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Midvale psychiatric hospital banned from taking new patients for third time

Posted at 5:09 PM, Jul 27, 2023

MIDVALE, Utah — Highland Ridge Hospital, a for-profit psychiatric facility in Midvale, is no longer allowed to accept new patients because of deficiencies identified by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in a recent inspection.

The punishment is just the latest in a series of cases involving the facility.

For the past two years, some employees and investigators have referred to Highland Ridge as the “Rape Hospital” because of how frequently patients are sexually assaulted and how infrequently the staff report those cases to police.

On Tuesday, state investigators revoked the license for Highland Ridge Hospital and issued a “conditional license” because of a case involving a patient who was reportedly not given proper medication or instructions upon discharge.

Highland Ridge will not be able to accept new patients until the facility comes up with an acceptable "Plan of Correction” approved by DHHS.

“Short of closing a facility, a conditional license is one of the most severe things we can do,” said Joe Dougherty, the communications director for DHHS. “This can be really serious for a person who requires medication in order to have a stable life... In this case, we’re aware that this particular patient’s family had continued trying to call and contact Highland Ridge but was getting nowhere.”

Several former employees have criticized DHHS for failing to shut down the facility given its extensive history of deficiencies cited by the state.

Dougherty stated DHHS is entering a “new era” of enforcement.

“In the past, we’ve seen Highland Ridge punished less for more widespread issues. Is this sending a message?” asked FOX 13 News investigative reporter Adam Herbets.

“What we hope is that any provider will know that we are paying very close attention,” Dougherty responded. “Every individual has a right to health and safety, and this is our whole goal, to protect that... There is a possibility this is happening with other patients, and it needs to be corrected.”

Highland Ridge Hospital has had its license revoked twice before.

Employees said they now fear the cycle is going to continue.

Amy Robinson, a mother from Arizona, agreed with the idea of Highland Ridge Hospital having poor communication with patient families. She said she spent months trying to speak with her 16-year-old son when he was at Highland Ridge for anxiety and depression.

It wasn’t until her son returned home that she found out he had sex with another patient and that it was never reported to parents, police, or child protective services.

“(An employee told me), ‘Oh! I thought you knew about that! That happened on the hospital side. They must not have actually reported it,’” Robinson recalled. “I’ve never been to Utah. We were in the middle of a pandemic. We couldn’t travel. It seems like they were constantly in chaos and short staffed... They would transfer to ‘the unit’ and then it would ring, and ring, and ring, and no one would answer.”

Robinson’s case is just one of many alleged sexual assaults FOX 13 News has been examining for the past few years.

Officers with the Unified Police Department have been called out to the facility at least 86 times since January 2019.

21 of those 86 cases are sex assault cases. One Highland Ridge employee was criminally charged for not reporting assault cases. He ultimately received a settlement in which he only had to pay a $690 fine for the charge to be removed from his record.

FOX 13 News plans to run a special report on that aspect of the story next month.

CEO Jim Hess sent an email to FOX 13 News prior to the facility’s license being revoked, stating he is "very proud of the care and programs we provide these patients, many of whom are at the lowest points in their lives when they come to us.”

Highland Ridge has not yet responded to a follow-up request for comment since DHHS imposed additional penalties.

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