Emily Rice Published

Man Held At Sharpe Hospital Sues State Officials

A large brick building is shown, featuring large windows and can be seen against a blue sky.
Sharpe Hospital is a psychiatric facility under state operation.
The Thrasher Group

Editor’s note: The following may be disturbing for some readers.

Disability Rights West Virginia (DRWV) has filed a lawsuit on behalf of an adult male, referred to as J.P., with developmental disabilities that says he has been physically abused and wrongfully held at William R. Sharpe Hospital for more than 570 days.

DRWV is the state’s federally-mandated protection advocacy system for people with disabilities.

On Sept. 14, 2022, J.P. was removed from a Westbrook facility and sent to Sharpe Hospital. 

Westbrook is a company that runs residential housing for people with disabilities. Sharpe Hospital is a psychiatric facility under state operation. 

According to the Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification (OHFLAC), Westbrook’s care provider and licensed social worker falsely represented to the Wood County mental hygiene commissioner that J.P. “violently and aggressively attacked his roommate” to attempt to justify J.P.’s improper involuntary civil commitment. 

Tina Wiseman, the OHFLAC director who oversaw the investigation of the incident stated, according to the lawsuit, the incident did not occur. 

“We did an investigation when I was at OHFLAC and what the provider wrote down on the commitment papers didn’t take place,” Wiseman said. “We watched it on the video, and it did not take place. There needs to be something that holds that provider accountable when they falsify commitment papers to get the person out of there. I mean they’re stripping someone of their rights there’s just no accountability…You never ever would have known, I mean they said he [J.P.] viciously attacked his roommate. He never touched him. He never touched him. It was pretty horrible.”

Legal Director for Disability Rights West Virginia, Mike Folio said J.P. is being held unlawfully at Sharpe Hospital.

“J.P.’s case is absolutely egregious because he was in a community setting, and evidence provided by the former OHFLAC director is that Westbrook, a community-based provider that was responsible for caring for J.P. falsified the application to get him involuntarily committed,” Folio said.

A month after arriving at the facility, on Oct.  12, 2022, Sharpe Hospital determined that J.P. was “eligible for discharge and clinically stable.”

The hospital determined that his purported behaviors were related to his developmental disability and “not any psychosis,” as is required by West Virginia state code for involuntary commitment to a state hospital.

“A diagnosis of dementia, epilepsy, or intellectual or developmental disability alone may not be a basis for involuntary commitment to a state hospital,” state code states.

On or before Oct. 12, 2022, Sharpe Hospital reported that Westbrook refused to accept J.P. if he were to be discharged. The hospital also documented that Westbrook’s strict criteria are unrealistic and attainable for J.P. and questioned the original mental hygiene petition, or referral to Sharpe, since the hospital has not observed the behavior reported in the petition.

On Oct. 19, 2022, five days after Sharpe Hospital’s finding that J.P. was clinically stable and ready for discharge, the Lewis County Mental Hygiene Commissioner, Brian W. Bailey held a hearing and entered an order that civilly-committed J.P. to Sharpe Hospital.

According to the lawsuit, Sharpe Hospital clinicians have shared that J.P and other persons in similar situations are “decompensating” during their commitment to the hospital given the chaotic psychiatric hospital environment.

“J.P. is really, sadly, he’s the poster child for a failed system where the Department of Human Services that’s responsible for overseeing and providing community placements isn’t doing it, then it’s a failure of the Secretary of the Health Facilities to continue to keep somebody locked up,” Folio said.

Sharpe CEO Patrick Ryan, Department of Human Services Secretary Cynthia Persily and Department of Health Facility Secretary Michael Caruso were also named as defendants.

“We’re naming all of the responsible parties, including the Chief Medical Officer who has the ability to discharge him, the Administrator of Sharpe Hospital who continues to allow him to be unlawfully committed, the Secretary of the Department of Health Facilities that has the authority to discharge him or direct the discharge, but he won’t,” Folio said. “And then Secretary (Cynthia) Persily, who’s the Secretary of the Department of Human Services that oversees the community placements. So all of these individuals collectively and individually, have really combined to create this pattern of J.P. being unlawfully committed and continuing to be unlawfully committed.”

On Jan. 30, 2023, Westbrook notified J.P.’s mother and guardian that Westbrook had discharged J.P. and he was prohibited from returning to his prior residence. In addition, Westbrook stopped providing IDD Waiver services to J.P. and charged him rent for a Westbrook residence from the time of his involuntary civil commitment until his discharge from Westbrook’s service even though he was not living there.

J.P.’s Sharpe Hospital records reveal that J.P.’s behaviors escalate over his frustration with remaining at Sharpe Hospital and he repeats, “Go home, go home.”

On or about June 9, 2023 one or more Sharpe Hospital employees abused and physically assaulted J.P., according to an investigation by Legal Aid of West Virginia (LAWV), cited in the lawsuit.

LAWV obtained a statement from Dr. Abid Rizvi, J.P.’s primary treating psychiatrist, and Dr. Rizvi observed that J.P. was physically abused.

In an interview with LAWV, Rizvi said the bruising could not have been self-inflicted and that a bruise on J.P.’s back resembled a shoe print.

“So you have a staff member who physically battered a vulnerable protected person,” Folio said. “And again J.P.’s own physician has said this, not us J.P.’s own physician or psychiatrist and the person who battered him walks around with impunity that consequences are nothing.”

Ryan and Caruso have stated that J.P. was not abused or assaulted.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health Facilities and Department of Human Service’s Office of Shared Administration told West Virginia Public Broadcasting:

“The West Virginia Department of Health Facilities and Department of Human Services are in receipt of the complaint and are reviewing it with litigation counsel at this time.”

A patient advocate took photos of J.P. inside Sharpe Hospital following the alleged abuse.

Courtesy Photos