Imagine being bamboozled into unintentionally checking yourself into a psychiatric hospital—one that is part of a profit-making chain that pushes its employees to admit as many patients as possible and that is under criminal investigation. That’s the deeply chilling scenario described in “Intake,” a BuzzFeed investigation of the chain of mental hospitals owned by Universal Health Services, a $9.6 billion giant and the largest private owner of psychiatric facilities in the country. (UHS’s operations treated 450,000 patients at more than 200 hospitals.) The accounts from employees are extremely disturbing:
UHS disputes the claims in the article, but the evidence is damning. It includes, for example, a first-hand account of a mildly depressed woman who sought counseling—only to find herself locked into a psychiatric facility and prevented from leaving. Even an industry spokesperson, defending UHS, ends up sounding scary when she endorses the view that the hospital shouldn’t let a person leave until it ascertains they are safe: “This may involve restricting their ability to leave the facility.” Every state has laws allowing involuntary commitment, of course, but this article makes it clear that UHS is particularly prone to citing the risk that the patient might kill themselves. “By 2013,” the article notes, “the code for suicidal ideation appeared in more than half of all of the Medicare claims submitted by UHS hospitals. This is four and a half times the rate for all non-UHS psychiatric hospitals.”
The Meaning of Lego
It’s hard to imagine now, but Lego, the iconic toy-block maker, nearly went under about 15 years ago. New York has a feature that is in part an exploration of how the company found a way to reinvent itself for a generation of videogame addicts and in part a meditation on the nature of play (and whether the blocks are good for children’s development). The article is entitled “Lego Is the Perfect Toy: Even if no one can really agree on what kind of toy it is anymore.” Because the article has multiple goals, it meanders a bit. Yet there are wonderful lines such as, “For parents, Legos seem like the vegetable your kid actually requests and then eats in heaping mounds.” If you stick with the piece, you’ll find interesting ruminations on discovering the essence of a brand and a few surprises (at least, to me):
Lego made a bunch of changes in line with these findings—over the vociferous objections of some parents, who thought it would be sexist to have a female version of Legos—and all of a sudden girls fell in love with them.
9,000 People Were Going to March On Our Office
In the category of toy-related journalism, San Francisco has an enjoyable oral history of what it was like to work at Niantic Labs, when its creation—the smartphone version of Pokémon Go—absolutely exploded. “Pokémon Pandemonium” captures a moment that sounds like a cross between mass ecstasy and a vengeance-seeking mob:
The Travails of the Mayo Messiah
San Francisco has a second worthy article (part of its “power” package), and one with the best headline of the week: “The Agony And Ecstasy Of A Mayo Messiah.” Josh Tetrick, founder of Hampton Creek, the vegan-foods company that makes the eggless Just Mayo, has not lacked for press. That includes both the positive variety (as proselytizer for healthy eating and the ostensible slayer of multinational big food conglomerates) and the negative type (for some sales shenanigans in which employees bought the company’s products off store shelves to drive up sales). This portrait mostly doesn’t break new ground if you’ve been following the saga, but the writing makes it more than worthwhile, particularly in two descriptions of the founder himself:
Passages like that make for a tasty treat.