“Teens deserve to be treated with respect and compassion. They should never be subjected to such physical or emotional abuse in the guise of mental health care. Such abuse must be brought to an end.” – Jan Eastgate, President of CCHR
Mental health watchdog says recent reports of abuse in the troubled teen industry have highlighted an urgent need for greater oversight to ensure teens are not subjected to harm. CCHR is calling on federal, state, and local authorities to take a closer look at these facilities and hold them accountable.
By CCHR International
The Mental Health Industry Watchdog
March 24, 2023
The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) International, a non-profit mental health watchdog, is calling for greater oversight of the troubled teen industry, a multi-billion-dollar industry that encompasses a wide variety of institutions and facilities that claim to treat mental and behavioral issues in adolescents. Despite ongoing reports of teen abuse and mistreatment, including deaths, CCHR says that many behavioral health facilities remain unregulated or lack effective oversight, continuing to put teens at risk. The group is urging lawmakers to take action, ensuring that facilities immediately cease abusive practices.
CCHR has been investigating and exposing abuse of children and teens in behavioral and psychiatric facilities for more than two decades and has compiled extensive evidence of abuse and neglect. As far back as the 1990s, CCHR helped uncover and expose that up to 150 restraint deaths occur in psychiatric facilities each year in the U.S. alone, with nearly 10% of these being children, some as young as six. Subsequently, federal regulations were passed in 1999 that prohibit the use of physical and chemical (mind-altering drugs) restraints to coerce or discipline patients.
Two decades later, the organization says the previous reforms fall short of fully protecting children and teens from institutional abuse—an increasingly undeniable problem within society. “Teens deserve to be treated with respect and compassion,” said Jan Eastgate, President of CCHR. “They should never be subjected to such physical or emotional abuse in the guise of mental health care. Such abuse must be brought to an end.”
Since 2020, such abuses have been widely exposed by Paris Hilton, first revealed in her documentary, This is Paris. As a 16-year-old in 1999, Hilton spent 11 months in Provo Canyon School, a behavioral residential facility in Utah where she says she was forced to take psychotropic drugs, was placed in solitary confinement, and beaten—an experience that caused long-term trauma for her. Since then, she has become a fierce advocate and together with the #BreakingCodeSilence movement, is demanding reforms to prevent institutionalized child abuse in residential treatment programs and facilities. Hilton has testified before Utah and Oregon legislatures in 2021 in support of bills that, now enacted, protect children and teens, especially from lethal restraint use in these facilities.
She also went to Capitol Hill advocating for the passage of the Stop Institutional Child Abuse Act, a proposed federal bill that would address the abuse and neglect in the troubled teen industry.
There have been numerous reports of injuries and even deaths resulting from the use of restraints in these facilities. One of the most shocking tragedies was the death of Ja’Ceon Terry, a 7-year-old foster care child who was restrained and killed at Bellewood & Brooklawn, a psychiatric residential center in Kentucky on July 17, 2022. The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide, finding he had been suffocated.
Another was 16-year-old Cornelius Frederick who was restrained at the now closed Lakeside Academy, a behavioral center in Michigan, which led to his death in 2020. A medical examiner also ruled it a homicide resulting in criminal charges filed against three staff, with one already sentenced and the other two awaiting sentencing.
The Private Equity Stakeholder Project report, “The Kids Are Not Alright: How Private Equity Profits Off of Behavioral Health Services for Vulnerable and At-Risk Youth,” released in February 2022, revealed how for-profit behavioral facilities had become a gravy train for investors in a $23 billion a year “child abuse” industry.
At the state level, Utah, California, Oregon, Montana, and Missouri have all enacted laws aimed at increasing oversight of residential treatment programs for young people. At the federal level, lawmakers have issued warnings that Congress will act, if necessary, in order to protect vulnerable youth from abuse and neglect in the troubled teen industry.
However, more needs to be done to protect children from mistreatment in these facilities. CCHR says that with hundreds of thousands of youths currently enrolled in these programs throughout the U.S., it is essential that meaningful action be taken now before any more youth suffer from such tragic abuse.
 “Medicare and Medicaid Programs; Hospital Conditions of Participation: Patients’ Rights; Interim Final Rule,” Federal Register, Department of Health and Human Services, 2 July 1999, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-1999-07-02/pdf/99-16543.pdf; https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2001/01/22/01-1649/medicaid-program-use-of-restraint-and-seclusion-in-psychiatric-residential-treatment-facilities
 Suzy Weiss, “Paris Hilton calls for closure of Provo Canyon School amid abuse allegations,” New York Post, 30 Sept. 2020, https://nypost.com/2020/09/30/paris-hilton-calls-for-closure-of-provo-canyon-school/
 Ally Mauch, “Paris Hilton Is ‘Proud’ Reform Bill Passes After Her Emotional Testimony of Utah School’s Abuse,” People, 3 Mar. 2021, https://people.com/tv/paris-hilton-proud-after-bill-she-testified-for-in-utah-senate-passes/; Connor Radnovich, “Paris Hilton recounts youth residential care facility abuse to Oregon Senate committee,” Statesman Journal, 11 Mar. 2021, https://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/news/politics/2021/03/11/paris-hilton-oregon-youth-residental-care-facility-abuse/4656353001/; https://www.oregon.gov/dhs/PROVIDERS-PARTNERS/LICENSING/CCLU/Pages/SB710.aspx
 “Paris Hilton Advocates for Federal Law to End Institutional Child Abuse,” Dordulian Law Group, 3 Jan. 2023, https://www.dlawgroup.com/paris-hilton-advocates-for-federal-law-to-end-institutional-child-abuse/
 Deborah Yetter, “7-year-old died at Kentucky youth treatment center due to suffocation, autopsy finds; 2 workers fired,” Louisville Courier Journal, 19 Sept. 2022, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2022/09/19/death-child-jaceon-terry-brooklawn-kentucky-youth-center/10428004002/
 Justin Carissimo and Li Cohen, “Three charged in death of black teen who died after being restrained at youth facility,” CBS News, 27 June 2020, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/cornelius-fredericks-death-lakeside-academy-staffers-charged-kalamazoo-michigan/; https://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/2022/04/lakeside-academy-buildings-demolished-as-kalamazoo-county-club-plans-expansion.html; Anthony Sylvester and Katie Sergent, “Former workers enter plea in Lakeside Academy teen’s death,” WWMT News Channel 3, 16 Mar. 2023, https://wwmt.com/news/local/michael-mosley-zachary-solis-lakeside-academy-cornelius-fredericks-death-2020-sandwich-restraint-manslaughter-homicide-crime-kalamazoo-county-west-michigan
 “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; https://www.breakingcodesilence.org/federal-legislation/
 Cathy Krebs, “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/
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