery, 10 involved alleged abuse, while three involved alleged sexual abuse.[9] In January 2016 NDA closed in the wake of FBI and other state investigations and lawsuits. According to one state report, three patients died in recent years in allegedly negligent circumstances. [10]
In 2015, in Illinois, Rock River Academy and Residential Center, a behavioral facility for adolescent girls with severe emotional disabilities run by UHS, closed after an investigation found the residents suffered severe abuse. The Rockford Police Department fielded more than 700 reports “concerning victimization of girls” at the facility, including “rape, aggravated battery and sodomy” during a four-year period, according to a lawsuit filed against Rock River.[11]
In February this year, Action Jax News conducted an investigation into two Florida UHS behavioral facilities, River Point Behavioral Health and Wekiva Springs and received dozens of calls from patients who said they were held longer than medically necessary so that those business could milk their insurance. Five former patients are now pursuing lawsuits against River Point and Wekiva Springs.[12]
CCHR says a national investigation is needed into the for-profit psychiatric hospital industry. There is a vital need for an overhaul of how the for-profit behavioral health chains operate, in light of reports of repeatedly committing Medicare and Medicaid fraud, agreeing to non-prosecutable settlements and Correction Plans and/or Corporate Integrity Agreements (CIAs), then continue to be repeat offenders.  Patients’ lives are at risk, the group says.
[1] Jeff Manning, “State turns thumbs-down on Wilsonville psychiatric hospital,” The Oregonian/OregonLive, 24 Feb 2017,
[2] Rosalind Adams, “Federal Investigation into UHS Must Stay Secret, Says Inspector General,” BuzzFeedNews, 22 Dec. 2016,; “Senator seeks details on UHS investigation from HHS,” Becker’s Hospital Review, 12 Dec. 2016,
[3] Rosalind Adams, “Federal Investigation into UHS Must Stay Secret, Says Inspector General,” BuzzFeedNews, 22 Dec. 2016,
[4] “Planning Commission, Police Chief Recommend Denying Permit for Mental Health Facility in Rocklin,” Fox 40 News, 6 Jan. 2016,
[5] “Rocklin mental health facility raises concerns,” Sacramento Bee, 21 Nov. 2015,
[7] “Locked On The Psych Ward: Lock them in. Bill their insurer. Kick them out. How scores of employees and patients say America’s largest psychiatric chain turns patients into profits,” BuzzFeed News, 7 Dec. 2016,
[8] Jenna Bourne, “Jacksonville mental health facilities dodge questions about fraud allegations,” Action News Jax, 8 Dec 2016,
[9] “’Mom, Please Help’: FBI Probing Alleged Abuse of Deaf, Autistic Kids,” NBC News, 14 Sept. 2016,
[10] “’Mom, Please Help’: FBI Probing Alleged Abuse of Deaf, Autistic Kids,” NBC News, 14 Sept. 2016,
[11] Lorraine Bailey, “Severe Abuse Alleged at Illinois Home for Girl,” Courthouse News Service, 10 Sept. 2015,
[xii] “Most Duval County mental health patients don’t get hearings required by law,” Action News Jax, 7 Feb. 2017,