Utah Health Authorities Place Daniels Academy Youth Psych Facility on Conditional Status

August 1, 2023

Utah health licensing officials issued an emergency order Thursday against a Heber City, Utah-based youth residential treatment center after one of its residents died by suspected suicide.

The resident, who Heber City police described as a male “juvenile,” died in a hospital Tuesday after falling from the third-floor of a Daniels Academy apartment building, near 300 West and 1000 South, around 9 a.m., police spokesperson Sgt. Josh Weishar said Wednesday.

Utah Department of Health and Human Services officials suspect the boy died by suicide, according to their emergency order. The order indicates that Daniels Academy staff knew the boy was having suicidal thoughts “within the weeks prior to the death,” and said “the proximity in time to the last contact with licensee staff prior to the death” was a factor in issuing the emergency order.

The order puts the academy’s apartment facility license on conditional status, effective for 30 days. During that time, the academy cannot accept new clients and must comply with all state inspections. Daniels Academy representatives have five days to request an administrative hearing if they disagree with the order.

“This event raises issues of whether the licensee can protect other vulnerable clients exhibiting similar behaviors,” according to the order. “This [notice of emergency agency action] is issued to protect the immediate health and safety of remaining clients.”

When asked for comment Wednesday about the boy’s death, a Daniels Academy representative said, “I’ve got no comment,” and hung up when The Salt Lake Tribune asked for their name.

Daniels Academy describes itself on its website as a boys boarding school for students who struggle academically or socially “due to learning disabilities or differences,” such as autism and attention or anxiety disorders.

“Daniels Academy provides a safe and therapeutic environment where young men overcome past failures and learn to thrive through meaningful relationships and coaching,” according to its website.

Aspiro Education, LLC, has licensed three Daniels Academy facilities in Heber City: a group of apartments that houses up to 12 people, as well as the 16-bed “Daniels Home” facility, and the 16-bed “Heber Home” facility.

Regulators cited the Daniels Home facility June 28 after they say a program administrator violated a rule against withholding or manipulating sources. According to the licensing inspection notes, “a program administrator put his finger up to a client’s mouth, saying ‘shh’, when the client was telling an [Office of Licensing] Investigator about a recent event.” That staffer no longer works at Daniels Academy, according to the inspection report.

The emergency action issued Thursday only impacts the apartment facility. It’s the latest regulatory move by the state’s licensing office since the Disability Law Center of Utah published a report last month documenting lax oversight and grave safety concerns — including other deaths — at such care centers in the state.

Since the report was released June 26, licensing officials have revoked licenses from at least three facilities: Hidden Hollow Care Center, Diamond Ranch Academy and a South Jordan-based child foster care agency called Nine’s Foster Agency, according to a new health and human services department database.

Source: Paighten Harkins, “Utah takes emergency action against youth treatment center after boy’s death,” Salt Lake Tribune, July 21, 2023, URL: https://www.sltrib.com/news/2023/07/21/utah-takes-emergency-action/  


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