Texas Hospital System Accused of Holding Patients Illegally

November 17, 2018 Updated: November 17, 2018

FORT WORTH, Texas—A Texas corporation that runs behavioral health hospitals is accused of illegally holding four patients, two of whom were voluntary patients who were allegedly prohibited from leaving.

SAS Healthcare Inc. was indicted on Nov. 14, on nine counts of violating the Texas Mental Health Code, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

The indictment alleges the corporation known as Sundance Behavioral Healthcare System detained two patients involuntarily at its Arlington facility longer than the 48 hours allowed without a court order. It also accuses the company of not allowing two voluntary patients to leave.

The health care system offers inpatient and outpatient treatment specializing in mental health, chemical dependency and detoxification, according to its website.

“People turned to what they thought was a trusted medical facility and were not allowed to leave as the law requires,” said Criminal District Attorney Sharen Wilson in a statement. “These offenses were a corporate failure, and the corporation must be held accountable.”

Prosecutors on Thursday filed a notice saying they will introduce extraneous offenses, including allegations the corporation didn’t conduct welfare checks on a patient who died by suicide in the facility’s care last month and later lied about it. Prosecutors also claim that the company delayed or failed to report assaults and sexual assaults to authorities.

A law firm for SAS Healthcare, Varghese Summersett, said the “unprecedented” criminal prosecution “ignores legislatively enacted blanket immunity” that gives medical professionals discretion in treatment.

“Sundance is a longtime accredited mental health and psychiatric facility whose professionals’ good-faith actions were in the best interest of their patients,” the law firm said.

The corporation faces up to a $100,000 fine for each of the 33 days that the mental health code violations were alleged to have occurred, which could total up to $3.3 million.