Second Utah facility for troubled teens closes in a month
MOUNT PLEASANT, Utah (AP) — A company that runs treatment centers for troubled youth is closing a second Utah facility as officials investigate claims of sexual abuse, violence and several other issues with staff at a different facility.
Mount Pleasant Academy in central Utah is one of several youth psychiatric treatment facilities run by Sequel Youth and Family Services. Sequel representatives said in a statement last week that the school will be shut down within the next month, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.
The decision comes days after the company announced the closing of the Red Rock Canyon School in St. George after reports of sexual abuse and violence between students and staffers surfaced.
But Sequel said its decision to close Mount Pleasant Academy is not connected to Red Rock or staffing issues, rather it was due to low enrollment. “We are considering how to repurpose Mount Pleasant to serve the needs of a broader population of clients,” the company said in a statement.
Mount Pleasant Academy advertises itself as a 16-bed residential treatment center for boys ages 12-18 struggling with sexual issues and addiction. Red Rock Canyon School is a larger psychiatric facility that houses a mix of teenagers sent by their parents and the foster care system.
Sequel acquired its four Utah treatment centers in 2016 during a time when state investigators threatened to revoke Mount Pleasant Academy’s license after they found reports of child abuse and neglect. That sanction ended in 2016.
In April, Red Rock Canyon School served about 100 teenage boys and girls suffering from mental health-related issues, including about two dozen from Oregon’s child welfare system. Sequel said it will work with families and case workers to transfer residents from the two facilities to other programs.
Oregon Sen. Sara Gelser told the Tribune she is concerned the foster children from her state are not safe, at Red Rock and other Sequel facilities.
Red Rock Canyon School has been the focus of a number of lawsuits in recent years, many concerning staffers who have allegedly physically or sexually abused residents.
St. George police reports detail allegations of staff verbally abusing young residents and using excessive physical restraint on youth.
Two lawsuits filed last year accuse the school of overlooking the sexual abuse of two youths by a former employee who is now a registered sex offender. The school defended its actions in court filings, saying it had no reason to believe the employee was a danger to students when he worked at the school.
A massive brawl broke out on April 28. Officials have said staff escalated the brawl by making “humiliating and degrading comments” to residents. The fight sent five people to the hospital and injured a total of 20 people.
Sequel facilities in other states have faced similar scrutiny in recent years. Washington officials pulled their foster children from a treatment center in Iowa after a 2018 report by an advocacy group detailed incidents of verbal and physical abuse by staff.
Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com