The problems continue to mount for Sequel Youth & Family Services, a private contractor that has faced regulatory and legal complaints for its management of residential care facilities for teens in multiple states.
The first of the two latest blows landed in early September when the company informed the state that it would close its beleaguered Torii Behavioral Health facility, formerly known as Sequel Pomegranate, in Columbus, Ohio. The company’s letter to the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services did not specify a reason for the decision to close Torii and give up all the facility’s licenses and certifications.
Damaging news reports about conditions there led to increased inspections at the state and county level, leading to warnings last summer that the state would pull its operating license if the problems weren’t corrected. Franklin County stopped recommending youth be placed at Torii.
According to 10 Investigates, the problems include substantiated cases of staff violence and abuse in which both teens and staff were hurt, improper use of restraints, as well as fights between residents, riots and an ongoing stream of calls to the police.
The second recent jolt to Sequel Youth & Family Services was a $50 million civil lawsuit filed against its Lakeside Academy in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and 10 employees late last month.
The estate of 16-year-old Cornelius Frederick sued after eight staff members restrained him for about 12 minutes as he cried out that he couldn’t breathe, and he ultimately passed out and never regained consciousness. He died two days later in a hospital with brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain.
The estate had previously filed a lawsuit against Sequel seeking $100 million in damages, which is set for trial in February.
A handful of staffers involved in the incident have been criminally charged, and the company shuttered Lakeside. Several states, including Washington and California, have removed all youth they placed in Sequel facilities.
Sequel specializes in treating children with such severe emotional and behavioral problems that they are among the hardest to place, but critics say the company is more interested in warehousing as many youth as possible than providing them the therapy and care they need to recover from trauma.