For-Profit Mental Health Corporation Report: Sequel - continued

January 2020: Franklin County (Ohio) Children Services (FCCS) stopped sending children in their custody to Sequel Pomegranate due to concerns about the how children were being restrained there, as well as concerns over violence and sexual abuse over the previous months.[i]

February 2020: A lawsuit demanding $4.5 million was filed on behalf of a minor child, alleging that while the child was hospitalized at Kingston Academy, he was repeatedly and violently raped by in the bathroom by a Kingston Academy employee and another patient. The case, filed in Roane County, Tennessee is, as of February 2022, still active, with a pre-trial conference scheduled for April 20.[ii]

February 2020: Sequel Pomegranate entered into a settlement agreement with the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OHMAS) to avoid having its license revoked. The agreement required Pomegranate to hire an outside expert to review its operations, submits routine reports to the state, pass a survey by the state Dept. of Health and, after reducing its patient population to zero, but suspend admissions for 120 days.[iii]

March 2020: The patient advocacy agency Disability Rights Ohio, the statewide advocacy group for people with disabilities, called on OHMAS to further investigate Sequel Pomegranate following a pattern of abuse allegations and environmental conditions that the group says have not improved over the past several months, based on its own on-site inspections between July 2019 and January 2020. The group began its own investigation of the facility following a local TV investigative report which initially uncovered violence, sexual abuse, and escapes from the facility. In speaking with youth at the facility, the majority interviewed reported:   

  • Painful holds that resulted in harm/injury
  • Being bullied by peers
  • Being demeaned, sworn at, called derogatory names by and being bullied by staff
  • Youth having to jump in to intervene in physical altercations because staff do not
  • Staff failure to intervene during patient self-harm or peer-to-peer aggression

Disability Rights asked OHMAS to conduct its own complaint-based survey of Pomegranate patients. [iv]

April 30, 2020: Sixteen-year-old foster child Cornelius Frederick lost consciousness, urinated, and went into cardiac arrest after being restrained by several staff at Sequel’s Lakeside Academy in Kalamazoo, MI, because he had tossed a sandwich onto the floor. The restraint was carried out over approximately ten minutes, during which Frederick was reported to have screamed “I can’t breathe!” as staff members placed their weight upon his chest. He died in the hospital the following day.[v]

The manner and cause of Frederick’s death was ruled a homicide. “In my opinion, the complications of him being restrained, on the ground in a supine position by multiple people, is ultimately what led to his death,” said Kalamazoo County Medical Examiner Dr. Ted Brown.[vi]

Following his death, The Michigan Center for Youth Justice (MCYJ), a non-profit that advocates for a more fair and effective justice system for the state’s youths, called for Lakeside to close. Mary Kind, MCYJ’s executive director, stated that the Center had joined a national campaign with the National Juvenile Justice Network, which launched a petition urging governors to ban Sequel from serving youth.[vii]   

“We believe that both those who were involved in the restraint, as well as the facility Lakeside Academy, need to be held accountable for Cornelius Frederick’s death,” King said. “We think that there should be an investigation that is made public. We believe Lakeside Academy, which is operated by the national for-profit group Sequel Youth and Family Services, needs to be closed.”[viii]

June 20, 2020: Following the death of Frederick, Michigan Governor Gretchen issued a public statement ending the state’s relationship with Sequel Youth & Family Services: “Protecting our most vulnerable is a top priority of my administration, and the senseless death of a youth at Lakeside…in Kalamazoo is intolerable and heartbreaking. We will take steps to prevent tragedies like this from occurring in the future and make sure there is accountability. Today I directed Michigan Department of Health & Human Services Director Robert Gordon to take every step necessary to ensure Sequel Youth and Family Services — the company that provided staffing for Lakeside for Children where the 16-year-old died — no longer provides services for facilities licensed by the department.”[ix]  

June 24, 2020: Three staff members of Sequel’s Lakeside Academy in Kalamazoo, MI, were criminally charged in the restraint-related death of 16-year-old Cornelius Frederick. Michael Mosley, 47 and Zachary Solis, 28, were charged with involuntary manslaughter for restraining Frederick in a grossly negligent manner. Each was also charged with two counts of child abuse. Heather McLogan, 48, Lakeside’s Director of Nursing, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and one count of child abuse for her failure to seek, obtain, or follow through with timely medical care.[x]

July 4, 2020: The 107-year-old Michigan social services agency Starr Commonwealth ended its contract with Sequel Youth & Family Services following the death of 16-year-old Cornelius Frederick at Sequel’s Lakeside Academy facility in Kalamazoo on April 29th. Starr Commonwealth had contracted for the past six years with Sequel to provide services in its Starr Albion Prep facility, located in Albion, MI, where it had 135 children under Sequel care.[xi]

July 6, 2020: The Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program (ADAP, which is part of the nation’s federally funded patient Protection & Advocacy system), sent a ten-page public letter to the Commissioners of several state agencies, to call their attention to the conditions inside Sequel’s four Alabama facilities (Sequel Owens Crossroads, Sequel Courtland, Sequel Tuskegee, and Sequel Montgomery) and to urge corrective action. “These facilities are violent and chaotic places where youth are physically and emotionally abused by staff and peers, subjected to wretched living conditions, provided inadequate supervision and medical care, and subjected to illegal seclusion and restraint, all in violation of their Fourteenth Amendment constitutional right to protection from harm, and of state and federal laws and regulations,” the letter begins. “Despite…federal and state prohibitions, Sequel engages in a pattern and practice of using violent force against children. During ADAP’s in-depth interviews, residents described Sequel staff slamming residents against walls, punching and slapping residents in the face, using chokeholds, and laying on top of residents who are lying face down on the ground. Staff violence against youth has resulted in serious injuries, including head trauma, lacerations, hematomas, and loss of consciousness, not to mention trauma to their mental well-being.” The letter also addresses Sequel staffs’ verbal abuse against children; denial of needed medical and dental care; unsafe living conditions; and generally chaotic and non-therapeutic environment in Sequel facilities. ADAP called upon all relevant state agencies to conduct their own immediate and comprehensive inspections, suspend further admissions, and revoke all licenses, among other things.[xii]   

July 2020: Cornelius Frederick’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Michigan Circuit Court against Lakeside Academy, Sequel Youth & Family Services and its related corporations.[xiii]

September 17, 2020: The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services ordered Sequel Pomegranate to immediately relinquish its license and announced that it would bar Sequel from reapplying for a license to operate a residential psychiatric facility for teens for nearly a year. This order came after a series of investigations beginning in July 2019, which found teenage residents of the facility had been exposed to repeated incidents of violence and improper restraints, as well as substantiated cases of sexual abuse and residents escaping from the supposedly secure facility. Additionally, there 16 reports submitted to the state of children who had harmed themselves at Pomegranate – many of whom required hospital visits or stitches through either cutting themselves with things like pieces of broken toilets or swallowing foreign objects including batteries.[xiv]

May 14, 2021: The State of Illinois announced that it was removing all children in its care from Sequel’s Northern Illinois Academy, following a report that found serious concerns regarding staffing, incident reporting, elopements, treatment planning, the use of seclusion and isolated time-outs, and improper restraints. Children interviewed in the investigation reported that the “nurses never believe us” and staff frequently shoved and slammed them onto the ground and on their beds. Other observations noted in the report showed that minors were frequently not supervised, which resulted in youths engaging in undetected inappropriate activities. Additionally, staff would take away personal items from minors as punishment for not listening, including pictures of family members.[xv]

July 1, 2021: Following an investigative report by the San Francisco Chronicle and the non-profit news outlet The Imprint, which uncovered that the state of California had sent thousands of children to out-of-state Sequel facilities, the state Department of Social Services (DSS) decertified all such facilities and programs—ending the practice of shipping California foster children out of state. The Governor of California, in signing a new state budget bill, effectively banned the practice permanently. California law prohibits judges from sending children to for-profit residential facilities. The Chronicle-Imprint investigation revealed that Sequel skirted the law by managing the campuses while preserving facility ownership under local nonprofits. At these institutions—in Michigan, Iowa, Wyoming, Arizona and Utah—students reported physical abuse and sexual assault at the hands of employees. The violence turned deadly in April 2020, when seven staff members at the Sequel-run Lakeside Academy in Michigan killed 16-year-old Cornelius Frederick by piling on top of him as he cried out, “I can’t breathe.” Since 2017, officials in California and five other states had investigated hundreds of alleged violations or deficiencies at Sequel-run facilities used by California, including complaints that staff members had hit, kicked and assaulted residents, or had placed them in dangerous physical restraints.[xvi]

July 31, 2021: Heather McLogan, former director of nursing at Sequel’s Lakeside Academy, pleaded no contest to third-degree child abuse in the death of 16-year-old Cornelius Frederick. The other charges against her were dropped as part of the plea agreement. She was expected to testify if necessary against the other two Lakeside staff charged in Frederick’s death.[xvii]

August 2021: Northern Illinois Academy closed following the removal of all children being housed there under state- or county-funded programs.[xviii]

September 27, 2021: Heather McLogan, former director of nursing at Lakeside Academy, was sentenced to 10 years’ probation in the death of 16-year old Cornelius Frederick.[xix]  

September 30, 2021: A second lawsuit was filed against Lakeside Academy and Sequel Youth & Family Services in the death of Cornelius Frederick, seeking $50 million in damages. The suit, which was filed in federal court (unlike the first action, which was filed in county court), included not only Sequel’s related corporations but also ten named Lakeside employees, including McLogan, Mosley, and Solis.[xx] 

December 1, 2021: Sequel’s Bernalillo Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico voluntarily relinquished its license to the state. Sequel staff began contacting parents in November 2021 to inform them that the facility was closing down and they would need to find new placements for their children by December 22nd. When parents asked why, staff gave reasons such as “COVID” and “resources.” However, the actual reasons for the closure are detailed in an investigation report issued by the state Children, Youth & Families Department (CYFD), which found the facility didn’t perform adequate background checks or verify employment for many of its staff, with some staff not even meeting the requirements of the job, where they were dealing with severe developmental and behavioral cases in children and teenagers. But other allegations go much deeper — from reports of staff whipping children with tree branches and bark, leaving them with severe bruising and injuries, to countless reports of physical aggression between kids without staff intervention. Detailed in the report, one child said, “I guess they are just waiting for me to die,” while another said he “doesn’t really feel safe here.” CYFD also found instances of sexual aggression between those in the facility’s care, one stating they were afraid they would be molested after another “client” in the care of the facility asked to have oral sex with them.[xxi]

January 3, 2022: The second of two lawsuits filed against Sequel’s Lakeside Academy by the family of Cornelius Frederick was settled for undisclosed terms. Among the information contained in the Facts section of the family’s civil suit is that Frederick had been restrained “scores of times” during the 18 months he was at Lakeside, including two incidents in January 2020 in which he was restrained “to the point that he was unable to breathe and was rendered incapacitated.”[xxii]

 

Police calls for service

Between 2008 and 2013, St. George (UT) Police Department received 127 calls for service to Sequel’s Red Rock Canyon School. These include reports of assault (26), runaways (7), sex offense (6), criminal mischief (3), and child abuse (2).

During 2016, Sheridan County (WY) Emergency Services received more than 55 calls from Normative Services. The facility also had 57 runaways during the same period.[xxiii]

According to the Roane County (TN) Sheriff’s Office, deputies were called to Kingston Academy 135 times in 2018. In just the first two months of 2019, they were called 36 times for complaints including assault, vandalism, and runaways.[xxiv]

There were 77 calls for service to Albuquerque Police to Bernalillo Academy between 2014 and 2019, including the following:  

  • Disturbance: 13
  • Child neglect: 8
  • Sexual abuse: 5
  • Physical abuse: 4
  • Suicide: 4
  • Aggravated assault-battery: 2

A WBNS News (Columbus, OH) investigation, which included a review of 400 police calls for service (over a two-year period), 911 calls, police body-cam footage, and state incident reports submitted to both OHMAS and FCCS, found:  

  • 125 patient escapes
  • Police response to 36 assault reports and 14 alleged sexual assaults
  • Substantiated cases of teen-on-teen violence and sexual assaults
  • 24 incidents of staff being accused of improper restraint.[xxv]

 


 


[1] “Parents of ex-student sue residential center,” Salt Lake Tribune,” July 21, 2004 and Utah Court Report (Lexis) on Darcy Keenan Stowe.

[2] “Parents Sue Over Girl's Hiking Death,” Salt Lake Tribune, May 29, 2002.

[3] Robertson v Red Rock Canyon School, et al., Case no. 2:05-cv-758, United States District Court for the District of Utah, February 29, 2008.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “St. George man accused of sexual abuse of three teens,” Fox 13, August 3, 2012.

[6] “Former youth worker sentenced in sex abuse case,” St. George News, June 5, 2014 and https://www.icrimewatch.net/offenderdetails.php?OfndrID=2084679&AgencyID=54438&x=f482f7b9-7b97-4421-9bc5-1a57320ee62b

[7] Ibid.

[8] “Youth treatment center staffer charged in drug case,” The Spectrum, December 22, 2015.

[9] Lexis criminal record search results on Jerold Oloti Sua.

[10] Facility Evaluation Report on Normative Services, Inc., California Department of Social Services, October 11, 2016.

[11] “NSI addresses high volume of emergency calls,” The Sheridan Press, May 30, 2017.

[12] “Former student counselor re-indicted on student sex charges,” WAAY ABC 31, October 8, 2018, “Madison youth counselor charged with sex with students,” WAFF 48, July 21, 2017, and https://www.icrimewatch.net/offenderdetails.php?OfndrID=10381360&AgencyID=54247

[13] Ibid. “'They told me it was going to be a good place….' and “For-profit Iowa academy for troubled youth hired felon who raped student,” Des Moines Register, November 11, 2018.

[14] “Mental health facility worker pleads guilty to assaulting child,” Daily Herald, February 22, 2019 and “Aurora residential facility employee charged with sex assault of minor staying at center,” Aurora Beacon-News, January 9, 2018.

[15] “Second victim says a Utah school’s employee sexually abused him,” Salt Lake Tribune, March 9, 2018.

[16] “Clarinda students were restrained and injured as punishment, records show,” Des Moines Register, December 22, 2018.

[17] Re: License #CI130201440, Investigation #2018C0103021, Starr Commonwealth, Michigan Dept. of Health and Human Services Division of Child Welfare Licensing, June 12, 2018.

[18] “Employee of facility for troubled youth arrested for sex crimes,” KTEN NBC 10, August 22, 2018.

[19] “Washington foster kids sent to Iowa were abused at Clarinda Academy, report says,” Des Moines Register, October 22, 2018

[20] Ibid.

[21] “'They told me it was going to be a good place': Allegations of abuse at home for at-risk kids,” NBC News, March 26, 2019.

[22] “For-profit Iowa academy for troubled youth hired felon who raped student,” Des Moines Register, Nov. 28, 2018.

[23] “Police reports detail fights, sex crime at Iowa academy for troubled youth,” Des Moines Register, November 26, 2018.

[24] Op cit. ‘They told me it was going to be a good place….”

[25] “Police arrest 5 after riot at St. George treatment center results in 25 injured students,” St. George News, April 29, 2019.

[26] “Franklin County Children Services note ‘concerns’ in unannounced visit to Sequel Pomegranate,” WBNS-TV 10, Oct. 22, 2019. URL: https://www.10tv.com/article/franklin-county-children-services-note-concerns-unannounced-visit-sequel-pomegranate-2019

[27] “He was abused by staff at Red Rock Canyon School. Now, this Oregon teen wants to change the foster system that sent him to Utah.,” Salt Lake Tribune, Feb. 6, 2020 and “Red Rock Canyon School to close after multiple abuse allegations,” The Spectrum, July 10, 2019.

[28] “Three Springs: Juveniles to be relocated ‘this week’,” WAFF TV (Madison, AL), August 19, 2019. URL: https://www.waff.com/2019/08/20/three-springs-juveniles-be-relocated-this-week/

[29] “Franklin County Children Services note ‘concerns’ in unannounced visit to Sequel Pomegranate,” WBNS-TV 10, Oct. 22, 2019. URL: https://www.10tv.com/article/franklin-county-children-services-note-concerns-unannounced-visit-sequel-pomegranate-2019 and “Sequel Pomegranate cited for improper restraints, failing to report sexual assault allegation,”  WBNS-10TV (Columbus, Ohio), August 21, 2019. URL: https://www.10tv.com/article/sequel-pomegranate-cited-improper-restraints-failing-report-sexual-assault-allegation-2019

[30] “Second Utah facility for troubled teens closes in a month,” Salt Lake Tribune, July 16, 2019.

[31] “Employee says she was fired after improper restraint of teen at Sequel Pomegranate,” WBNS – 10 Investigates, Nov. 12, 2019 and “Ohio reaches settlement with Sequel Pomegranate after threatening to revoke license,” WBNS, Feb. 5, 2020.

[32] Inmate Search page for Atonio Kavea, Tulare County Sheriff website, “Police say a staffer at this Utah school for troubled youth fathered a child with a former student,” Salt Lake Tribune, Oct. 1, 2019 and https://inmatelocator.cdcr.ca.gov/Details.aspx?ID=BM3414

[33] “Foster boy sues Oregon officials who sent him to Red Rock Canyon School in St. George,” The Salt Lake Tribune, November 21, 2019.

[34] “Hearing dates set for Sequel Pomegranate as state threatens hospital license; CEO departs,” WBNS – 10 Investigates, Dec. 12, 2019.

[35] “Franklin County Children Services suspends admissions to Sequel Pomegranate after ‘pattern of concerns’,” WBNS - 10 Investigates, Jan. 6, 2020.

[36] “$4.5M lawsuits says child was repeatedly raped at Kingston Academy,” WVLT, Feb. 19, 2020.

[37] “Ohio reaches settlement with Sequel Pomegranate after threatening to revoke license,” WBNS, Feb. 5, 2020.

[38] “Advocacy group calls on state to inspect Sequel Pomegranate after pattern of abuse allegations,” WBNS 10 – Investigates, Mar. 3, 2020.

[39] “Foster care teen’s death draws scrutiny to group home outbreaks: Who is looking out for these children?” USA Today, May 15, 2020 and https://www.ksn.com/news/national-world/michigan-family-of-teen-who-died-after-restraint-at-facility-settle-lawsuit/  

[41] “Group calls for reform of private juvenile facilities in wake of 16-year-old’s death,” WWMT, May 14, 2020.

[42] “Organization calls for shutdown of Lakeside Academy,” WKZO, May 20, 2020.

[44] “Three charged in death of Michigan teenager restrained at youth academy,” New York Times, June 24, 2020.

[45] "Statement from the Starr CEO to the Starr family," letter from Starr Comonwealth CEO Elizabeth Carey, July 1, 2020, URL: https://starr.org/wp-content/uploads/Statement-from-the-CEO-7.1.2020.pdf and "IMPORTANT NOTIFICATION & MEDIA STATEMENT REGARDING STARR ALBION PREP," Sequel Youth & Family Services, undated, URL: https://www.starralbionprep.com/

[49] “State pulling all students in its care from Aurora youth residential treatment facility following reports of abuse,” WGN-9 (Chicago), Aug 16, 2021, URL: https://wgntv.com/news/state-pulling-all-students-in-its-care-from-aurora-youth-residential-treatment-facility-following-reports-of-abuse/ and “Administration to Transition Students Out of Northern Illinois Academy Following Findings of State-Commissioned Equip for Equality Report,” Illinois State Board of Education, May 14, 2021, URL: https://www2.illinois.gov/IISNews/23312-Administration_to_Transition_Students_Out_of_Northern_Illinois_Academy.pdf

[50] Joaquin Palomino and Sara Tiano, “Newsom bans sending foster youth to faraway treatment programs after Chronicle abuse investigation,” San Francisco Chronicle, July 19, 2021, URL: https://www.sfchronicle.com/politics/article/Newsom-bans-faraway-treatment-programs-after-16325292.php

[52] Desperation without Dignity – Conditions of Children Placed in For Profit Residential Facilities, National Disability Rights, October 2021, URL: https://www.ndrn.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/NDRN_Desperation_without_Dignity_October_2021.pdf

[56] Goshay v Lakeside for Children, et al, case no. 1;21-cv-00848-RJJ-RSK, US District Court for Western District of Michigan, Southern Division, filed September 30, 2021.

[57] “NSI addresses high volume of emergency calls,” The Sheridan Press, May 30, 2017.

 


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