Citing recurring incidents – some of which included violent assaults and improper restraints of children - the state announced Friday it would require Sequel Pomegranate to immediately relinquish its license and would bar it from re-applying to operate its residential psychiatric facility for teens for nearly a year.
Through a series of investigative reports that date back to July 2019, 10 Investigates uncovered how teens at the facility were being exposed to repeated incidents of violence and improper restraints.
10 Investigates also found substantiated cases of sexual abuse and teens going AWOL from the supposedly secure facility.
The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, which licenses Sequel Pomegranate, had previously threatened revocation in 2019, but rescinded after Sequel Pomegranate made a series of changes – including promising to retrain staff and move away from potential painful restraint holds.
The state again threatened to revoke the facility’s license in June of this year after a spate of assaults, incidents and COVID-19 infections that left both staff and teens sick.
In March, the Columbus Division of Police were called to Sequel Pomegranate on the report of a riot. On that day, a staff member suffered a laceration and a broken thumb after an altercation with a teen.
That same day, March 19, a therapist was sent to the hospital after a child bit her and pulled her hair, according to records submitted to the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
In addressing the incidents of March, OHMAS Director Lori Criss wrote: “The failure of staff to respond to events on March 19 and 21, 2020, created an environment in which clients were being violent towards each other and staff, resulting in physical abuse and neglect.”
In April and May, there were 16 reports submitted to the state of children who had harmed themselves at the psychiatric treatment facility – many of whom required hospital visits or stitches through either cutting themselves with things like pieces of broken toilets or swallowing foreign objects including batteries.
There were also reports that the facility had failed to keep the state abreast of current COVID-19 infections among youth and staff.
Sequel Pomegranate transferred all the teens out of the facility in late July, but its hearing to defend its license before the state was scheduled to start on Monday.
Late Friday afternoon, 10 Investigates received confirmation from the state that the two parties had reached a settlement agreement.
OHMAS Director Lori Criss, released this statement:
“The closure of this facility is an unfortunate, but necessary course of action that resulted from a series of recurring incidents and compliance issues that required action. As the licensing authority for mental health services in the State of Ohio, we have an obligation to protect the health and safety of Ohioans and uphold standards of quality care. The decision to revoke a facility’s license is never made in haste as the need for specialized services for Ohioans with mental illness is great. We appreciate the acute care facility’s willingness to relinquish their license. While today’s settlement does not preclude Sequel Pomegranate from re-applying for licensure in the future, they will need to demonstrate a serious commitment to providing a safe environment for both residents and staff, while complying with all standards for a facility of this type.”
As part of the settlement agreement:
- Sequel Pomegranate agrees to relinquish its license to operate the Residential Facility within five (5) business days.
- Sequel Pomegranate will be barred from seeking a new license to operate a residential facility for a minimum period of at least ten (10) months.
- Should Sequel Pomegranate seek a new license, the application will be evaluated under the normal evaluation procedures and timing of the OhioMHAS survey process. There will be no special treatment of the application or guarantee of approval.
- Sequel Pomegranate agrees that if any of its licensed or certified facilities in Ohio are not considered in good standing with OhioMHAS, including its Acute Psychiatric Hospital, at the time that Sequel Pomegranate makes application for a license, no license will be issued until all such issues are resolved. For these purposes a facility will be considered “not in good standing” if it is the subject of an open complaint, an open investigation, unresolved findings, an unresolved plan of correction, or an open administrative hearing.
10 Investigates reached out to spokesman for Sequel Youth and Family Services, the Alabama-based parent company of Sequel Pomegranate.
A spokesman for a public relations firm representing the company said via email he would respond with comment when able.