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Come quickly, the Columbus Police sergeant urged, patients are in danger. The psychiatric hospital on the city’s east side may need to be shut down, he warned Ohio regulators.

The officer, a 27-year veteran of the department, knew that sending the February letter was an unusual thing to do, but meetings with hospital leaders had gone nowhere, and he was at his wit’s end. He gave a rundown of 911 calls from the hospital, more than 20 in six months. It was a grisly list. Rape. Punches to the head. A nurse attacked with a razor. A patient running onto the highway. A death.


It’s an astonishing level of violence for any hospital, but seems especially unlikely for one whose low-slung, gray exterior bears the maroon “Mount Carmel” logo of the local Catholic health system, the one founded by nuns in the 19th century. Although it’s impossible to tell from the street or its website, Mount Carmel Behavioral Health is actually run by Acadia Healthcare, a massive, publicly traded chain that’s widely accused of understaffing its psychiatric hospitals and undertraining its workers, to the detriment of patient and staff safety.

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