Beaumont Health is handing control of its inpatient psychiatric services to a for-profit company accused in recent years by regulators and whistleblowers of abusing and endangering patients and fraudulently billing Medicare and Medicaid for millions of dollars.

Universal Health Services, a Pennsylvania-based, publicly traded company that operates more than 185 inpatient behavioral health facilities around the country, is financing construction of a new, $40 million psychiatric hospital in Dearborn for Beaumont and will run day-to-day operations once it opens. 

Tom Watkins, who used to lead the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority, said he worries that Universal’s bottom line is to make money for its shareholders, and that could put low-income patients in danger.

“Their goal is to make money, and there’s not a lot of profit in taking in very, very sick patients,” Watkins said. “The beds tend not to take the public patients.”

Mark Reinstein, who led the Mental Health Association in Michigan for nearly two decades, said he is also troubled by the allegations raised in the whistleblower lawsuits against Universal and asked: “Are we going to see some of these things in the new hospital?”

Beaumont will move its three psychiatric units from its hospitals in Taylor, Farmington Hills and Royal Oak into the new building, doubling its inpatient capacity to 150 beds, including 24 new beds for children and teens. The hospital, at more than 100,000 square feet, is expected to open this fall. 

Construction continues on a new mental health hospital off Rotunda Drive in Dearborn, which is a partnership between Beaumont Health and Universal Health Services, on Tuesday, April 20, 2021.
Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press

“It will be a UHS facility with a Beaumont label on it,” said a Beaumont psychiatrist who “adamantly opposed” the plan when it was announced. The psychiatrist, who asked to remain anonymous for job protection reasons, remains frustrated by what the doctor called a lack of transparency from Beaumont about how the new hospital will be staffed. The physician also said it was unclear whether current employees will be able to keep their jobs and seniority.

In a statement, Beaumont said employees would need to apply to work at the new campus, but the joint venture would recognize their seniority and experience. Beaumont said the timetable for moving its psychiatric units into the hospital hinges on state regulatory approvals, and the ownership split will not be known until the project is done.  

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Beaumont said it considered more than a dozen potential partners, conducted an extensive vetting process and made its decision with input from doctors, nurses, other staff and community members. Dearborn was chosen because it is easily accessible to a significant portion of its patients, according to the health system. Beaumont announced its plans for a new, psychiatric hospital with Universal in November 2018.

“This new campus will provide care in a leading-edge facility accessible to many patients,” Lee Ann Odom, president of Beaumont Shared Services, said in a statement.

It’s been a tumultuous year for Beaumont, one of Michigan’s largest health care systems, based in Southfield. Beaumont eliminated jobs and laid off workers as its finances plummeted at the start of the pandemic and called off an unpopular merger with an out-of-state hospital system. A widening rift between doctors and executives prompted a former board member to ask Michigan’s attorney general to intervene, saying the discord was jeopardizing patient health and safety.

A Free Press investigation found that Beaumont’s own doctors warned executives against the deal with Universal. The health care company agreed last year to pay $122 million to settle 19 federal whistleblower lawsuits that alleged some of its mental health hospitals, including two in Michigan, mistreated patients and filed false claims against government insurance programs.

One of the Michigan cases, against Havenwyck Hospital in Auburn Hills, alleged the hospital’s practices put patients at risk of death.

According to the Justice Department, the settlement is among the largest reached by the department in recent years in cases against medical providers accused of billing for medically unnecessary services or charging for services not provided as billed.

As the whistleblower cases made their way through court, Universal was also under criminal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. But the criminal inquiry was closed as Universal and the government moved toward a civil settlement, according to a company annual report.

Excerpt from Universal whistleblower lawsuit filed in Georgia in April 2014
… Defendant resorted to filling beds with “7” “frequent flyers” who were attracted to the St. Simon By-The-Sea’s “three hot meals and a cot.” Many of these inpatient “frequent flyers” were homeless people with substance abuse problems who had nowhere else to go and did not meet any criteria for admission.

As part of that settlement agreement, Universal is now under oversight from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ office of the inspector general, which can inspect the company’s records and talk to staff to ensure Universal is complying with its corporate integrity agreement with the federal government.

Universal “unequivocally disputes any allegation that it engaged in wrongdoing of any kind,” Diane Henneman, who oversees Universal’s behavioral health facilities in the Midwest, said in a statement. 

But starting in 2006, according to the whistleblowers involved in the cases, company employees at some hospitals forcibly drugged patients to punish or incapacitate them; recruited patients in emergency rooms, group homes, military bases and a soup kitchen, and held patients longer than medically necessary to collect their insurance benefits.

The lawsuits also claimed some Universal hospitals billed Medicare and Medicaid for group therapy sessions that never happened, handed out cigarettes and personal hygiene products to mollify patients, and threatened to call law enforcement to force parents to admit their children, even if it wasn’t medically necessary.

Separately, Michigan has investigated Universal hospitals in the state. Regulators with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs looked into allegations of patient mistreatment at Havenwyck and a second Universal hospital, Forest View in Grand Rapids, a Free Press investigation found.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show LARA officials investigated Havenwyck in 2016 after an 11-year-old boy crashed into the frame of a bed that had no mattress, breaking two of his top front teeth. LARA also investigated allegations that Forest View hospital had violated its own policies when it failed to report a patient’s claim that she had been sexually assaulted. 

Advocates for mentally ill people say they are concerned the new, Universal-run Beaumont hospital will try to fill its beds with patients who have health insurance, potentially leaving vulnerable, uninsured patients without care. They say they’re also concerned the hospital will make decisions about which patients to admit based on their diagnosis, prognosis and past behavior.

Tom Watkins, who used to lead the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority, expressed concerns about the Beaumont-Universal tie-up.

Tom Watkins, who used to lead the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority, expressed concerns about the Beaumont-Universal tie-up.
Provided by Tom Watkins

Public patients are often poor people who have been referred for hospitalization by community mental health programs.

Watkins, a former mental health director for the state, said it is “mind-boggling” that the state has already given various approvals to the new hospital, considering Universal’s alleged track record. Those approvals include a state building permit and permission to transfer and add beds to the hospital.

“It just doesn’t add up,” Watkins said.  

Reinstein, who retired from the Mental Health Association in Michigan last year, said that private psychiatric hospitals and the psychiatric units of community hospitals “don’t want the so-called more difficult cases and don’t want cases when there’s no ready reimbursement mechanism.

“They don’t want to take people with very complex cases or a history of acting out and a private, for-profit new hospital isn’t likely to be any different in that regard.”

Mark Reinstein, former CEO of the Mental Health Association in Michigan, standing outside in Ann Arbor, Mich. on Tuesday, April 13, 2021.

Mark Reinstein, former CEO of the Mental Health Association in Michigan, standing outside in Ann Arbor, Mich. on Tuesday, April 13, 2021.
Antranik Tavitian, Detroit Free Press

Reinstein said he has little confidence that LARA will provide the proper oversight, “based on my experience in other mental health matters.” LARA, which issued the hospital a construction permit last year, will be in charge of licensing and overseeing the facility.

Universal said in a statement that the facility will address the state’s growing, unmet need for behavioral health services and will provide “compassionate, professional care to all patients. …” 

The Beaumont-Universal tie-up has supporters.

Excerpt from Universal whistleblower lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania in November 2013
If a Medicare patient directly requests a discharge, he or she is often threatened with involuntary commitment even though there is no medical basis to do so.

Robert Sheehan, CEO of the Community Mental Health Association of Michigan, said that while the claims in the lawsuits are troubling, Universal’s three mental health hospitals in Michigan — Havenwyck, Forest View and Cedar Creek in St. Johns — have good reputations.

“At this point, the issues seem to be lodged within their corporate offices and not, from what we can see, within their local hospital operations. Given this, we will not be opposing this expansion,” Sheehan said in an email.

Universal is one of the country’s largest health care providers. It had revenues of $11.6 billion in 2020, has about 89,000 employees, operates 26 acute care hospitals and 334 behavioral health facilities, including locations in the United Kingdom and Puerto Rico, according to the company. 

When Universal settled the lawsuits in 2020, the company denied wrongdoing, saying the agreement did not “constitute a finding of improper conduct or failure to provide appropriate care and treatment. … UHS is pleased to have resolved this matter to avoid future distractions and the high costs of litigation, while ensuring that our focus remains steadfast on providing excellent care to our patients and their families.”

In a statement to the Free Press, Universal said providers are often faced with the difficult but “economically sensible choice” of settling such cases even if the allegations are denied. 

Doctors oppose tie-up

Beaumont said it sought input from its doctors. But several veteran Beaumont psychiatrists told the Free Press they were not consulted about Beaumont’s plans to let Universal take over their units. Others said they objected, but were overruled. 

“They didn’t even ask us,” Dr. Sabiha Omar, who has overseen the psychiatric unit at Beaumont Farmington Hills since 2019, said in a February interview with the Free Press. “We were told.” 

She said Beaumont has also not been forthcoming about whether employees will still have their jobs after the move. She said she has chosen not to work at the new hospital.

Omar said her patients, who are 55 and older, often need medical help from other specialists in the hospital, given their ages and acute health conditions. In her hospital, these patients can be moved out of her unit into hospice care or a general medical floor when necessary. 

Treating these senior patients in a psychiatric hospital in Dearborn won’t be as seamless, she said.

A former Beaumont psychiatrist echoed those concerns, saying seriously ill patients could die waiting for an ambulance.

“The risk far outweighs the benefit,” said the doctor, who the Free Press is not naming because the physician fears reprisal. 

Beaumont Health has three hospitals with psychiatric units, and a new hospital under construction in Dearborn.

Beaumont Health has three hospitals with psychiatric units, and a new hospital under construction in Dearborn.
Brian McNamara

Psychiatric patients who realize they need to be hospitalized are already in a high state of trauma. Sometimes, they hear voices or harm themselves, another Beaumont psychiatrist said. 

“They’re fragile. A psychotic patient is dealing with horrible things inside their head,” the doctor said. The trip to Dearborn, “it adds another burden; it’s not good for them.”

Other Beaumont doctors also said they would prefer to have their psychiatric units remain in their communities, and to have their patients in a hospital with other specialists.

Some were also critical of the conditions at Havenwyck, run by Universal. In interviews, two former staffers said the hospital has been understaffed, prompting some patient complaints.

“They don’t treat people well, and it’s not well run,” said a Beaumont psychiatrist who had a patient treated at Havenwyck. The patient, the doctor said, “couldn’t get good care.”

“It’s not a healing environment. There’s too much chaos,” said the doctor, who asked to remain anonymous for job protection reasons. 

Universal’s Diane Henneman said Havenwyck “always has and will continue to staff appropriately to serve patient needs. … We vehemently disagree with the statements referenced; they mischaracterize the hospital environment and operations.”

Doctors opposed Beaumont’s plans with Universal in staff meetings and said at least one of them tried to talk about the issues with Dr. David Wood, Beaumont Health’s chief medical officer, but he “would not listen to us,” a doctor said in an interview. 

In a statement, Wood said: “I met with many clinical leaders to discuss our mental health strategy and we incorporated the feedback we received into the process of enhancing our mental health services and programs.”

Another psychiatrist said Beaumont has shared few details about how the new hospital will be run.

“The nursing staff is upset. They’re not sure of their future with UHS, not sure where they’re going to land,” the psychiatrist said. “We’ve lost people to COVID, layoffs. The remaining employees are asking what is going to happen to their positions.”

Construction continues on a new mental health hospital off Rotunda Drive in Dearborn, which is a partnership between Beaumont Health and Universal Health Services, on Tuesday, April 20, 2021.

Construction continues on a new mental health hospital off Rotunda Drive in Dearborn, which is a partnership between Beaumont Health and Universal Health Services, on Tuesday, April 20, 2021.
Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press

Another Beaumont psychiatrist said moving psychiatric patients into their own hospital, away from other patients and specialists, goes “against the grain of psychiatry, which is to integrate it into the other parts of medicine.”

Psychiatric care, the doctor said, “should be in a hospital that offers a range of services” and should remain in the local community. 

The new hospital, the doctor said, is a “throwback to the old days” when psychiatric patients were put “far away.”

Dr. Robert Trestman, a psychiatrist and chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, said integrating psychiatric patients in a larger hospital with other specialists is important, especially when patients are frail or elderly.

Excerpt from Universal whistleblower lawsuit filed in Michigan in June 2019
… several of the physicians at Havenwyck have standing orders for new/unadmitted patients to be started on drugs, despite never having been examined, since these physicians do not want the bother of being contacted while on call.

But there are other reasons, too, he said. Psychiatric patients who misuse   drugs may have infectious diseases, heart conditions or sepsis, and may need treatment for both their medical and psychiatric illnesses at the same time. Psychiatric patients who are depressed may not be taking care of themselves, and that only worsens medical conditions like diabetes.

“You get the depression under control and you’re able to get the diabetes under control,” Trestman said.

In its statement, Beaumont said small mental health units in large medical-surgical hospitals cannot provide the specialized services patients need. The new hospital, Beaumont said, will be capable of treating children, teens, seniors and patients with various distinct diagnoses, such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. 

“The needs of mental health patients vary by their diagnosis and a larger, more sophisticated facility will better serve their needs,” Odom said in her statement. 

And, like Beaumont, another of Michigan’s largest hospital systems is also joining with a for-profit, publicly traded company to build a new psychiatric hospital.

The Henry Ford Health System and Acadia Healthcare Co. announced in December a joint venture to build a 192-bed hospital next to its West Bloomfield campus.

Henry Ford said construction and equipment are expected to cost $50 million, which Acadia is covering. The hospital is expected to open in late 2022. 

Henry Ford said it will move inpatient services from two of its locations in Ferndale and Mount Clemens to the new hospital. But it will keep inpatient psychiatric units at its hospitals in Wyandotte and Jackson.

Tennessee-based Acadia has also come under scrutiny from the Justice Department, for running an alleged billing scheme involving seven drug treatment centers in West Virginia. The Justice Department announced in May 2019 it had settled the case for $17 million, calling it the largest such settlement in the state’s history. 

Acadia said the government’s civil investigation in West Virginia involved “technical and complex state and federal billing and coding procedures governing reimbursement for lab testing services.” It also noted that there were “zero allegations or issues identified with the level or quality of care provided to patients or the medical necessity of such care.”

Trestman said he is concerned about the trend of community hospital systems joining with for-profit companies to handle their psychiatric patients. 

These hospital operators could cut costs by hiring fewer nurses or using more nurse practitioners and physician assistants in place of psychiatrists, he said. Hospitals can also find ways of refusing to admit the sickest, most difficult patients by saying they are too violent, too agitated, he added.

“The risks are very significant,” Trestman said.

State investigates claims

In Michigan, LARA has investigated complaints against Universal and Beaumont. According to documents released under an open records request, the department found more serious violations at Universal than at Beaumont in recent years.

A Free Press review of records provided by LARA showed the department found just one justified complaint against a Beaumont psychiatric unit over a five-year period ending in late 2020.

The LARA investigators concluded that a staff member at Beaumont Farmington Hills in 2018 used an antipsychotic medication on an 85-year-old patient with depression and bipolar disorder to get her to go to sleep. That approachLARA said, violates rules against using chemical restraints for staff convenience. LARA did not require the hospital to take action to resolve the case.

At Universal hospitals, LARA found four justified complaints over the same five-year period.

In one case, state regulators determined that Forest View hospital had violated its own policies when it failed to report to law enforcement a patient’s claim that she had been sexually assaulted. Despite that finding, LARA did not require corrective action, documents show.

But in other cases, LARA took action against Universal’s hospitals.

The department investigated Havenwyck after receiving two complaints that an 11-year-old boy with bipolar disorder had been injured in 2016.

Havenwyck Hospital in Auburn Hills on Tuesday, April 13, 2021.

Havenwyck Hospital in Auburn Hills on Tuesday, April 13, 2021.
Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press

LARA reviewed security camera footage of the room where staffers had taken the boy to be restrained. The patient, LARA said, “was trying to escape staff and attempting to hit them.” LARA said two staff members restrained the boy at the foot of the bed by holding his arms. The boy struggled, and “suddenly propelled himself forward, landing face first on the bed.”

His face struck the hard frame. Two of his upper front teeth broke off.

LARA interviewed the boy, who said: “Two people pushed me down on the bed in the quiet room, with no mattress on the bed, and I smashed my teeth on the bed frame.”

But one of the employees, a nurse, told LARA that the boy was angry, and had thrown a mattress at two staff members. The nurse described the boy as “out of control and we couldn’t get him to settle down.” The nurse said they were trying to get him on the bed so another nurse could give him a shot to calm him.

“When we let him up after the shot, I saw two little teeth and he said, ‘Look what you did to my teeth,’ ” the nurse told LARA. 

During the investigation, a LARA official observed the mattress on the bed and described it as an “exercise-camping” type of mattress that wasn’t contoured to fit the frame and slid off the bed when touched.

Excerpt from Universal whistleblower lawsuit filed in Michigan in June 2019
Once admitted, patients are chemically restrained using medications that are not necessarily prescribed upon an actual physician’s examination.

LARA concluded that the hospital had violated federal standards for failing to ensure the bed in the seclusion room was safe.

As part of its corrective plan with the state, the hospital agreed to retrain all of its nurses, focusing on proper restraint techniques.

Universal in a statement to the Free Press called it “an unfortunate accident” and noted that Havenwyck used the incident to “conduct additional training with our staff on restraint holds.”

LARA also investigated how Universal’s Forest View handled a claim by a 52-year-old patient who reported she had been sexually assaulted by two employees. Forest View officials never reported the claim to authorities as required by hospital policy, LARA found.

The next day, the patient called her sister, who contacted law enforcement. 

“Patient wanted to call 911, but called her sister, and had her sister call the police to investigate the alleged assaults. She was tearful talking about it,” according to a hospital social worker’s report.

Two officers from the sheriff’s department spoke with the patient, who told them “she had been sexually assaulted by two male staff on two separate occasions,” according to a Forest View nurse’s note obtained by LARA. Records of the state investigation provided to the Free Press do not include any findings from law enforcement about the patient’s claim.

LARA’s report said the hospital later investigated and concluded that the allegations made by the patient could not be substantiated. The patient suffered a variety of illnesses, including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, agitation, psychosis, auditory and visual hallucinations.

The hospital’s CEO, who was not identified by name in the investigative report, told LARA: “It should have been reported to the police (on) our side rather than the client’s.” 

According to the CEO, every staff member received training on how to report allegations of abuse. But when LARA asked for documentation, the hospital merely provided minutes of a staff meeting at which there was no apparent training. In its statements to the Free Press, Universal did not respond to a question about the training.

According to records from LARA, the department took no action against Forest View. 

Whistleblowers sound alarm

The allegations of wrongdoing against Universal are the result of nearly a decade’s worth of lawsuits filed by insiders at the company. 

Troy lawyer Shereef Akeel

Troy lawyer Shereef Akeel
Shereef Akeel

The whistleblower lawsuits were filed under the federal False Claims Act, which permits private parties to sue on behalf of the federal government and to share in any settlement money.

Experts say these cases are filed under seal to allow the Justice Department to quietly investigate the claims for 60 days. The government can request extensions until it makes a decision on how to proceed: It can intervene, ask the judge to dismiss the case, or allow the whistleblower lawyers to proceed. While these start as civil cases, the investigations can lead to criminal charges.

Shereef Akeel, a Troy lawyer who specializes in employment law, called the provisions under the false claims law “the one opportunity where a citizen can assist the government to prosecute fraud. It’s a great weapon to combat corruption.” 

Mark Schlein, with the law firm of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, filed a case on behalf of a whistleblower in May 2012 against Universal's River Point Behavioral Health.

Mark Schlein, with the law firm of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, filed a case on behalf of a whistleblower in May 2012 against Universal’s River Point Behavioral Health.
Mark Schlein

Eighteen of the Universal cases were settled together, with Universal agreeing to pay $117 million in penalties to the federal government and several states, including roughly $2.4 million to Michigan. (A 19th case was settled separately for $5 million.)

Erin Campbell, a Cincinnati lawyer who represents whistleblowers, called the large number of Universal lawsuits and the size of the settlement “extraordinarily rare” for cases involving allegations of billing for medically unnecessary care. She said the Justice Department’s decision to intervene in the 19 lawsuits suggests it believed taxpayers had been harmed and were owed millions of dollars.

David Kwok, associate professor at the University of Houston Law Center who researches the False Claims Act, said the government’s case against Universal involved a complicated investigation that was part of a larger effort by the Justice Department.

“This is unfortunately a small piece of that huge chunk of health care fraud that’s been growing over the past few decades,” Kwok said in an interview.

Mark Schlein, with the law firm of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, filed the first of the cases on behalf of a whistleblower in May 2012 in federal court in Florida against Universal’s River Point Behavioral Health. The whistleblower he represented alleged the Jacksonville hospital held patients improperly to exhaust their insurance benefits; admitted patients based on their insurance; billed for unnecessary services; and had group therapy sessions run by interns, unlicensed staff and even former patients.

Schlein said he wished he could call the allegations the most outrageous, but “they’re all too common when you begin investigating large-scale health care fraud.” 

Schlein said the settlements did not require Universal to admit wrongdoing, but added, “I can probably suggest a company won’t agree to pay $117 million for allegations it believes are false and untrue.”

As part of the settlement, Universal Health agreed to enter into a corporate integrity agreement until 2025 with the inspector general’s office of the U.S. Department Health and Human Services.

Excerpt from Universal whistleblower lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania in November 2017
… routinely “overstuffs” its facility by adding cots which allow it to exceed the approved number of patients that it serves … As a consequence, patients at UHS’ Roxbury facility have a high number of inappropriate outcomes, including sexual misconduct

Under the agreement, Universal must hire an independently selected monitor, which will assess the company’s protections for its mental health patients and report to the inspector general. In addition, an independent organization will do yearly reviews of the claims Universal’s inpatient behavioral health facilities submit to the federal government for reimbursement.

“Hopefully, it will have a positive effect on people using (Universal) and other psychiatric services. If we’ve improved the care a little bit, we’ve accomplished a lot,” Schlein said.

But this is not the first time Universal has been under the oversight of a federal watchdog.

When Schlein filed his case in 2012, Universal’s South Texas Health System was already under a corporate integrity agreement. The Justice Department alleged the system paid doctors illegally to refer patients to hospitals within the group.

The hospital system agreed to more stringent federal oversight and to pay $27.5 million to settle the whistleblower case.

Back in Michigan, two whistleblowers accused Universal’s Havenwyck Hospital in Auburn Hills in 2019 of routinely failing to provide medically appropriate care.

Their suit in U.S. District Court in Detroit claimed Havenwyck did not have the staff, medicine, personal protection equipment and services to adequately treat some of its sickest patients.

Havenwyck Hospital in Auburn Hills on Tuesday, April 13, 2021.

Havenwyck Hospital in Auburn Hills on Tuesday, April 13, 2021.
Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press

As a result, the lawsuit alleged, public funds were misused and there were medical emergencies and patient deaths. 

The lawsuit identified one of those who died as J.Y. It said the patient exceeded the hospital’s 350-pound weight limit by almost 50 pounds.

Excerpt from Universal whistleblower lawsuit filed in Georgia in February 2019
Georgia hospital staffers employed by Defendants UHS and Anchor routinely injected patients with powerful sedative drugs as a form of chemical restraint of the patient and as a form of discipline for the patients.

She was known for being violent with staff on previous stays at Havenwyck. During her final stay, the woman attacked one of the doctors, and was found dead in her room five days later, the suit said. 

According to the death notification that the hospital filed with the state, Havenwyck received the patient from Detroit Receiving Hospital. She had been found walking with no shoes on and unable to care for her basic needs.

Based on the death notification, the Oakland County medical examiner was able to identify her as Jane Young, who died in July 2018 of cardiovascular disease and obesity. The Free Press was unable to reach any of Young’s survivors. The lawsuit alleged her stay in Havenwyck was fraudulent because the hospital should not have admitted her because it did not have the staff and resources to care for her properly.

The lawsuit identified another patient who died at Havenwyck as K.J. It said she was admitted in January 2018 without a reliable medical or psychiatric history and her guardian was not contacted for further information.

The lawsuit said her medical status and history were unclear to Havenwyck during her hospitalization. The lawsuit said she did not attend any groups or participate in active treatment.

She was found unresponsive in her room six days after she was admitted, and died. K.J. is Kathy Jawor, 57, who died of heart disease, according to the medical examiner.

Three years after his sister died at Havenwyck, John Jawor of Novi, said he is still puzzled about her death.

Kathy Jawor, 57, of Dearborn Heights, died January 2018 while she was a patient at Havenwyck Hospital in Auburn Hills, Mich.

Kathy Jawor, 57, of Dearborn Heights, died January 2018 while she was a patient at Havenwyck Hospital in Auburn Hills, Mich.
John Jawor

Kathy Jawor had schizophrenia and had been in and out of mental institutions in her adult life. During her last days, she was initially admitted at Garden City Hospital before transferring to Havenwyck. Over the next week, John Jawor said, he and his sister talked over the phone. During one of those conversations, he recalled, she pleaded: “Get me out of here.” She had said similar things during earlier hospitalizations. 

“She sounded drugged,” Jawor said. That was routine too, during her hospitalizations. 

He took her clothes and toiletries to Havenwyck, but said he wasn’t allowed to see her because he hadn’t come during visiting hours.

Then he got the call: Kathy, who he said weighed 250 pounds, had been found sitting on the floor at the hospital. And his sister couldn’t be revived.

“Why was she sitting on the floor?” he remembers thinking to himself. “It struck me as really strange. … It raised questions in my mind.”

It raised questions, he said, because he had called 911 to help Kathy, who was severely obese, get off the floor of her home in Dearborn Heights on a couple of occasions.

He said the doctors who treated Kathy were inclined to try different drugs, different levels of drugs, and different combinations of drugs.

The doctors, like the families of these patients, seemed to be “grasping at straws” in their treatment, Jawor said. “They don’t have all the answers.”

He has his regrets, too.

“I wished I had loved her as she was. I should have just loved her where she was instead of always trying to heal her, to fix her, when it was out of my hands,” Jawor said.

Excerpt from Universal whistleblower lawsuit filed in Georgia in February 2019
The so-called “booty juice” was comprised of the anti-psychotic drugs Haldol or Mellaril. Once patients are given the booty Juice injections as a form of discipline or restraint they are then secluded in a secured room where they are monitored by cameras by non-physician staff …

At Havenwyck, whistleblowers said there were other problems.

Upon admission, patients were supposed to receive a 50-minute psychological exam from trained doctors, but at times, they received less than 10 minutes, the lawsuit alleged.

Those assessments were so cursory that they failed to include weight, life-threatening illnesses and the patients’ current prescriptions, the suit said. Some patients also did not receive meaningful physician care and did not receive group therapy, the suit alleged. Whistleblowers claimed that patients were “being warehoused rather than treated medically.”

The lawsuit also alleged the hospital handled patients’ medications improperly. It claimed patients were taken off their current medication, and nearly all were put on psychotropic drugs “within the first day of seeing a psychiatrist, including patients who do not appear to require inpatient care at all.”

“In short, patients are being chemically restrained without proper justification and in violation of the Michigan Mental Health Code as a means of extending stays on Medicare or Medicaid time,” the suit said. 

The 2019 suit, which was settled with 18 others, was filed by two whistleblowers, Sandra McLauchlin, who was in nursing management, and Christina Varner, a charge nurse. Their lawyer, Sarah Prescott, declined comment.

Universal said Havenwyck denies the allegations in the lawsuit. 

At Forest View Hospital in Grand Rapids, former employee Heidi Parent-Leonard accused the hospital of defrauding federal insurance programs.

Excerpt from Universal whistleblower lawsuit filed in Michigan in June 2019
… patients are being chemically restrained without proper justification and in violation of the Michigan Mental Health Code as a means of extending stays on Medicare or Medicaid time.

Parent-Leonard, a case manager at the hospital for two years, alleged in court papers that the hospital admitted patients who did not need inpatient care and that one of the doctors, Dr. Jahandar Saifollahi, improperly billed for services that were not provided and referred patents to himself and the hospital in violation of the law.

Dr. Saifollahi told the Free Press that he did not handle billing, Forest View did.

“I never billed anything for them,” he said. 

Saifollahi, a defendant in the suit, said he settled the case but did not admit to wrongdoing. Universal said an investigation was conducted and the hospital ended its relationship with Saifollahi.

According to a news release by Parent-Leonard’s lawyers announcing the settlement last summer, Saifollahi and his medical practice settled claims for $85,000.

Parent-Leonard said in a statement that she was stunned by the lack of services patients received at Forest View. She said Saifollahi would line patients up in the hallway and spend 5 minutes talking to each, one after another.

“Nobody was getting the help they needed,” Parent-Leonard said in the news release. (Reached by the Free Press, an attorney for Parent-Leonard said she was not available for an interview.)

She said in her statement she hoped that the hospital and Universal “‘will learn from these lawsuits and foster a culture of quality, respect, and honest dealings with their patients.”

Contact Jennifer Dixon: 313-223-4410 or [email protected]