A child abandoned by his father at a Longmont hospital lived there for at least three weeks and could be there for months more due to a lack of resources, according to an email thread obtained by the Longmont Leader.
An email from Chantell Taylor, vice president of government and regulatory affairs at UCHealth, to Rep. Judy Amabile was shared with Longmont City Council members and other officials at the end of June. The Longmont Leader obtained the email through a Colorado Open Records Act request.
According to Taylor in an email sent June 27, a 13-year-old boy with autism was brought to UCHealth Longs Peak Hospital’s emergency department and abandoned by his father in early June. The boy had been brought in on an M1, when an individual is thought to be in danger of harming himself or someone else.
Taylor said the hospital tried to place the boy in an inpatient psychiatric facility.
“...However (he) was denied at all facilities in the state primarily due to his (Autism Spectrum Disorder) but also because he simultaneously was cleared by psychiatry and did not meet criteria,” Taylor wrote.
The boy was cleared medically and psychiatrically for discharge the day after he was brought to the hospital, but his father has refused to pick him up. Taylor said the hospital has placed three reports with Child Protective Services for neglect, abandonment and interference for discharge.
Since then, the hospital’s social work team initiated daily meetings with departments ranging from the Boulder County Department of Housing and Human Services, the Colorado Department of Human Services, Colorado Community Health Alliance, Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing and the State Department of Child Welfare.
However, according to Taylor’s email, all agencies have said this is a “statewide resource issue,” and that it will likely take months to secure placement for the boy.
The child remains in the emergency department, is unsupervised apart from hospital staff and has had no adult with him. He has not had any “acute episodes” since his arrival in the emergency department, Taylor added.
“UCHealth has done everything in their power to discharge this patient in a safe manner and have received no assistance from the Department to protect this child and pick up from the
(emergency department),” Taylor wrote. “He has no acute medical needs and is in the ED without any supervision.”
Taylor added that frontline staff said Boulder County’s Department of Human Services had not spent more than five minutes with the child since his arrival three weeks prior.
“He needs protection due to neglect, abandonment and trauma inflicted by his father, this process with DHS, and the reality of extended stay in the emergency department environment,” Taylor wrote.
Amabile passed this email on to several figures involved in the issue, asking if anything could be done to get the child out of the emergency room.
In the email thread obtained by the Leader, Boulder County Family and Children Services Director Mollie Warren responded to Amabile’s concern on June 29. Warren first noted that confidentiality statutes prohibit the disclosure of individual information, meaning she could not confirm nor deny whether someone is a client of the county’s.
“As you likely all know, we are in the midst of a behavioral health/high acuity crisis both in Colorado and across the United States,” Warren wrote. “For many years, county human services departments have highlighted this crisis, the related impacts on the children and youth we are responsible for keeping safe, and the challenges this creates in terms of placements and longer-term supports …
“We are acutely aware of the impact extended stays in local hospitals, child welfare offices and detention centers have on the children and youth who most need behavioral health support. Our hearts are breaking for the children and families most impacted by this shortage of longer-term resources for young people in (a) behavioral health crisis.”
Warren went on to note that Boulder County Housing and Human Services staff are not trained, qualified or tasked with providing long-term care for members of the community suffering behavioral health emergencies.
“The Chief Judge of the 20th Judicial District, Ingrid Bakke, stated on the record that placements at our offices at the St. Vrain HUB are not safe for this purpose just this week,” Warren said.
Taylor declined to say whether the boy remained in the emergency room as of Thursday, citing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
About the Author: Amy Golden
Amy Golden is a reporter for the Longmont Leader covering city and county issues, along with anything else that comes her way.
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