Behavioral Health Care Facilities Get A Closer Look After CBS11 I-Team Investigation

by Aparna Zalani and Ginger Allen | CBS11 I-Team

NORTH TEXAS (CBS11 I-TEAM) – Fifteen-year-old Madison Bell was brought to Sundance Behavioral Hospital after an altercation with her boyfriend’s family on a Highway 75 near Anna, Texas.

The teenager had been vacationing with her boyfriend’s family. She was on her way back to Oklahoma, where she lived.

Her mother, Amanda Mauldin, was four hours away when an Anna police officer called her, telling her that Bell would be taken to Sundance “due to (her) actions.”

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Amanda Mauldin and Madison Bell

The next three days, Mauldin tried to get her out of the hospital, which she says held her daughter against her will.The story struck a chord with many upset parents.

Many could not believe how a mental health facility can hold children against their wishes or their parents’ wishes.

The I-Team got several emails from viewers telling similar stories. One viewer wrote, “The same thing happened to my family at Sundance.”

Another mom told us she had to get her daughter’s school nurse to “put pressure on [Sundance] to release her.”

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Sundance Behavioral Hospital

And it’s not just Sundance, we got emails about other facilities too. The parent of a 9-year-old child told CBS11 he was “held against his will and mine,” at another facility. One patient said “I was also a victim a being held hostage.”

According to the Texas State Code, emergency detentions are allowed if someone is deemed mentally ill or a risk to others. A facility can hold you against your will and against your parent’s will in some cases.

For safety reasons, it makes sense. But mental health advocates say the law is abused.

“We’ve gone from around 18,000 applications for involuntary commitment in 2005 to over 47,000 last year,” Lee Spiller with Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights said. He believes there are financial incentives.

Spiller said, sometimes the officer brings the patient to a facility, just like Bell. In other cases, a parent voluntarily admits the loved one of child.

Either way, he says most families have no idea they’re relinquishing their rights and may need the court’s help. “Essentially we’re treating the mentally ill worse than we treat criminal defendants,” Spiller told the I-Team.

Bell’s family spent four days fighting to get the 15-year-old released from Sundance. They hired an attorney, who then got a judge’s order to release Bell. They also got a bill from the hospital for $2,400.

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