Five former patients sue two Jacksonville mental health facilities


Five former patients are pursuing lawsuits against two controversial mental health facilities in Jacksonville.

Action News Jax first told you last week about a yearlong BuzzFeed News investigation that exposed allegations that mental hospitals owned by Universal Health Services held patients against their will longer than medically necessary to milk their insurance comapaines for payments.

Since then, Action News Jax has talked to more than 20 former patients and workers in Jacksonville who shared similar stories.

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UHS owns two facilities in Jacksonville, which are River Point Behavioral Health and Wekiva Springs Center.

Five former patients represented by the same attorney have already taken the fight to court in separate lawsuits.

Four of them were patients at River Point and one was a patient at Wekiva Springs in 2015 and 2016.

“These are everyday people that were reaching out for help and didn’t get it,” said their attorney, Justin Drach.

Each lawsuit accuses the UHS-owned mental health facilities of false imprisonment, racketeering and deprivation of civil rights.

One lawsuit also includes accusations of assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and more.

“We believe that UHS and the other defendants were involved in an extensive operation to operate as a criminal enterprise, all for the purposes of defrauding the people that were held against their will, the federal insurance plans like Medicare and Medicaid, and the VA and Tricare,” said Drach.

Jay Cohen, the attorney representing River Point and Wekiva Springs, emailed Action News Jax a statement on Tuesday, which says in part:

“We do look forward to our day in court when the restrictions on what we are allowed to disclose are lifted and we can tell our story concerning these claims. In the meantime, we are encouraged by the court’s decision to narrow and dismiss some of the claims raised in these lawsuits already.”