The Director of Psychology for Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services is a bully who is running off colleagues, according to half a dozen mental health professionals who spoke with the Current.
Five psychologists and one trainee who were employed by the state to give care to patients with mental illness say their former boss, Dr. Shera Bradley, put their mental health at risk. They also suggest patient care is suffering because the turnover keeps the hospitals understaffed.
Bradley did not respond to numerous requests for comment.
Since 2016, Bradley has overseen four mental health facilities in Southern Nevada — Rawson-Neal, West Charleston Clinic, East Las Vegas Clinic Forensic Outpatient Services and Stein Forensic.
In addition to her position with the state, Bradley teaches courses as an adjunct at UNLV, where she received her doctorate in 2007. She started working in private practice in Las Vegas in 2008.
“I really liked Shera Bradley. She’s very intelligent,” says Dr. Ben Adams, who began working at Rawson-Neal in February. “But I was told ‘You’re not going to last around here because everyone leaves. They get bullied.’”
And he was, says Adams.
“I tried to report it,” Adams says of a complaint filed with the State Division of Public and Behavioral Health. “Within minutes of learning the state found no merit, the hospital dismissed me.”
As a new, probationary employee, Adams had no recourse.
The fate of another complaint Adams says he filed with the Board of Psychology is unknown.
“Only if discipline is found to be necessary, upon investigation by the Board, is the office able to share information regarding complaints with members of the public,” says Morgan Gleich, executive director of the Nevada Board of Psychological Examiners.
Division of Public and Behavioral Health administrator Lisa Sherych said in a statement to the Current that the state “takes review of these matters seriously.”
“Upon receipt of a complaint of bullying, a reviewing officer or investigator is assigned. They are tasked with reviewing the written complaint and any statements provided by those involved or having firsthand information. When necessary, interviews are conducted to gather facts or clarification of the information provided,” Sherych said. “These sorts of complaints are not public record and the information gathered is confidential under personnel laws. It is our obligation to maintain expected levels of confidentiality to protect the complainant, the accused, and those required to participate. Any complaints filed have received appropriate review and due diligence has been taken to ensure the rights of all involved.”
Witnesses Adams identified in his complaints were interviewed by the Current. They say they have not been contacted by either the Division of Public and Behavioral Health or the Board of Psychological Examiners.
Adams has found work with a private organization as a psychologist.
“The whole thing looks retaliatory,” says one doctor who says she left her state job because of Bradley but did not file a complaint. “It’s a little touchy with psychologists. A lot of us have practices outside our state jobs and we have this regulatory board. It’s a very small community and there’s just sort of this hesitation to kind of go for it.”
Interviews with psychologists and trainees who worked for Bradley reveal a pattern of behavior perceived to be intimidation and harassment.
“It’s the same pattern with every victim — trainees, even licensed psychologists,” Adams says of Bradley’s alleged behavior.
“Workplace bullying often involves an abuse or misuse of power,” says the Division of Public and Behavioral Health’s policy. “Bullying includes behavior that intimidates, degrades, offends, or humiliates a worker, often in front of others. Bullying behavior creates feelings of defenselessness in the target and undermines an individual’s right to dignity at work.”
“I read Ben’s story and while the specifics were not the same, the same elements were there that caused me to go to Desert Regional Center with the rest of the Psychology department,” says a psychologist who also asked that she not be identified. “Four of us transferred to DRC. Some others got employment elsewhere.”
That doctor filed a complaint with the state in 2018, alleging Bradley retaliated against her when the doctor notified Bradley two months in advance that she would be leaving her position.
“Dr. Bradley has unfairly targeted me and has spent the last year bullying me and is now retaliating against me because I am transferring to DRC,” the doctor wrote in a grievance. “She unfairly targets specific people while allowing others to work freely.
“This unfair targeting of me has created an unbearable and hostile working environment for me which has caused me significant mental and physical distress. … I have had to seek professional help for the psychological distress I have experienced due to Dr. Bradley’s bullying at work.”
The doctor says she’s unaware of any corrective action taken by the state in association with Bradley.
Mental Health America has ranked Nevada last in the nation for mental health access and treatment three years running.
Nevada ranks almost last — 48th in the nation, for the number of psychologists per capita, with 13.5 per 100,000 residents. The national average is 65 per 100,000 residents, according to a report compiled by the Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau.
An organizational chart compiled by the state in October 2018 lists 13 licensed psychologist positions reporting to Bradley. Of those, three were listed as vacant. Of the remaining 10 doctors, three have since left because of Bradley.
“At times, it may be necessary for a supervisor and manager to provide constructive and respectful coaching or instruction to improve performance and correct performance problems,” the state’s bullying policy reads. “While this may be upsetting for an employee, in general, such action would not constitute bullying.”
In other words, demanding bosses are not necessarily bullies.
“I understand some bosses can be hard but it becomes a different level when you’re questioning everything you’re doing, especially when you’re taking care of patient needs,” says another psychologist who says she left her job at Stein Forensic Hospital because of Dr. Bradley. “In my professional opinion, her behavior fits the definition of workplace bullying.”
“Each of us went through basically what Ben went through,” she says. “My experience over the years had a lot of the elements he went through. Since I left there I kind of put it out of my mind.”
The doctor says Bradley made her feel incompetent.
“I was full of self-doubt because she had the tendency of picking up a perceived flaw you had and playing it on blast,” she says. “I always felt I was not good enough.”
“Watching her bully other people was really uncomfortable. Being called out in front of all your colleagues in a meeting. And it’s not once. She does it over and over and over again.”
The doctor says five of her colleagues have left SNAMHS facilities because of Bradley, and she says it’s affecting patient care.
“That’s my biggest concern. There’s a shortage of licensed psychologists at Stein, which puts more pressure on the doctors they have,” she says. “Patients are not getting individualized, client-centered care.”
Psychologists at Stein are charged with determining whether criminally charged patients are legally competent to stand trial. Under state law, only licensed psychologists can make that determination. Licenses are issued to doctors who work for 1,750 hours under another psychologist’s supervision and license.
“She’s pretty harsh,” another doctor who left Rawson-Neal because of Bradley told the Current. “She talks to people in a way that can be demeaning.”
The doctor says she didn’t file a complaint with the state.
“I didn’t feel they would do anything,” she said. “I’ve been with the state for a while. I have some background knowledge about how these things are handled. They just don’t do much.”