Woman says hospital betrayed her after alleged verbal tirade from psychiatrist

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Dawn McGrath says that St. Peter’s Addiction Recovery Center was initially a lifeline to her sobriety. However, when the very psychiatrist who was supposed to help her unloaded on her for rescheduling her appointment, she felt like she was sinking all over again.

McGrath says she is a hollow shell of who she used to be. She says Dr. Clarence White is the man who broke her.

“You’re never going to believe me. You’re not going to believe me. That’s a doctor. It’s going to be my word against his,” McGrath said of the incident.

McGrath is suing White and St. Peter’s for a March 2018 incident. She said she was berated and belittled by White in a profanity-laced tirade, apparently sparked by her request to reschedule her first meeting.

“He goes, ‘Are you rescheduling?’ I go ‘Yes. You’re 45 minutes late. I have to go.’ That’s when he said, ‘What does somebody like you have to do with their time?'” she recalled.

McGrath goes on to describe another confrontation a short time later in the SPARC hallway.

“I’m starting to walk fast now, and he was right on my heels, calling me every name. Telling me to F myself, I’m an F’ing loser, I’m an F’ing junkie, who do I think I am,” McGrath said. “I remember one of the girls as I was going through the hallway. I heard her literally say out loud, ‘I thought he was going to hit her.'”

McGrath’s attorney for her civil lawsuit is Greg Teresi. He said if not for the statute of limitations, this case might have gone in a different direction.

“In our opinion, the conduct in March of 2018 very easily could have risen to the level of criminal conduct,” Teresi said. “He could have been charged in a criminal court and prosecuted in a criminal court.”

As Teresi built his case, McGrath continued her sessions at SPARC with a new psychiatrist. After all, she considered White the lone bad actor in this whole ordeal.

A Moment of Crisis

However, the night before what turned out to be her last SPARC appointment, McGrath fell into crisis and called her drug dealer. She was about to relapse.

“I don’t know why because drug dealers don’t do this, but he said to me, ‘I’m going to give you five minutes.’ He knew, through people we associated with, that I had been clean for so long, and he goes, ‘I’m going to give you five minutes. If you call me back, you call me back, but I hope you don’t.’ And he hung up,” McGrath said.

McGrath didn’t call the dealer back, but she did resort to a terrifying habit she developed as a child to deal with her pain — cutting. She counted nearly 40 slices up and down her arm.

She recalls what followed.

“I went to SPARC the next day. I walked in, and I was seeing my counselor and I showed [the receptionist] and I said I’m in crisis,” McGrath said.

“I also told her that I called my drug dealer,” she said. “I told her the story, and I saw her eyes fill up with tears. I said, ‘Oh no. It’s ok. I didn’t.’ She said, ‘Obviously I care, but that’s not what I’m upset about. I’m upset about letting you go.’ I stood there, and I was like, ‘What do you mean, let me go?'”

McGrath said the staff member was speaking with the head doctor of SPARC, and they decided to let her go. Both McGrath and her attorney believe she hastily “graduated” from SPARC once St. Peter’s became aware of her lawsuit, with no regard for her mental or emotional state.

“To me, that’s sickening,” Teresi said. “The fact that the hospital felt that their obligation to protect themselves legally was more valuable than my client’s life, my client’s health. That’s not what hospitals are there for. That’s not what their morals, what their mission statement, is all about.”

“Had I not had family or my mom to call, I wouldn’t be here. I would have called my drug dealer and I would have used. I’d be a statistic like everyone else because nobody cares,” McGrath said.

“I am somebody’s mother. I matter. I am somebody’s daughter. I matter. But I don’t matter to SPARC and I don’t know if other people matter to SPARC, or if we’re just one big paycheck,” McGrath said. “I needed them to care about me, especially that day, and they didn’t.”

St. Peter’s Statement

St. Peter’s provided a statement to NewsChannel 13: “While St. Peter’s Health Partners cannot comment on any current litigation, safety is one of our core values, and our general hiring protocol for practitioners includes a rigorous background check to protect patients, our colleagues, and other team members. As part of that process, we verify the provider’s board certifications, education, and states with active licenses, as well as review any documented and proven actions against them. In addition, medical staff undergo additional vetting, monitoring, training, and peer review during their employment with us to ensure they meet our standards of conduct and care.”