Part 5: Desperate for help, far from home

Hospital stays are usually short: days, weeks, sometimes months.

But when the state of Washington sent 16 patients with brain injuries to a rehabilitation hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, some of them ended up staying for years.

That’s because those patients fell through the cracks of two state bureaucracies.

In the final part of our series, KUOW's Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins reports on how the state finally started bringing the remaining patients home.

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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.