Psychologists allege bullying by boss at state mental hospitals

(Nevada Current file photo.)

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.”

Dana Gentry
Reporter | Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gentry began her career in broadcasting as an intern at Channel 8, KLAS-TV. She later became a reporter at Channel 8, working with Las Vegas TV news legends Bob Stoldal and the late Ned Day. Gentry left her reporting job in 1985 to focus on motherhood. She returned to TV news in 2001 to launch "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" and the weekly business programs In Business Las Vegas and Vegas Inc, which she co-anchored with Jeff Gillan. Dana is the mother of four adult children, three cats, three dogs and a cockatoo.

18 COMMENTS

  1. This happens at NNAMHS as well. It seems to be a systemic problem, not just isolated individuals. There is a pervasive mentality that employees are to be controlled by fear. Why else would you have a system where professionals with advanced degrees are hired with a 12 month probationary period? Why does it take 12 months to decide if someone with a PhD, EdD, or MD is able to do their job? The short answer is, it doesn’t. The 12 month probationary period exists *only* to exploit and intimidate the staff member into submission. There can be no serious rationale for it.

  2. I was the Agency Director at SNAMHS from 2002-2006 & was the only Director to achieve full accreditation from JCAHO & we did it as a team. Nurses, psychs, psychiatrists, social workers, techs, service coordinators—all worked together & the pride we all felt after we succeeded was palpable throughout the agency. I also worked hard, along with the Medical Director, Dr. David Rosin, to successfully lobby the legislature & the Governor to build the Rawson-Neal. It was a wonderful place to work. This article makes me sad. The clients & staff deserve better.

    • The bullying by management is in other areas of SNAMHS, too.
      You can’t defend yourself, because they DO retaliate and make your job much more difficult.
      No dialogue or discussion allowed. You do what your told.
      The morale is at its lowest point.
      No matter how hard you work, it’s never enough.
      I miss the days when Jonna Triggs was the Agency Director.

  3. Questions, questions, and more questions. Only one source on the record? Not a single specific example of a bullying act provided? Implying alleged bullying is having any sort of negative impact on patient care without any evidence aside from a throwaway line from an anonymous source? Why was Mr. Adams really dismissed from his employment? My understanding is that it’s very difficult to be fired from a government job, regardless of probationary status. I’d be willing to bet it wasn’t because Mr. Adams’ bullying complaint was “without merit.” The timing of his dismissal seems to suggest that Mr. Adams knew that he was likely to be dismissed and filed a bullying complaint in an attempt to stop it from happening. Was that possibility researched at all? Would this have been written if this was true? This piece speaks very poorly to the state of modern journalism.

    • Thanks for reading. Yes, one source on the record. Two complaints filed with the state. As much as I’d prefer to have all sources on the record, some stories could not be told, given concerns regarding retaliation, job retention. Detailing individual allegations of bullying would have made identification of the alleged victims more likely.
      The assertion in the story is that the shortage of licensed psychologists, not bullying, is having an effect on care.
      As for whether the story would have been written if Dr. Adams’ employment was already in jeopardy? The story would not have been written based on the experience of one person, period.
      Again, thanks for reading and for taking the time to write.

      • Thank you for the taking the time to answer some of my questions. It’s appreciated. A couple of more questions: (1) I understand that “some stories could not be told, given concerns regarding retaliation, job retention”, etc.; however, specific examples could have been provided by Mr. Adams (as they pertain specifically to him), yet none were (at least none that were included in your story). Only broad generalities. This makes it far more likely his original bullying complaint was filed to stop his dismissal, as I had previously noted. Was that possibility researched at all by you? It would seem important, given he is the only source that went on the record. His credibility is key to the premise of the article. Anonymous sources mean nothing independently. How is this a story without a single specific example of bullying? (2) I have no idea why the shortage of psychologists would be part of a story about alleged “bullying by boss at state mental hospitals” unless the shortage is alleged to be caused by the alleged bullying – which you clearly implied. Isn’t it a little disingenuous to claim otherwise? Your piece seems more tabloid journalism than actual investigative reporting. I’m disappointed. I expected more from a reporter of your experience and reputation.

        • I assure you, Dr. Adams’ complaint included specific examples of alleged bullying. Once again, the story was not based on Dr. Adams’ allegations but on the similar pattern described by half a dozen people and documented in reports filed with the state. As stated in the story, the state found no merit to Dr. Adams’ complaint. As to your other observation, no, I did not attribute the shortage of psychologists to Dr. Bradley’s alleged bullying. I attributed the departure of doctors from SNAMHS to Dr. Bradley’s alleged bullying.

          • A named source makes a bullying complaint. It’s investigated and found to have no merit. An unnamed source files a grievance (which is typically a response to receiving discipline). I assume it was also without merit (as I’m sure you would have indicated otherwise). There are four unnamed sources making incredibly broad, non-specific allegations of bullying (one of which claims they have concern over patient care). None of those filed any complaints. Serious question. Where’s the story?

          • Yes, the grievance filed by the unnamed source was found to have merit, however the source’s allegation of bullying was not addressed by the state, as required by the policy. To me, the state routinely ignoring allegations of bullying is a story. News judgement is subjective. I don’t expect you to share mine.

        • Eduard Guy,
          As a current worker at Rawson Neal (for the past 5 years), I can tell you with certainty Dr. Adams complaints are warranted. I’ve seen plenty of Psychologists come and go because of Dr. Bradley. I have my own stories to tell as well.

          All I can say is, it’s about time someone’s called her on her BS. She needs to go!

  4. Thank you for writing about workplace bullying. Many years ago, I was giving a workshop on treating bullied employees and asked the audience of psychologists to discuss examples. While I expected them to discuss clients, they spoke in the main, about their own experiences.
    All over the world, the rates of workplace bullying are high, one in three approximately are injured. Thus many mental health professionals who should be trained to treat targets off bullying and workplace bullying trauma, ( WBT) can be bullied themselves!
    As an international expert, ( refer Springer 2019 in a few months) my colleagues and I believe that workplaces need to change and become collaborative and restorative, not remain adversarial. Not only will employees suffer less abuse and injury, but performance and productivity will improve, surely a win -win for all! Anyone who wants more information, about workplace bullying , join the international Association on workplace bullying and harassment( IAWBH) and come to our conferences.

  5. Also off topic sort of BUT what is happening with the “Bus Therapy” law suit? Is the State paying? appealing – Will people get $250k directly.??

  6. After reading the comments by “Eduard Guy” it’s becoming clear they are coming from Dr. Bradley herself. Either way, Nevada deserves better.

  7. The whole organization is toxic! I worked there at the clinic and at Rawson-Neal. The Bullying is throughput the entire place and at every level to include the Human Resources Director, Jo Malay, Donna Jordan, Mitch and many more. It starts at the top and trickles down! Something needs to be done. The safety of the staff is compromised on a daily basis and yet the HR department and the Directors say that is what the staff signed up for. Very unethical people running the place. Better wake!

  8. The reason Nevada ranks so poorly in regards to mental health is because there are several bullies who hold administrative positions and voices are never heard because of it. The bullies in the nursing departments are probably the worst and it goes up from there. From unit managers to the DON to all of the other unnecessary layers of administration positions. Cronyism is alive and well within the State. It’s never what you know-it’s always who you know. Nothing will change for the patients of Nevada until a complete overhaul is done with the current toxic and incompetent administration.

    • Yep, instead of looking into the problems that employees report, he backs up the heads of SNAMHS:
      Hospital Administrator: Joanne Malay HR Manager: Jackie Arellano
      Business Office (accounting): Paul Ripple
      And they all work together to harass and fire the employee that reported while pretending like they don’t know about the problems going on and the waste/abuse of taxpayer money that has repeatedly been reported by a former employee (that was fired for reporting).

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