COLUMBUS, Ohio — A state agency has ordered that Sequel Pomegranate fix issues after a surprise visit by state inspectors last week revealed that the psychiatric facility for teens failed to report a sexual assault allegation from June and may have improperly restrained children for unnecessary reasons.
Among the findings by state inspectors:
- Children were restrained for urinating on the wall, failing to move quickly, failing to return to their unit and to prevent a teen from “AWOLing” from the facility. Sequel Pomegranate was told that restraint is used “only when there is in imminent risk of physical harm to the individual or other and no other safe and effective intervention is identified.
- Children claimed that they experienced soreness or suffered an injury as a result of a physical restraint while residing in the facility.
- Sequel Pomegranate failed to report a sexual assault allegation from June 21, 2019. While the facility conducted an internal investigation, it did not report the incident to the state until its unannounced inspection last week. Sequel Pomegranate must now review all internal incidents dating back to July 1, 2018 to assure all other incidents were reported.
The findings by state inspectors arrived weeks after a series of 10 Investigates reports uncovered allegations of teen-on-teen violence, staff-on-teen violence and allegations of sexual abuse. We also found since 2017 that there have been 125 incidents of teens escaping from this privately-run, publicly-funded psychiatric facility in Columbus.
“This administration has been vigilant. We have taken your reports seriously,” Governor Mike DeWine told 10 Investigates Wednesday.
Following 10TV's reporting, DeWine ordered Lori Criss, the director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Department, to tour Sequel Pomegranate. After her visit July 25, Criss deemed it to be “clean, safe and therapeutic.”
And despite the recent findings by state inspectors, Criss’ department wrote Sequel Pomegranate a letter last week, again claiming its “environment was clean and safe.”
Criss’ comments sit in stark contrast to the hundreds of police runs, Franklin County Children’s Services reports and reports from her own department that have documented — and substantiated in some cases — allegations of violence and sexual abuse dating back years.
10 Investigates has found other reports that show on the same day of Criss’ visit on July 25th — her own department was made aware of allegation in which a teen at Sequel Pomegranate claimed she was sexual assaulted by another teen and sent to Nationwide Children's Hospital.
On August 6, another report was sent to her department of a child alleging she was "mistreated by an unknown staff member."
Since declaring it safe, 10 Investigates also found police reports alleging incidents of gross sexual imposition, rape and an allegation that a staff member allowed "other students (at Sequel Pomegranate) to continue to assault" another teen.
10 Investigates asked Criss about her comments Wednesday.
When asked directly if that was an overreach on her part to declare Pomegranate “safe” she said: “So, what I said was it was safe while I was there, what I witnessed. I didn't see any red flags. But I did know that we needed to have additional by our expert reviews. And that's why we did the unannounced visit that was more thorough and with several staff on site.”
When asked about the message that sends to parents by declaring a facility safe when the evidence points to the contrary she said:
“I think in any medical facility, there's always opportunities that need to be managed in terms of risk… and to drive towards quality and we continue to drive towards that,” she said.
10 Investigates wanted to know what the state intends to do about Sequel Pomegranate and the issues we’ve uncovered. To that, Criss said: “We are going to continue to monitor them and follow-up on them in the context of our regulatory environment and continue to partner with the other organizations that monitor and accept reports from them."
10 Investigates has also learned that Franklin County Children’s Services also made a surprise visit to Sequel Pomegranate after 10TV's reporting began and we know that the non-profit advocacy group Disability Rights Ohio has also launched an investigation and conducted their own surprise visit.
On Wednesday, Sequel Pomegranate gave this statement:
"At Sequel Pomegranate, our highest priority is the health, safety and well-being of the clients in our care. We just received the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services’ report yesterday afternoon and are reviewing the findings. We are pleased the department took the time to recognize the positive work happening at the program, from residents and staff feeling safe, to the safe and clean environment, to residents identifying staff members who care about their well-being and respond appropriately to their concerns. However, we take any deficiencies very seriously, and will respond to Ohio MHAS’ findings with a written correction plan by September 3."