ARLINGTON, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – There are breaking developments in a nearly six year I-Team investigation into mental health facilities in North Texas. Sundance Behavioral Healthcare System has agreed to pay a $200,000 fine and accept a misdemeanor conviction.
In exchange, the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office will dismiss more than 20 criminal counts and agree that there will be no prosecutions against the owners.
Attorneys for Sundance said, “The deal speaks volumes about the inadequacies of this prosecution. Resolution for our client was a business and financial decision.”
Speaking out for the first time about this, Matt Smid, Chief Prosecutor of White Collar Crime Integrity Unit at the Tarrant County DA’s office, said this is a win for the people of Tarrant County.
“In mental health code it is a criminal offense and that’s why we went after them. We could not sit back and let these people be harmed in Tarrant County,” he said. “We believe they are criminal, they believe they are criminal and they pled guilty and they admitted that today.”
Sundance Mental Healthcare Hospitals closed its doors after several patients revealed claims of abuse, neglect and patients held against their wills.
FULL STATEMENT FROM VARGHESE SUMMERSETT, the criminal defense firm representing Sundance:
The Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office initially pursued 55 felony counts and millions of dollars in fines against Sundance Behavioral Healthcare System for alleged violations of the Texas Mental Health Code. Considering what would have been an expensive and protracted legal battle, the company agreed to pay a $200,000 fine and accept one Class B misdemeanor conviction in return for prosecutors dismissing or waiving the remaining 54 counts and agreeing there will be no prosecution against owners in their individual capacity.
The deal speaks volumes about the inadequacies of this prosecution. Resolution for our client was a business and financial decision. Unfortunately, our community has already felt the devastating effects of this legal action and now faces an overwhelming need for additional mental health treatment facilities.
This prosecution arose at a time when JPS, which is owned by Tarrant County, unsuccessfully pursued the purchase of Sundance Behavioral Healthcare System to address patient overflow. With the closing of Sundance, JPS is now pursuing two, $20 million dollar clinics that focus significantly on behavioral and mental health care needs. This will be paid for by taxpayer dollars.
STATEMENT FROM THE TARRANT COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE:
Today, Sundance Behavioral Heathcare System pled guilty to violating the Texas Mental Health Code “ a criminal conviction. Charged with multiple Class B Misdemeanor counts, the corporation pled guilty to the most egregious count “that the hospital knowingly illegally held a female patient against her will for 21 days. A $200,000 fine was levied, which was paid to the State by the corporation at the time of the plea.
The Sundance System offered behavioral treatment at their locations in Arlington, Fort Worth and Garland on both an inpatient and outpatient basis. Last year, the corporation was indicted by a Tarrant County Grand Jury for knowingly violating the Texas Mental Health Code by detaining multiple patients for longer than the statuary maximum of 48 hours without legal authority, and for refusing to allow voluntary patients to leave the facility.
TSundance ceased operations in December and subsequently filed for bankruptcy.