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Mother of patient who died at Sierra Tucson is going to trial with treatment facility

Posted at 10:22 PM, May 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-08 01:38:53-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — The mother of a patient who died at Sierra Tucson five years ago is taking the treatment facility to court.

Jennifer Johe is going public for the first time with her story.

In 2014, her son, Steven, was getting treatment for substance abuse and OCD at Sierra Tucson, an upscale facility just outside Pima County.

Johe says she paid $41,000 for a 30-day treatment program. Sierra Tucson seemed like the best option for her son.

"He was brave to go to Sierra Tucson," Johe said. "And to think that they took what he had ahead of him, away from him, is just heartbreaking."

Four days after he was checked in, Johe got a call she wasn't expecting. Steven was found unresponsive, and had stopped breathing.

He was taken to Oro Valley Hospital where he was on life support. Johe flew out from New Jersey to be with her son. He died on April 15, 2014.

"I thought, and he thought, he was going to get the best care possible," Johe said. "And that was not the case."

Johe filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Sierra Tucson in 2016, claiming Steven's death was a direct result of the facility's failures.

A 2014 report from the Arizona Department of Health Services found staff did not properly check Steven's vitals, and did not follow the facility's suicide assessment protocol.

As Johe prepares for the trial to start next week, she says she wants Sierra Tucson to be held accountable, so no other families have to go through what she has gone through.

"Steven went there to live," Johe said. "Steven did not go there to die."

KGUN9 reached out to Sierra Tucson for comment about the lawsuit. A spokesperson for the facility provided the following statement:

"Sierra Tucson adheres to privacy regulations that govern patient information be kept confidential. The safety and wellbeing of our patients is our top priority and we are committed to our longstanding tradition of providing clinical excellence and compassionate care."
Sierra Tucson

The trial starts Tuesday, May 14. Johe says medical experts will weigh in to determine Steven's exact cause of death.