Allegations against ex-child psychiatrist lead to policy changes

Dr. Charles Fischer in court on Oct. 25, 2016 for molestation charges (KXAN Photo/ Daniel Guerrero)
Dr. Charles Fischer in court on Oct. 25, 2016 for molestation charges (KXAN Photo/ Daniel Guerrero)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A counselor for one of the alleged victims of molestation by former child psychiatrist Dr. Charles Fischer took the stand Wednesday, stating she filed a complaint alleging molestation of a patient in 2011.

Dr. Charles Fischer accused of molesting boys
Dr. Charles Fischer accused of molesting boys

Courtney Tate, a Licensed Professional Counselor, LPC, testified that she began seeing the alleged victim, the first witness to take the stand in the trial, in 2009. Tate testified that the alleged victim, whom we are not identifying by name or face, confided in her in October 2009 that, as a patient at the Austin State Hospital many years before, he says Dr. Fischer molested him.

It wasn’t until June 2011, a year and a half later, that Tate reported the allegations to the state of Texas.

“You had no information that would have caused you to make a report,” said Gerry Morris, one of Fischer’s defense attorneys, addressing Tate on the witness stand.

“No,” she replied.

The defense continued to focus Wednesday in court on the accuser’s mental health and therefore, his credibility, questioning the counselor about the boy’s “history of psychosis.”

“Did you look into how extensive that history was?,” asked Morris.

“I gathered history from him. Other than that, no one else,” answered Tate. “There was not psychosis that was affecting his recollection of events regarding the abuse.”

Dr. Charles “Chuck” Fischer is indicted on multiple charges of sexual assault and indecency with a child in 2012. He now faces five felonies, including two child sexual assault charges.

The trial began Tuesday in Travis County for the former child psychiatrist accused of molesting boys at the Austin State Hospital.

Allegations spark policy changes at state hospitals

KXAN reached out to the Texas Department of State Health Services to learn about the policy and procedure for filing complaints at the Austin State Hospital. We also asked whether any changes have been implemented following the allegations against their ex-psychiatrist, Dr. Fischer.

We learned that in spring 2012, in direct response to the allegations against Fischer, state health services created and have implemented a new database meant to detect patterns that may emerge regarding complaints and allegations of sexual abuse, neglect, and/or exploitation at all state hospitals.

The department also said it has tried to implement windows on doors in state hospitals to provide a more direct line of vision for patients who may meet with their physician in a closed-door, private therapy session. State hospital superintendents also now have increased oversight in hiring physicians at their facilities.

The Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) also maintains oversight of complaints of this nature at state hospitals. DFPS also notifies the Office of Inspector General of complaints, to determine whether they too, have jurisdiction.

The two entities may then proceed to notify the Clients Rights Office at state hospitals in the case that direct and immediate action is determined to be necessary. This includes determining whether staff need to moved or removed from the hospital and/or patients, or in some instances, be placed on emergency leave.

Texas Sen. Charles Schwertner serves as the chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services. Sen. Schwertner told KXAN that the policy changes, protections and safeguards, implemented are necessary.

“That’s a vulnerable population that are in our state hospitals,” said Sen. Schwertner. “Individuals with injured minds need certain protections to make sure that they are not taken advantage of.”

The Republican state senator said Texans should demand proper protections, “so that we, as the state, and citizens, can be assured that when they’re in a mental health facility, they’re treated appropriately and with every safeguard,” he said. “We will take every action that we need to, to make sure that the protections are there for those individuals that reside in mental hospitals.”

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