A 6-year-old boy named Nicholas was, without his parents' consent, locked up for three days in September at a psychiatric facility in Jacksonville, Florida, reportedly for throwing a tantrum.
The boy's parents provided medical records to BuzzFeed News that show their young son was placed in a "seclusion" room for part of his time at River Point Behavioral Health, was assaulted by another child, and had to wait more than 24 hours to be examined by a psychiatrist.
The boy's medical records also show that his parents tried to get him out of River Point three times, but were not able to.
River Point told BuzzFeed News that news reports concerning the incident included "numerous inaccuracies, selectively quotes the medical record, and draws false conclusions" in the news site's article.
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River Point said that privacy laws did not allow the facility to discuss the child without permission from the parents, but River Point insisted that it provided quality care for the boy, and cited a letter from the Florida state government that said it met legal requirements for confining patients.
Nicholas' parents told BuzzFeed News that their son had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, and sometimes did not obey his teachers and/or struck people.
Nicholas' father said that a school counselor made the decision to send the boy to a psychiatric hospital for kicking and biting.
In Florida, the Baker Act allows someone to be sent to a psych ward for 72 hours if that person appears to suffer from mental illness and could cause harm to himself or others; this is a last resort option.
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Nicholas' mother recalled being phoned by the school, counselor, and River Point. The boy's mother said that she refused to give River Point her consent to lock up her son.
"I didn’t want him to be there at all," Nicholas' mother told BuzzFeed News. "It felt like my child had been kidnapped. I can’t even hug my kid and tell him it’s going to be okay."
Nicholas' father went to visit his son, and recalled signing a form that he thought was consent to give his son medication, but it turned out to be a hospitalization consent.
More than 24 hours into Nicholas' confinement, a psychiatrist examined the boy and determined that he did not have suicidal or homicidal thoughts, but added that Nicholas had "poor impulse control" and "aggressive behavior."
The psychiatrist recommended more confinement, and started a legal process to hold Nicholas even though his parents wanted him out.
Three ex-River Point therapists said it is normal for River Point to file court papers to keep insured patients at the facility against their will.
River Point said in its court filing that Nicholas needed more treatment (up to 90 days), because of a "substantial likelihood" of Nicholas causing "serious bodily harm" to himself or others.
The public defender disagreed, the court turned down River Point's legal request, and the facility was forced to free the boy after three days.
Nicholas' mother said that her son had bruises on the front of his legs. A nurse allegedly told her that the bruises came from Nicholas playing with other kids.
BuzzFeed News reported in December about numerous instances in which people were allegedly confined against their will in UHS psychiatric facilities.
UHS owns more than 200 of these facilities, admitted almost half a million people in 2015. and made nearly $7.5 billion. More than one third of that money came from Medicare and Medicaid, i.e. taxpayers.
BuzzFeed News interviewed 175 current and former UHS staff from at least 10 UHS hospitals who said they were pressured to confine patients until their insurance coverage ran out.
The present and past employees said that patients' words were twisted and patients' symptoms were exaggerated to keep them confined in a UHS hospital.
UHS is being investigated by the federal government for possible Medicare fraud in more than 10 percent of its psychiatric hospitals; one UHS hospital is accused of using the Baker Act to lock people up (in Florida) who do not need to be confined.
UHS has denied any wrongdoing, and said that BuzzFeed News' conclusions "are contrary to the factual record and UHS policies and practices," and "appear to focus on anecdotal accounts" and "personal perspectives."
UHS also denied that it confines people for financial gain: "Every patient care decision is made with the goal of furthering the best interests of our patients."
UHS has even set up a website, Uhsthefacts.com, which was allegedly created to counterbalance reports by BuzzFeed News.