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.

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.

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.

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.

 

 

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.

FT COLLINS PSYCHIATRIST’S LICENSE SUSPENDED AFTER EVIDENCE HE USED STUDENTS TO OBTAIN DRUGS

Part of the ongoing series:
You Be The Judge

The Colorado Medical Board has suspended a Fort Collins psychiatrist’s license over allegations he used medical students to divert prescription drugs for his own use.

Timothy Jay Allen, a psychiatrist formerly practicing at Fort Collins Neurology, was suspended on March 15, pending further action by the Board.

The Board took the emergency action over concern that Allen “used his medical license, along with his position of trust and supervision over medical students, to engage in prescription drug diversion” by asking students to fill prescriptions in their names and then give the drugs to him for his use.

Based on the information the Board reviewed, and following Allen’s appearance at a pre-suspension hearing, the Board concluded it had “objective and reasonable grounds to believe and finds that [Allen] deliberately and willfully violated the Medical Practice Act and/or that the public health, safety, or welfare imperatively requires emergency action.”

A summary of the inquiry leading to the suspension is found in the Board’s Order of Suspension, posted and open to public view on the state Department of Regulatory Agencies website.

If you or someone you know has information about wrongful behavior by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health worker, 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.  We welcome your comments on this article.

Colorado Medical Board Takes Emergency Action to Suspend The License of Lakewood Psychiatrist Harry Taub

Part of the ongoing series:
You Be The Judge

The Colorado Medical Board took emergency action in January to suspend the license of Lakewood psychiatrist Harry Taub after reviewing information that he deliberately and willfully violated the Medical Practice Act and/or that he has a physical or mental condition that makes him unsafe to practice with reasonable skill and safety to patients.

Documents related to the case, which date back to 2003, are posted on the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies website.  The documents detail a history of substance abuse that started with Taub’s addiction to cough syrup, which began sometime after he was issued a resident’s Training License to practice medicine in North Carolina in 2001.

In 2003, Taub was arrested in North Carolina on a felony charge of obtaining a controlled substance by forgery.  Taub admitted he had written prescriptions for Percocet for himself under a fictitious name for about a year.  He entered into a deferral agreement, under which the charge against him would be dismissed if he followed his treatment plan and submitted to drug testing while on supervised probation for one year.

In 2008, Taub was arrested again and charged with two counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud/forgery.  He pled guilty to the charges, was given a suspended sentence of four to five months and was placed on supervised probation.  He entered a substance abuse treatment program.  The North Carolina Medical Board indefinitely suspended his license to practice, and records show the license subsequently became inactive in 2009.

In 2011, Taub applied for a license to practice in Colorado.  An evaluation by the Colorado Physician Health Program concluded Taub was safe to practice if he was under treatment and monitoring.

In May 2012, the Colorado Medical Board granted a restricted license that required Taub to comply with numerous conditions for a period of five years, including treatment monitoring and abstinence from addictive substances, monitoring of the prescriptions he wrote, and monitoring of his psychiatric practice.

Taub treated children and adolescents.  In June 2013, a monitor’s review of Taub’s practice found his treatment and medication management of three child and adolescent psychiatric patients fell below generally accepted standards and that he failed to make essential entries in the records of seven patients.  This is unprofessional conduct, as defined in Colorado law.

The Medical Board found that the situation required emergency action.  Instead of an immediate suspension of Taub’s license, it allowed Taub to enter into an agreement not to practice, pending further evaluation and investigation by the Board.

In July 2013, the Medical Board placed Taub’s license on probation for five years and required him to meet a lengthy list of conditions, including treatment and drug monitoring, keeping a log of prescriptions he wrote, practice monitoring, an education program, and quality reviews.

On January 8, 2016, the Colorado Medical Board received information that Taub had used alcohol and a controlled substance and that he has a physical or mental condition that renders him unsafe to practice.  The Medical Board concluded the situation required emergency action and suspended Taub’s license to practice, pending further resolution of the matter.

You decide.  Has the Medical Board handled this psychiatrist’s case appropriately?

Elise Sannar: Did The Colorado Medical Board Discipline This Psychiatrist Appropriately?

Part of the ongoing series:
You Be The Judge

The state medical boards of Colorado and California handled the professional misconduct of an Aurora psychiatrist very differently.

Psychiatrist Elise Sannar signed stipulations with the Colorado State Board of Medical Examiners in 2007 and 2009, in which she admitted professional misconduct.  Because she was licensed in both Colorado and California, her conduct was the subject of reviews by the medical boards of both states.

According to the Colorado State Board of Medical Examiners’ Second Stipulation and Final Agency Order dated July 16, 2009 and available on the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies website, psychiatrist Sannar admitted to the following facts:

  • From July 2005 to July 2006, she took a leave of absence from a residency program in psychiatry at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center so she could work as a forensic psychiatrist at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo (CMHIP).
  • In August 2005, patient J.M., an inmate, was transferred to CMHIP with a legal status of Incompetent to Proceed in court with criminal charges against him.  Sannar was his treating psychiatrist from roughly the time he arrived at CMHIP through November 2005.
  • While in treatment with psychiatrist Sannar, J.M. informed her that he had developed romantic feelings for her.  Sannar did not transfer J.M. to another psychiatrist for treatment, as was required by generally accepted standards of practice.
  • J.M. left CMHIP in November 2005 with a legal status of Competent to Proceed, after which he was tried on criminal charges and ultimately sentenced to four years in prison.
  • Within six months of the end of treating him at CMHIP, Sannar began a romantic relationship with J.M., which continued until approximately February 2007.  The details were not specified in the public documents.
  • Sannar admits through the documents she signed that she “was aware at all relevant times of the ethical and medical impropriety of beginning and maintaining such a relationship with a patient.”

With a finding of unprofessional conduct, the Colorado State Board of Medical Examiners has a range of disciplinary actions it can take, including suspending, revoking, placing on probation or otherwise restricting, limiting or placing conditions on a license.

What did the Colorado Medical Examiners Board do?  It gave her five years probation, dating from November 16, 2007, with certain treatment and monitoring required for Sannar and certain restrictions on her treatment of patients, as detailed in the Second Stipulation and Final Agency Order.  Her license remained active.

What did the Medical Board of California do with the same set of facts and admissions from Sannar?  It got a signed Stipulation for Surrender of License from her.  (The document can be accessed on the Medical Board of California website by entering license #96357.)  Sannar can no longer practice as a psychiatrist in the state of California.

Last month, the Colorado State Board of Medical Examiners took yet another action, this time to terminate Sannar’s Second Stipulation after just 3½ years of probation, apparently on Sannar’s petition for early termination.  Her license is now active without any conditions in the state of Colorado.

According to her online Physician Profile, Sannar is currently employed as a psychiatrist by the Children’s Hospital in Aurora, and has faculty affiliations at both Children’s Hospital and the University of Colorado Hospital.

What do you think?  Did the Colorado State Board of Medical Examiners act appropriately under the circumstances?

Pueblo Grand Jury Returns Findings In Death of State Hospital Patient

Part of the ongoing series:
You Be The Judge

A Pueblo grand jury has found official wrongdoing, but no criminal conduct in the death of a patient at the Colorado Institute of Mental Health at Pueblo (CMHIP) last August. Troy Geske, who was obese and suffering from a respiratory infection, suffocated while being restrained face down and left unattended in a seclusion room at the facility after refusing to take psychiatric drug(s) prescribed to him.

According to the grand jury report, staff at the institution committed “misfeasance and malfeasance with regard to a governmental function, and abused their authority resulting in the death of Mr. Geske.” Malfeasance includes the failure to perform a legal duty or the violation of state laws or rules. But the grand jury declined to hand down any indictment, which could have included a charge of criminal negligence.

Geske reportedly was taken to a seclusion room after he resisted taking prescribed psychiatric drug(s). There he was put facedown in prone restraint, with leather straps binding his arms and legs to a  gurney, and an additional leather strap across his torso to hold him down. He was then left alone in the room and was improperly monitored by staff outside the room. He slowly suffocated during nearly 10 minutes of struggling to breathe while in restraint.

While it is not known what psychiatric drug(s) Geske had refused, he reportedly had been re-admitted to CMHIP from a community placement in July for hallucinations, confusion, passive-combative behavior and depression. All of these conditions are common and well-known side effects of drugs routinely prescribed to psychiatric patients. (For more information on the dangerous side effects of psychiatric drugs, click here.) It is unknown what psychiatric drugs he was taking when he was readmitted, what increased dosages or additional drugs he may have been prescribed after being readmitted, or what side effects may have led him to refuse to take the drug(s).

The incompetence and extreme indifference of CMHIP staff towards Geske in the final minutes of his life were cited in the grand jury report, according to Denver’s 7News and the Pueblo Chieftain:

• “The staff member controlling the patient’s torso was using a disapproved control technique by using his forearm to apply pressure to the patient’s back during the entire restraint process,” while at the same time “Mr. Geske appeared to be struggling by trying to lift his head and torso off the bed” to breathe.

• “During the process of applying the restraints, a staff member used inappropriate pressure to the back of the patient’s head, holding his face at or near the surface of the mattress” on the gurney.

• Once restrained and unable to move or breathe sufficiently, Geske was left alone in the room, with staff failing to monitor him carefully: “It is apparent that Mr. Geske was not under direct observation at all times.”

• When staff finally realized Geske had stopped breathing, they rushed into the room but had difficulty undoing the restraints, losing precious time before CPR was started and a defibrillator used, both ultimately unsuccessful.

• Metal shears that were supposed to be available in the room to cut the leather restraints were not used “because staff either were unaware of their location or believed the shears were locked at the nursing station.”

• When staff tried giving Geske oxygen, the oxygen tank was empty. The report said, “CMHIP policy mandated oxygen tanks be tested every shift and documentation showed the tank in use had been checked off as full during the previous shift.”

• The report stated that “it appeared that no one had authority to assume – or did not assume – control of the efforts to revive Mr. Geske.”

The grand jury report concludes that “there was a systematic failure to adequately train staff, to insure staff followed policies for seclusion and restraint and patient safety related thereto, and to disseminate safety information concerning restraint procedures that was readily available, and if put into practice would have prevented the death of Mr. Geske.”

While insufficient funding or staffing continue to be blamed for ongoing problems at CMHIP, the grand jury report “finds the problems leading to Mr. Geske’s death could have been corrected with little or no impact” to CMHIP’s budget.

The grand jury also found overarching failures at CMHIP: “Public servants of the CMHIP breached their duty of care to adequately train its employees,” to “effectively communicate,” “effectively document evidence for patient care,” and “effectively investigate the death of Mr. Geske.”

CMHIP’s own investigation of the incident was reportedly carried out by a member of the facility’s public safety department, who himself had taken part in the restraint of Geske. While two top officials of the public safety department testified they didn’t believe the investigator had a conflict of interest, the grand jury disagreed. It found that the investigator never interviewed all the staff involved in the incident and did not even review the video surveillance of the incident before completing the investigation report.

Prone restraint had been banned by the Colorado Department of Human Services in its Division of Developmental Disabilities, but the rest of the divisions within the department were not notified that the procedure was banned until after Geske’s death. Other state departments, including the Department of Corrections and the Department of Education, have not banned prone restraints.

The grand jury found no criminal wrongdoing, so no one involved in the incident has been criminally charged.

Linda Stephens, mother of Troy Geske, made it clear that no one person could be blamed for her son’s death because they were all responsible. “It was the system [at CMHIP] that killed my son.”

What do you think? Did the Pueblo grand jury come to the right conclusion?

Restraint “procedures” are the most visible evidence of the barbaric practices that psychiatrists choose to call therapy or treatment. For more information on restraints, click here.

If you or someone you know was put in restraints in a psychiatric facility or has been harmed by psychiatric drugs, you can contact us privately by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225. All information will be kept in the strictest confidence. We welcome your comments on this article below.