The state Department of Social and Health Services announced Friday that it will investigate Behavioral Health Resources because the Martin Way mental health clinic did not notify the state when it terminated a counselor in December after a finding of unprofessional conduct.
The former BHR counselor, John Alkins, 58, was found dead in his Sunset Beach Drive home Tuesday night, strangled to death. A woman who told detectives she is a former patient of his at BHR, Lia Tricomo, 27, was charged Friday with attempted first-degree murder and first-degree murder "with deliberate cruelty to a vulnerable victim while armed with a deadly weapon."
Tricomo, who was being held at the Thurston County Jail Friday with bail set at $1 million, will be arraigned in Thurston County Superior Court on May 14.
DSHS spokeswoman Kathleen Spears said Friday that DSHS will investigate BHR, after BHR told The Olympian Thursday that it did not disclose Alkins' termination to the state Department of Health, as required under Washington Administrative Code. BHR terminated Alkins in December after finding that Alkins "violated BHR policies concerning professional boundaries."
A DOH spokesman said Thursday that when a licensed counselor is terminated for unprofessional conduct, its employer must notify DOH of the firing.
"In this case, it came to light in The Olympian story that the professional had been terminated from his job and that DOH had not been notified by BHR until yesterday," Spears wrote in an email to The Olympian on Friday.
Spears added that DSHS will "investigate this and if substantiated we will take action. DSHS can fine the agency $1,000 for a substantiated complaint and take action against the agency' s license. DOH can impose a fine of up to $500."
BHR spokeswoman Judi Hoefling, when informed of the pending DSHS investigation, said, "That would be standard." Hoefling added that BHR "did everything else right" in its termination proceedings against Alkins.
According to court papers:
Tricomo has told sheriff's deputies that she developed a personal, social relationship with Alkins while he was her BHR counselor last year, and she moved into his home on Monday. Tricomo also said that Alkins "was terminated several months ago due to an inappropriate relationship with another patient."
Tricomo told deputies she slit Alkins' throat six times with a folding razor blade knife in his bedroom Monday night after the two had sexual relations. She admitted to later strangling him to death, court papers state.
A professional organization for licensed counselors states that it is considered unethical for a counselor to have a romantic or sexual relationship with a patient or a former patient, unless five years have passed since the last time a counselor saw a patient professionally.
Alkins' family released a statement to The Olympian on Friday. The woman who emailed the statement identified herself as Alkins' sister.
"The family is shocked and profoundly grief stricken at his tragic and violent death," reads the statement. "Our hearts are broken that we have lost a beloved son, father, brother, uncle and friend. Johns life was dedicated to the service of others and we are so very proud of his tireless efforts and compassion towards those less fortunate."
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445 firstname.lastname@example.org