Thursday, May 30

Current & Former Patients Speak Out Against Atrium Mental Health Clinic

Emerywood Behavioral Health Clinic (Google Street View)
Emerywood Behavioral Health Clinic (Google Street View)

ASHEBORO N.C. – Current and former patients of a local mental health clinic spoke with our reporters about their concerns regarding the staff, the care they received, and Atrium / Wake Forest Health Network’s failure to address these concerns over the last several years.

Due to the sensitive nature of the topic of this article all patients who spoken with news staff were promised confidentiality. Names in this article have been changed to protect the identity of those involved. Readers who may be triggered by topics of mental health should use their discretion when deciding to read further.

Almost a dozen current and former patients who all went to the clinic over the last 5 years spoke with our reporters. What we heard was a pattern of complaints about poor communication, rude staff, and poor care involving psychiatric crises and potentially dangerous medications.

Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist | Behavioral Health’s Emerywood clinic is located on Boulevard St in High Point. It serves as one of the closest mental health care clinics to Randolph County in the Atrium network and sees a number of patients from Asheboro, Thomasville, Denton, and Randleman.

As of July 2022, the Google business listing for Emerywood shows 39 reviews with an average rating of 2.2 stars. As of July 18th, 2022, of its 39 reviews spread across 7 years, 26 (66%) of them are 1-star ratings.

Late last month, a former patient of the clinic submitted a news tip alleging that the clinic had mismanaged their medication resulting in a psychiatric crisis that they said the doctor and staff then mishandled. “The experience was so bad I was done with the clinic and sent them one last message saying how unhappy I was with the care I was receiving and told them I was canceling all my appointments and wanted a referral to another clinic” said Zack, a former patient who is preparing to sue the health network.

“I never got that referral, instead I got a letter from the medical director banning me from the entire Atrium/Wake physicians’ network.” After weeks of back and forth with the clinic, patient-family relations, and risk management Zack said he learned that the staff was unhappy that he used the “F-Word” in a sentence asking if they were being serious (“are you f***ing kidding me?”) in that last message and staff reported it as “violent, threatening, and/or harassing.”

“I don’t understand the point, I had already canceled my appointments, said I never wanted to see the doctor again, and asked for a referral, I was emotional and angry when I wrote that message because I was going through the side effects SSRI withdraw from them messing up the dose of my antidepressant, but nothing in it was violent, threatening, or harassing. The only thing I can figure is they just wanted to be vindictive.”

Medical records, messages, voicemails, and recorded phone calls that were reviewed by Randolph News Now’s reporters corroborated Zack’s story.

In late June and early July Randolph News Now put out a request for anyone who was willing to share their experiences at this clinic to contact us and we also began reaching out to patients that we were able to find contact information for.

In the last 2 weeks we heard from a patient who left an appointment suffering from a panic attack due to treatment by the doctors and staff.

A new mother suffering from postpartum depression who after being referred to the clinic by her doctor was unable to make an appointment due to poor communication from the staff.

Another patient reported privacy concerns and another who ran out of medication said he had to be hospitalized after staff failed to respond to multiple medication refill requests.

We also heard from several patients who told us stories about staff not returning phone calls, yelling at patients over the phone, and hanging up on patients.

“I will not be returning to this doctor or facility ever again,” said Luke, one of the former patients we were able to reach. Luke, like several of the other patients we spoke with, had attempted to bring up his concerns by filing a complaint. While Luke filled his with the NC Board of Nursing, other patients complained about the staff and the quality of care to the clinic’s office manager as well as Atrium’s patient and family relations and human resources departments but none of them saw any changes made.

It is evident after speaking with patients and looking at the reviews that the same concerns that were being brought up 5 years ago were the same concerns we were hearing from current patients and reading in recent reviews.

“The practice would be better honestly if they just hired more (quality) people. It’s crazy that not all employees are held accountable” said Sarah, a current patient, in a message with a reporter.

“If Atrium or Wake or whoever won’t address these issues than (sic) people deserve to know how the staff there treats patients,” said Wade in an email. “That’s why I left that review, no one takes complaints from mental health patients seriously, to me, reviews are how we can look out for each other.”

In an email Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist says that they are “committed to providing safe, compassionate and high-quality care to every patient” and went on to encourage patients to discuss any questions or concerns directly with their health care provider.