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State Agency Sending Complaints Back Without Investigating

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According to a recent article in the Austin American Statesman by Andrea Ball, 36% of complaints received by the Texas Department of Family & Protective Services filed by psychiatric hospital patients are not investigated. Those in charge of the agency claim the cases involve medical care, hospital policies or patient rights which are areas they do not investigate. However, mental health advocates say the agency is miscategorizing cases in order to avoid investigating the allegations.

The agency is responsible for investigating complaints from a variety of places including foster care homes, psychiatric hospitals and centers for people with learning disabilities. Between September 2010 and August 2011, the agency received 3,984 complaints from the 10 state hospitals that treat psychiatric patients. Out of those, 1,434 were sent back to the hospitals. The number of complaints being sent back is of concern to patient advocates because they do not know why it is so high.

In order for a complaint to become an investigation, an intake specialist with the agency gathers information and sends it to an agency investigator. The investigator then must determine whether the complaint qualifies as abuse, neglect or exploitation. If it does qualify, the complaint is tagged for investigation. If it does not qualify, it is sent back to the hospital for their investigation.

As you can see, the determination by the agency is critical for the complainant. If the agency does not think the complaint qualifies under their jurisdiction, then the same facility a person is complaining about is the one who performs the investigation. With recent budget cuts to nearly every state agency, the concern is that there is not enough man power to fully investigate the allegations. As a result, the complaints are being reclassified so not to require investigation.

If you or someone you know has not received proper medical care, contact the attorneys at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend by calling 713-396-3964 or 1-800-594-4884.

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