Unsafe Haven: Viewer Email

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In response to its investigation of Charter Hospitals, CBS News received hundreds of emails. Many of these letters came from people who had had first-hand experience with Charter, as either patients or employees. Most of these people backed up what CBS had found. Many others were outraged at Charter; a few said that CBS had been unfair to the mental health care industry by focusing only on the bad. Below are a few of the more noteworthy letters.

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Just watched your show and I was so glad to see that somebody finally spoke out! Managed care has changed the focus of health care….just like Mr. Johnson said….Charter only cares about the money-not the patient's mental health. If you think that Charter Pines was shocking - check out Charter Fairmount in Philadelphia. Children are admitted to beds where other children have just left (not cleaned in between), rugs smell from urine and spills, children are admitted and have to sleep in quiet rooms because the beds are full, and restraints are a common occurrence. Staffing is short and people are not trained specific for children. The remark he made about the in-service trainings is true…..when there were any trainings! I speak from experience - worked there for many years - and had to leave. Reason? I cared too much about the kids!

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I was employed and/or affiliated with Charter Medical for over ten years and watched the system deteriorate to the point represented in your story. I held clinical and administrative positions in a system and left in 1997 when it was clear that the "ship was sinking."

I was affiliated with Charter's "flagship" hospital in Atlanta…Peachford. I watched "The Peach" die on the vine and the quality of administration and professional staff dwindle.

Charter is and always has been a business. Keeping "heads in the beds" is and always has been the primary objective. Insurance fraud is part of the culture. I watched as physicians maintained caseloads of 30 to 40 patients… billing each for 45 minutes of therapy a day….not that many hours in any day that I know.

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You just touched the tip of the iceberg. In the private sector of mental health the battle cry of administrators, as far as care for patients is concerned, is: "If it don't make dollars, it don't make sense." I have been an MHT for more than nine years in the private and public sectors and can say without hesitation that over 90% of any care, counseling, diagnosing, treatment and even if a patient is or is not going to be discharged, no matter what the billing says, is done or determined by the MHTs……

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Good work on uncovering an ongoing abuse of humanity that continues to remain hidden. How do these guys get away with this? To think that our tax money is going directly to these jerks who are preying on people who need help.
Ann Cannon
Caney, Oklahoma.

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I am a retired licensed profession clinical counselor, who has woked in the mental health field since 1980. For the most part mental health facilities are run with compassion and skill. What hospitalization is used for, should be used for, for those individuals that are a significant danger to themselves or others. Counseling is typically not part of hospitalization because insurance companies will not pay for more that 3-4 days. Just as ER patients are stabilized then placed in more appropriate facilities, that is the goal of hospitalization concerned with acute mental dysfunction. We calm them so they can hear what options are available. Then it is up to the patients and/or their families to get long-term counseling. I think it is very important for the general public to understand that counseling other than "band-aid" work cannot, at this time, be offered.

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I watched your program featuring Charter Behavioral health systems this evening. I was a mental health counselor for charter behavioral health systems in Mission Viejo, California for 6 months. What I saw there was unbelievable. I worked on the adult lockdown unit, the adult unit, and the children's unit.
While I worked there I was made aware that a former patient, that had been there for over a month, who was released because his insurance ran out, killed himself the very next day.
I too received no formal training in restraints or patient care. I was put into a room with 5 other new counselors and left there to sign paperwork for at least 2 hours. I was then told to come back the next day for my first shift.
Tricia
Palm Springs, California

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While I missed the program tonight, a friend did email me with your web site regarding "Unsafe Haven." I'm so glad you posted so much information about the show, it gives me a first hand account of a show I couldn't watch.
Sincerely,
Richard Shaw

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And a very well done to Mr. Terrance Johnson.
He did excellent work and it was apparent that he sincerely cared about the patients and about exposing the corrupt system.
Lauren Blaine
Hollywood, California

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I had mixed feelings watching … Unsafe Haven. Of course things like this must be exposed and addressed. But I've got to say, as someone who has worked in health care for some 13 years, where have you been? It was clear to most 20 years ago that making medical and psychiatric decisions based upon "cost containment." And "cost effectiveness" was a dangerous trend. Yet managed care is the great medical event of the decade!
Wake up! It's going to get worse, not better.

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Kudos for going after Charter! I worked for them for 18 years and was threatened to be fired because I did not admit a patient who had good health insurance, even though the patient did not need admission. I left soon after and worked for another corporation for 8 years - until Charter bought them out. I left the day Charter took over. The bottom line seemed to be their only interest.
Louise Mack

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I work at a charter faciliy in San Diego. Why doesn't anyone ever do a story on the many people that are helped at these facilities, whose lives have been saved, who have success stories? Is it not worthy of any publicity?

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Thank you for airing the report on restraint and seclusion. The public needs to know what goes on in psychiatric hospitals with our most vulnerable citizens.

My 36-year-old brother died November 11 during a take-down restraint in Stockton, California. Our family struggles daily with this tragedy.

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Dear Mr. Bradley:

As my wife and I watched the investigation into Charter Hospitals, I was seething with anger and frustration at the absolute impunity under which Charter Hospitals operates in the guise of "patient care."

My wife was hospitalized for severe depression at a Charter facility in Jackson, Mississippi. I was amazed at the speed and swiftness they employed in admitting her. However, I was very soon to realize there was an underlying motive….Insurance.

When she was admitted, my wife was kept in a "lockdown" area because the interviewing counselor said that she was a danger to herself. After another seven days in a less restricted wing, her counselor and doctor pronounced her "stable" and well enough to go home. I could not help but notice that her remarkable recovery coincided with the number of days for which our insurance would pay.

Three weeks later, my wife was in serious danger of harming herself, and when I called Charter for help, I was told that I could not bring her there because we had an outstanding balance on our bill. I asked the person on the phone what would happen if I just showed up on the door with her. I was told in no uncertain terms that they would refer us "to some other hospital emergency room." Two hours later, I had to take her to an emergency room because she had taken a handful of pills.

In my experience, Charter Systems is only out to make a dollar, without regard to the dangers and well-being of those they propose to help. Charter has very slick commercials and a well-polished advertising campaign that makes the general public seek them out when faced with serious behavioral problems. Unfortunately, the actual care received is only in direct proportion to the patient's ability to pay.

Thank you for helping to expose this dastardly practice to this world. it is very difficult to explain to anyone that has not had experience in these types of situations exactly what we, as families and patients, go through in getting the proper help for our loved ones. Add to that the greed exhibited by this corporation in a situation where most families are emotionally traumatized and unable to think clearly, and you can see how much of a stigma we face.

Again, thank you so very much. Perhaps the public will begin to understand the situations we face and drop the stigma society has placed on mental illness.

Sincerely,
W. Earl Davis
Vicksburg, Mississippi

Unsafe Hven: Update
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  • A.J. Warren

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