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Dothan mental health facility sued over sexual assault claims

Editor’s note: Some of the information in this story is graphic.

DOTHAN, Ala (WDHN) — A Coffee County father is suing a Dothan-based behavioral youth facility and its CEO after claiming his son was sexually assaulted while at the facility.

According to the lawsuit, the victim, identified as J.P., who was eight years old and only 56 pounds at the time of the assault, was admitted to Laurel Oaks Behavioral Health Center in March 2022 and was there for a week before being sexually assaulted by his much larger roommate.

J.P.’s father says medical records indicate his son woke up to the roommate performing oral sex on him.

The lawsuit, filed by Birmingham attorney Tommy James, claims that after the assault occurred, it took the facility more than 12 hours to notify J.P.’s parents of what had happened, and a medical professional did not give a sexual assault assessment until his father took J.P. to Southeast Health.

The father says that after the alleged sexual assault occurred, he demanded his son be released, but employees at Laurel Oaks attempted to pressure him into keeping J.P. at the facility.

The father says that when J.P. was finally released from the facility, his clothes were dirty and had not been washed regularly.

“This case is deeply troubling. What our client endured is something no child should ever face. Every child entrusted to the care of facilities like Laurel Oaks deserves protection and safety, not betrayal,” attorney Tommy James said in a statement.

This is not the first time a sexual assault is alleged to have occurred at the facility.

James said that in 2011, a 40-year-old man was convicted of sexually assaulting a teenage patient while employed at Laurel Oaks.

Along with Laurel Oaks and its CEO Jeanette Jackson, United Health Services, a New York-based hospital management service, is also accused of negligence.

Laurel Oak declined to comment.

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