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Hearing dates set for Sequel Pomegranate as state threatens hospital license; CEO departs

The hearing dates before the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services are set for both January 14 and 15.

COLUMBUS (WBNS) – Hearing dates have been set for mid-January for Sequel Pomegranate to defend the license of its acute hospital after the state threatened to pull it following an October incident in which a child was beaten and kicked by a nurse during a restraint.

The hearing dates before the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services are set for both January 14 and 15. Additional dates could be added if necessary.

In wake of that October incident, a nurse and mental health associate were fired, the two women told 10 Investigates.

10 Investigates has also learned Angela Nickell is no longer acting as CEO of Sequel Pomegranate. Nickell wrote on Facebook in mid-November that she left her job.

A person who answered the phone Thursday at Sequel Pomegranate said that Nickell was no longer the CEO. A subsequent voicemail left at Sequel Pomegranate was not returned.

Nickell did not respond to multiple messages seeking comment. Through a spokesman, Sequel Pomegranate’s parent company – Sequel Youth and Family Services – declined to comment.

Nickell’s departure as CEO follows six months of reporting by 10 Investigates in which former patients, parents and employees have expressed concern about repeated incidents of teen-on-teen violence, staff-on-teen violence and staffing problems.

In wake of our reporting, Gov. Mike DeWine order the head of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services – which licenses Sequel Pomegranate - to tour the psychiatric facility for teens ages 12 to 17.

Following her tour, Lori Criss declared the facility to be “clean, safe and therapeutic…” But on the same day of her visit, July 25, records show her own department was made aware of an allegation from a teenaged girl who alleged she was sexually assaulted by another teen and taken to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Days later, on August 8, another allegation of alleged abuse.

That same month, OMHAS cited Sequel Pomegranate and asked it to create a plan of correction to address children who were being improperly restrained. Staffers were retrained this fall – but unannounced visits continued by both the state, Franklin County Children Services and Disability Rights Ohio.

In late October, records from the state show a child on the acute hospital side of Sequel Pomegranate was struck and kicked while being restrained. That’s what prompted the state to threaten to pull Sequel Pomegranate's acute hospital license.

Recently obtained police body camera shows teens running away or going missing from the teen psychiatric facility continues to be a problem.

A copy of an intake report from Franklin County Children Services shows since August there have been at least 12 complaints of alleged neglect, physical or sexual abuse leveled against the facility. One of those complaints was found to be unsubstantiated. The rest were being reviewed.

Both FCCS and OHMAS continue to make both announced and unannounced visits at Sequel Pomegranate in part to review the use of restraints and note any changes to staffing or procedures. The three most recent visits by FCCS included interviews with staffers and teens whose names were redacted. Most staffers who were interviewed said they liked their jobs and used restraints rarely or only as a last resort.

The teens who were interviewed noted that they felt safe but also mentioned witnessing fights, bullying and restraints.

Two teens said they recalled a teenage girl suffering a broken arm during a recent restraint. One teen said it was the girl’s fault and that the staff did the restraint properly. Nickell told the FCCS inspector that the state inspector “reportedly had no concerns with how the restraint was completed.”

In March, Sequel Pomegranate’s parent company announced that it was starting to adopt the Ukeru behavior management program, which according to a news release, said it’s a program that “minimizes the use of restraints.”

Sequel Pomegranate has not fully adopted that program yet, according to the most recent FCCS site visit report.

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