Boulder Psychiatrist Accused Of Overdrugging Female Inmates Loses License

Part of the ongoing series:
You Be The Judge

A Boulder psychiatrist accused of overdrugging female inmates at the correctional facility where he worked – in some cases causing them to become delirious – has permanently surrendered his license to practice, under an agreement reached with the Colorado Medical Board.

According to Board documents, Charles F. Clark started patients on multiple psychotropic (mind-altering) drugs simultaneously, prescribed initial dosages in excess of the recommended starting dosages, and rapidly increased the dosages of multiple drugs simultaneously.  He reportedly ignored potentially dangerous drug interactions and reports from staff at the facility that inmates were experiencing adverse side effects and were even delirious.

Clark allegedly also prescribed psychotropic drugs that were not justified and were sometimes contraindicated by information documented in the inmates’ medical records, as well as restarted inmates on psychotropic drugs that had been stopped by other providers.

Such actions constitute unprofessional conduct as defined in the Colorado Medical Practice Act.

The Medical Board received a complaint concerning Clark’s actions in 2016.  Clark denied the allegations, but agreed in December to cease practicing while the Board investigated further.

Then in a Board order dated July 20, Clark waived his right to a formal hearing and agreed to permanently surrender his license to practice in the state of Colorado.

If you or someone you know has been overdrugged or otherwise harmed by treatment from a psychiatrist or other mental health worker, we want to talk with you.  You can contact us by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept in the strictest confidence.

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Denver Psychiatrist’s License Revoked For Practicing and Prescribing With Expired License

Part of the ongoing series:
You Be The Judge

A Denver psychiatrist who continued to practice after his license expired in 2015 and then failed to respond to an official complaint against him violated the Colorado Medical Practice Act and has been disciplined with the loss of his license.

The Colorado Medical Board received a complaint that Gordon L. Neligh III violated state law by practicing psychiatry and prescribing Ritalin, a controlled substance, without a valid license, according to documents recently posted online by the Department of Regulatory Agencies.

The Board turned the matter over to an administrative law judge who, under Colorado law, can take evidence and make findings for the Board.

Neligh was notified of the legal proceedings, but failed to respond to the complaint and failed to appear at the proceedings.  By default, he is deemed to have admitted the allegations.

The administrative law judge found that Neligh engaged in unprofessional conduct by practicing with an expired license and by failing to respond in an honest, materially responsive, and timely manner to the complaint against him.

The judge recommended that Neligh’s license be revoked.  The Medical Board adopted the decision, effective June 15.

Online records indicate Neligh was in private practice with offices in Denver and Westminster.

If you or someone you know has experienced unprofessional conduct from a psychiatrist or other mental health worker, we want to talk with you.  You can contact us by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept in the strictest confidence.

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Remember What Unleashed The Hatred Of The Aurora Theater Shooter

On the occasion of today’s 5-year remembrance of the July 20, 2012 mass shooting at an Aurora movie theater that killed 12 people and wounded 70 others, remember the chilling words of the shooter which foreshadowed the massacre: “Hatred unchecked,” “no fear of consequences.”

Then consider the events that led up to shooter James Holmes writing these ominous words in a personal notebook.

Holmes, a graduate student at the University of Colorado, contacted the campus mental health center for help with his obsessive thoughts of killing people and his anxiety in social situations.

The psychiatrist who met with him immediately prescribed psychiatric drugs linked to aggression, violence and homicide, including the SSRI antidepressant Zoloft.

Within weeks, Holmes had written an alarming series of statements in the notebook where he recorded his thoughts during his psychiatric treatment:  “First appearance of mania occurs, not good mania.  Anxiety and fear disappears.  No more fear….  No fear of consequences…  No more fear, hatred unchecked.”

Peter Breggin, M.D., a Harvard-trained psychiatrist who has been involved as an expert with a number of cases of mass murder, has written that “exposing Holmes to Zoloft was like pouring gasoline on a fire.”

Breggin says Holmes was on Zoloft for about 94 days before abruptly stopping around June 30, just 20 days before his deadly rampage.

“An abrupt withdrawal might have worsened his condition, but the main contributing factor to the violence was his lengthy exposure to a drug that worsened his condition and drove him into psychosis,” he writes.  “He had a manic-like psychosis while taking the Zoloft and this would not have abated for some time after stopping the medication.”

Breggin’s conclusion: “I have no doubt that Zoloft contributed to Holmes’ escalating violence and that without it he probably would not have committed mass murder.”

At least 34 research studies and 26 warnings issued by international drug regulatory authorities have warned about the dangers of SSRI antidepressants like Zoloft.

Zoloft is also on the list of the prescription drugs most associated with the incidents of violence that have been reported to the FDA, according to a 2010 study in the Public Library of Science ONE.

Only by fully investigating psychiatric drugs’ known links to violence and homicide can we hope to prevent such tragic bloodshed in the future.

Warning: Anyone wishing to discontinue an antidepressant or any other psychiatric drug is cautioned to do so only under the supervision of a competent medical doctor because of potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

If you or someone you know has become violent from taking an SSRI antidepressant or any other psychiatric drug, please report it to the FDA by clicking here.  And we want to talk to you about your experience.  You can contact us privately by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept in the strictest confidence.

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State Psychiatric Facility in Pueblo Facing Loss of Medicare and Medicaid Funds Over Dangerously Deficient Practices

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has given the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo (CMHIP) until June 28 to correct serious deficiencies in the care of its patients or else lose its Medicare and Medicaid funding.

Acting on complaints of dangerous conditions, investigators from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) made an unannounced inspection of the state psychiatric institution in February, as reported by the Pueblo Chieftain.

This inspection directly followed contact between CDPHE and the Citizens Commission on Human Rights of Colorado concerning the complaints of staff neglect at CMHIP that we had filed with CDPHE.  One of our complaints concerned staff neglect that led to the death of a patient.

The deficient practices found by the February inspection were so serious that CMHIP was slapped with the condition of “immediate jeopardy” by CMS, indicating that noncompliance with federal requirements “has caused, or is likely to cause, serious injury, harm, impairment, or death to a resident.”

CMHIP submitted a plan of correction, which CMS accepted, and the condition of immediate jeopardy was removed.

However, “condition level” deficient practices remained, representing severe or critical health or safety breaches, which CMHIP was required to correct to qualify for CMS funding.

In a June 5 follow-up visit, CMS inspectors found that the deficiencies had not been adequately corrected and put the facility on a 23-day “termination track.”

CMHIP must comply with federal regulations to the satisfaction of CMS by June 28, or the 449-bed facility will no longer be certified to receive Medicare and Medicaid funding.

The publicly released CMS report from the February inspection cited noncompliance with standards for patient rights, nursing services, and quality assessment and performance improvement.

CMHIP failed to ensure that patients received timely examination by medical staff, that staff followed physician orders soon enough, and that recommended medical care and follow-up was provided, resulting in unsafe incidents and worsened medical conditions for patients.

CMS cited the failure of the nursing staff to notify the medical staff and provide ongoing evaluations when acute medical changes in a patient’s condition occurred.  This resulted in the delay of a physician assessing patients and in acute medical conditions for patients.

The facility also failed to analyze adverse patient events and take corrective actions to prevent reoccurrence of the errors.  The report specifically cited CMHIP’s failure to review the “unexplained” death of a patient, which left all patients in the facility at risk for a repeat of the same, uncorrected error.

The CMS report from the June 5 follow-up inspection has not yet been released by CMS.

Following the public revelations of substandard care of patients, CMHIP superintendent Ron Hale announced his resignation, effective July 9.

If you or someone you know has been harmed by treatment at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo or any other mental health facility, we want to talk to you.  You can contact us by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept strictly confidential.

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Colorado Congressmen Sponsor Bill To Review Suicides By Veterans On Psychiatric Drugs and Opioids

In an attempt to combat the epidemic of suicides by veterans on psychiatric drugs and opioids, U.S. Representative Mike Coffman (R-CO 6th district) has introduced legislation in Congress to review the link between prescription drugs and veterans’ suicides.  Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO 2nd district) is a co-sponsor of the bill.

An average of 20 veterans a day committed suicide in 2014, the latest year for which data is available, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.  Veterans, who made up less than 9 percent of the U.S. adult population (ages 18+) in 2014, accounted for 18 percent of the adult suicides.

The Veteran Overmedication Prevention Act of 2017 (H.B. 2652), introduced May 25, calls for a thorough and independent review of all suicides, violent deaths, and accidental deaths during a five-year period among veterans who received treatment at a VA facility during the five years leading up to their deaths.  The review would be done by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine under an agreement with the VA.

The bill calls for a review of all drugs identified in the toxicology testing of the decedents, with a separate listing of those drugs that also carried a black-box warning (required by the FDA to emphasize the serious or life-threatening risk of the drug), were prescribed for an off-label use, were psychotropic (mind-altering), and/or carried warnings of the risk of suicidal thoughts.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights has long advocated the investigation of the link between veterans’ suicides and psychiatric drugs.

Between 2005-2011, military prescriptions for psychiatric drugs increased nearly seven times (682%) – more than 30 times faster than the civilian rate.  One in six American service members takes at least one psychiatric drug.

(To view “The Hidden Enemy: Inside Psychiatry’s Covert Agenda,” the Citizens Commission on Human Rights documentary detailing how psychiatry uses the military as its testing ground, click here and then click on “Military Documentary.”)

This is despite the nearly 50 international drug-regulatory agency warnings that psychiatric drugs can cause suicidal thoughts and actions.

Dr. Bart Billings, a retired Army psychologist who has treated thousands of veterans suffering from what is commonly called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), has said  that the surge of prescriptions since 2005 “coincides with the gradual increase, to this day, of suicides in the military.  I feel there’s a direct relationship.”

House Bill 2562 is the counterpart to a bill of the same name introduced in the U.S. Senate (S. 992) on May 1 by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), and a companion bill to the Veteran Suicide Prevention Act (H.B. 4640) introduced in the House by Rep. David Jolly (R-FL) in 2016.

WARNING: Anyone wanting to discontinue psychiatric drugs is cautioned to do so only under the supervision of a competent medical doctor because of potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

If you or a veteran or other member of the military you know has been harmed by psychiatric drugs or other mental-health treatment, we want to talk to you.  You can contact us privately by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept in the strictest confidence.

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Patient’s Death at Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo Due To Staff Neglect

A state investigation has concluded that staff neglect was the cause of the choking incident last September at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo (CMHIP) that caused brain damage leading to a patient’s death, according to the occurrence summary report recently released by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

The forensic pathologist who subsequently performed the autopsy on the decedent concluded that the brain damage was the cause of death.

The male patient in his 60s lacked bottom teeth and had a dietary restriction that required his food to be cut into small pieces.  After being served whole food by CMHIP staff, he collapsed when it lodged in his throat and obstructed his breathing.  Staff reportedly attempted, but failed to dislodge the food with the Heimlich maneuver, and then performed CPR, but the patient remained unresponsive.

He was rushed to a local hospital, where he was placed on life support, but his condition never improved.  Eight days later the support services were discontinued and he was pronounced dead.

The autopsy report states the cause of death was brain damage due to the lack of oxygen from choking on food.

Three CMHIP staff members were suspended during the state investigation.  Following CDPHE’s finding of staff neglect, one staff member was fired, one resigned, and one received corrective action that included additional training and supervision.

An accelerated response to the incident by CDPHE was triggered by a complaint filed by the Citizens Commission on Human Rights of Colorado.

If you or someone you know has been harmed by treatment at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo or any other mental health facility, we want to know what happened.  You can contact us by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept strictly confidential.

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Colorado Medical Board Disciplines Three Psychiatrists For Wrongly Prescribing Psych Drugs

Part of the ongoing series:
You Be The Judge

Three Colorado-licensed psychiatrists were disciplined by the Colorado Medical Board in April for unprofessional conduct that involved wrongly prescribing psychiatric drugs to their patients.

  • Ronald R. Berges, formerly employed by a Littleton psychiatric facility, prescribed a sedative, a benzodiazepine, and narcotic pain medications to a patient despite knowing the individual had a history of substance abuse and dependence and was exhibiting drug-seeking behavior, according to a Board document. Berges also continued prescribing Valium and Fentanyl, which can cause respiratory depression, to another substance abuser and failed to verify the doses of the drugs the patient told him he was getting.  The Medical Board sent Berges a letter of admonition and required him to complete a prescribing course.  Berges is now practicing in Iowa.
  • Jonathan B. Covey, of Colorado Springs, has been put on indefinite probation by the Medical Board for confusing the dosages of two mood stabilizers prescribed to a patient, and for his insensitivity and poor communication with another patient. In addition to probation, the Board sent Covey a letter of admonition and required him to complete an ethics program and communications course.
  • Richard L. Wallingford III, of Montrose, received a letter of admonition from the Board for failing to review the hospital discharge summary of a patient with a history of addiction before re-starting her on controlled substances. The Board further stated: “Your communication, coordination of care, and indefinite use of benzodiazepines without a discussion of alternatives or a possible reduction in use is below the standard of care for a Suboxone patient with a long history of addiction to both street and prescription drugs.”  Suboxone is a drug used to treat opiate addiction.  The Board warned Wallingford that any further such complaints could result in the Board starting formal disciplinary proceedings against his license to practice.

If you or someone you know has been harmed by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health worker, we want to talk with you.  You can contact us by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept strictly confidential.

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Erie Psychiatrist Disciplined For Improper Prescribing And Romantic Relationship With Patient

Part of the ongoing series:
You Be The Judge

An Erie psychiatrist specializing in addiction psychiatry has been put on indefinite probation by the Colorado Medical Board after admitting he wrongly prescribed controlled substances to a female patient, failed to maintain proper records of his prescribing and treatment of her, and engaged in a romantic relationship with her.

Halbert B. Miller was publicly disciplined by the Medical Board with indefinite probation effective March 16, a letter of admonition, and orders to complete a professional boundaries course and a prescribing course in response to his actions, which are unprofessional conduct under Colorado law.

Boundary violations occur when doctors use their position of trust and authority for their own pleasure or benefit (or the benefit of others).  Psychiatrists account for the largest percentage of doctors with boundary violations.  One in three physicians who were disciplined for inappropriate personal contact with patients were psychiatrists.

Miller, who is also licensed in North Dakota, had been disciplined by that state’s medical board for the same misconduct, which it termed “unprofessional, unethical and/or dishonorable conduct that is likely to deceive, defraud or harm the public.”

Miller was previously disciplined by the Colorado and Massachusetts Medical Boards.

After failing to renew his Massachusetts license in 2013, Miller continued to practice psychiatry without a license.  He also fraudulently claimed in his license renewal application that he was Board-certified in addiction psychiatry, but the certification had expired in 2008.  In 2014, the Massachusetts Medical Board publicly reprimanded Miller and fined him $2,500 for this misconduct.

Following the actions taken by the Massachusetts Board, the Colorado Medical Board sent a letter of admonition to Miller in 2015, stating that his actions were also unprofessional conduct under Colorado law and warning him that any similar conduct in the future could lead to formal disciplinary action against his Colorado license.

Miller currently lists addiction psychiatry as his specialty in his online profile.

The Colorado Medical Board monthly disciplinary action summary lists Miller’s address as Erie, while the Department of Regulatory Agencies license lookup lists it as Lafayette.  Online search results indicate he practiced in Boulder.

If you or someone you know is the victim of inappropriate behavior by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health worker, we want to talk with you.  You can contact us by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept strictly confidential.

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Cody Psychiatrist Specializing In Addiction Treatment Facing Multiple Charges Related To Substance Abuse

Part of the ongoing series:
You Be The Judge

A Cody psychiatrist specializing in addiction treatment is facing a charge of felony aggravated assault with a vehicle for a head-on collision allegedly caused by his inhaling an intoxicating substance while driving.

Matthew V. Hopkins allegedly inhaled chemical fumes from a cleaning product while driving, passed out and crashed head-on into another vehicle.  The passenger in the other vehicle was hospitalized.

In addition to the felony charge, Hopkins is charged with driving under the influence of a controlled substance and unlawful use of a toxic substance.

Hopkins is also facing a prior charge of driving under the influence, after allegedly hitting a parked vehicle while drunk five months earlier.  Other charges in that incident include having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle and leaving the scene of a crash.

Hopkins is a psychiatrist in private practice in Cody.  His listing in the Wyoming Medical Board physician directory shows addiction psychiatry as one of his specialties.  His website for his practice highlights his experience in addiction psychiatry.

Hopkins’ history of substance abuse goes back more than a decade.  His medical license was suspended in New Hampshire in 2003 for an alcohol problem and for writing fake prescriptions for Adderall for himself.  He entered a recovery program.

After moving to Wyoming, he agreed in 2009 to continue in a similar program.  Two findings of noncompliance in 2011 led, first, to a stayed six-month suspension of his license in July that year, and then a six-month suspension that November, according to data on the Wyoming Medical Board’s disciplinary action list.  In 2015, the Medical Board granted Hopkins’ petition to remove all restrictions and conditions related to his medical license.

Hopkins still has a full and unrestricted Wyoming medical license, according to the Medical Board website.

If you know of a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health worker with a substance abuse problem, we want to talk with you.  You can contact us by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept strictly confidential.

 

 

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Denver Psychiatrist Disciplined For Misconduct with Sexually Obsessed Patient

Part of the ongoing series:
You Be The Judge

A Denver psychiatrist has been disciplined by the state licensing board for unprofessional conduct with a patient who became sexually fixated on him during treatment.

Steve Sarche failed to terminate his doctor-patient relationship with a patient who developed erotomania during treatment that lasted from approximately November 2008 through July 2012, according to a Colorado Medical Board public document posted online.

Erotomania is defined as excessive sexual desire, or the delusional belief that one is the object of another person’s love or sexual desire.

The Medical Board also found that Sarche crossed professional boundaries by seeing the patient outside of his office, and by continuing to communicate with the patient after the professional relationship was finally terminated.

The Board found that the behavior was unprofessional conduct under state law and issued an order, effective February 27, under which Sarche agreed to a disciplinary letter from the Board, indefinite probation, and completing an ethics program and professional boundaries course.

Psychiatrists account for the largest percentage of doctors with boundary violations, according to a 2012 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.  Boundary violations occur when doctors use their position of trust and authority for their own pleasure or benefit (or the benefit of others).

Similarly, a 2001 study  published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that one in three physicians (34%) who were disciplined at least partly because of their inappropriate personal contact with patients were psychiatrists.

If a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health worker has acted improperly with you or someone you know, we want to talk with you.  You can contact us by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept strictly confidential.

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