One year after the first regulatory reform in 15 years, one lawmaker says the state’s tools are still not strong enough. “There are certain violations that absolutely merit a facility being shut down.”
A lawmaker cites the state’s “clean look, clean feel” and strong family values. But the answer is a complex combination of history, culture and weak rules and regulations. Regulators haven’t closed a facility in the last five years.
Six years ago, a cruel disciplinary act against a young girl was kept secret — she had been forced to sit in a horse trough filled with cold water for 30 minutes. The incident only became public after the Sent Away team released a database of records that included every violation report documented at youth treatment facilities statewide. Today the state is planning to release violation and disciplinary information online.
Inappropriate contact between children and staff members has happened with some frequency in Utah’s teen treatment programs. Between November 2018 and July 2021, state regulators investigated at least 20 reports of staff pushing the boundaries with children, sometimes amounting to sexual abuse. State records show that 13 people resigned or were fired from youth treatment facilities after allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior during that time, according to a data analysis from Sent Away journalists.
“Secure transport services,” a shadowy corner of the teen-treatment industry, are almost entirely unregulated. Parent-hired transporters can pull kids from their beds, handcuff them, hold them down or blindfold them. In Utah, a legislator who recently sponsored a bill that brought regulatory reform to the state’s booming teen-treatment industry said he wants to take a closer look at how kids from all over the country are getting to the state for treatment.
The once-ascendant youth treatment company has agreed to shutter its 14th center in the past three years following a state report that found abuse of kids with autism, including one resident who was allegedly whipped with a tree branch.
Despite killings on the rise and the highest homicide rate among big cities, St. Louis police say they don’t have to tell the public which cases have been solved. APM Reports has filed a lawsuit for the information.
Most scientists believe climate change is increasing the severity of the storms we experience, and how quickly they intensify. After suffering two hurricanes, a winter storm, and devastating flooding in less than a year, Lake Charles, Louisiana, offers a troubling view of the wrenching, disturbingly inequitable effects of climate change.
Colleges and universities in the United States attract more than a million international students a year. Higher education is one of America’s top service exports, generating $42 billion in revenue. But the money spigot is closing. The pandemic, visa restrictions, rising tuition and a perception of poor safety in America have driven new international student enrollment down by a jaw-dropping 72 percent.
Texas Teachers of Tomorrow has become the largest teacher training program in the nation, offering a low-cost online program. While it’s lowered barriers and helped diversify the workforce, this approach to training hasn’t solved chronic teacher shortages.
More than a year into the pandemic, many details about Covid testing remain unclear to the public, including how much the tests will cost taxpayers and how effective they really are. Nowhere is that more evident than in Minnesota.
Up until 2019, the agency regulating Utah’s massive youth treatment industry rarely cited facilities for violating rules — even after cases of abuse. After a 2016 incident left a teenager with a concussion, state regulators listened to his mom’s complaint — and then did nothing about it.
The families of 17 kids settled their lawsuit against the owner of Mesabi Academy for $1.495 million, even as more treatment centers closed, forcing youth with mental health needs to wait months for care.
Utah has become a national center for youth treatment, and it goes easy on the industry. At one facility, teen girls were forced to sit in a horse trough as punishment, and state regulators chose not to punish the people who did it.