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Immediate Jeopardy: Uncovering secrets inside Colorado's Johnstown Heights Behavioral Health

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Immediate Jeopardy
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Posted at 9:15 PM, Dec 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-25 23:15:02-05

JOHNSTOWN, Colo. — The mental health facility that once housed Clear View Behavioral Health – roughly an hour’s drive north of Denver – has a new name and new owners. Johnstown Heights Behavioral Health opened for business in 2021, but insiders tell Denver7 Investigates, the conditions inside Johnstown are nearly identical to the facility that state regulators shut down 10 months earlier.

For over 14 months, current and former employees, as well as patients, have told Denver7 Investigates the same story: Concern for their safety and the safety of others inside a facility that prioritizes profit over patient care.

Since opening, Johnstown Heights has been flagged multiple times by state regulators, given the most serious designation of "immediate jeopardy." But somehow, its doors remain open.

After Denver7 Investigates visited Johnstown Heights in an attempt to contact the CEO about the allegations, multiple staff members reached out to share what they felt were poor working conditions.

Shortly after Denver7 Investigates went to Johnstown Heights, an internal email, later obtained through sources, was sent from the executive assistant to CEO Sean Peterson discouraging employees from speaking to the media.

Following initial reports on Johnstown Heights, two former nurses at the 92-bed facility came forward after Denver7 Investigates confirmed that Colorado’s Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE) was investigating patient and staff claims of keeping patients longer than needed and that staffing levels were dangerously low.

“In so many ways, Johnstown Heights is a s---hole," one nurse said. "Nothing they're doing is helping the patients. There's no safety measures. And you're lucky if you can get out of there alive.”

In May, the nurse's fears came true. A patient death at the facility was ruled accidental by Johnstown police, but insiders with knowledge of the situation and new state inspection reports obtained by Denver7 Investigates tell a different story.

Over the course of a three-day stay at Johnstown Heights, the state’s investigation shows at one time, the patient went 16 hours without being checked before he died.

Denver7 Investigates brought the concerning details to the Larimer County coroner, who after reviewing the state investigative reports, said, “I think that the elements are there that both civil and criminal negligence could apply, and that those arguments could be made." The coroner urged the police department to reopen its investigation.

After learning of the patient death, questions from sources circulated about the validity and performance of state inspections. Insiders reached out to Denver7 Investigates to sound the alarm about so-called "surprise inspections."

Multiple former and current employees confirmed leadership at Johnstown Heights was being tipped off, sometimes having multiple days to clean up and staff up before inspectors made their rounds.

The state would not respond to the serious allegations brought to light by informed insiders. After multiple requests for interviews were denied in an attempt to discuss the concerns raised by employees and patients, the death at the facility, and claims that state regulators oversight is being overlooked, Denver7 Investigates took its questions to Colorado's most powerful leader: The governor.

For weeks, Gov. Jared Polis would also not agree to an interview despite multiple requests. Ahead of a public appearance, Denver7 Investigates met Polis to question why the CDPHE, which his office oversees, is accused of revealing when inspections will happen. Data from the state also confirmed that each of their visits to Johnstown were intended to be unannounced.

During the meeting, Polis urged the public to come forward with claims of the state's tip-offs. He added if regulators were leaking surprise inspections to facilities, that would be a violation of state policy. Responding to Denver7 reports, the governor also launched a hotline to help identify the leak.

Denver7 Investigates continues to investigate the serious accusations against Johnstown Heights Behavioral Health. To send in a tip to the investigative team, email

Immediate Jeopardy: Uncovering secrets inside Colorado's Johnstown Heights Behavioral Health

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