Facebook Twitter



A Monday night disturbance at a residential psychiatric hospital for teenagers has prompted another investigation by state licensing officials into the privately run facility.

West Jordan police were called to help staff at Rivendell Psychiatric Hospital quell a disturbance that involved four to five patients. It began shortly after 5 p.m. when several residents became upset about some of the restrictions placed on them, said Rivendell administrator Sandra Podley.The male residents broke furniture and, while they never threatened or hit anyone, they were armed with the wooden legs from some of the chairs. Podley said the residents gave her the pieces of wood willingly and police were called only as a precaution.

West Jordan Police Capt. Randy Johnson said, "We went out there to show a physical presence." Officers arrived about 5:45 p.m. and stayed for about an hour and a half. While most officers then left, administrators decided to leave four officers at Rivendell for two more hours.

Johnson said the staff was dealing with the four or five residents who'd become physically angry and about 10 others who were "being mouthy."

"There was lots of smoke but no fire," he said.

The incident caught the attention of Deb Wynkoop-Green, director of the Bureau of Health Facilities Licensing, who told her staff Tuesday morning to visit the West Jordan hospital.

One of the reasons for such a quick reaction by state officials is it's not the first time Rivendell has had problems. Wynkoop-Green said the hospital was cited last month for an insufficient number of competent staff.

The hospital was also cited in July for not having a competent and well-trained administrator. In response, Rivendell hired Podley last fall.

During that same time period the facility was cited for not having appropriate medical services and insufficient staff escorting residents on an outing, she said.

Administrators are required to respond in writing to violations, detailing what they plan to do to correct the problem, said Wynkoop-Green. There are a number of sanctions the state can take if corrections aren't made or if similar violations continue to occur.

Wynkoop-Green said the private operation has an "above average" number of violations for a hospital.

State monitors just visited Rivendell a few weeks ago, but because of Monday's problem, they are planning another visit. Wynkoop-Green said they also plan to talk with police, staff and residents about Monday's uprising.

Licensing officials aren't the only ones examining specialty hospitals like Rivendell. Utah has about seven "free-standing" hospitals that offer specialized mental health treatment.

All of them rely in part on patients from out-of-state to keep their beds filled. That has raised concerns that other states could send some of their most difficult patients to Utah for treatment.

The Utah Association of Health Care Providers, which represents hospitals and health-care systems, is in the process of reviewing state regulations to see that the care of patients and community concerns about safety are balanced and protected, said Richard Kinnersley, director of the organization.

Psychiatric treatment has "shifted so much to out-patient care that now those who are i-npatient tend to be sicker," he said. "It's the same with acute-care (medical) hospitals . . .. Licensing of facilities needs careful review by the state."

Incidents like the one at Rivendell "are potentially explosive and always a concern," Kinnersley said. The task force is taking a "beginning to end" look at staff ratios, which type of facility are appropriate for which patients, staff training and other issues.

Their findings will be used to recommend modifications to licensing standards, he said.

Deseret News staff writer Lois Collins contributed to this story.