Unsafe Haven: FAQ

Why Did CBS News Start The Investigation?

Did CBS News pay Terrance Johnson to work at Charter? How did CBS News start doing the story? How does this story compare to other recent stories that used hidden cameras? Here you'll find a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) about various aspects of the Unsafe Haven story. Get the answers in a quick question-and-answer format.
  • How Did CBS Start Doing This Story? This was a case in which we investigated a single incident which turned out to be just a tiny piece of a major public health issue. We heard a strange story about a 16-year-old boy who had died in Greensboro, North Carolina. The boy, Tristan Sovern, was being restrained by the staff of a Charter hospital, supposedly to keep him from hurting himself. But in the process of restraining him, the staff covered his mouth with a towel and a sheet--to keep him from biting--and he was asphyxiated. We spoke to his mother, Jean Allen, and looked at more than 20 Charter hospitals. We found that there were serious complaints about Charter all over the country.
  • Why Investigate Charter Behavioral Health Systems? Charter is by far the largest mental health care provider in the country. It has 91 hospitals and treats 120,000 inpatients a year, of which 35,000 are children and adolescents. It has a net income of $730 million. About half of that is taxpayer money.
  • Why Use An Undercover Camera?
  • There is no other way to tell this story. We reported this story for months before we began using an undercover camera. There is much that public records do not show, because there is much that private psychiatric hospitals do not have to report. Even when a child dies in their care, private psychiatric hospitals in most states don't have to report it to any government agency. Employees kept telling us that you have to work in a psychiatric hospital to see what really happens there. Even the state regulators in North Carolina, who have worked with us on this story, said that.
  • How Did We Shoot This Footage?
  • CBS News had a special camera built just for this story. Terrance Johnson had a tiny camera in his eyeglasses, a recorder in his pants, and an on-off switch in his pocket.
  • What Kind Of Reporting Did CBS News Do Besides Using An Undercover Camera?
  • More than a year of reporting was done, including examining documents and conducting interviews at more than 20 Charter hospitals.
  • Where Did Terrance Work?
  • Charlotte, North Carolina, which is just down the road from Greensboro, where Tristan Sovern died.
  • Why Did Terrance Do This If He's Not A Journalist?
  • He did it because of his own interest in this field.
  • What Did CBS News Find?
  • Evidence of dangerous conditions, unqualified staff, falsified records, numerous instances where doctors barely knew their patients. Tristan Sovern was the third patient in four months to die in rstraints in a Charter hospital. Staff who had worked only at restaurants and clothing stores were hired and immediately expected to run group sessions, assess children's behavior, and restrain children. Terrance taped a nurse showing him how she makes up negative assessments, so insurance will pay.
  • Who Is Regulating These Hospitals?
  • They get public money, but the law doesn't require them to report much to the government. We called all 50 states, and in 34 states the law doesn't require these hospitals to report even when a child dies in restraints. Government depends on the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations to inspect psychiatric hospitals. 95% of the time, Joint Commission inspections are paid for by the hospitals themselves, and the hospitals usually know the inspectors are coming.
  • How Many People Have Died In Restraints In Mental Health Facilities?
  • At least 35 people in two and a half years.
  • What Is The Legislation Proposed In Congress About Restraints?
  • It would establish stricter guidelines for restraints and better oversight of them. It was just proposed in April.
  • What Is The Inspector General Of Health And Human Services, June Gibbs-Brown, Doing About Charter Hospital?
  • : The Inspector General is doing a nationwide investigation of Charter. The IG's office has taken action against Charter twice in the last five years.
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