Universal Health Services: Another Teenager Dies, Her Health Crisis Ignored in UHS Psychiatric Facility

November 21, 2018

A chilling and chaotic 911 call, a key state lawmaker who’s listened to it and calls the case heartbreaking, and an administrator refusing to answer our questions are the latest developments in 10 On Your Side's ongoing investigation of the death of Raven Keffer.

After she was medically discharged from a drug rehab program in mid-June, Raven began treatment at Newport News Behavioral Health Center.

“We have a resident that's coding blue, she's nonresponsive,” said the caller to a Newport News 911 dispatcher.

It's June 29 -- the eighth day for Raven at the center.  For several days she pleaded with nurses to go to the hospital, to call 911. But it was one of Raven’s fellow residents, a 15-year-old girl, who finally called 911.

“Please bring her, she's turning blue!”

“They're already on the way,” the dispatcher responded.

In our previous reporting, 10 On Your Side told you about “Lisa”, a former mental health tech at the center.  She agreed to give details about the case if she remained anonymous. “I was actually on the floor with Raven,” Lisa said.

Lisa answered to the nurses, and says for days they instructed staff to ignore Raven's calls for help. As far as the nurses were concerned, it was just a ploy to get pain meds.

Raven was no longer able to walk and was throwing up blood.

“I just had to call because I don't trust (them),” the caller told the dispatcher in the six-minute call.  “They're telling her she's doing this to herself and she's faking it, that she was making herself do this. They were blaming it on her.”

But there was nothing fake about Raven's death later that night at a local hospital. The Medical Examiner says she died from lymphocytic adrenalitis, an auto-immune disease. No one is saying the behavioral health center caused her death, but our source says Raven’s final days didn't need to be so horrific.

“She should have been placed in a hospital where she could have been given fluids and pain medication, and the comfort of anyone who had been in her life that cared about her, but she was denied even that,” Lisa said.

The Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services investigated and found 13 violations involving Raven's care, including depriving her of appropriate services and treatment.

 Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services's final investigation

“The state report was damning,” said State Senator Creigh Deeds, who chairs a joint commission on mental health care in Virginia.

Deeds says the case leaves him heartbroken. Ironically, the unit where Raven was is known as "Dignity".

“Dignity seems to have been denied this young woman.”

The state report says the center has to correct the violations. 10 On Your Side wanted to know if that was happening, so we visited NNBHC earlier this month.

CEO Paul Kirkham declined a request for an interview, even though he could be seen through a window in a nearby conference room.

The center fired the nurse on duty the day Raven died, and other staff were disciplined. It's changed how it documents previous medical conditions.

Lisa says when the residents found out about Raven’s death “they became very, very angry and destroyed the entire unit.  These were 11 kids that watched this child deteriorate that they know begged for help. They begged for help for her.”

“There needs to be some soul-searching in that organization,” Deeds said.

State regulators will return in the next couple months to make sure NNBHC is in compliance. Its parent company Universal Health Services has several other sites in Virginia, including Virginia Beach Psychiatric.

Senator Deeds’ commission focuses on mental health in the public sector, but now he says he'll consider expanding its authority to private facilities.

Source: “Special Report: A Teen's Pleas for Help... Ignored?,” 10 On Your Side (Wavy.com, Portsmouth, VA), URL: https://www.wavy.com/10-on-your-side/investigative/special-report-a-teen-s-pleas-for-help-ignored-/1606713007


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