Senators launch investigation into child abuse allegations at treatment facilities

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Two senators are investigating abuses in facilities that house children with special needs and mental health issues as well as children from the alternative care and juvenile justice systems.

Senators Patty Murray, D-Wash, and Ron Wyden, Vice President, sent letters Thursday to the heads of four of the largest companies and organizations that operate residential treatment facilities across the country — Vivant Behavioral Health CareAnd the Comprehensive health servicesAnd the Acadia Healthcare And the Advanced Behavioral Health Devereux – Request information about each site and program they work on.

Senators demanded documentation of child restraint or segregation policies, training provided to staff and the number of cases of abuse and abuse over the past five years. They also asked for details on contracts, funding sources, complaints and inspections, how companies spend their money, and how companies ensure that children are in their programs. Get a proper education.

Lawmakers said they want the information by August 4. The letters are the start of an investigation led by Murray, chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Weyden, chair of the Finance Committee. The senators chose the four companies and organizations because they operate a large number of facilities across the country and operate programs in which violations have been reported, according to a spokesperson for the HELP Committee.

“Children and adolescents with mental health issues, substance abuse, and other challenges should be able to get the care and support they need in a compassionate, safe and nurturing environment,” Murray said in a statement. housing across the country – so we demand answers and accountability.”

Child care advocates have pressure surge Congress has over the past year to crack down on youth treatment facilities, citing investigations by state agencies, watchdog groups and journalists who document abuse and mistreatment of institutionalized children.

One of the messages was sent to Jay Ripley, CEO of Vivant, and co-founder of Sequel Youth & Family Services.

sequel Set up a business that is largely dependent on state government fees Agencies $250 to $800 per day to house minors from adoptive and juvenile justice systems, as well as children with special needs. company At least 17 websites closed In the past five years, after a series of investigations Disclosing allegations of abuse, deteriorating living conditions, Fake records and famous murders for a child at the Sequel facility that has since closed. In response to the investigations, Sequel executives said at the time that the company invested in hiring additional employees and improving their training, and always cooperated with inquiries from state and law enforcement agencies.

Ripley fired Vivant last year and told NBC News he had bought several of Sequel’s remaining facilities, but declined to say which ones. Ripley said in an email in November that his new company had signed a nondisclosure agreement, and that only Sequel could determine which facilities Vivant had purchased.

Ripley did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. In an unsigned statement, Vivant said: “We will review the letter and work with Chairman Wyden and Association President Murray because we share the same goal of providing high-quality services and care for children and youth in residential treatment centers.”

Sequel has not responded to requests for comment, and no longer lists contact information or the facilities it operates on its website.

UHS, the nation’s largest chain of psychiatric hospitals and another one of the companies vetted by senators, has been accused of 2016 investigation by BuzzFeed News From holding patients for many days paid by the insurance company, regardless of actual medical need. UHS disputed these allegations, and He said It obtained the approval of independent regulatory bodies and accredited bodies such as the Joint Committee. However, in 2020, the company She agreed to pay $117 million in a settlement with the US Department of Justice to settle allegations that it was billed for medically unnecessary inpatient behavioral health services.

UHS also owns Provo Canyon Schoola private youth treatment facility that has been accused of abusing minors for decades, disturbing state makers Who said that the institution traumatized children. Famous businesswoman Paris Hilton was set up in Provo Canyon as a teenager, and has Become a leading activist Lobbying for tighter oversight of residential youth facilities. The company has repeatedly refused to address Hilton’s criticism, and Provo Canyon said the facility has in recent years evolved into a “personalised, informed approach to trauma.”

UHS said it was reviewing the senators’ speech.

a Report released Last year, the National Network for the Rights of the Disabled raised concerns that too many children were being placed in for-profit facilities, where they were “given strong medicines they don’t need, and are housed in insect-infested buildings.” The report described allegations of inappropriate physical restraint for children, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, or understaffing in facilities operated by all four organizations targeted by the senators.

The report cited examples including the Acadia facility in Montana injected A 9-year-old is taking antihistamines as punishment for misbehavior in 2019, and a lawsuit Introduced in 2021 – this is still hanging – Several children were allegedly sexually abused by staff at Devereux facilities.

A spokeswoman for Acadia said in 2019 that company employees only inject babies “when absolutely necessary for patient safety.”

“We look forward to working with Senators and helping in any way we can to improve access and care for all children and adolescents who need behavioral health care services,” Gretchen Homerich, vice president of investor relations at Acadia, said in a Thursday statement.

Devereux, a non-profit organization, He said It has taken several steps to prevent sexual assaults, including increasing training to spot potential grooming and abuse, and increasing wages to attract better employees.

Devereux did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

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