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Two Juvenile Behavioral Treatment Centers in Detroit Ordered to Close

by Jo Ellen Nott

On June 23, 2022, the state of Michigan notified two youth residential behavioral treatment centers in Detroit they had to shutter operations by July 8 due to shocking allegations of staff abuse against the juvenile residents. The order to close the Detroit Behavioral Institute (DBI) came as the state was investigating 30 licensing and maltreatment complaints.  

DBI accepted a five-year suspension of its licenses, saying it has no intention of resuming operations in the city. The subsidiary of Tennessee-based Acadia Healthcare operates more than 200 behavioral health facilities across the country, including others in Michigan. The company reported $651.7 million in revenue for the second quarter of 2022. 

Boys and girls aged 12 to 17 were sent to DBI for assistance with mental health disorders, substance abuse or behavioral issues. But during the last two years, DBI said the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) pressured the firm to accept teenagers who would otherwise be ordered to juvenile detention.

In a statement about the closure, DBI faulted those kids, saying “the [alleged abuse] incidents rose in direct relation to the admissions of these much higher-risk patients who we were asked to accept.”

So what did these naughty kids force their adult counselors to do?

Allegations made against DBI staff include drinking alcohol during a trip to a park with a patient. Another overweight resident was allegedly taunted for eating hot dogs at lunch, with staff commenting on her body size, triggering her to leave without permission and then slapping her when she returned and challenging her to a fight.

Staff also reportedly threatened to snap another girl’s neck and encouraged her to kill herself, despite knowing she had a history of self-harm, and then failed to intervene when she cut herself and wrote her name in blood.

Another resident found peeling paint off a wall was allegedly stepped on and had her hair pulled, while a boy was reportedly chased and tackled still after a horseplay incident, leaving him bruised.

Still another youth was reportedly choked with a scarf and called “a bitch,” another attacked after throwing glue sticks at staff, and another bitten, choked and taunted to kill herself.

Before shuttering the facilities, DHHS spent weeks with DBI leadership to address the agency’s concerns, which spokesman Bob Wheaton said afterward “were not alleviated.” 

In its statement about the closure, DBI also blamed the state for decreasing the number of mental health facilities treating at-risk youth and said that the COVID-19 pandemic forced the firm to accept youth into its programs “when truly no other facility would.”

Source:  Detroit Free Press

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