BENTON, Ark. (KTHV) - A central Arkansas family is suing a mental health facility, its parent company, and a nurse who worked there – claiming their negligence led to the death of a 20-year-old woman.
On April 8, Joely Clements' family received word she had died of an apparent heroin overdose. The news came four days after she was discharged from Rivendell Behavioral Health Services in Benton.
“Rivendell proved to be in the long run to be her death warrant,” Clements’ grandmother Joyce Phillips said. “We turned there for help and it turned out the worst case scenario that we could've ever imagined."
The Potts Law Firm of Houston filed a lawsuit in Pulaski County Circuit Court on Thursday, June 26, against Rivendell, Universal Healthcare Services, Inc. and a male nurse who allegedly cared for Clements. Clements was found dead inside the nurse's apartment, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit claims the two went on a date one day after Clements left Rivendell -- and that the nurse invited her to his Little Rock apartment. According to the suit, she stayed there alone for several days as the man went on a fishing trip.
The lawsuit alleges the nurse knew Clements had relapsed but didn't come home immediately. He returned to his apartment after being gone for three days, the lawsuit said, and found Clements unconscious. First responders found Clements with a syringe in her neck, according to the complaint.
“The lawsuit alleges a tragic set of circumstances and our firm is interested in seeking justice for the Clements family,” said Dylan Potts, the attorney representing Clements’ family.
The lawsuit includes records showing the Arkansas State Board of Nursing put the nurse on probation in 2014 after he admitted to stealing narcotics from patients he cared for at Ouachita County Medical Center.
“I don't think a person like this should be working in a facility trying to treat patients that have drug problems,” Andy Clements, Joely’s father, said.
The law firm representing Rivendell Behavioral Health Services of Arkansas confirmed the nurse is no longer employed at the company's Benton facility.
Despite their grief, Joely’s loved ones hope her story can help others.
“Just make sure where your loved ones are going are the right place if you can,” Andy Clements said.
The law firm representing Rivendell Behavioral Health Services of Arkansas (Rivendell) released the following statement regarding the lawsuit filed Thursday:
“Rivendell is aware of the filing of the lawsuit and takes the allegations seriously. Rivendell denies any wrongdoing on its part, or on the part of UHS, and intends to vigorously defend against all allegations made.
Due to the pending nature of the litigation, Rivendell will have no further comment, other than to confirm that the nurse allegedly involved is no longer employed at Rivendell.