The state Department of Health has suspended the credential of a Richland mental health counselor accused of developing a personal relationship with a patient.
Brenda Lea Vanderpool will be able to petition for reinstatement in two years after paying a $1,000 fine and successfully completing an ethics program.
She could face at least three years probation if she is reinstated.
The suspension took effect in June but wasn't announced by the health department until last week.
Neither Vanderpool nor her attorney could be reached Tuesday.
Vanderpool began treating a patient for severe anxiety and panic disorder in March 2013, a health department document said.
In April, the woman -- who had a history of suicidal thoughts, cutting and seeking help from the local Crisis Response Unit -- sent Vanderpool a text saying she was at a motel and was "done," the document said. Vanderpool worried she was planning suicide.
Instead of calling 911, Vanderpool said she'd meet the patient at the motel and stayed with her there from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. the next day, the document said.
Vanderpool allowed the relationship to turn from a counseling relationship to a close personal one, with, for example, Vanderpool and the patient exchanging hundreds of text and Facebook messages, saying they loved each other and using pet names, getting together frequently and participating in three overnight camping trips that included other people, the document said.
Vanderpool was present twice when the patient cut herself to relieve anxiety and went to her home three times after the patient didn't respond to texts or calls or reached out saying she was "done," the document said.
The patient eventually asked that Vanderpool not contact her, the document said.
-- Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529; email@example.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald