“Given 30 years of promises of reforms and regulation changes, with such significant abuses still occurring, much greater penalties for violating youth rights, including criminal and financial fines and hospital closures are needed.” – CCHR International
CCHR has seen 32 years of promised reforms to protect children from behavioral and psychiatric abuse in residential facilities, but restraint and sexual abuse of them continue. The impetus for a Federal Bill of Rights for Youths is needed in every state.
By CCHR International
The Mental Health Industry Watchdog
May 13, 2022
Media across the nation reported celebrity Paris Hilton’s meeting with White House administration officials on May 10, as part of her continued advocacy against and call for oversight of abuse in the troubled teen behavioral industry. She was joined by abuse survivors and national advocates working “to continue educating lawmakers about how badly children placed in the troubled teen industry are treated,” she said. The Citizens Commission on Human Rights International, a 53-year mental health watchdog, applauded Ms. Hilton and her affiliated groups for speaking out about this grossly neglected area and spearheading reforms.
CCHR also supports their call for a Federal Bill of Rights for Youths and wants to see this for every state. CCHR has been exposing child abuse, including restraint deaths, in for-profit behavioral-psychiatric residential facilities since 1990, when chains of facilities closed in the wake of government investigations and millions of dollars paid out in fines.
“The multibillion-dollar troubled teen industry has been able to mislead parents, school districts, child welfare agencies and juvenile justice systems for decades,” said Hilton. “The reason is a systemwide lack of transparency and accountability.”
CCHR agrees and says a national bill of rights for youths sought under a proposed Stop Institutional Child Abuse Act is vital. Since 1990, there have been numerous investigations into the assault of children in residential behavioral and psychiatric facilities. CCHR was instrumental in investigating and exposing the now defunct Charter Behavioral Health that owned the facility, Provo Canyon center that Ms. Hilton was abused at in 1999 and which has led to her championing for troubled teens today. Charter sold the facility and others to another for-profit behavioral care company, Universal Health Services (UHS), in 2000, where abuses have continued.
Charter also owned a Texas psychiatric facility, Laurel Ridge Residential Center where in 1997, 16-year-old Roshelle Clayborne pleaded for her life. Slammed face-down on the floor, Clayborne’s arms were yanked across her chest, her wrists gripped from behind by a mental health aide. “I can’t breathe,” the African American girl gasped, before she died. Texas state regulators cited Laurel Ridge for five serious violations and found staff failed to protect her health and safety during the restraint. They recommended Laurel Ridge be closed. Instead, the state placed it on a one-year probation and the center remains open for business. It is now owned by UHS.
A ground-breaking 1998 Hartford Courant investigation into restraint deaths found that between 1988 and 1998, 142 reported deaths in mental health settings were connected to the use of physical restraint. The newspaper exposé, as well as a Sixty Minutes II documentary in March of 1999 exposing harmful conditions in psychiatric facilities prompted a Congressional investigation that confirmed the risks inherent in the use of mechanical restraints. Amended regulations in 2000 were intended to prevent restraint deaths.
Twenty-three years after Rochelle’s death and 20 years following reformed regulations, another 16-year-old African American youth, Cornelius Frederick, gasped, “I can’t breathe,” while several staff at the now closed Lakeside Behavioral Academy in Kalamazoo, Michigan restrained him. He died two days later. A lawyer for the family, Geoffrey Fieger accused the facility’s owner, Sequel Youth & Family Services of running “snake pits” that abuse and prey on kids. “Unless you shine a light on insects and maggots, they proliferate. Certainly, this type of behavior is not human. It can only be akin to a subhuman-type species that would inflict this behavior on children,” he said.
Since 1999, there have been at least four General Accounting Office (GAO) investigations/reports on restraint use or related issues (1999, 2008, 2009, 2022) involving youth centers and numerous Congressional investigations.
In 2008, Mother Jones investigated and found that “Despite thousands of reports of abuse in such programs—including torturous tactics like food deprivation, sleep deprivation, vicious and extended emotional attacks, sexual humiliation and punitive use of isolation and restraint—the programs have remained unregulated and have suffered few legal consequences.”
The 2022 GAO report said: “Little information is publicly available about incidents of maltreatment in federally funded residential treatment facilities for youth.”
Ms. Hilton’s campaign to raise awareness about abuses and the rights of youths has already prompted state legislative efforts to curb restraint abuse. She said: “I want these places shut down. I want them to be held accountable.”
For good reason.
- Between 2003 and 2017, six women treated at Provo Canyon—after UHS took ownership—told The Star Tribune their stories of being overmedicated, restrained and punished for minor infractions while at the girls’ campuses in Springville and Orem. 
- 2017: A 14-year-old girl was physically and chemically restrained at Provo Canyon nearly 30 times over three months. She was a “broken, injured, frightened child with more trauma than she went there with.”
- 2020: A Provo Canyon xstaff member was charged with first-degree felony sodomy on a 12-year-old child.
- 2020: Media reported that places like Provo Canyon had “profited handsomely” from the teen behavioral system “not only by getting parents to fork over more than $7,000 per month, but also collecting money from Medicaid so foster children and other ‘unwanted’ kids can be dumped there.” 
- 2021: A 12-year-old boy was forced into seclusion, denied communication with his family and given antipsychotics without parental permission, according to relatives. But the family’s complaints about what happened were dismissed as unsubstantiated or hit dead ends.
In other examples, in January 2016, a family filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against Laurel Ridge Treatment Center because it allegedly failed to protect their 14-year-old daughter, who was sexually assaulted by Alexander Williams, a counselor at the facility. Williams was suspended after the teen’s father found out and contacted the center.
In 2019, another UHS facility in Utah, Copper Hills Youth Center, was exposed and sued over alleged sexual abuse of an inmate. In October 2017, a Copper Hills counselor was charged with sexual exploitation of a minor, after police said he had sexual conversations online with a 17-year-old girl who had been released from the facility. He admitted to the charges and spent 60 days in jail. In May 2019, state investigators found staff did not properly supervise a teen girl, who harmed herself with a piece of metal she peeled off a door. After the girl cut herself, staffers physically restrained her for nearly an hour, which included giving her a shot of chlorpromazine, an anti-psychotic medication, followed by a shot of Ativan, a sedative-hypnotic. The girl received 22 stitches in the emergency room and was then taken back to Copper Hills.
Oregon state Senator Gelser Blouin, who sponsored legislation to increase oversight of residential treatment centers in her state, keenly noted: “The survivors have been telling us what’s wrong for a long time…. As legislators we just hold up the megaphone, but we need to do what these kids have been telling us all along. It’s that simple.” 
It is astonishing how widespread the abuse is, CCHR said, pointing out that spending on treatment of behavioral conditions was $171 billion in 2009 and increased 65% to an estimated $280.5 billion in 2020. About “$23 billion dollars of annual public funds” are used to “purportedly treat the behavioral and psychological needs of vulnerable youth,” according to the American Bar Association.
For what result? Fraud and abuse, including restraint deaths, says CCHR.
Ricky Watson Jr., head of the National Juvenile Justice Network, says: “Tax dollars are being used ultimately to abuse and mistreat children.”
Given 30 years of promises of reforms and regulation changes, with such significant abuses still occurring, much greater penalties for violating youth rights, including criminal and financial fines and hospital closures are needed. Oversight of the behavioral-psychiatric youth residential treatment industry needs to be dramatically increased. Individual facilities, their owners and mental health care staff and treating psychiatrists/doctors authorizing restraints, need to be held accountable. Children and youths need a safe and nurturing environment, not one based on punitive, invasive and coercive practices.
 Virginia Chamlee, “Paris Hilton Heads to D.C. to Continue Advocacy Work for Child Abuse: ‘Such an Inspiring Time’” People, 11 May 2022, https://people.com/politics/paris-hilton-heads-to-white-house-child-abuse-advocacy/; Jessica Miller, “Paris Hilton urges federal oversight after revealing she was sexually abused at a Utah teen treatment center,” The Salt Lake Tribune, 11 May 2022, https://www.sltrib.com/news/2022/05/11/i-remember-crying-while/
 Tyler Kingkade, Kate Snow and Erin Einhorn, “Paris Hilton pushes for bill to crack down on abusive youth facilities,” NBC News, 20 Oct. 2021, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/paris-hilton-bill-troubled-teen-facilities-rcna3349
 Eric Weiss, Dave Altimari, Dwight F. Blint and Kathleen Megan, “Deadly Restraint,” Hartford Courant, 11 Oct. 1998, https://www.charlydmiller.com/LIB05/1998hartfordcourant11.html
 Wanda K Mohr, PhD, RN, FAAN, “Adverse Effects Associated With Physical Restraint,” Crisis Prevention Institute, 27 Oct. 2010, https://www.crisisprevention.com/Blog/Adverse-Effects-Associated-With-Physical-Restraint
 https://www.cchrint.org/2021/11/01/mental-health-abuse-reforms-aim-to-protect-against-behavioral-abuse-of-children/#_edn16; “Lawsuit filed against company that owned Lakeside Academy,” WoodTV.com, 7 Oct. 2021, https://www.woodtv.com/news/kalamazoo-county/lawsuit-filed-against-company-that-owned-lakeside-academy/; Tyler Kincade, “Video shows fatal restraint of Cornelius Frederick, 16, in Michigan foster facility,” NBC News, 7 July 2020, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/video-shows-fatal-restraint-cornelius-fredericks-16-michigan-foster-facility-n1233122/
 https://www.cchrint.org/2021/02/17/utah-state-law-curbing-behavioral-restraint-use-on-children-youths-is-applauded-but-unconditional-ban-is-needed-nationwide/, citing: Maia Szalavitz, “Under the Radar: The Child Abuse Bill Swap,” Mother Jones, 19 June 2008, https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2008/06/under-radar-child-abuse-bill-swap/
 Aili Nahas, “Paris Hilton Opens Up About the Secret Terrifying Abuse She Suffered as a Teen,” People, 22 Aug. 2020, https://people.com/tv/paris-hilton-opens-up-about-the-secret-terrifying-abuse-she-suffered-as-teen/
 Jessica Miller, “Provo Canyon School’s history of abuse accusations spans decades, far beyond Paris Hilton,” The Star Tribune, 20 Sept. 2020, updated 1 Sept. 2021, https://www.sltrib.com/news/2020/09/20/provo-canyon-schools/
 https://www.cchrint.org/2021/11/01/mental-health-abuse-reforms-aim-to-protect-against-behavioral-abuse-of-children/#_edn4, citing: Jessica Miller, “Utah ‘troubled-teen’ centers have used ‘booty juice’ to sedate kids, a practice outlawed in other states.” The Salt Lake Tribune, 4 Feb. 2021, https://www.sltrib.com/news/2021/02/04/utah-troubled-teen/
 https://www.cchrint.org/2021/11/01/mental-health-abuse-reforms-aim-to-protect-against-behavioral-abuse-of-children/#_edn6, citing: Jessica Miller, “Staffer at Utah youth hospital accused of forcing sex on 12-year-old former patient,” The Salt Lake Tribune, 7 Feb 2020, https://www.sltrib.com/news/2020/02/06/staffer-utah-youth/
 https://www.cchrint.org/2020/10/22/cchr-urges-overhaul-of-teen-behavioral-industry/#_edn12, citing: Dana Kennedy, “Inside the ‘abusive’ troubled-teen industry that Paris Hilton exposed,” The New York Post, 30 Sept. 2020, https://nypost.com/article/provo-canyon-school-abuse/
 Cameron Evans, “State laws aim to regulate ‘troubled teen industry,’ but loopholes remain,” Kaiser Health News, The Western News, 1 Feb. 2022, https://thewesternnews.com/news/2022/feb/01/state-laws-aim-regulate-troubled-teen-industry-loo/
 Sharon Ko, “Family of teen victim files $1.5 million lawsuit against Laurel Ridge,” KENS 5 News, 28 Jan. 2016, https://www.kens5.com/article/news/family-of-teen-victim-files-15-million-lawsuit-against-laurel-ridge/273-65505311
 Jessica Miller, “Utah treatment center sued after boys engaged in sex acts in a seclusion room,” Salt Lake Tribune, 27 Aug. 2019, https://www.sltrib.com/news/2019/08/27/utah-treatment-center/
 Katie McKeller, “Paris Hilton returns to Utah for ceremonial bill signing to regulate troubled-teen centers,” Deseret News, 6 Apr. 2021, https://www.deseret.com/utah/2021/4/6/22370211/paris-hilton-returns-to-utah-for-ceremonial-bill-signing-to-regulate-troubled-teen-centers-gov-cox
 “Increasing Access to Behavioral Health Care Advances Value for Patients, Providers and Communities,” Trendwatch, American Hospitals Association, May 2019, p. 4
 “Five Facts About the Troubled Teen Industry,” American Bar Association, 22 Oct. 2021, https://www.americanbar.org/groups/litigation/committees/childrens-rights/practice/2021/5-facts-about-the-troubled-teen-industry/
 https://www.cchrint.org/2020/12/22/more-media-urged-to-expose-youth-behavioral-houses-of-horror-death-traps/#_edn12 citing: Hannah Rappleye, Tyler Kingkade and Kate Snow, “A profitable ‘death trap’: Sequel youth facilities raked in millions while accused of abusing children: Sequel Youth & Family Services collected hundreds of millions in tax dollars to care for vulnerable children, despite abuse and negligence allegations,” NBC News, 16 Dec. 2020, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/profitable-death-trap-sequel-youth-facilities-raked-millions-while-accused-n1251319