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Sovereign Health forced to kick patients out

Posted at 12:39 AM, Jun 19, 2018

FORT MYERS, Fla., -- Sovereign Health, a rehab center for mental health and substance abuse, was forced to kick patients out, Monday. This comes after the Department of Children and Families (DCF) declared the center not financially viable. 

“You either go to rehab and get better or you stay out on the street and die," said Dominick Crocilla, a former patient of Sovereign. 

Croilla says he attended the center for drug addition in March and completed the program in May. He tells Fox 4, during his time there he noticed the staff having trouble handling the patients. 

"You could hear [the staff] talk about how they weren't getting paid," explained Crocilla. "They actually had to have the nurse bring me to work one day because they didn’t have enough staff.” 

4 in your corner broke the story last month, finding that Sovereign had not paid their employees in over a month. At that time, the company blamed the missed paychecks on a "change in the financial system." 

According to Sovereign employees, they were given a check on May 4, but not the full amount they were owed. Since then, they tell 4 in your corner, Sovereign is behind two full pay cycles. 

The U.S. Department of Labor and DCF opened an investigation into the facility. DCF says they ordered a corrective action plan that causes Sovereign to discharge all current patients. They provided this statement to Fox 4: 

"DCF has the highest expectations for the care, safety, and security of those receiving treatment at facilities licensed by the department. DCF placed Sovereign Health on a corrective action plan and the facility will not receive any new patients until all requirements of the plan have been met. If Sovereign Health does not meet the requirements of the plan, DCF will take appropriate action, up to and including revocation of the facility’s license."

Phyllis Condon, a former Clinical Supervisor, quit after going over a month without a paycheck. She says Sovereign owes her about $5,000. 

In a letter sent to employees, the Agency of Health Administration stated "rules and laws were violated." 

“Breaking those guidelines could impact [a patient's] recovery from addiction," said Condon, explaining how the low staff caused unnecessary stress on the patients. 

Moriana Cotelo, a Sovereign patient in 2015 and 2016, says in her time at the facility she noticed certain staff taking on multiple roles. 

“When the nurse has to take over the roll of transportation... these puzzle pieces start to be moved and then nothing fits," she said. 

Cotelo says she's not surprised by DCF's decision. 

“I saw this coming," said Cotelo. "I don’t know how many beds Sovereign Health holds, but that is how many people they are responsible for.” 

While Crocilla says he is in debt to Sovereign for "saving his life," he doesn't understand why employees were not getting paid. 

“Our insurance is paying a lot of money to be there… I personally think they should have enough money to pay their staff.” 

Fox 4 reached out several times to the company and did not get a response for comment.