The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) of Florida, a non-profit mental health watchdog that exposes human rights violations and is dedicated to the protection of children, is demanding answers as to why for-profit psychiatric hospitals currently under investigation for fraud are still operating as designated receiving facilities for those sent for involuntary psychiatric examination under the Baker Act.
The mental health law in Florida, commonly referred to as the Baker Act, allows for citizens to be sent for involuntary psychiatric examination at 127 public and private psychiatric wards designated as receiving facilities. These Baker Act Receiving Facilities are funded in part by the State of Florida and are contracted by Behavioral Health Managing Entities through the Department of Children and Families to receive and hold involuntary patients under emergency conditions for psychiatric evaluation and to provide short-term treatment.
As a mental health watchdog organization, CCHR has consistently received reports of alleged abuse or fraud committed in Florida’s Baker Act Receiving Facilities and as a result is demanding answers as to why private psychiatric facilities that are currently under investigation for fraud are still contracted and being paid to hold people on an involuntary basis.
An egregious example is the psychiatric and mental health facilities owned by Universal Health Services, Inc. (UHS). UHS runs the largest network of private for-profit psychiatric hospitals in the United States with more than 200 psychiatric facilities across the country and has annual revenue of $7.5 billion dollars – a third of which comes from Medicare and Medicaid.[i]
Currently 26 of UHS’s behavioral-psychiatric facilities are under federal investigation by the Department of Justice Civil and Criminal Divisions, the Office of the Inspector General, the Department of Defense, the Department of Health and Human Services as well as the FBI for alleged fraudulent billing practices under Medicare and Medicaid.[ii] [iii]
Four of the facilities under investigation, Central Florida Behavioral Hospital, River Point Behavioral Health, University Behavioral Center and Wekiva Springs, are Baker Act Receiving Facilities in Florida and all are still open and being paid to hold citizens for involuntary psychiatric examination.
Even more concerning is that despite the complaints about UHS’s behavioral/psychiatric facilities and federal investigations into them, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration approved UHS to open a new facility, Coral Shores Behavioral Health an 80-bed mental health facility in Stuart, Florida which is also a designated Baker Act Receiving Facility.[iv]
As a result, CCHR is calling for an investigation into the designation of UHS facilities as Baker Act Receiving Facilities and is asking for anyone employed in the mental health profession, families of people who have suffered abuse in a psychiatric facility or any staff or former staff of such facilities with knowledge of healthcare fraud or psychiatric abuse to please contact CCHR with full particulars and any documentary evidence at 727-442-8820 or online at www.cchrflorida.org.