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Agency rescinds second threat to pull federal funding from Sequel Pomegranate

Earlier this month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found the youth psychiatric facility in Columbus was out of compliance with federal Medicare standards.

COLUMBUS (WBNS) – A federal agency tasked with overseeing hospitals and patient safety has rescinded its threat to strip Sequel Pomegranate of its federal funding.

It’s the second time in six months that the teen psychiatric facility has avoided losing its federal funding after concerns have been raised about patient abuse, suicide risk assessments and how children were being restrained.

Earlier this month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found the youth psychiatric facility in Columbus was out of compliance with federal Medicare standards.

CMS threatened to yank Sequel Pomegranate’s funding after determining the facility failed to prevent patient abuse.

The threat came after a teenage girl was punched and kicked while being restrained by a nurse during an October incident.

The nurse and a mental health associate were fired as a result of their involvement.

Documents reviewed by Ohio Department of Health inspectors – acting on behalf of CMS – found no documents were showing that the nurse had completed her annual restraint training since February of 2018.

Inspectors found the child was not immediately treated or assessed after being assaulted. The girl had a history of combative and self-harming behavior, but Sequel Pomegranate also failed to document that the child was placed on suicide precautions.

In September, documents showed the teen used a piece of a t-shirt to tie around her neck. The documents wrote that the piece of the t-shirt was contraband – not suicidal ideation.

During a follow-up visit last week, ODH inspectors found that the facility was back in compliance with Medicare standards.

CMS has accepted Sequel Pomegranate’s plan of correction – which includes making a series of policy changes. Among them:

  • Creating a new staff conduct contract with zero-tolerance for any abuse or neglect of clients.
  • Re-train staff on procedures, requirements and documentation of safety and effective use of restraints
  • Re-train staff on completing lethality and suicide risk assessments of the youths
  • Training to avoid counter-aggression.
  • Adopting alternatives to restraints and seclusions
  • Hired a new CEO to improve supervision and quality of care provided for youth in the facility

Earlier this month, Sequel Pomegranate also entered into a settlement agreement with the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services after the agency threatened to yank the license of its acute hospital following that October incident in which the patient was punched and kicked while being restrained.

Part of the settlement agreement means Sequel Pomegranate must hire an outside expert to review its operations, submit reports to the state, pass a survey by the Ohio Department of Health and — after reducing its patient population to zero — must suspend admissions to its hospital for 120 days.

Franklin County Children Services suspended admissions to the facility in December after a series of 10 Investigates reports dating back to July uncovered incidents of violence and sexual abuse dating back to 2017. The reports prompted Gov. Mike DeWine to order that OHMAS Director Lori Criss tour the facility. She initially declared it to be “clean, safe and therapeutic” but 10 Investigates found on the same day that Criss toured the facility in late July – a female youth at the facility complained to the state that she had been sexually assaulted.

At one time, the facility held as many as 90 teens. 10 Investigates has reached out to OHMAS and Sequel Pomegranate officials seeking comment.

A spokesman for OHMAS told 10 Investigates that the hospital side of Sequel Pomegranate officially had zero patients on February 15. Sequel Pomegranate must now suspend admissions for another 120 days.

Sequel Pomegranate sent the following statement: “Our primary concern is and always will be the safety and well-being of our students. To that end, we continue to work closely with regulatory agencies and appreciate their guidance and support. We look forward to continuing to provide critical services to the adolescents in our care.”

Both OHMAS and FCCS began a series of announced and unannounced visits to the facility since August – documenting concerns with how restraints are being used and interviewing staffers and children.

The state still reserves the discretion to begin the process to suspend or revoke Sequel Pomegranate’s license if the facility is found to not be in compliance.

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