“Clearly, this BUSINESS of treating minds—particularly this BIG BUSINESS of treating young minds has not policed itself and has no incentive to put a stop to the kinds of fraudulent and unethical practices that are going on.” – Pat Schroeder, Former U.S. Congresswoman and Chairwoman of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families
Mental Health Month reinforces how vital media coverage is to protect children in behavioral-psych facilities, as news report receives National Headliner Award for exposing abuses at a now-closed “troubled teen” Sequel Pomegranate facility
By Jan Eastgate
President, CCHR International
May 2, 2022
Citizens Commission on Human Rights International congratulates “10 Investigates” news in Columbus, Ohio for achieving a National Headliner Award for exposing abuses at “troubled teen” behavioral facility, Sequel Pomegranate. CCHR, which has been investigating abuse and fraud in for-profit psychiatric facilities for over three decades, said media exposure can literally help save patient lives and change conditions. As May is Mental Health Month, this is even more poignant as thousands of children and teens are potentially abused in the behavioral-psychiatric care industry.
Multiple stories by “10 Investigates” uncovered and exposed the facility, part of a chain of for-profit behavioral facilities owned by Sequel Youth & Family Services, leading to Pomegranate’s closure in the wake of hundreds of police runs to the facility, lawsuits that alleged abuse and neglect, and parents reporting improper restraints and mistreatment at the facility. Chief investigative reporter Bennett Haeberle and photojournalist Chris Kettler’s reporting earned second place in the Health Science category.
Reports of abuse and neglect at Sequel facilities as well as pressure and investigations by state and local governments have led to some 14 closures and severed contracts with state agencies since 2019.
California, Oregon, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington recently stopped sending children under state care, including foster kids, to other states and facilities owned by Sequel or similar chains.
CCHR says the abuse of troubled teens and foster care children remains an urgent issue, often needing media as their voice. The National Juvenile Justice Network notes that “profiting off of youth incarceration has become widespread, with almost half of the youth facilities in the country privately operated. Kids are often shipped across state lines to receive ‘therapeutic services,’ yet in reality suffer bullying, restraint, and abuse.”
CCHR has worked since the early 1990s to bring to light abuses in this sector, helping obtain federal inquiries, including one in April 1992, when then U.S. Congresswoman Pat Schroeder, Chairwoman of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families, delivered a scathing rebuke on the mental health industry’s “unethical and disturbing practices…. Clearly, this BUSINESS of treating minds—particularly this BIG BUSINESS of treating young minds has not policed itself and has no incentive to put a stop to the kinds of fraudulent and unethical practices that are going on.” On August 26, 1993, the FBI and other federal U.S. agencies that had been investigating National Medical Enterprises (NME), raided the company’s headquarters and facilities. NME eventually paid $575 million in settlements and closed its Psychiatric Institutes of American (PIA) division.
Factoring in some seven privately-owned psychiatric hospital companies, since the early nineties over $3 billion has been paid in settlements and fines in relation to fraud and abuse. In 2019 alone, for-profit psychiatric facilities paid $152 million in criminal or civil fines or settlements. Since 2006, media on Universal Health Services (UHS) has recorded over $172 million in civil settlements/fines with government agencies—although the company admits no liability.
In 2015, CCHR expanded its campaign for safeguards for children, teens and adults in for-profit behavioral/psychiatric facilities, sending letters every year alerting federal and state agencies and legislators.
Media has always played an integral role in exposing abuses; for example:
- The 1999 “60 Minutes II” program (which CCHRs provided research to) exposed the now defunct Charter Behavioral Health facilities had had created dangerous conditions for patients. Federal investigations of its practices soon followed.
- In Australia, CCHR worked with “60 Minutes” on exposing a lethal psychiatric practice called deep sleep treatment, which prompted legislative action and eventually a ban on the treatment in 1983.
- NBC News exposed abuses at UHS’s behavioral center, National Deaf Academy in Florida. CCHR International also worked with whistleblowers from the facility. In January 2016, the facility closed in the wake of government investigations into and lawsuits over patient abuses.
- ProPublica has also published numerous investigative reports on profit-making psychiatric hospitals.
The deaths of children by restraints in psychiatric-behavioral facilities features in one of the chapters and sections of CCHR’s museum housed at its headquarters on Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, titled Psychiatry: An Industry of Death. Details of shocking restraint deaths of young children shows the need for far greater legislative protections. It is also available as an online virtual tour.
The museum is free and situated at 6616 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, 90028 and is open Mon-Sat, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tours can be booked by calling the Museum Manager at (800) 869-2247. For those not living in Los Angeles, there is a virtual tour of the museum online that includes all 14 films in the multi-award-winning documentary.
 “10 Investigates earns National Headliner Award,” 10BNS, Columbus, Ohio, 27 Apr. 2022, https://www.10tv.com/article/news/investigations/10-investigates/10-investigates-earns-national-headliner-award-sequel-pomegranate/530-3f20beac-3abc-4145-b6bb-4098a9d7e841
 https://www.cchrint.org/2021/11/01/mental-health-abuse-reforms-aim-to-protect-against-behavioral-abuse-of-children/ citing: Bennett Haeberle, “Sequel Pomegranate closes as advocates, Paris Hilton call for change in ‘troubled teen industry,’” WBNS 10, 21 Oct 2021, https://www.10tv.com/article/news/investigations/10-investigates/sequel-pomegranate-closes-advocates-paris-hilton-call-change-troubled-teen-industry/530-540a17cc-22fb-42e7-9227-0d529507b04c
 https://www.cchrint.org/2022/02/21/the-kids-are-not-alright-report-confirms-profit-is-put-before-troubled-teens-mental-health-safety/, citing: “The Kids Are Not Alright: How Private Equity Profits Off of Behavioral Health Services for Vulnerable and At-Risk Youth,” Private Equity Stakeholder Project, 17 Feb. 2022, https://pestakeholder.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/PESP_Youth_BH_Report_2022.pdf, p. 12
 Curtis Gilbert, “Washington becomes latest state to ditch Sequel,” APM Reports, 9 Dec. 2020, https://www.apmreports.org/story/2020/12/09/washington-becomes-the-latest-state-to-ditch-sequel
 https://www.cchrint.org/2020/11/24/half-a-million-americans-want-two-behavioral-hospital-chains-closed-over-teen-abuse/ citing https://www.change.org/p/gretchen-whitmer-justice-for-cornelius-shut-sequel-down
 Opening Statement of Representative Pat Schroeder, Chairwoman of the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families, Apr. 1992; Andrew Singer, “National Medical Enterprises moves swiftly on ethics training,” Ethikos, Vol. 8, No. 5, Mar/Apr 1995; Joe Sharkey, Bedlam, (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1994), p. 271
 “Turning Point owners to reimburse Medicare $1.5 million in overcharges,” The Moultrie Observer, 12 Apr. 2006, http://www.moultrieobserver.com/news/local_news/turning-point-owners-to-reimburse-medicare-million-in-overcharges/article_467fe235-4ee3-5082-b7a5-d85c8a0e1cd0.html; “Texas Hospital Group Pays U.S. $27.5 Million to Settle False Claims Act Allegations,” Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs, 30 Oct 2009, http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/texas-hospital-group-pays-us-275-million-settle-false-claims-act-allegations; “Criminal investigation of UHS facilities widens to include parent company,” UHS Behind Closed Doors, https://web.archive.org/web/20200414135105/http://uhsbehindcloseddoors.org/investigations/; “Residential Youth Treatment Facility for Medicaid Recipients in Marion, Virginia Agrees to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations: Will Pay $6.85 Million to Settle Allegations of Providing Substandard Adolescent Psychiatric Services,” DOJ, 28 Mar. 2012, http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/residential-youth-treatment-facility-medicaid-recipients-marion-virginia-agrees-resolve-false; Austin L. Miller, “The Vines told it must pay $10,000 penalty” OcalaStarBanner, 11 May 2013, https://www.ocala.com/story/news/local/2013/05/12/the-vines-told-it-must-pay-10000-penalty/31920090007/; “State Fines Facility for Risk Management Failures After Patient Restraint Injuries,” UHS Behind Closed Doors, 17 Jan 2013, https://web.archive.org/web/20200529005133/http://uhsbehindcloseddoors.org/complaint_type/state-fines-facility-for-risk-management-failures-after-patient-restraint-injuries/; Tina Reed, “Universal Health Services reaches $127M settlement with DOJ,” FiercePharma, 25 July 2019, https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/hospitals-health-systems/universal-health-services-reaches-127m-settlement-doj; “Universal Health Services to Pay Massachusetts More than $15 Million to Resolve Whistleblower False Claims Cases,” Mass.gov, 13 July 2020, https://www.mass.gov/news/universal-health-services-to-pay-massachusetts-more-than-15-million-to-resolve-whistleblower
 Aliza Nadi, “‘Mom, Please Help’: FBI Probing Alleged Abuse of Deaf, Autistic Kids,” NBC, 14 Sept. 2014, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/investigations/mom-please-help-fbi-probing-alleged-abuse-deaf-autistic-kids-n193846; https://www.cchrint.org/2018/01/22/psychiatric-hospital-rife-with-sexual-assault-allegations-finally-shuts-down/ citing: Aliza Nadi, “National Deaf Academy, Hit With Abuse Allegations, Is Closing,” NBC News, 25 Jan. 2016, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/national-deaf-academy-hit-abuse-allegations-closing-n497516
 Christina Jewett and Robin Fields “Psychiatric Care’s Peril and Profits,” ProPublica, 22 Nov. 2208, https://www.propublica.org/article/psychatric-cares-peril-and-profits-psychiatric-solutions-inc; https://www.cchrint.org/2019/08/13/multi-million-dollar-fines-insufficient-to-curb-fraud-patient-sexual-other-abuses/ citing: “Yet Another Scandal Rocks Utah Home for Vulnerable Children: Police raided the home after an employee reported sex among residents and misconduct by staff,” ProPublica, 21 Mar. 2016, https://www.propublica.org/article/yet-another-scandal-rocks-utah-home-for-vulnerable-children