I-Team: Mother Of Teen Says A North Texas Hospital Worse Than A Jail

by Senior Investigative Reporter Ginger Allen and Special Projects Producer Aparna Zalani

GARLAND (CBS11) – Renee Mauldin made a promise to her granddaughter while hugging her tightly, “I’ll never let that happen again Maddie. I promise, never, never.” The tearful reunion belies the pain a mother and a grandmother experienced while trying to get 15-year-old Madison Bell out of a place they said was not safe for her. It is a place, they believe, held Madison against her will.

Madison’s mother, Amanda Mauldin, called the CBS 11 newsroom on a Wednesday afternoon desperate to get help for her daughter who, she said, was admitted to Sundance Behavioral Hospital in Garland, TX.

The teenager had been vacationing with her boyfriend’s family. She was on her way back to Oklahoma where she lived. Mauldin got a call from an Anna, TX Police officer.  Mauldin told I-Team Investigator Ginger Allen that the officer called to say Bell and the boyfriend’s family had stopped on the side of Interstate 75. He said she had gotten into a fight with her boyfriend’s family. She was acting up. He told her Bell was not under arrest, but the officer said “due to (her) actions,” she needed somewhere to go.

“I asked the officer on the phone if he could please just hold her, detain her,” Mauldin told the I-Team. Mauldin said she was more than three hours away and needed time to drive to get Madison. The officer said there was nothing to charge her with so he could not hold her. He told Mauldin that he would take Madison to Sundance Behavioral Hospital.

Bell arrived at Sundance in Garland to pick Bell up early Sunday morning. “This was worse than jail,” Amanda Mauldin said fighting tears.

  • Sundance Behavioral Hospital

But Bell was admitted to Sundance before Mauldin could get to the hospital. Documents show Bell had not been charged with any crime. Records show she had, “no acute distress” she was “disheveled” and “cooperative.”  Mauldin says Bell has a mood disorder and takes medication but otherwise she is healthy and smart. “She has a 4.2 GPA. She’s in honor classes,” Mauldin said. “She’s your typical teenager. They have rough days,” she said.

When Mauldin arrived at Sundance, she begged the hospital to release Bell; however, by state law, the facility said it was holding Bell for 48 hours until a doctor could reevaluate her.  After repeated requests to see Bell and several visits to the hospital, Mauldin was not getting answers about why the facility wanted to hold her daughter.

“They told me I had zero rights to my child because of how she was brought to this facility,” she said.

  • Hiring an Attorney

Mauldin called attorney Margaret Carrigan who returned with her to Sundance 48 hours later. This time the I-Team went inside the hospital with her with our undercover cameras rolling. We watched and listened as Mauldin and Carrigan asked to see Madison. They also asked why she would not be released.

Once again, with security officers standing close-by, employees at the front desk told her Bell could not be released. No one would tell Mauldin why Bell was being held.

And then, more troubling to Mauldin, she learned the hospital had issued an Order of Protective Custody which prolonged Bell’s stay indefinitely. Once again, no one would tell her why. She could not see her child. And, she could not speak to her doctor.

“No one calls. I’ve left ten voicemails,” she said. “No one ever called me back,” she said. Mauldin told the I-Team that the only call from the hospital was from the billing office saying she now likely owed thousands of dollars.

  • Finally released

Wednesday afternoon was a good day for Amanda Mauldin since the harrowing phone call Sunday night from the Anna PD police officer.

Carrigan took Mauldin’s case to a judge that morning. The judge signed an emergency order immediately releasing Bell. The I-Team followed Mauldin back into the hospital to see how quickly it would release Mauldin. But, once again, Mauldin waited. She tried to explained to the front desk employees that a judge had signed a release and Bell should be discharged “immediately” without any paperwork.

Several hours after the judge signed the order, 15-year-old Madison Bell rushed out of the hospital right into the arms of her waiting grandmother. Our cameras were there to capture the moment.  While Bell’s mother spoke to the front desk inside the hospital, Renee Mauldin threw her arms around Bell with tears streaming down her face. She hugged and kissed her cheeks saying she was sorry and “this would never happen again.”

As she got in the car to leave with her family, Madison showed us marks on her arm where she said she’d been grabbed on her first day there. She talked about threats similar to those the I-Team has repeatedly investigated. She specifically referenced a shot called “booty juice.”

“The girl told me they give it in the butt and that it knocks you out,” Bell told Allen and the I-Team. Many former patients and employees have told the I-Team similar stories. Patients called the shot booty juice and said they were threatened with it or given it to sedate them.

Mauldin’s family became the latest loved ones to tell us they are taking legal action against Sundance Hospital. “They know that that we are not done,” Renee Mauldin. “I’m going to fight for every other child in there too.”

  • Sundance Hospital Responds

“Sundance Behavioral Healthcare’s top priority is providing the safest and highest quality of care for our patients. We hold the confidentiality and privacy of our patients and families in the highest regard.  As you know, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) sets forth standards in which Sundance must follow regarding the release of patient information. Therefore, we cannot confirm or deny if Madison Bell was a patient at Sundance.

However, in general terms a patient is admitted to our facility in 2 different manners. They may be admitted voluntary or involuntary/emergency detained. A patient which is admitted voluntarily, freely agrees to come into our facility for treatment. On the other hand, some patients are admitted involuntarily by an Apprehension by a Peace Officer Without a Warrant also referred to as an “APOWW”. This normally occurs when officials have reason to believe that a person’s actions or behaviors would suggest they pose an imminent threat of harm to themselves or others, this is used to protect the individual and others while being evaluated by a professional. The decision concerning whether an individual who is brought on APOWW must stay occurs within 24 hours of admission, except on weekends or legal holidays, the decision may be delayed until 4:00pm in the afternoon on the first regular workday. If an individual is admitted involuntarily, then based on the initial clinical evaluation, the facility collaborates with the local court system and files for an Order of Protective custody.  If the court is asked to order the individual to stay longer, the individual is told that he has the right to a hearing within 72 hours (except on weekends, holidays, or extreme weather emergencies or disasters). Throughout this process, the clinical team communicates with the family. If the family requests for release, this information is communicated to the physician. Based on further physician evaluation, the individual may be discharged upon parent/family request or discharged Against Medical Advice.

Sundance takes all allegations and complaints very seriously. Especially, those allegations or complaints that may relate to the safety and care of our patients. When there are complaints made we investigate them extensively and make changes if necessary. One of Sundance’s core focuses is to provide quality healthcare during the time of crisis.”      –Scott Blakely, Group CEO, Sundance Behavioral Healthcare

  • Timeline of Bell’s Stay at Sundance Hospital

Sunday – Anna Police Department takes Madison Bell to Sundance. Mauldin arrives at Sundance pleading to see her daughter and get her released.

Monday- Mauldin (Bell’s mother) finds out she can’t get Bell released until Wednesday.

Tuesday- Mauldin brings an attorney and the I-Team with her to Sundance demanding the release of Bell

Wednesday- Morning: Judge issued an order releasing Mauldin immediately.

Mid-afternoon: Bell is released.

Click Here For The iTeam’s Sundance Hospital History Timeline.

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