Magazine article The Quill

Investigative Reporting-Television

Magazine article The Quill

Investigative Reporting-Television

Article excerpt

In March of 1998, a troubled 16-year-old named Tristan Sovern was suffocated to death when staff members at Charter Greensboro (N.C.) Hospital placed him in what is called a therapeutic restraint.

Sovern's death triggered a yearlong CBS News investigation of practices in the adolescent units of Charter Behavioral Health Systems, the nation's largest chain of private psychiatric hospitals. The investigation culminated in the program "Unsafe Haven," revealing evidence of unsafe conditions, injuries, deaths and cover-ups in Charter hospitals across the United States.

Producers of 60 Minutes II and correspondent Ed Bradley spoke to dozens of past and present Charter employees, as well as former patients and regulatory officials. They also investigated the records of state and federal regulatory agencies and the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health Care Organizations, the private entity that certifies hospitals. CBS even asked a qualified social worker, Terrance Johnson, to get a job at a Charter Hospital in Charlotte, N.C., and wear a camera hidden in a pair of eyeglasses.

Johnson's camera captured Charter employees falsifying documents and altering medical records. Other Charter employees told CBS that Charter's management encouraged these practices to maximize insurance payments and satisfy regulators. The hidden camera also recorded scenes of abuse and neglect by Charter's frequently untrained staff members.

Two leading experts in the field of adolescent psychiatry as well as June Gibbs-Brown, Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, evaluated the tapes. …

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