NEW KENT COUNTY, Va. -- Virginia State Police investigators are looking into a Florida teen’s claim that she was sexually abused by the Medical Director of a New Kent children’s hospital.
As CBS 6 first reported Wednesday, Cumberland Hospital for Children and Adolescents has been under criminal investigation by the VSP for child abuse and neglect for more than two years.
VSP confirms it launched its probe into the facility October 17, 2017. As part of that ongoing investigation, it’s collected “approximately 250 pages of documents and information, including, but not limited to, complaints court orders, memoranda, notes, diagrams, maps, photographs, correspondence, reports, witness statements, and evidence in whole or in part,” according to a response from VSP to a CBS 6 request under the Freedom of Information Act.
Thirteen-year-old Astrid was admitted to Cumberland Hospital in March of 2019 from Florida for treatment of her Cystic Fibrosis, the genetic disease that causes mucus to build in her body.
“There was nowhere willing to accept Astrid in our area to help our family,” said Astrid’s mother Melissa. “I was excited.”
But her mother’s excitement was short lived.
“The first red flag was the first visit when I found some photos of her and then she was sleeping on the floor,” said Melissa.
Melissa says during her initial visit, she discovered concerning drawings ripped out of her daughter’s journal.
The drawings were multiple self-images Astrid drew while she was a patient at Cumberland.
Pictures, that appear to show a child in need of help.
“She actually became extremely defensive. She was very upset with me and threw things at me because I had found those pictures and I was taking them,” explained Melissa. “She had a complete meltdown it’s almost as though I found them, and she knew that they knew I had them and she was going to get in trouble for them.”
“The staff asked me to please leave them there. They were not happy that I was taking them. They thought it was best to leave them with the therapist that was there. That was the first problem Cumberland and I had with each other was over those photos,” Melissa added.
When asked what she was afraid of, Astrid responded.
“I didn’t want her (mom) to show the doctor anything. I was scared,” Astrid told CBS 6 investigative reporter Laura French.
The doctor Astrid spoke of was Daniel Davidow, Cumberland’s Medical Director, and someone Astrid would eventually refuse to let examine her because of how she explains her first exams went.
“He was trying to reach for my heart but instead he touched that (points to genitals.) I didn’t believe he was trying to reach for that (points to heart). He was trying to reach for that (points to genitals). A couple days later he came back and put the heart thing on my boob and he rubbed my back,” Astrid explained.
CBS 6 was provided confidential medical records that document the exams in question.
In Astrid’s progress note dated August 27, 2019, a physician writes: “I do need to be aware of her allegations in the past with physicians of inappropriate touching.”
It goes on to say, “she is throwing sexual acts in a notebook,” and “she remains on sexual victimization precautions as she does not know that this puts her at high risk of victimization.”
On September 11, 2019 Astrid’s therapist notes: “She has begun talking about sexual abuse stating that a doctor had molested her by touching her back and abdomen during an examination.”
“Anytime Dr. Davidow came onto the unit Astrid along with a couple of her friends would run to the rooms and wouldn’t want anything to do with him,” said Melissa.
“When I went to the case manager about this thing with Dr Davidow her comment to me was that basically it was pointless that there has been multiple, multiple allegations against him and every one of them have come back not founded… so basically she was telling me go ahead, do what you’re going to do, but it’s just going to end in the same,” said Astrid.
According to the Virginia Board of Medicine’s website, the doctor of 40 years has a clean record.
Melissa reported her daughter’s allegations to Special Agent Marcie Clifton with the Virginia State Police. Clifton has been investigating claims of child abuse and neglect involving Cumberland for more than two years.
Special Agent Clifton would visit Astrid at Cumberland on August 13, 2019.
“What was it like when the police officer came to visit you?” asked French.
“She walked in and said, ‘Hey, I’m here because someone said they were worried about you,’” recalled the 13-year-old.
Astrid said she was unaware that Clifton was an investigator.
“I don’t want to talk about it with them,” said Astrid. “That’s a topic I don’t want to talk about. I’ll talk about everything else but not that.”
In an email to Astrid’s mom the following day, Clifton wrote, “The visit went fine. She was doing a breathing treatment when we got there. She had several puzzles in her room that she had been working on. She did not say anything about any abuse or anything bothering her. She appeared happy and excited about going to lunch and school.”
“What makes it hard to talk about?” French asked Astrid.
“I don’t want to pour my business out to people that just come visit me,” responded Astrid.
Three months after that visit, Astrid would be discharged from Cumberland, ending an eight month stay, and a trying time for her and her family they say.
“What’s something you won’t miss about Cumberland?” French asked.
“Dr. Davidow all the way,” Astrid responded.
“If you could ever tell him how he made you feel, what would you tell him?” French asked.
“I would say, ‘hey, why don’t you leave little children alone. Why would you do that type of stuff? We’re too young for that. We’re not even old enough to want it. Even if we wanted it, we aren’t old enough for that,’” Astrid responded.
“Tell me your biggest fear for the kids there?” French asked.
“To be touched in places they shouldn’t be touched,” Astrid responded.
“I honestly believe it’s going to be that little girl in there that’s going to save these little kids,” said Melissa.
Melissa said since returning to Florida, Astrid has been in counseling and was re-interviewed by social services in her area. She says that report will be sent to officials in New Kent County if it hasn’t been already. CBS 6 reached out to the agency assisting the family but they were unable to provide comment.
CBS 6 reached out to Governor Ralph Northam after several families said they reported abuse to his office and state health officials.
A spokesperson provided us with the following statement from Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey.
“We take these accusations very seriously. My office is working with state agencies to investigate this further and determine immediate next steps,” Carey wrote.
Parents say the Attorney General of Virginia’s office is investigating and working with the Virginia State Police.
“We generally don’t comment on ongoing investigations, even to confirm whether or not one may be ongoing,” said a spokesperson for Attorney General Mark Herring.
Dr. Davidow said he was unable to grant CBS 6 an interview, but Cumberland CEO Gay Brooks released the following statement on January 24, 2020.
“Founded in 1983, Cumberland Hospital for Children and Adolescents provides integrated care, combining medical, psychotherapeutic, rehabilitative, behavioral and educational services for young people challenged by both complex medical and emotional needs.
Cumberland Hospital has been, and continues to be, in good standing with our licensing and regulatory authorities. We are surveyed regularly and, like many healthcare facilities, promptly address any deficiencies that may be cited. Further, any complaint or allegation is taken seriously, investigated thoroughly and addressed as appropriate.
In response to your request for comment, we asked for specifics on the allegations you intend to reference and the claims you state were made by families of patients after discharge from our facility. You have declined to provide any details, precluding us from providing meaningful commentary or response within the constraints of patient privacy laws.
With that said, we are aware of a pending police investigation involving one particular incident last year. The employee implicated in this incident was immediately terminated. We turned the matter over to law enforcement and are fully cooperating with the authorities.”
CBS 6 investigative reporter Laura French disputed those claims immediately on January 24, 2020 and again January 30, 2020 with the following emails to Brooks:
"January 24, 2020
I am in receipt of your statement.
I do see where you referenced that I "declined to provide any details," as you will see from my request for comment on 1/21, I have highlighted where I am very specific with the allegations that are being made, who is being accused, the evidence we have obtained, the investigative branch we have been in touch with and other state officials that alleged victims have reached out to. I also point out what some of the receiving hospitals documented in medical records that we have obtained. I do understand due to privacy and HIPPA regulations we would not be able to discuss, nor would it be appropriate to list specific cases.
As I mentioned in all of our communications, my goal is to be as transparent as possibly so you could have the opportunity to respond to these serious findings and allegations:
I am reaching out regarding an investigation I am working on involving Cumberland Hospital for Children and Adolescence.
Following our October story on the hospital, numerous parents from around the country reached out to us sharing their stories alleging their children were medically neglected and or abused at the facility, some even alleging their children have been sexually assaulted by Medical Director Dr. Daniel Davidow. Multiple families have provided us with “founded” reports from the New Kent Department of Social Services that child abuse and neglect had occurred.
We have been provided photographic evidence and medical records from receiving hospitals who assessed patients who came from your facility, that documented suspected abuse.
All of these families claim they have reported this at the state, and local levels as well as to the Virginia State Police who we understand is currently investigating multiple claims. Some families have been in touch with the Attorney General of Virginia and the Governor’s office.
We have interviewed several families and want to give UHS and Dr. Davidow the opportunity to respond to these serious findings and allegations.
I look forward to hearing back from you on this matter.
January 30, 2020
As I mentioned in all of our communication, it is my goal to be completely transparent as we approach the airing of our investigation into Cumberland Hospital.
As part of our investigation, we sent FOIA requests to the Virginia State Police, the Virginia Department of Health and the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.
I wanted to share with you the information that was just returned to us from those agencies thus far (I am still waiting on some reports from VDH.)
The Virginia State Police confirmed it launched a criminal "Child Abuse/Neglect" investigation into the hospital on October 17, 2017.
"A general description of any injuries suffered or property damaged or stolen: Neglect of patients/residents"
It mentions "250 pages of documents and information" pertaining to the open case.
The Virginia Department of Health responded that from 2015-present
31 total complaints were received
18 were substantiated
11 complaints were unsubstantiated
2 complaints are incomplete at this time
DBHDS responded since 2015 it received 100 complaints and 4 were founded.
Additionally, VCU Medical Center confirmed that Dr. Davidow is not affiliated with VCU Health System or VCU as indicated in his biography and the Virginia Board of Medicine practitioner information profile.
French did not receive a response to either email.
The investigation into Davidow continues as another staff member at Cumberland Hospital was arrested Wednesday for sex crimes against a patient at the facility.
Herschel “Mickey” Harden, a psychotherapist at Cumberland, was indicted by a multi-jurisdictional grand jury in King William. He has been charged with two counts of object sexual penetration by force in New Kent County.
Court records show one of the crimes happened in October of 2018, the other in January of 2019.
Harden, who has been released on bond, is scheduled to appear in New Kent County Circuit Court on February 10.
French reached out to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) Thursday for a status update on the hospital. In a statement, a spokesperson for says VDH takes all complaints regarding hospitals in the Commonwealth and patient safety very seriously.
“The VDH Office of Licensure and Certification (OLC) will perform frequent and unannounced inspection visits at the hospital to ensure ongoing compliance with health and safety standards,” said the spokesperson.
French also reached out to the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) for the status of their investigation into the Cumberland Hospital for Children and Adolescents.
“DBHDS is cooperating with the police investigation, is conducting its own licensing investigation, and is assisting VDH in its licensing investigation to ensure a coordinated response,” said the spokesperson.
In the statement, the department also addressed the sex crime charges against Harden.
“These are very serious charges. DBHDS is determining next steps regarding his status as a Peer Recovery Specialist,” added the spokesperson.
The Attorney General’s office is asking anyone with information about the allegations against Harden, or other allegations at Cumberland Hospital, to contact the Virginia State Police’s Bureau of Criminal Investigations at (804) 537-6788.