General News News for Colorado

Denver Psychiatrist Charged with Wrongly Prescribing Drugs

Denver area psychiatrist Howard Weiss has been indicted on 120 federal charges that include allegations he prescribed higher doses of psychiatric drugs without trying lower doses or alternative treatments first.  At least one of his patients died of an overdose, according to the indictment, although he is not charged in that death.

He is also charged with prescribing addictive drugs to already-addicted patients and prescribing high doses of benzodiazepines to patients taking opioids, a combination of drugs that could prove fatal.

According to the Denver Post, the indictment alleges that Weiss prescribed pills — including amphetamines such as Adderall and benzodiazepines such as Xanax and Valium — to patients at dosages that were too high and without exploring other avenues of treatment.

The indictment alleges that, in one three-month period, one patient was prescribed 9,000 Adderall pills, 480 pills of the muscle relaxant Soma and 480 Xanax tablets.

Weiss has a criminal history.   According to the disciplinary document  on the Dept of Regulatory Affairs (DORA) website, in 1995 Weiss was suspended from practice in the State of Virginia after conviction on federal charges involving filing false and fraudulent billing claims of in-patient psychiatric services. He served his sentence of probation and paid a fine and restitution, and his license was later reinstated in Virginia.

Weiss was granted a license to practice in Colorado in 2003. In 2019 he once again faced disciplinary action after the Colorado Medical Board reviewed information that Weiss “simultaneously prescribed multiple controlled substances in high doses to multiple patients” and “permitted patients to make determinations regarding their prescription medications despite clear evidence of abuse or misuse.”  He was found by the Board to “pose an immediate risk to the public health, safety or welfare” of the citizens of Colorado.  In an emergency action, his license was once again suspended.

If you are concerned about the psychiatric drugs prescribed to you or a loved one, discuss it with your doctor. You can also research psychiatric drug side effects here.

WARNING: Anyone wishing to discontinue or change the dose of a psychiatric drug is cautioned to do so only under the supervision of a competent medical doctor because of potentially dangerous, even life-threatening mental and physical withdrawal symptoms.

If you or anyone you know has experienced harmful side effects from psychiatric drugs, we want to talk to you.  You can contact us by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept in the strictest confidence.

News for Colorado

Psychological Treatment Failed To Prevent Columbine – And Now The Boulder Mass Shooting?

Did psychological treatment in the form of anger management fail to prevent another mass shooting?

Ahmad Alissa, charged in the shooting deaths of 10 people in a Boulder grocery store on March 22, received psychological anger management as part of his sentence of probation, after pleading guilty to a charge of misdemeanor third-degree assault in 2018.  As a high school senior in 2017, Alissa had attacked a classmate by punching him in the head without warning and continuing to punch him when he fell to the ground.

Alissa is now being held in Boulder County jail on 10 counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder.  Police found him at the scene of the slaughter with a tactical vest, a semiautomatic handgun and an assault rifle, according to the arrest affidavit.

Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold also received psychological treatment.  After being arrested for breaking into a van and stealing electronic equipment in 1998, both spent 11 months in diversion programs, which included psychological counseling.  Harris’s program also included an anger management class.

Just two months after Harris and Klebold completed their diversion programs, they launched their attack at Columbine High School in April 1999, killing 13 people and wounding 26 others.

Documents later released by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office included a diary kept by Harris, filled with hateful and angry entries written over the two years leading up to the Columbine attack.

In an entry dated November 22, 1998 – just days after completing his anger management class and while his counseling was ongoing, Harris wrote about purchasing weapons and ammunition for the assault he would launch with Klebold the following April, concluding: “It’s all over now, this capped it off, the point of no return.”

Harris had also been taking antidepressants for at least a year before the Columbine massacre, drugs which have been linked to agitation, aggression, abnormal behavior, mania, psychosis, suicide and violence.  Psychiatrist Peter Breggin and biopsychologist Ann Tracy are among those who make the case that Harris’s anger was fueled by the antidepressants.

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Denver And Pueblo Psychiatrists Disciplined By Medical Board For Unprofessional Conduct

Two Colorado psychiatrists had their licenses put on five years’ probation by the Colorado Medical Board for unprofessional conduct under the state Medical Practice Act.

The disciplinary action taken against psychiatrist Thomas William Starkey, Jr., of Denver, is the result of his violation of an earlier agreement with the Board.  After pleading guilty to driving under the influence, Starkey signed a July 2019 agreement with the Board to stop performing any act requiring a medical license, while the Board investigated and determined what further actions, if any, were warranted.

The Board then found that between July and October 2019, Starkey authorized his office staff to continue distributing pre-written prescriptions for medications to patients, in violation of his agreement with the Board.

In its Final Agency Order, dated January 27, the Board states that Starkey has a physical or mental condition that renders him “unable to perform a medical service with reasonable skill and with safety to patients in the absence of treatment monitoring” and that he “habitually or excessively used or abused alcohol, a habit-forming drug, or a controlled substance.”

In addition to five years’ probation, the Board ordered Starkey’s abstinence from addictive substances, treatment as determined by the Colorado Physician Health Program, and compliance monitoring.

Starkey was previously disciplined with five years’ license probation in October 2010, after the Medical Board found that he crossed the boundaries of professional conduct with a female patient the same day he terminated treatment of her.  He completed that probation in 2015.

Psychiatrist Andi Kristine Woodbury, of Pueblo, was disciplined by the Medical Board, effective January 8, with a Letter of Admonition and five years’ license probation and treatment monitoring for violating a section of the Medical Practice Act concerned with failing to notify the Board of certain physical or mental conditions, or failing to practice within the limitations of those conditions with safety to patients, or failing to comply with limitations agreed to under any confidential agreement.

Woodbury’s specific act or omission that prompted the Board’s disciplinary action was not further detailed, but it follows the March 2020 voluntary surrender of her clinical privileges during an investigation of her professional competence and conduct at the medical facility at which she worked and a July 2020 evaluation by the Colorado Physician Health Program, which concluded she could practice safely if she received treatment and monitoring.

News for Colorado

Counselor at Boulder Mental Health Facility Arrested for Sexual Assault, Police Looking For Other Victims

A former counselor at the Warner House facility of Mental Health Partners, a community mental health clinic in Boulder, was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a patient, and police are looking for other victims.

Jose Yepes, 48, was employed as a “milieu counselor” and interacted with patients dealing with substance abuse.

Boulder police began investigating a series of incidents involving the suspect after a female victim reported that Yepes repeatedly initiated sexual contact over a one-month period in November.

The Boulder Daily Camera reported details of an affidavit, in which the woman said Yepes locked her in a dark room for what he called “energy healing” sessions, asked her to spank him and step on his back while he was naked on the floor, and showed her nude photos of himself.

Yepes has been charged with stalking, unlawful sexual contact and indecent exposure.

License information on the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies website indicate the suspect was registered as an unlicensed psychotherapist, effective 2009 to 2011, but has not been licensed or registered with the state since then.

Boulder Police believe there could be additional victims and are asking anyone with information related to the case to contact them.  Police caution that suspects are presumed innocent until convicted.

If you or anyone you know has been the victim of sexual contact by any employee of a mental health facility, we want to talk to you.  You can contact us by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept in the strictest confidence.

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Police Responding To Report Of Psychiatric Facility Runaways Are Asked By Staff To Control “Rioting”

Police officers arriving at a Colorado Springs psychiatric facility Saturday night in response to a report of juvenile runaways were asked by staff to help them gain control of the facility from “rioting” patients who were “overtaking” them.

Officers were initially dispatched to Cedar Springs Hospital after receiving a report that juveniles had run away from the facility, according to the Colorado Springs Police blotter.

When officers arrived, they were advised that multiple patients were “rioting, overriding the facility, destroying property, and overtaking the staff.”

Several staff members suffered injuries that police described as “minor.”

Five juvenile “instigators” were arrested on charges that include 2nd degree assault, 3rd degree assault and harassment.

Information on what sparked the incident is not available.

What drugs the juveniles may have been prescribed is also not known.  Commonly prescribed psychiatric drugs carry well-known risks of side effects that include hostility, psychosis, aggression and violence.

If you or someone you know has had experience with this or any other psychiatric facility, we want to talk with you.   You can contact us by clicking here  or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept in the strictest confidence.

News for Colorado

State Closes Clear View Behavioral Health, Intends To Revoke License Permanently

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has closed Clear View Behavioral Health in Johnstown, effective immediately, and is proceeding to revoke its license permanently because of a history of non-compliance with state and federal regulations, according to a CDPHE news release issued September 28.

Clear View’s five-year regulatory history includes 111 citations issued after state and federal investigators found deficient practices during 40 initial and revisit inspections, according to data on CDPHE’s Health Facilities website.  The inspections occurred mostly in response to complaints the Department received about the psychiatric facility.

The citations included violations of regulations concerning psychiatric evaluation, patient safety, infection control, administration of drugs, nursing services, treatment plans, patients rights, restraint and seclusion, and discharge planning.

Clear View also had seven occurrences at the facility that were required to be reported to CDPHE:  four occurrences of sexual abuse, three of physical abuse, and one of neglect.

In July 2018, CDPHE issued a finding of “Immediate Jeopardy” twice, meaning Clear View’s non-compliance with regulations put patients’ health and safety at risk for serious injury, serious harm, serious impairment or death.

Clear View responded in December 2018 that it had corrected the deficient practices, and  CDPHE issued a conditional license in February 2019 for the facility to continue to operate.

When new complaints were filed with CDPHE and reports on problems at Clear View were aired by The Denver Channel, CDPHE made an unannounced visit to the facility to investigate in late May 2019.

As a result of finding “repeat deficiencies, as well as new deficiencies which placed Clear View patients’ health, safety, and welfare at risk,” CDPHE notified Clear View in June 2019  of its intention to revoke the psychiatric facility’s license, giving facility administrators 30 days to respond while allowing operations to continue.  Clear View responded and asked for a hearing before an administrative law judge.

Instead, CDPHE investigators revisited Clear View in September 2019 and, after determining that it was again in compliance with regulations, CDPHE allowed the facility to keep its license under terms of an agreement the parties signed in January.

Recently, CDPHE investigators, responding to new complaints, conducted another unannounced visit and found “multiple deficiencies, including nursing services and infection control.”

The Department concluded that the latest deficiencies, in addition to Clear View’s regulatory history, warranted a summary suspension “for consistent regulatory violations.”

CDPHE now intends to revoke Clear View’s license permanently.  It has been licensed since November 2015.

If you or someone you know experienced substandard conditions or harmful treatment at a mental health facility, we want to talk to you.  You can contact us by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept in the strictest confidence.

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Counselor Charged With Helping Juvenile Offender To Escape Loses License To Practice

A former behavioral health specialist at the Lookout Mountain Youth Services Center in Golden has been permanently barred from practicing as a counselor or psychotherapist in Colorado after allegedly aiding the escape of a juvenile offender and engaging in a relationship with him in her home while he was a fugitive.

According to official documents, Kirsten Gonzalez was 26 years old at the time she signed a home pass for the 19-year-old male inmate in August 2017, allegedly knowing he was planning not to return to the correctional facility.  Her supervisors at the time issued a letter of reprimand to her for providing the pass.

The escapee was finally apprehended in October 2018, when he was arrested in connection with a carjacking.  He was convicted of robbery in June 2019 and sentenced to six years in prison.  In July 2019 he was sentenced to three years for his escape from the youth detention center.

Gonzalez’s alleged further involvement with the fugitive was not discovered until July 2019, when she reportedly admitted in a recorded interview with Lookout Mountain staff that she had been involved in a relationship with him.  She reportedly was escorted from the facility that day and resigned her position soon after.

According to official documents, a subsequent investigation by the Golden Police Department found that Gonzalez provided him with the home pass, had knowledge of the escape and provided him with shelter and comfort after his escape.

Gonzalez was arrested in August 2019 on felony charges of aiding escape and accessory to escape, and a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct.  Her next appearance in Jefferson County Court is scheduled for May 26.

Meanwhile, the Colorado Board of Licensed Professional Counselor Examiners received a complaint against her, alleging “an inappropriate relationship with a client,” which if true, would violate state law under the Mental Health Practice Act.

The Board ordered Gonzalez to undergo a “mental or physical evaluation” in September 2019, and when Gonzalez failed to comply, the Board in October 2019 suspended her license  to practice until she submitted to the required evaluation.

Then, in a January 2020 agreement with the Colorado boards that regulate licensed professional counselors and registered psychotherapists, Gonzalez agreed to permanently give up her counselor’s license and psychotherapist’s registration and never to reapply for them, though she still denied the Board’s allegations.

If you believe a psychiatrist or other mental health worker has engaged in unprofessional conduct, we want to talk with you.  You can contact us by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept in the strictest confidence.

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Researchers Conclude Suicide Warning On Antidepressant Labels Is Justified

Researchers examining the validity of the black box warning on antidepressants have concluded that the warning of the increased risk of suicidal thoughts and actions in children and young adults is clearly justified.

The best evidence available from clinical trials “demonstrated increased risk of suicidality adverse events among youth taking antidepressants,” according to researchers from universities in the United States and Australia, whose findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry.

The researchers also examined critics’ claims that the black-box warning led to fewer prescriptions for antidepressants and, as a result, higher rates of suicide and suicide attempts.

Instead, researchers found that the rise in suicidal behavior in children and young adults occurred while prescriptions for antidepressants also increased.

“More recent data suggest that increasing antidepressant prescriptions are related to more youth suicide attempts and more completed suicides among American children and adolescents,” the researchers wrote.

“The black box warning is firmly rooted in solid data, whereas attempts to claim the warning has caused harm are based on quite weak evidence,” they concluded.

A black box warning on a drug label is one of the FDA’s strongest warnings, reserved for drugs that carry significant risk of serious or fatal side effects.

The black box warning on antidepressants was first required by the FDA in 2004 to warn of the increased risk of suicidal thoughts and actions in children and adolescents.  The warning was expanded in 2007 to include young adults.

“When a clear body of evidence points to increased treatment-linked risk, patients and healthcare providers should be made aware of these risks,” the researchers wrote, noting their duty to warn.

WARNING: Anyone wishing to discontinue or change the dose of a psychiatric drug is cautioned to do so only under the supervision of a competent medical doctor because of potentially dangerous, even life-threatening mental and physical withdrawal symptoms.

If you or someone you know has experienced harmful side effects from antidepressants, we want to talk with you.  You can contact us by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept in the strictest confidence.

News for Colorado You be the Judge...

Psychiatrist Surrendering Colorado License Investigated In Deaths Of 36 Patients In New Mexico

A psychiatrist who surrendered his Colorado medical license in August to settle allegations that he over-prescribed drugs and that six of his patients died from drug overdoses is now under investigation by authorities in New Mexico in the deaths of 30 other patients over a six-year period.

Edwin B. Hall was licensed to practice in Colorado since 1984, but had been practicing in New Mexico when his alleged over-prescribing came to the attention of authorities there.

The Albuquerque Journal reports a search warrant was recently served by the New Mexico Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Division, alleging that a total of 36 of Hall’s patients died from 2013 through 2018.  Authorities seized records of patients being treated by Hall and other providers in his now-closed practice in Albuquerque.

Six deaths were allegedly the result of overdoses, according to the warrant and information from the New Mexico Medical Board.  Hall did not admit any wrongdoing, but agreed in March to permanently surrender his New Mexico medical license.

Investigations by the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office into the other 30 deaths are ongoing.

The Colorado Medical Board issued its Stipulation and Final Order in August, based on the investigations and allegations by the New Mexico Medical Board.

In its Order, the Colorado Board alleged that Hall had prescribed controlled substance drugs “in a manner posing a threat to the health of his minor and adult patients,” that he “failed to effectively screen, evaluate, assess, and monitor patients to whom controlled substances had been prescribed,” and that “six of his adult patients died as a result of an overdose.”

The Board further alleged that an unlicensed individual was treating patients at Hall’s practice and billing Medicaid under Hall’s name.

The unlicensed individual was identified by a New Mexico law firm as John A. Connell, a  psychiatrist whose license had been revoked in Georgia over allegations of over-prescribing drugs and sexual contact with a female patient.

Hall denied the Colorado Board’s allegations, but agreed to permanently surrender his Colorado license, effective August 6, to resolve the matter.

In addition to ongoing investigations, the Albuquerque Journal reports three civil lawsuits have been filed in New Mexico against Hall alleging medical negligence, with one of the suits also naming Connell as a defendant.

If you or someone you know has been over-prescribed psychiatric drugs by a psychiatrist or other prescribing mental health worker, we want to talk with you.  You can contact us by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept in the strictest confidence.

News for Colorado You be the Judge...

Boulder Psychiatrist Put On Probation – His Third Disciplinary Action By A State Medical Board

The license of Boulder psychiatrist David K. Rosenthal has been put on probation and his practice will be monitored for five years under the terms of disciplinary action taken recently by the Colorado Medical Board.

In its Stipulation and Final Agency Order dated July 24, 2018, the Board found Rosenthal substituted telephone calls for several in-person appointments with a patient whose mental health symptoms and condition were too severe for it, and failed to meet with the patient regularly to ensure he was safely prescribing drugs to him.

This is the third public disciplinary action taken against Rosenthal by a state medical board, one of which led to the surrender of his California medical license.

According to Medical Board of California disciplinary documents, Rosenthal admitted that in 2000, he had sexual relations with a female patient who was seeking treatment from him after reportedly being sexually assaulted by her landlord.

Rosenthal was convicted in 2001 in Sacramento County Superior Court of misdemeanor sexual battery and sexual exploitation.  He was sentenced to 180 days in jail and three-year probation, during which time he was ordered not to treat females or minor children.  He was also ordered to get sexual abuse counseling and pay restitution to his victim.

Rosenthal subsequently surrendered his California medical license in 2002.

In April 2003, he applied to reactivate his Colorado medical license, which had been inactive since 1993.  In November 2003, the Colorado Medical Board granted him a restricted license to work only at correctional facilities because “the oversight inherent in the practice of medicine in the correctional system will adequately protect the public.”  He was also required to complete a course on maintaining personal boundaries.

In September 2004, Rosenthal requested that the restrictions be modified.  The Medical Board agreed in October 2004 to a five-year stipulation, limiting his license to patient evaluations and medication management.  He was required to disclose to his patients that he had been disciplined by the Board for sexual contact with a patient and that such contact is “inappropriate under any circumstances.”

He was also required to continue treatment as determined by the Colorado Physician Health Program, which monitored his practice and his treatment of patients, in particular “those patients who might trigger vulnerabilities leading to boundary violations” by Rosenthal.

The restrictions expired in October 2009.

In May 2016, Rosenthal was again disciplined with a letter of admonition from the Colorado Medical Board.  It found that in his treatment of a patient, he failed to consider alternative and more appropriate medications to treat the patient’s anxiety, failed to properly address the tapering of the patient’s Xanax, inappropriately prescribed Neurontin on an unsupervised basis (to help with Xanax withdrawal seizures), and failed to address the PTSD he had diagnosed in the patient.

The Board decided not to start formal proceedings against his license at that time.

Rosenthal’s current probation with practice monitoring extends to July 2023.

If you believe a psychiatrist or other mental health worker has engaged in unprofessional conduct, we want to talk with you.  You can contact us by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept in the strictest confidence.


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