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Man sexually assaulted by another patient at Tacoma behavioral health hospital, lawsuit says

By Alexis Krell -- The News Tribune | Follow this link to access the online article


A man who was sexually assaulted by another patient at Wellfound Behavioral Health Hospital in Tacoma has sued the facility, according to court records.

The 21-year-old filed his lawsuit Tuesday in Pierce County Superior Court, alleging that Wellfound didn’t take proper precautions to protect him and should have known the woman who assaulted him was a danger to other patients.

“You expect to be kept safe when you enter a facility like this,” said Cole Douglas, one of the attorneys representing him. “... When the exact opposite happens, it really flips your world upside-down.”

Douglas said the 21-year-old and his family researched Wellfound and called the facility to ask about safety before he went there in February.

Wellfound said in a statement Thursday that it’s “committed to providing a welcoming and safe environment to our community. We take seriously the responsibilities we have to our patients, families and staff.”

The nonprofit hospital opened in 2019. It was built and is operated by CHI Franciscan and MultiCare.

“The patients who come to us for care are experiencing behavioral health challenges and may be in crisis,” the statement said. “We use best practices to ensure the safety of everyone in our facility. When a concern about an interaction with another patient is raised, we thoroughly investigate the situation to determine next steps. As part of our commitment to patient privacy and confidentiality, we do not comment on any specific patient.”

The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, gives this account of what happened:

The 21-year-old was referred to Wellfound and admitted Feb. 6 after he’d gone to a hospital in Vancouver, Washington where he lived and showed “grandiose, delusional, and hyper religious thinking in the emergency department,” the lawsuit said.

A lack of sleep in the weeks beforehand exacerbated his mental health struggles.

The man “was cooperative with Wellfound staff, but employees appeared to be grossly disorganized within the unit he was housed, and confused as to the status of his mental state,” the lawsuit alleged.

About 3 a.m. Feb. 7 another patient entered his room and sexually assaulted him.

The man immediately went into the hallway, and she followed and assaulted him again.

Staff intervened, and the woman ran into another patient’s room and got into that patient’s bed.

“Once located, she was apprehended and moved to another unit for observation,” the lawsuit said.

The 21-year-old was taken to Tacoma General Hospital and a rape kit was done.

He said he didn’t feel safe at Wellfound and was discharged from the facility Feb. 8 against medical advice.

“This type of harm is clearly foreseeable,” Douglas said.

He said a criminal investigation against the woman who assaulted his client is underway and that she has not been charged.

Today, he said, his client is “in a place where he feels safe and is working on moving forward and living a productive, healthy life. This is obviously something that is going to impact him for quite some time.”

The News Tribune has previously reported about patient safety at Wellfound.

An investigation by the state Department of Health last year found the facility didn’t have clear admissions policies. In another case last year, Department of Health investigators reviewed 40 incidents of assault or aggression at the facility and found Wellfound had failed to protect a patient’s right to be free of sexual harassment, The News Tribune reported.

The facility submitted approved plans of correction.

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