Lawsuits allege suicidal patients were not watched

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by BYRON HARRIS

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WFAA

Posted on November 24, 2013 at 11:49 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 25 at 12:13 AM

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Will Colston was a hero. After a hijacked jet crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, Colston helped lead the rebuilding.

A loving father and husband, tri-athlete and revered friend to many, Colston seemed indestructible.

After finishing his work rebuilding the Pentagon, he helped the U.S. State Department rebuild embassies around the world, receiving letters of commendation from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

In January 2011, however, during a visit to Dallas to visit extended family, something in Will Colston cracked.

"They weren't sure what was wrong," his wife Kristen recalled. "But he was admitted to be treated for a mental health condition."

Colston was admitted to University Behavioral Health in Denton. His admission records show he was assessed as being suicidal.

Four days later, he was dead.

"He should have been watched every minute, so that he was not given the opportunity to take the sheets off his bed and hang himself," Kristen Colston said.

Two months earlier, Joe Juraszek had also been admitted to UBH Denton, in his case for severe depression.

Juraszek, a strapping, outgoing man, made bigger men do unpleasant things for a living. He had been a strength coach for the Dallas Cowboys, and was partially in charge of keeping the team in shape.

But he'd been in mental decline since May, 2009, court testimony says, after being inside the Cowboys' Valley Ranch practice facility the day it collapsed.

In his admission interview at UBH more than a year later, he characterized his mental condition as "going under."

A day after admission, Juraszek told UBH staff he "wanted to kill himself."

Three days after admission, he tried to do just that, using sharp implements the staff had left in his room to inflict a traumatic brain injury on himself.

Although he did not kill himself, Juraszek's family is suing UBH for breaching the standard of care by allowing dangerous objects in the room of a suicidal patient.

Will Colston's family is suing UBH as well. Skip Simpson is their attorney. "The negligence here was serious," Simpson said. "It was severe and reckless."

Colston's intake assessment noted he was at risk of "imminent suicide."

"My expectations were that he was in a safe place and that they were going to take care of him, and that they were going to give him the proper medication, and he was going to come home to me and my boys. And that didn't happen," Kristen Colston said.

Will Colston has two young sons.

Severely suicidal patients, psychiatrists say, should be constantly watched by an attendant. In hospital jargon that's known as "one-on-one."

Instead, Colston was on "Q15," where his condition was only monitored every fifteen minutes.

"It takes two or three minutes for someone to have irreversible brain damage from hanging," said attorney Simpson. "It takes six or seven minutes for someone to be dead from hanging."

Kristen Colston, herself an attorney, did not know many of the details of mental hospitals before her husband died. It has been a painful learning process — more difficult, she says, than it should have been.

It took her months simply to get her husband's records from UBH.

"It seemed ridiculous," she said. "I couldn't understand why it took so long to get records that I was legally entitled to have."

She goes forward with her fight for a purpose.

"I don't want any other children to grow up without their fathers. I don't want wives to lose their husbands. I don't want parents to lose their kids. I want this to stop."

UBH in Denton was sold last fall. Its new owner is Universal Health Services, UHS. UHS declined to be interviewed about this story.

But the new owner points out that the Colston and Juraszek cases happened under previous management. Universal also said that because the cases are in court and because of patient privacy rules, it can't comment on them.

E-mail bharris@wfaa.com

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