B.J. Potts has spent more than 40 years as a nurse, but says his six-week stint at Johnstown Heights Behavioral Health earlier this year was unlike any other in his career.
“I have never, ever, ever seen a place like this,” he said. “I mean prisons are offering better care than Johnstown Heights. Everything about this place is wrong.”
Potts and another former nurse at the 92-bed facility came forward after Denver7 Investigates confirmed that Colorado’s Department of Health and Environment was investigating patient and staff claims of keeping patients longer than needed and that staffing levels were dangerously low.
Johnstown Heights in northern Colorado is on the site of the former Clear View Behavioral Health, which was shut down by the state in 2020 following a nearly two-year investigation by Denver7 Investigates.
RELATED: Clearview Investigation
The other former nurse worked at Johnstown Heights for six months and spoke to Denver7 Investigates in silhouette, as she was concerned that speaking publicly could prevent her from getting another job.
Potts and the other nurse separately corroborated the stories of the patients and mental health technicians who previously spoke to Denver7 Investigates while also describing sexual assaults and physical assaults that took place along with filthy conditions at the hospital.
“They (patients) are being warehoused. They’re being kept longer than they need to be because (Johnstown Heights) want heads in beds,” said the nurse, who spoke anonymously. “They want the facility filled, they want the insurance money... It’s dangerous for staff, it’s dangerous for the other patients.”
Both Potts and the other nurse said staffing shortages are a failure of senior leadership to prioritize patient care and contributed to their decisions to resign. Potts said he was assaulted while on the job.
“I saw a lot of scared people there. Sexual assaults happened about once a week. Assaults about once a week or once every other day... It was a mess. It really needs to be looked at,” Potts said. “If something isn’t done to change the way the facility is managed, people are going to get hurt — staff, patients. Patients could die.”
Potts said he agreed with what he heard from patients and mental health techs in Denver7 Investigates’ report, and said that patients were not being seen by doctors or going to group sessions or counseling. He said they were not getting care other than medications.
He said he didn’t believe state regulators knew what was going on at Johnstown Heights, and the rooms were filthy while he was working there.
“You go into the rooms, and the vomit has not been cleaned up off the floors,” Potts said. “You open the room, and the odor is horrendous. The rooms just stayed filthy and nasty with urine and whatever else was on the floor. And when one patient was discharged, they just changed the sheets and another patient was placed in.”
The other nurse said that the facility would often “staff up” in advance of visits from the state so it would appear that they were fully staffed when, in reality, they were not.
“Whenever they would have the state come in, they would staff up, you know, they would call people in and say it was all hands on deck,” she said. “Everybody’s got to be here so it appeared to the state that they were fully staffed.”
Denver7 Investigates has attempted to reach out to the CEO of Johnstown Heights for comment but has not received a response.
“It’s not acceptable. It’s not right,” Potts said. “There’s a lot of people, a lot of good people that can get hurt. And I don’t think making money is worth it.”