KOLD INVESTIGATES: Another crisis at Sonora Behavioral Health uncovered

The problems were so bad, the state took immediate action against the troubled Tucson facility
Published: Jan. 30, 2020 at 10:34 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Sonora Behavioral Health Hospital in Tucson has been the subject of lawsuits and state investigation for years.

A new crisis, brought to the state’s attention by KOLD Investigates, was so bad it required immediate action.

"It's serious," said Colby Bower, Assistant Director with the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Serious enough for surveyors to stay at Sonora Behavioral Health Hospital for six days in October.

That’s when KOLD Investigates submitted some complaints to the state after interviewing workers, former workers, as well as patients and their families.

State officials said while surveyors were investigating the submissions, they found the worst case scenario -- a case of immediate jeopardy.

Bower explained what that means.

“If that condition is not corrected right away, the patients or the residents there are at risk of significant harm,” Bower said.

This time, it was because the surveyor found about 75 percent of the toilets had an area patients could hang themselves.

The hinge of the toilet seat had an opening where a patient could slip a cord or shoe lace through.

“Ligature points in facilities are always a big deal,” he said. "particularly in a psychiatric facility.”

Another citation details the case of a patient who was slamming the toilet seat and it broke in two.

The problem with that is the seat could be used as a weapon.

In all, there were more than a dozen new citations listed for October and some could be linked to our reporting.

A whistleblower said a cart used during emergencies at Sonora Behavioral Health Hospital was...
A whistleblower said a cart used during emergencies at Sonora Behavioral Health Hospital was difficult to access.(KOLD News 13)

For example, we submitted a complaint about an emergency cart that was difficult to access.

According to the citation, the fact it was kept in a locked medication room made it inaccessible to many staff members.

Another citation detailed nearly 30 incidents of patients using contraband to hurt themselves. In some cases, patients were able to remove large furniture staples to cut themselves. One of the staples was found embedded in a patient’s arm.

KOLD Investigates once again tried to get an interview with the hospital.

They refused an on-camera interview but released the following statement:

The new citations have been corrected and the case of immediate jeopardy with the toilet seat hinges was resolved.

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