Former patient describes experience at troubled mental health fa - KPTV - FOX 12

Former patient describes experience at troubled mental health facility

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GLADSTONE, OR (KPTV) -

Concerns about safety at a mental health treatment center for teens and adolescents at the center of an investigation by the Department of Human Services date back more than a decade, the agency said.

In November, DHS informed Northwest Behavioral Healthcare Services it would not be renewing its license to care for children, after an investigation turned up reports of staff inappropriately restraining patients, sedating them, and keeping them in isolation for days at a time.

Cierra Kaegi, a patient at the facility in 2016, said all three things mentioned in the report happened to her.

"They put gloves on and they started cornering us," said Kaegi. "They pinned me down. They pulled my pants down. And keep in mind, these were men. Full grown men. And they injected a shot into me."

Kaegi said she woke up in seclusion, in a so-called "quiet room," midway through the next day, and said she was held in seclusion for a total of three days, with staff members withholding therapy as punishment.

"I had broken blood vessels all over my face. I had bruises on my wrists. My back was sore," said Kaegi.

Andrea Horton, who worked as a counselor and supervisor at NW Behavioral Healthcare for close to three years, said the problems uncovered by the DHS investigation were concerns for her as far back as 2004.

"If a child was put on suicide watch, oftentimes the overnight staff wouldn't even check on them overnight. It wasn't secure and it wasn't safe," said Horton.

The facility's founder and director, Daniel Mahler, was recently convicted of federal tax evasion.

According to DHS, he continued to oversee the day-to-day operations at NW Behavioral Healthcare until early November, despite being ordered to step down by the agency in August.

In an emailed statement, Mahler said, "NW Behavioral Healthcare Services has been providing addiction and mental health care to youth and young adults in the Pacific Northwest for more than 16 years. We are proud of our work to help young people overcome difficult circumstances and guide them to a more positive future. We are committed to achieving a swift resolution of the state's review."

Mahler declined to answer specific questions about the state's investigation.

According to DHS, no children are currently being treated at the facility.

NW Behavior Healthcare has requested a hearing on the agency's decision not to renew its license.

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