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Tarrant District Attorney Files 11 New Charges Against Sundance Behavioral Healthcare

Sundance operates hospitals in Arlington, Garland and Fort Worth

Sundance Behavioral Healthcare System was re-indicted Friday on additional criminal charges relating to violations of the Texas Mental Health Code, according to Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson.

The hospital corporation was indicted last month on nine criminal counts of Texas Mental Health Code violation for refusing to allow voluntary patients to leave the Arlington facility, and for detaining patients for longer than the statutory maximum of 48 hours without obtaining the mandatory court order of protective custody that is required to hold a patient on an involuntary basis, the DA's office said.

Friday's re-indictment adds 11 new criminal counts against the hospital for holding patients involuntarily and illegally at the Arlington facility.

The latest counts involve seven new victims not listed in the original complaint.

Varghese Summersett, the law firm representing Sundance, released the following statement Friday:

"Our position on these charges remains unchanged: This is an unprecedented overreach that has ramifications for every healthcare provider in Texas and subjects our community to significant public safety risks. Professionals who serve the mentally ill make decisions based on the best interests of the patient and the community. The Mental Health Code recognizes how difficult these decisions can be and prohibits prosecution against anyone acting in good faith. The Tarrant County District Attorney is no stranger to the issues surrounding detention of the mentally ill. One needs to look no further than the recent death of an inmate in the Tarrant County Jail to understand the dangers the mentally ill can pose and why, at times, restraining their liberty is justified to protect both themselves and the community at large."

Should Sundance be found guilty, the charges carry a $100,000 fine for each day the offense was alleged to have occurred.

A former Sundance patient who spoke with NBC 5 in November said she felt like a prisoner at the hospital and was held against her will and forcibly injected with drugs.

Elida Colunga, who has bipolar disorder, told NBC 5 she went to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth after running out of medicine and not sleeping for three days. She said she was transferred to Sundance where she said she was held for 11 days against her will.

"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."

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