HOUSTON – A 15-year-old recovering drug addict Kevin Mullins walked to the car where is family was waiting, outside the Barbara Jordan Health Center in the Fifth Ward on Saturday.
“They just didn’t come to work today,” he said, referring to the employees and counselors.
The center is a place where teenagers or anyone can come to get help with drug addiction, alcohol abuse and mental health issues.
But Saturday, their doors were closed because employees had walked off the job. They stopped accepting any new patients and sent most home.
“Most of them left. They all telling us to leave because they can’t keep us here if no one else is gonna be here,” said Antoine Sawyer, a patient.
Sawyer’s father was upset because his son had been there for less than a week before he was told to pick him up.
“Come down and pick them up due to the government not paying them. I don’t understand how you can have a facility for children and go through issues like this,” said Larry Sawyer, Antoine’s father.
The Riverside General Hospital sent its employees a letter a few months ago notifying them of pay reductions because of financial problems. Employees say that turned into no pay at all and then layoffs.
“You’re not gonna believe this. Everyone walked out. I said what? You’re kidding me,” said Ginni Graff, recounting her brother’s phone call from the center.
Some patients were not told at all until they saw it happening.
“I don’t know how many guys are in there and gals and people that are sick that need the help and there’s no place to go but back on the street,” said Graff.
“The only counselor he saw is the one he helped pack up her office yesterday. It’s been 48 hours and he’s had no treatment. It’s sad for everybody here.”
Some employees were left in the dark.
“We haven’t been getting paid and it’s because of some litigation that’s going on. And we don’t understand because we haven’t been informed. They say the money is frozen. We don’t understand why and that’s all we go with,” said an employee.
For Mullins, the news will not affect his treatment because he was almost finished.
“I’m done with drugs. I’m gonna get a job and do right.” But for others who just started:
“What do we do? I can’t leave him here. You know tensions are running high. Someone is gonna get hurt,” said Graff.
For now some employees will stick around and work as volunteers. Only time will tell for the center.
KHOU called to get answers about the financial problems and has yet to hear back. The hospital has faced trouble before.
The former CEO of Riverside General Hospital faced Medicare fraud charges a few years ago.