Senators launch investigations into allegations of child abuse in treatment facilities

Two senators are launching an investigation into abuse at facilities that house children with special needs and mental health problems, as well as children from foster care and juvenile court systems.

Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., on Thursday sent letters to leaders of four of the largest companies and organizations operating inpatient treatment facilities across the country – Vivant behavioral medicine, Universal Health Services, Acadia Healthcare and Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health — Request information about each site and program they operate.

Senators asked for documentation on child restraint or placement policies, staff training, and the number of incidents of abuse and abuse over the past five years. They also asked for details on contracts, sources of funding, complaints and inspections, how the companies spend their money, and how the companies ensure children in their programs receive a proper education.

Lawmakers said they wanted the information by August 4. The letters are the start of an investigation being led by Murray, chair of the Health, Education, Work and Pensions Committee, and Wyden, chair of the Finance Committee. The senators selected the four companies and organizations because they operate a variety of facilities nationwide and run programs “where abuses are said to have occurred,” according to a spokesman for the HELP committee.

“Children and young people struggling with mental health, substance use and other challenges need to be able to receive the care and support they need in a compassionate, safe and caring environment. Period,” Murray said in a statement. “But it is clear that there has been egregious treatment of young people in care homes across the country – so we demand answers and accountability.”

Child protection advocates have increased pressure on Congress over the past year to crack down on juvenile treatment facilities, citing investigations by state agencies, watchdog groups and journalists documenting the abuse and maltreatment of children in institutions.

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

Sequel built a business based largely on charging state agencies $250 to $800 a day to house minors from the foster care and juvenile justice system, as well as children with special needs. The enterprise at least 17 locations closed over the past five years following a series of investigations that revealed allegations of abuse, squalid living conditions, falsified records and the high-profile murder of a child at a now-closed sequel facility. In response to the investigation, Sequel executives said at the time that the company had invested in hiring additional employees and improving their training, and had always cooperated with government and law enforcement requests.

Ripley launched Vivant last year and told NBC News he’s bought several remaining Sequel facilities, but declined to say which ones. Ripley said in an email in November that his new company had signed a non-disclosure agreement and that only Sequel could tell what facilities were purchased from Vivant.

Ripley did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. In an unsigned statement, Vivant said: “We will be reviewing the letter and working with Chair Wyden and Chair Murray as we share the same goal of providing quality services and care to children and young people in inpatient treatment centers.”

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

UHS, the country’s largest chain of psychiatric hospitals and another company the senators are investigating, has been indicted a 2016 study by BuzzFeed News Detain patients for as many days as their insurer pays, regardless of actual medical necessity. UHS denied these allegations and said It had approval from independent regulatory bodies and accreditation bodies such as The Joint Commission. However, in 2020 the company ready to pay $117 million in a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve claims it had billed for medically unnecessary inpatient behavioral health services.

UHS also owns Provo Canyon Schoola private youth treatment facility accused of child abuse for decades, alarming state lawmakers who have said the facility traumatizes children. Famed businesswoman Paris Hilton was housed in Provo Canyon as a teenager and has become a leading activist calling for stricter oversight of youth housing facilities. The company has repeatedly declined to address Hilton’s criticisms, and Provo Canyon said the facility has evolved in recent years into a “personalized, trauma-informed approach.”

UHS said it is reviewing the senator’s letter.

A report approved Last year, the National Disability Rights Network expressed concern that too many children were being placed in for-profit facilities, where they were “received powerful drugs they don’t need and housed in bug-infested buildings.” The report detailed allegations of improper physical restraints on children, sexual abuse, emotional abuse or understaffing at facilities run by all four organizations targeted by the senators.

The report cited examples that included an Acadia facility in Montana injected a 9-year-old on antihistamines as punishment for misconduct in 2019 and a legal action submitted in 2021 – that is still pending – Allegations that several children of staff at Devereux facilities were sexually abused.

An Acadia spokeswoman said in 2019 that the company’s employees only give children injections “when absolutely necessary for the safety of the patient.”

On Thursday, Gretchen Hommrich, vice president of investor relations at Acadia, said in a statement, “We look forward to working with the senators and supporting them in any way we can to improve access and care for all children and youth who are.” behavioral health require nursing services.”

Devereux, a non-profit organization has said It has taken several steps to prevent sexual assault, including increased training to recognize grooming and potential abuse, and increased pay to attract better staff.

Devereux did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday. Senators launch investigations into allegations of child abuse in treatment facilities

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