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Highland Hospital lawyer: Counselor acted properly

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An attorney for Highland Hospital says a hospital counselor acted properly when he warned police about comments a patient made in a counseling session.

Shawn Foglesong sued the hospital in September for breaching his confidentiality. He was charged by police with making terrorist threats but was found not guilty after a trial in June.

Foglesong, 40, told his counselor at Highland Hospital that he had thoughts of "killing someone, up close and personal." His counselor alerted a police officer and Foglesong was arrested. He was incarcerated for more than nine months, until a jury found him not guilty.

On Sept. 13, 2012, Foglesong was involuntarily committed to the adult unit of the hospital, according to his lawsuit. Part of his treatment plans included counseling and therapy.

The lawsuit says the hospital breached confidentiality and invaded Foglesong's privacy, among other things.

In its response, Highland Hospital maintains that Foglesong presented "a clear and substantial danger of imminent injury to himself or others," which is an exception to West Virginia law about confidential information.

Foglesong's lawsuit points out that the law also says, "Communications and information obtained in the course of treatment or evaluation of any client or patient are confidential information."

Also, Foglesong "could not have been discharged by Highland Hospital on Sept. 28, 2012, if he presented a clear and substantial danger of imminent injury to himself or others on that date," his lawsuit states. He was arrested the day after he was released from the hospital.

During Foglesong's criminal trial, Kanawha County Assistant Prosecutor Michele Drummond told jurors that Foglesong told his Highland Hospital counselor, Jonathan Proctor, that he was having homicidal thoughts and "thinking of killing someone, up close and personal."

Foglesong told Proctor that he was scared he might wear a mask to a Sissonville High School football game and open fire, hoping to commit suicide by drawing police fire, Drummond told the jury. Foglesong allegedly said he wanted to commit the violent act around Halloween, when no one would question his wearing a mask.

Defense attorney John Sullivan told jurors that Foglesong was afraid of his thoughts and was confiding them to his counselor in an attempt to get better.

Foglesong's lawsuit has been assigned to Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey, who also presided over Foglesong's criminal trial.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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