On Sabbath, November 5, 2022, at approximately 10:30 AM, several junior/early teen girls and boys saw something hanging outside a window, above room 209, at the Weimar Inn. Curious, three of them ran to see it closely and saw that it was a woman who had died by suicide. They thought it was a Halloween prank. One of the girls vomited.
Intelligent Adventist requested and obtained the Coroner’s Field Report and the Report of Autopsy from the Placer County Sheriff on January 26, 2023. We withheld publication of this article at the request of several sources due to a recently concluded memorial service for an individual unrelated to this story.
In this article, we first describe the Depression Recovery program, showcase the research on which it purports to operate, and explore the conflicts of interest inherent in the unique arrangement the University has with Dr. Nedley’s for-profit program on campus. We are withholding the name of the deceased for respect and reasons of privacy.
The Field Report
According to the Coroner’s Field Report, Lynda Cetean told the police that she was the “manager of the Inn” and “ran an outside program for people having mental health problems.” The deceased had been a prior client of this program. She arrived at Weimar University on October 27 and planned to stay at the inn until the program started later in November. She stated, “the deceased had said they felt safe at our location.” The deceased had a history of depression and anxiety. Cetean had last seen the deceased the day before and would go on daily walks with her early in the morning. On November 5, the deceased had declined to go on their daily walk, and shortly after 10:30 AM, Cetean checked on her and found her body outside the window upon entering her room. The report did not clearly show how long the body had been there, but death was pronounced at 10:41 AM. She contacted emergency services and waited until they arrived. The police searched the room, gathered the belongings, and notified the next of kin, and the body was transported to the coroner’s office for the autopsy. The post-mortem examination on November 9 mentioned the cause of death as hanging and noted a history of chronic major depression. The physician listed on the autopsy report for the deceased was Dr. Neil Nedley, and his specialty was listed as “other specialty physician” at Sutter Auburn Faith Medical Group. At Sutter Health, Dr. Nedley is listed as Board Certified in Internal Medicine, having completed medical school at Loma Linda University and residency at Kettering Medical Center and Wright State University.
The death, while tragic, raises more questions than answers.
The first question is rather obvious: Why was this person at Weimar University?
“A physician familiar with mental health”
Lynda Cetean is listed on the Nedley Health Website as the Residential Program Administrative Director. No other academic qualifications are listed for her on the site.
Dr. Neil Nedley is listed as the founder and medical director of the
“Community-based and residential Nedley Depression and Anxiety Recovery Programs. He is an “award-winning practicing physician who also serves as President of Weimar University, a higher education college that houses the NEWSTART program. He has presented and published numerous scientific studies in the medical/scientific literature and is well known as an author, public speaker, and teacher throughout the world.”
The website touts the residential program as “The most successful residential treatment program available for depression and anxiety.” The website text continues:
“At the conclusion of the program, 99% of the participants reported significant improvements in their depression with 54% reporting no depression at all. Four months after the program, participants reported additional reduction of symptoms in both depression and anxiety.”
Dr. Nedley himself provides the History of the Neil Nedley Depression Recovery Program. The program is also known and referred to colloquially as the “Depression & Recovery Program” (DARP Program/DR Program. Dr. Nedley also mentioned how the program came to Weimar in his speech at the Birthday and Farewell Party of Pastor Don Mackintosh, who is also listed on the website as part of the Residential Team as a Spiritual Counselor.
The community depression and anxiety programs consist of eight 2-hour, once-weekly, lifestyle-focused depression treatment programs that teach participants about exercise, rest, and nutrition, as well as temperance and the use of spiritual resources to improve depression and anxiety. They watch pre-recorded presentations of Neil Nedley, MD, presenting materials on mental health and the science linked to improving depression and anxiety, according to one published research paper.
The website lists exuberant testimonials from various attendees of the 10-day residential program and the abstracts of several research articles on data gathered from the programs over the years. Intelligent Adventist’s team looked at a few of the research papers and found the research design to lack scientific rigor. For example, all the study abstracts that we examined lacked control groups. While we at IA believe in the Health Message and principles of health based on Scripture, we noticed that nearly all the studies generally seemed to trend towards a confirmation bias in historic Adventist health message beliefs. One study purported that reading the book of Proverbs reduced sexual activity outside marriage in just eight weeks of two-hour sessions.
While reading the papers, I noticed all the creative ways the lead researcher referred to Dr. Nedley in the abstracts, often using phrases such as “physician familiar with mental health.” I realized all these creative ways were perhaps to get around the fact that Dr. Nedley has neither a residency in Psychiatry nor a Doctorate in Psychology. And this is where the problems start for the DARP Residential Program and Weimar University.
The second question logically follows: did the deceased know they were attending a residential program where the medical director is neither a trained psychiatrist nor a psychologist?
Any residential Depression program should contain strong anti-suicide measures that start with an in-take protocol and process where an experienced intake Psych-RN evaluates the prospective client for the probability of suicide, acute and severe depression, chemical dependency, and any evidence of mental illness. As a condition of attending the residential depression program, the clients should have to consent to have their belongings and their person to be thoroughly searched to remove potentially harmful items such as knives, guns, and any items that could be used for self-harm when they arrive for the program.
The residential program should be built around patient safety, with 24×7 on-site medical staff performing regular checks on the clients/patients. The rooms should not have anything that could be used for self-harm: this includes everyday items such as cutlery, loose clothing, shoelaces, belts, electric cords, curtains, windows that open, and doors that lock from the inside. The Weimar Inn is designed as a resort-style hotel. It is not intended for the stay of a potentially at-risk person.
The Field Autopsy report does not say whether the deceased was evaluated by a registered nurse for the DARP program when they arrived on campus. There was a 4-hour gap between the last contact between the manager of the DARP program and the client. As for Dr. Nedley, he wasn’t on campus. According to our sources, he was attending a Weimar University staff retreat a hundred miles away.
According to several sources on the university campus, no one from the university administration publicly discussed the death on campus. The year before, students had requested counseling services be available to anyone on the university campus. In an ironic twist, even though the world’s “best holistic” Depression and Anxiety program was on campus, those services were still not in place when this death occurred. A layperson insisted that the girls be offered professional counseling to help them cope with their traumatic experience. Eventually, somebody provided the girls with professional counseling.
A campus-wide email whose subject was “with sadness” informed everyone about the death. The email attempts to avoid addressing why the “guest” was on campus in the first place and which entity, whether DARP or Weimar University, is legally liable should a wrongful-death lawsuit be filed. California law allows the aggrieved family or estate to recover damages for wrongful death. And while the Nedley DARP program could argue that they were between sessions, the responsibility for the standard of care still rests with the program.
Putting it another way, the third question is, if a lawsuit were to be filed, would Dr. Nedley choose to make the University or his for-profit program liable for the death? And even if there were no lawsuits in this case, where does the University’s liability end and DARP’s begin?
Conflicts of Interest
Sources near the administration have shared examples of Dr. Nedley’s conflicts of interest in running his for-profit Nedley Clinic (DBA Nedley Health Solutions) and the non-profit academic institution on the same campus. We list several of these conflicts here. Taken together, they paint a picture of why the Weimar University board may want to reconsider their arrangement with the President of their University.
A. Depression Recovery Program
DR Program takes over the Weimar Inn, and even though the facility has more rooms than DR has patients, no one else is allowed into the Inn. According to our whistleblower’s tip, the DR Program is held several times a year on campus. A group of 20-25, mostly younger patients who may be suicidal, sometimes drug abusing, and anxiety-ridden, arrive on campus for ten days at a time. The patients are charged $185/night for their room. Nedley Health Solutions are charged a negotiated (discounted) rate of $85/night for the same room. They are not charged for all the basement facilities (hydrotherapy, massage, conference room, hot tub, etc.). Nedley Health Solutions has been given an apartment (room #200) for free for at least ten years. Hotel rates have risen almost 40% over the last two years, but there hasn’t been a corresponding increase in charges to Nedley Health Solutions. According to our sources, there is no evidence that the extra money reverts to Weimar University.
B. “Closed Weekends”
Dr. Nedley instructs the music department to sing to the patients, often turning the weekend into a “closed weekend” so that students cannot leave campus. Should he do that when he has a vested financial interest?
C. Price of Residential Depression Recovery Program
In a recent Facebook post, Weimar University student Eugene Prewitt posted the price of the DR program as costing $9,000 while also announcing that he was going to work in the upcoming residential program.
Incidentally, Prewitt was awarded an honorary bachelor’s degree last year at the 2022 Weimar University Commencement by Dr. Nedley and is currently studying for a master’s in arts in Biblical Missions and Wellness, although he is already claiming his master’s degree in public Facebook/Telegram groups and dispensing medical information as a “health educator.” An honorary bachelor’s degree is typically not sufficient for admission to a graduate program at most universities. Weimar University stands here, virtually alone.
D. Federal and State Taxation Issues
According to a source, the annual revenue for the residential program alone is projected to be more than $1.54 Million. This is before selling books, consults, and supplements from Dr. Nedley’s supplement brand. IA has not independently verified this claim. However, we ask if the University Board has considered the potential of off-the-books, executive compensation tax implications, and tax penalties.
F. Potential Wider Church Implications
Dr. Nedley is a member of the General Conference Executive Committee. He has presented his views on mental health at various General Conference Councils. Could a potential lawsuit reach the General Conference over the credibility they have extended to him and his business interests?
G. Allegations of Sexual Harassment against a DR Staff Member
Intelligent Adventist’s coverage of WU began with a lawsuit against the University over allegations of sexual harassment. We have since learned of three separate allegations and the names of the victims on the campus of Weimar University. The alleged perpetrator for all three victims is an employee of the Depression Recovery Program.
Several members of the University board demanded an independent investigation be conducted. The independent investigator filed their report with the attorney of the University, who, according to an anonymous source, has refused to turn over the report to the University Board over fears that it will be leaked to the public. The board informed Dr. Nedley that this DR employee was no longer allowed on campus; however, they were seen driving an NHS vehicle a week ago. Sources believe they are staying at the Weimar Inn.
Despite the pending lawsuit, some things haven’t changed on the University Campus.
In conclusion, even though Weimar University is an independent self-supporting Adventist institution of higher learning, I can’t escape the realization that, in the self-inflicted death of this victim, we, as a church, have all failed. She came to Weimar because she felt it was a safe place for her to be, but in her hour of extreme need, she was let down by a physician who wasn’t qualified to handle her medical needs, by staff that was insufficient and undertrained, in a facility that was ill-equipped to keep her safe.
According to the Nedley Health Solutions website, the next Residential Depression Recovery Session starts next Thursday, February 16, 2023, on the campus of Weimar University.