Meridian Behavioral Health, LLC, made the decision to hire “a recovering methamphetamine addict with an extensive criminal history — including a charge for engaging in prostitution” for “one of the largest chemical dependency treatment centers in the state” is the conclusion from a February 2, 2017, investigative report from the Star Tribune. The article further concluded that the employee, Bruce Biddlecome, “threatened a female patient and coerced her to have sex with him at Douglas Place Treatment Center in East Grand Forks, Minn.”
The Kosieradzki Smith Law Firm is currently pursuing legal action against Meridian Behavioral Health, LLC, for its negligent hiring, negligent supervision, and negligent retention of Bruce Biddlecome. The case is venued in Ramsey County District Court, where Meridian Behavioral Health, LLC, is headquartered. “The purpose of the lawsuit” according to Mark Kosieradzki of the Kosieradzki Smith Law Firm (above) “is to hold the wrongdoers accountable because that is the only way to make companies protect their vulnerable clients.” A hearing is scheduled on February 10, 2017, to allow claims for punitive damages against Bruce Biddlecome and to add additional claims against Meridian Behavioral Health, LLC, to hold it directly responsbile for its actions.
Under Minnesota law, Meridian Behavioral Health, LLC, is required to protect its residents who are receiving chemical dependency treatment. Minnesota law provides that the residents are to be considered vulnerable adults and therefore are unable to legally consent to sexual conduct of any kind. Sexual assault, sexual abuse, or any sexual contact can cause serious emotional and physical harm to vulnerable adults who are trying to break their chemical dependency. “People in chemical dependency are often at the lowest point in their lives, and coercive use of power by chemical dependency treatment centers employees will cause lifelong scars and may make treatment all but impossible,” said Mark Kosieradzki.
Currently, in Minnesota chemical dependency is an epidemic that has even gotten the attention of U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar. In a press release, Klobuchar said “I have seen firsthand the devastating effects drug abuse can have on families in Minnesota and across the country.” As a result, she sponsored a bipartisan bill to “encourage states and local communities to pursue a full array of proven strategies in the fight against addiction.”
Companies like Meridian Behavioral Health, LLC, that receive public funds to combat chemical dependency treatment centers must be held to a high standard and must be held accountable for any action that hinders their clients’ sobriety. Despite this high standard, the Star Tribune article, concluded “the problems at Douglas Place went beyond the rape allegations. In a recent deposition, a former counselor described a facility that had become chaotic and unsafe during Biddlecome’s tenure. Patrick Plemel [who worked under Biddlecome] said people were bringing drugs into the facility in pizza delivery boxes, and that others were entering the facility at night and taping drugs to the garbage dumpster. Plemel said no one questioned why Biddlecome was taking a female patient on unaccompanied trips outside the facility. ‘It was a madhouse,’ Plemel said.”
The state agency responsible for overseeing chemical dependency treatment centers, the Minnesota Department of Human Services, has routinely cited the Douglas Place center for violations of Minnesota law. According to the Star Tribune article, “During a licensing review in March 2015, the state Department of Human Services cited the facility for 33 violations and placed its license on conditional status. The facility was fined $200 for each background study violation, a total of just $600, records show.” Eventually, the Minnesota Department of Human Services issued a conditional license to the Douglas Place center, which included higher penalties for subsequent violations of Minnesota law and places additional checks to ensure that it is following the law.
Amongst all of this chaos, the hiring of Bruce Biddlecome to operate the Douglas Place Center, although shocking, is consistent with Meridian’s conduct. In fact, Meridian was aware that prior to being hired, Biddlecome had responded to a posting on Backpage.com advertising a “fun and relaxing time with a sexy and flirty girl next door.” The Star Tribune article concluded that “Biddlecome arranged a meeting with a woman who turned out to be a decoy police officer at a Days Inn in Maplewood, where he placed $100 on the nightstand and began to undress. Police officers entered the room and arrested him, according to a criminal complaint. During his deposition, Biddlecome said he told Meridian’s president and chief executive, Fran Sauvageau, of the prostitution case. ‘[Sauvageau] said that thanks for telling him … but we wouldn’t have to speak about it again.’”
As a society, we do not tolerate companies receiving public funds, but then betraying our trust by putting vulnerable adults in harm’s way for their owners’ personal profits. The Kosieradzki • Smith Law Firm represents clients in cases involving catastrophic injury caused by nursing homes, chemical dependency treatment centers, and other care facilities that fail to provide proper care. We are committed to uncovering the truth, and holding companies responsible for their actions. Nursing homes and chemical dependency treatment centers hope that their abuse and neglect of vulnerable adults and their families goes unnoticed and unpunished. If you believe your loved one has been harmed due neglect or abuse in a care facility, take action today and contact the Kosieradzki • Smith Law Firm online or call us toll-free at (877) 552-2873 to set up a no-cost, no-obligation consultation