Left unattended, Rose and Allen Nelson’s son dedicated suicide on the very mental health house the place he was imagined to get assist.
As they struggled to know what occurred, their agony solely grew heavier. They tracked down the individuals who tried to revive their son, Brandon Nelson, on that horrible day. They spoke to shoppers who sought assist at Sovereign Health. They discovered former staff who had left the corporate.
What they discovered surprised them: Whilst Sovereign accepted their mentally ailing son, the corporate confronted rising difficulties on a number of totally different fronts — monetary, regulatory, authorized and operational. That they had been apprised of none of it.
“I was told, ‘Rose, this is a great facility. He’ll have a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapy sessions, a case manager, a house manager — an entire team that works with him throughout his 30 days,’ ” Rose Nelson stated. “It seemed like heaven to me. A staff of people that actually care. That was my imaginative and prescient.
“That’s where it all went to hell.”
It seems that the Sovereign “step-down” home Nelson went to after launch from a hospital was not licensed by the state as both a mental health facility or an habit remedy facility. Nelson didn’t have a staff of execs overseeing his transition — he apparently didn’t even get his drugs on time, in accordance with his parents and police stories.
What they received have been gross sales pitches, not health-care recommendation, the Nelsons concluded.
“We’re now dealing with the maze of state bureaucracy,” Allen Nelson stated. “I maintain getting advised, ‘If that was a licensed facility, I could help you. But because it’s not licensed, we will’t do something.’
“But what’s the penalty for running a place that should be licensed, but isn’t? No one seems to be able to answer that,” he stated.
Sick individuals can be utilized as human ATM machines by behavioral health companies, and the state of California does little to nothing to cease it, the Nelsons have concluded.
“The investigation into Brandon Nelson’s tragic death raises a number of troubling issues,” stated a press release from Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica. “We are continuing to review this case file to see what legislative or administrative action might best help reform California’s mental health and addiction treatment systems.”
Lethal lack of transparency?
Brandon Nelson, 26, of Santa Monica was recognized with bipolar affective dysfunction and obsessive-compulsive dysfunction at Mission Hospital Laguna Seashore in March. Drugs have been very important to managing his psychosis, his discharge papers stated — but Brandon failed to get them on time at Sovereign, in line with police and coroner’s reviews and his parents.
Rose and Allen Nelson of Santa Monica maintain an image of their son Brandon Nelson on Sunday, October 21, 2018. Brandon, who was battling mental sickness, died final March at age 26 after hanging himself in an unlicensed Sovereign Health residence. (Photograph by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Brandon suffered one other psychic break lower than 24 hours after arriving at Sovereign, was left alone in his room, and hanged himself.
Unbeknownst to the Nelsons, Sovereign CEO Tonmoy Sharma and his corporations have been defending themselves earlier than an administrative courtroom in Sacramento looking for to, amongst different issues, bar Sharma for all times from amenities it licenses.
In November 2017, concerning the time Nelson’s psychosis was beginning to take maintain, the California Division of Social Providers filed an accusation towards Sharma and his corporations that deal with remedy for adolescents, alleging that genetic and HIV testing was accomplished on youngsters with out parental consent. Youngsters additionally offered urine samples almost each different day “to the financial benefit of (the company) and Sharma,” the state stated.
Officers additionally invoked Sharma’s skilled issues in the UK — additionally unknown to the Nelsons — to justify barring him for all times. In 2008, Sharma’s license to apply psychiatry was “erased” for conduct deemed dishonest, unprofessional and deceptive, in line with paperwork from the Basic Medical Council of the UK. He started companies in California quickly after, and his previous didn’t forestall him from getting a license to run an adolescent facility from the Division of Social Providers on the time.
Tonmoy Sharma is the founder and CEO of Sovereign Health (File photograph by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Now, the state seeks to disclaim Sharma and his corporations new licenses, revoke the licenses at present held, and bar him for all times from “employment in, presence in, and from contact with clients of, any facility licensed by the Department or certified by a licensed foster family agency.”
The case is earlier than an administrative regulation decide, awaiting a choice.
Sharma stated the motion is retribution for a go well with he filed towards the state protesting the license denials. It dredged up the UK matter in an try and discredit him with a decade-old administrative problem that concerned no felony allegations — and people accusations have been misplaced and unfair, he stated.
It’s additionally improper responsible Sovereign for any genetic or HIV testing on the adolescent facility, Sharma stated. Checks have been ordered by physicians who have been unbiased contractors, not Sovereign staff. Sovereign wasn’t conscious of that exercise, and, as a nonmedical facility, Sovereign staff weren’t allowed to entry affected person medical information.
“It was improper for the state to try to hold us accountable for medical decisions by medical doctors who are not affiliated with our company,” Sharma stated.
Brandon Nelson’s dying deeply saddened Sharma and all of Sovereign’s employees, and he stated his ideas are with Nelson’s household and family members. Federal privateness legal guidelines preclude him from discussing the demise intimately, but he stated the Sovereign home in San Clemente was “a transitional living step-down facility for mental health patients,” and, based mostly on all obtainable info, Nelson was appropriate for that sort of housing.
“Transitional living mental health facilities play a vital role in preventing homelessness for people with mental health issues who have been discharged from a hospital,” he stated. “Our employees at these facilities were trained to recognize warning signs about potential self-harm and other issues. The safety of our clients was always our highest priority.”
When Nelson arrived, Sovereign was struggling cash-flow issues as nicely. Health Internet had refused to pay $55 million for providers Sovereign and associated corporations offered. Sovereign sued Health Internet in 2016; Health Internet responded with a countersuit alleging Sharma and his corporations engaged in large fraud.
The FBI raided Sovereign’s workplaces in 2017. Authorized payments mounted. Credit score turned troublesome to return by.
In April, lower than a month after Nelson’s demise, staff started submitting wage claims towards Sovereign Health with the California Labor Commissioner, looking for cash they stated that they had earned but weren’t paid. Almost 200 claims have been filed thus far, stated Jeanne-Mairie Duval, a spokeswoman for the California Division of Industrial Relations.
In June, former staff filed a federal lawsuit towards Sharma, Sovereign and associated corporations for breach of fiduciary obligation. They stated the corporate had ceased paying for coated claims in its self-funded health insurance coverage plan, but nonetheless continued making common payroll deductions from worker paychecks. Ex-workers accused Sharma and others of misappropriating and misusing the cash, the go well with says.
Sharma and others denied misusing plan belongings, partaking in self-dealing transactions, commingling funds or failing to correctly administer the plan, courtroom filings say.
“This was a result of our cash-flow problems,” Sharma stated by e mail. “We are working with lawyers on the other side to resolve this and believe that once we collect our accounts receivable, all of our employees will be compensated.”
Sovereign closed its doorways and launched remaining staff in July, but it has not filed for chapter. Sharma stated he expects to recuperate all, or a serious portion, of the past-due claims from Health Internet in courtroom, and intends to pay his staff the cash they’re owed.
“Rather than declare bankruptcy, I mortgaged my personal residence and dipped into personal savings to fund the business with $5 million of my own money, which allowed us to continue business for several months while we sought a solution,” he stated by e-mail. “I’ve not taken wage since October 2017.
“Despite these efforts, we were unable to avoid cash-flow problems. Once our legal matters are resolved, I am hopeful that we will be able to repay all of our employees, reopen facilities and resume treatment services.”
Sovereign and its associated companies have efficiently run Joint Fee-accredited, award-winning mental health amenities since 2009 for adults, and since 2013 for adolescents, he stated.
“I started Sovereign Health and Dual Diagnosis because I believed we could fill a significant need in the community. There is a significant shortage of facilities — and beds — available to treat people suffering from mental illness and addiction in our country.”
After Nelson’s dying, Allen and Rose Nelson obtained “explanation of benefits” letters within the mail from insurer Blue Defend. They listed tens of hundreds of dollars billed for Nelson’s care from corporations linked to Sharma — payments that Blue Defend didn’t pay. “Patient’s responsibility,” most of the letters stated.
The Nelson household, from left, sons Brandon, Trent and Justin with mother, Rose, and pop, Allen. (Courtesy of the Nelson household)
In a press release to the Southern California News Group, Blue Defend expressed sorrow for the Nelson household’s loss and defined: “The provider in this situation was not part of our network, and we did not pay the claims.”
An investigation by the state Group Care Licensing Division concluded that the home the place Nelson died was offering unlicensed care to 9 shoppers who wanted mental health providers, not habit remedy.
“Witnesses corroborated that care was being provided in the form of medication management, mental health services as well as monitoring of vital signs,” stated the report, dated Nov. 9. “A Notice of Operation in Violation of Law was faxed to the corporate number.”
By then, Sovereign’s workplaces had been closed for months.
Household pal Allison Basile can’t make sense of all of it. “Rose and Allen trusted our system,” she stated. “Our system failed them.”
Rose and Allen Nelson of Santa Monica maintain an urn of their son Brandon Nelson’s ashes. (Photograph by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Nelson’s parents at the moment are sure their son didn’t should die. They’re on a campaign to reform what they see as a lethal, dysfunctional system — they’re assembly with legislators, hospital directors, state regulators and others, all in an effort to spare different parents the ache they’ll carry for the remainder of their lives.
“The state of California has a moral obligation to get these ‘rehab’ centers strictly regulated and, just as importantly, inspected regularly,” the Nelsons stated in a plea for motion to legislators. “The state needs to stop more deaths like Brandon’s from occurring.”