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Part 2: Desperate for help, far from home

Sometimes people with severe brain injuries develop behavioral issues that are hard to manage. This can make it difficult to find them a place to live.

Starting in 2014, Washington’s Medicaid program began sending the most difficult to place patients with brain injuries to a rehabilitation hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma. But instead of staying for months, some of them stayed for years at a cost of millions of dollars.

Beginning in 2014, Washington's Health Care Authority began sending patients with severe Traumatic Brain Injury to a private TBI treatment hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, called Brookhaven. Once there, the patients were all but forgotten.

No one from the state of Washington actively managed or supervised their care or planned for their return to Washington, until last spring. That's when a case manager at the Department of Social and Health Services was contacted about these patients.

Ever since she's been working to bring them home and find them placements in the community. As she's done this work, the case manager has discovered the patients had no access to primary care, but in a particularly ghoulish detail she's learned that at least four of the patients had their teeth extracted while they were at Brookhaven.In part two of our series, KUOW's Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins reports on how this unusual arrangement came about.