Family protests woman's treatment at mental facility

Family claims 58-year-old abused at Northeast Florida State Hospital

MACCLENNY, Fla. – The family of a woman being treated at a local mental hospital says she’s being abused and needs help.

The woman's relatives stood outside the Northeast Florida State Hospital on Thursday, demanding she be allowed to leave so she can recover and get the care she needs.

The hospital said it can’t provide any personal or medical information because it’s protected by law.

But the relatives of 58-year-old Tziona Ben Aharon shared a lot of information, including pictures, because they said something is wrong.

Pictures they said they took of her when they visited her at the hospital show marks and bruising on her body.

Her family said that while at the hospital, Ben Aharon has suffered from dehydration and been deprived of food and water for days at a time.

That’s why her family and others protested outside the facility where Ben Aharon has been since July, after spending time at another mental health facility in Central Florida.

Her relatives said they have been requesting she be moved from the hospital since late last year with no success, and since January, the hospital has not allowed them to visit Ben Aharon.

A representative from the Department of Children and Families, which operates the hospital, wouldn’t comment on that or any other allegations, saying it would be against the law.

But the spokesperson did say the hospital and all state mental health treatment facilities take the care of their residents extremely seriously.

But Ben Aharon's family and a former hospital volunteer have doubts.

“One day we came and she said, 'Oh, can you check my feet? It’s hurting me.' She was brought straight from the bed and she took off her socks and you can see what we find out,” Ben Aharon's brother-in-law Barry Berler said.

DCF officials said any allegations of abuse reported to the Florida Abuse Hotline, even at a state facility like Northeast Florida State Hospital, are thoroughly investigated.

They said it’s unacceptable and any individuals found to be mistreating people will be held accountable.
Ben Aharon's family, though, said it plans to keep fighting.