Well, I had been planning on taking a break...but the following article was just too important not to spread around.
At Rick Santorum-Connected Health Care Facility, Herpes, Porn and Drug Dealing
WASHINGTON -- T. entered The Pines Residential Treatment Center, located in Portsmouth, Va., needing help for his emotional disorders, gender identity issues and violent outbursts. This month, after a year and a half there, the eighth-grader left the facility with herpes.
Heather Pinon, T.'s sister, believes he got the sexually transmitted disease after having sex with other boys in his restricted unit. There might be at least one other culprit. Both Pinon and the boy's adoptive mother, Lorraine Honeycutt, believe that he also carried on a sexual relationship with a Pines employee. Pinon says she knows of letters that hint at such an affair.
"The information was given to the therapist," Pinon said. "The therapist destroyed the letters. When we asked my brother about it, he confirmed that he did write the letters and that he had a special relationship with that staff member."
The staff member, they said, was assigned to T. to prevent him from having sex with other kids...The disease was just another complication in a life that had many; T. called this latest his "herpes thing." But it still devastated the boy who wasn't yet old enough for algebra. "I felt extra scared," he told The Huffington Post in a recent interview. "I wanted to cry and that's all I did for two days is cry when they did tell me that."
For The Pines, T.'s diagnosis was just part of another day. The Pines is the biggest for-profit residential treatment center in Virginia. During the past three years, it has also kicked up more abuse and neglect allegations than any other facility there, state records show, earning an unprecedented level of scrutiny from investigators with the state's licensing office and Office of Human Rights. The facility, which covers three campuses that span the tidewater region -- Brighton, Kempsville and Crawford -- has routinely faced state orders to correct itself, according to licensing records.
The Pines may be exceptional in terms of racking up state violations, but it also boasts a singular distinction: The board of the center's parent company, Universal Health Services, which bought The Pines in November, included former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.).
Santorum, who recently launched a presidential bid, resigned from the UHS board on June 15, a week after the publication of a Huffington Post report on UHS facilities during his tenure. The former senator had served on the UHS board since 2007, a period which saw the company twice sued by the Department of Justice.
Santorum's presidential campaign did not return calls seeking comment.
The health care chain has faced accusations of Medicaid fraud and employee grievances over pay. At one facility, a teen died while being restrained by staff. The death was ruled a homicide.
The Pines had long teetered on the brink of a shutdown, but the UHS takeover of the facility appears to have erased what standards had been put in place. A short time after the facility fell under UHS control in mid-November, it earned serious punitive sanctions. Two months into the company's tenure, a sense of lawlessness pervaded the facility, according to a review of documents obtained by The Huffington Post through a public records request.
North Carolina, which had sent more than 100 kids to The Pines, stopped doing so this past spring, when that state's Division of Medical Assistance, along with other agencies, found widespread and systemic breakdowns in how the facility treated its children, according to the documents. In mid-April, the state concluded that it had to pull all 140 or so of its children -- including T. -- out of The Pines, according to email records.
Virginia has since barred new admissions and slapped the facility with a provisional license. According to the documents, Virginia inspectors found that Pines staff had been caught watching a pornographic DVD with residents, that one resident admitted to selling drugs and buying drugs from a Pines employee and that records concerning the care of one resident had been "fabricated."
Physical restraints were the staff's go-to method of control, according to T. Even when he was held down, T. said, staff took cheap shots -- jabbing him, pinching him and punching him. In one incident, he said, he was slammed against a wall.
"They bend your arm in all different directions and stuff," he said, adding that the staff called him "faggot."
"One time, I was in a restraint and a man punched me in my nose and my nose started bleeding," he said.
The center's low-I.Q. inhabitants were particularly targeted, he said: "They would always hit in the special residents."...Rather than providing rehabilitation or care, Mercer said, the facility deepens old wounds and even creates some new ones among the young residents. She said one boy with no history of sexual abuse has started acting out sexually....She recalled one incident in which an employee threatened to kill a child; another called a kid a "piece of shit."
Mercer said she quit over what she described as unsafe staff-to-patient ratios, meaning that the kids often didn't receive basic necessities. She said she knew of a child who waited eight months to get a pair of glasses, another who endured a toothache for five months before seeing a dentist and still another kid who went without underwear.
"I've seen staff buy soap, socks, underwear, shoes," Mercer said. "I mean, the kids don't have any soap."
In one case, Mercer recalled, she had to move some residents to a new unit, but found that it had not been cleaned. There were urine-stained floors, semen stains on a desk and a pair of mattresses, a bloody mixture left on a bulletin board. She described a different unit as a "dog pen."
In February, a Pines staff member was caught punching a child in the face and torso after being bitten during a restraint, records show. The incident was not immediately reported to authorities. The staffer admitted, according to a licensing investigation, that she had no experience in working with residential treatment center kids. That same month, licensing found that "staff currently providing therapy is not licensed or licensed eligible. ... THIS IS A REPEAT VIOLATION."
At the same campus a short time later, according to records and interviews with Mercer, who saw a video recording of the incident, and another staffer, a Pines worker grabbed a 9-year-old boy and dragged him across a table during a therapeutic group session. Another worker then took the boy into a room and was captured on video repeatedly bashing his head against a wall.
By then, North Carolina had concluded it could not continue to send children to The Pines. The state had launched an investigation after parents came forward with an allegation that their son had been sexually abused at the facility.
According to a subsequent report by Virginia authorities, The Pines concluded that on at least one occasion the abuse had indeed taken place. But the facility had failed to immediately notify the parents. The Pines had described one incident of inappropriate touching as "horse playing."
...In a statement released to The Huffington Post, Universal Health Services defended its practices: "The Pines management team is continually reviewing clinical programming, procedures and staff training to enhance the provision of safe, effective, and patient-centered treatment," the company statement reads. "The Pines is actively addressing any and all concerns relating to the treatment of our residents." more...