A 28-year-old woman who says her Boulder’s Mental Health Partners therapist exposed herself and asked her to spank her during a one-on-one counseling session is suing the agency for negligence.
The woman, who is identified in the lawsuit by her initials MA, said the therapist began tracking and treating her almost immediately when she checked into Warner House in October 2022 for treatment of a methamphetamine and fentanyl addiction.
The therapist, Jose Yepes, faces three felony counts and two misdemeanor charges in connection with the alleged assault, including two counts of unlawful sexual contact during a bogus medical examination. He has pleaded not guilty and is due to stand trial in February.
The lawsuit was filed Monday in Boulder County District Court, and it names the Boulder County Mental Health Center, also known as Mental Health Partners, as defendants. The lawsuit seeks an undetermined amount in damages.
“Stand up for yourself and what you believe in, period, because people like him will take and take and take and take until someone checks them out,” MA said in an interview with the Denver Post. “I don’t care if I’m a sick – in quotes – drug addict. I’m a human and I have feelings and I have rights.
The Denver Post is not identifying the woman as she is the victim of an alleged sexual assault.
Since the alleged attack, MA has not returned to an inpatient treatment facility or sought therapy for her addiction and trauma. She’s always trying to clean herself up, she said.
“It affected me in every way. It sucks,” MA said. “It makes me feel like I can’t end things. It makes me desperate, but there has to be a better way.
MA has struggled with addiction since 2017, when she started using drugs after the death of her longtime partner. She has been in and out of treatment over the years, and in October 2020 she admitted herself to Warner House, a residential treatment center in Boulder.
On the day of her arrival, Yepes, an unlicensed psychotherapist, and a female staff member met MA to search her bags for contraband. MA requested that the female staff member search the bags for privacy reasons, but Yepes insisted that he do so, the lawsuit says.
Within days, Yepes began following MA around the facility and began conversations about his interests in art, design and computer programming, according to the complaint. The lawsuit says MA never mentioned these interests to her, but frequently posted them on her social media accounts.
“Even more troubling, Yepes referenced and alluded to things MA discussed during his therapy sessions, and MA began to suspect that Yepes had access to his confidential therapy records,” the lawsuit states. “Similarly, on several occasions, MA found Yepes lingering outside his private bedroom. It was clear to MA that Yepes had listened to her while she was in her bedroom, as he was also aware of things she had discussed alone in the privacy of her bedroom.
Yepes then insisted that MA meet him for one-on-one “spiritual cleansing” and “energy healing” sessions. During these sessions, Yepes dimmed the lights, turned on an oil diffuser that filled the room with floral scents, and played electronic trance music. He also massaged MA without her consent, according to the lawsuit.
When MA tried to resist, Yepes berated her and told MA he could “make her go away,” according to the lawsuit.
During one session, Yepes allegedly took off his pants and insisted that MA take off his shoes and walk on his back, according to the lawsuit. And in another meeting in a private room, he told MA he could no longer contain his sexual and romantic feelings for her and described what he wanted to do, according to the lawsuit.
MA resisted him and then recorded a conversation with him on his iPad in which Yepes admitted to crossing borders, according to the lawsuit. She reported Yepes’ behavior and sexual assault to a staff member, but no one took action to ensure Yepes left her alone, the lawsuit said. She left the facility the next day because she was afraid of Yepes.
A Warner House spokesperson told the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder that Yepes was fired on December 1, 2020 – within 24 hours of staff receiving a complaint about him.
On January 13, 2021, she met with a detective from the Boulder Police Department and an arrest warrant was issued for Yepes on January 19, 2021.
After Yepes’ arrest, Mental Health Partners closed Warner House for eight weeks, the Daily Camera reported. The agency released a statement on its website saying the decision was not taken lightly. A spokeswoman told the camera she would not comment on whether the Yepes case had led to the temporary closure, but said: ‘MHP takes the safety and well-being of our staff and our employees very seriously. customers and we believe that this rapid action is the best option at this time.”
Siddhartha Rathod, one of MA’s attorneys, said his firm was proud MA was defending himself and other vulnerable people seeking treatment for their addiction.
“Mental health centers and treatment centers have a responsibility to protect people who come for treatment,” he said. “It is a vulnerable population and this duty of protection should be reinforced.”
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