DENVER — “This is literally a matter of life and death.”
That was how one of the state’s leading advocates for individuals with mental illness responded to a series of reports by the Contact7 Investigates team about the Clear View Behavioral Health facility and alleged indiscretions that have led to multiple state investigations.
Andrew Romanoff, the former President and CEO of Mental Health Colorado, “I thought to myself: If this happened to somebody in my family, I would want to rip somebody from limb to limb.”
Investigations by four state of Colorado agencies and one federal agency into Clear View Behavioral Health in Johnstown, Colo. are currently underway.
Denver7 has confirmed the Colorado Attorney General, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), the Colorado Department of Behavioral Health and the Offices for Medicare and Medicaid Services are all now conducting independent investigations.
The 92-bed mental health facility has been heavily scrutinized in the wake of two investigative reports by Contact7 in which family members, patients, current employees and former employees questioned the quality of care provided at Clear View.
So far, more than three-dozen insiders have accused the Johnstown mental health hospital of short staffing that places patients and staff members in danger. In addition, they say Clear View keeps patients longer than medically necessary to maximize insurance payments, and the group says senior management has made profits the priority over patient care.
“I’m not a prosecutor, but if these allegations are true … people ought to be going to jail,” Romanoff said after watching the Contact7 investigations. “We ought to treat people with mental illness with the same respect, the same dignity, the same concern as anyone else.”
Romanoff recently resigned his post as head of Mental Health Colorado after announcing his intention enter Colorado’s 2020 U.S. Senate race — an effort to win the Democratic nomination to try and unseat Republican Cory Gardner.
Several former employees have reached out to Denver7 demanding some sort of accountability for their former employer. Many asked Contact7 Investigates to conceal their identities for fear of retaliation.
A former Mental Health Tech said, “I can tell you that patient care was not a priority.” A former nurse said, “it’s a scandal what they are doing.” And a former patient who spent 10 days inside Clear View said, “You can’t treat people the way they treat people. People are not animals … people are not paychecks.”
Romanoff weighed in on the urgency of the situation.
“I wish it didn’t take an investigation from an enterprising or a courageous staff member … there ought to be a mechanism to monitor safety conditions because what we are talking about is literally a matter of life and death,” he said.
The accusations continued from a nurse who quit working at Clear View after less than a month on the payroll.
“They are not getting the real therapy they need. They are being held there when they shouldn’t be staying there,” she said.
Contact7 Investigates asked the nurse, how she thought state and federal investigators might respond to her claims.
“Well I think they should be disgusted and horrified,” she said. “Family members and patients that are mentally ill or just needing some assistance are being stuck in the facility, and taxpayers and insurance money are being used improperly,” she said.
State investigations underway
Early this month, the state of Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment downgraded Clear View’s operations license to a conditional license and required the facility to meet three conditions to remain in operation. In addition, CDPHE regulators made a surprise visit to Clear View one week after the initial Contact7 Investigates report aired.
“Our message to senior management at Clear View is there are problems,” said Randy Kuykendall, facilities director for CDPHE. “Those problems have to be recognized. Those problems must, and I emphasize must … be fixed.”
The state also acknowledged it has received an increase in calls to its hospital complaint hotline (303-692-2827). “I think it’s important to note we did experience an uptick in terms of information with regards to this particular investigation following your last broadcast,” added Kuykendall.
In recent weeks, more former employees, patients, family members and informed insiders have also reached out to the Contact7 Investigates team with more information.
One former administrator who worked at the facility for two years, who got in touch with Contact7 Investigates, said she had seen questionable practices when it came to billing insurance companies. And another former Clear View employee said, “They need to be shut down, there is no reason why they should be allowed to care for people. Not a chance in hell, Sorry!”
When asked if shutting down Clear View was a possibility, Kuykendall said it “absolutely” was.
“Under no circumstances will the department allow poor care, dangerous care to continue there,” he said.
If you have a tip for Contact7 Chief Investigative Reporter Tony Kovaleski Call him at (303) 832-0172 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org