For the second time in less than three years, an employee at one of Minnesota’s largest treatment centers for people with addiction problems has sexually abused a patient under the center’s care.
In a report made public Tuesday, state investigators found that on two occasions in early May, a staff member at Douglas Place treatment center in East Grand Forks, Minn., entered a patient’s bedroom early in the morning and had intimate sexual contact with the patient, in violation of state law and the facility’s own rules.
The employee also tried to get the patient to leave the facility, but the patient was too scared to do so because of past trauma from abuse, the state report said.
The state findings are the latest regulatory black eye for Douglas Place, an 85-bed facility that has been operating under a conditional license since 2015 because of dozens of previous violations of state rules. In an incident on Christmas Eve in 2014, a female patient awoke to find a man in her room, “petting her face and stroking her hair.” The assailant, later identified as the facility’s executive director, Bruce Biddlecome, promised the patient an “early Christmas present” before pulling down her shorts and sexually assaulting her, records show. Biddlecome was later sentenced to five months in jail and no longer works at the facility.
Officials at Douglas Place and its parent company, Meridian Behavioral Health, of New Brighton, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday. Since the incident, the facility has completed an internal review and determined that the staff person, who is not identified in state documents, “did not follow policy and procedure that prohibits sexual contact with a patient.” The employee no longer works at the facility, the state report said.
According to the state’s investigative report, video footage taken by Douglas Place shows a staff member walking the facility’s hallways with a clipboard, performing what appeared to be morning room checks. The video shows the employee twice entering the patient’s bedroom for two to three minutes each time. In one of the incidents, the staff member asked the patient to “see and kiss” the employee’s genitalia and perform oral sex. In another, the employee gave the patient a hug and squeezed the patient’s buttocks before leaving because other staff were coming.
Staff later told state investigators that the employee was not assigned to work the side of the facility where the abuse occurred and that room checks typically took just a couple seconds, the report said.
The patient, who is not identified in the report, cried upon recounting the incident to other staff and said the employee who entered the bedroom had tried to arrange a meeting outside the facility. A supervisor at Douglas Place was cited by the state for failing to immediately report the abuse to the state’s central hot line for reporting maltreatment. A report was not made until three days after the supervisor was made aware of the sexual contact, the state found.
Douglas Place’s license to provide chemical dependency treatment services was placed on conditional status in August 2015 after the Minnesota Department of Human Services found 33 violations of state rules during a licensing review. The violations included citations for failing to develop treatment plans for patients and not obtaining proper documentation when staff persons were hired, as well as failing to provide required training and orientation to staff.
The facility and its parent company also face a civil lawsuit in Ramsey County over the hiring of Biddlecome, who had an extensive criminal history, as executive director of the facility. In 2012, 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 then entered the room and arrested Biddlecome, who later pleaded guilty to loitering with intent to participate in prostitution, police records show.
In sworn depositions, executives for Meridian Behavioral Health said they hired Biddlecome despite knowing about his guilty plea for prostitution. The female patient who was sexually assaulted by Biddlecome alleges that his hiring was negligent and is seeking punitive damages.