“I Felt Like A Prisoner” Patient Recalls Ordeal in Arlington Hospital

Sundance Behavioral Health denies charges it illegally held patients

A former patient of a private Arlington psychiatric facility said she felt like a prisoner while she was held against her will for 11 days and forcibly injected with drugs.

"It was three grown men and one woman restraining me and pulling me and yanking me and telling me that I was going to stay there,” Elida Colunga said of her experience at Sundance Behavioral Health hospital.

The hospital was indicted on Thursday and charged with nine counts of illegally and involuntarily holding four patients, including Colunga.

The hospital called the charges “unprecedented” and said it will vigorously fight them.

Colunga, an office manager from Fort Worth, works full-time and lives a normal life. But she has bipolar disorder, a mental condition that she treats with medicine.

In April, after moving here from Houston, she ran out of her meds and didn't sleep for three days, she said.

She checked herself into JPS Hospital.

"I just went in there to get a refill,” she said.

She was soon transferred to Sundance in Arlington.

"They gave me shots, shots that I don't know what they are,” she said.

Even though she wasn't a danger to herself or others, Sundance refused to let her leave, she said.

Colunga had no contact with her husband.

She said she asked over and over to leave.

"Every day that I was in there, for 11 days, I asked them to go home, that I am better,” she said. "It's an experience I don't want anybody to go through."

Finally, the hospital allowed her to leave on May 11, she said.

She said she's not sure what she'll do the next time she needs to see a doctor.

"I'm afraid,” she said. “I won't seek help because the way they treated me makes me think like every place is going to be the same way."

JPS spokeswoman J.R. Labbe said she could not discuss a specific case but said the county-owned hospital often transfers psychiatric patients to private facilities like Sundance because of overcrowding.

Colunga said she doesn’t have insurance and that Sundance has sent her bills for her treatment.

She said she hasn’t opened the envelopes.

"I'm not going to pay,” she said. “I pay all my bills but this one I'm not going to pay."

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