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State sets hearing date to begin process to revoke license of Sequel Pomegranate

The move follows a year’s worth of reporting by 10 Investigates – which exposed incidents of violence and alleged sexual abuse at the facility.

The state will begin the process to revoke the license of Sequel Pomegranate – the troubled youth psychiatric facility for teens.

The move follows a year’s worth of reporting by 10 Investigates – which exposed incidents of violence and alleged sexual abuse at the facility that treats teens ages 12 to 17.

10 Investigates’ reporting – which began last July - also prompted unannounced inspections by both Franklin County Children Services and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services – which cited the facility in September for improperly restraining children.

10 Investigates’ reporting also uncovered incidents of teen-on-teen violence, teen-on-staff violence and teens who suffered alleged sexual abuse.

This week, the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services set a December 14, 2020 hearing date for the process to revoke the facility’s license.

Sequel Pomegranate will have the opportunity to defend itself and its license.

Sequel Pomegranate no longer has any children in it – that move came in July after the state threatened to revoke the facility’s license in June following a pattern of persistent and sometimes violent incidents. The facility has not said where it sent the children it once cared for.

Some were transferred to other facilities, 10 Investigates has learned.

The fact that no children reside behind these walls is a relief to one former Pomegranate resident – who asked not to be identified.

“I just personally had an awful time there,” said one young woman – now an adult – who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of her experiences.

The facility treats teens for both psychiatric and behavioral needs – including those who have had suicidal ideation or acts of self-harm.

The young woman says she was placed at Sequel Pomegranate several years ago following suicidal thoughts. A lack of bed space at other hospitals -- she says – landed her at Sequel Pomegranate.

“They often threatened us with restraint when we showed any emotion,” she said.

Corinn Morgan, a young woman who was at Sequel Pomegranate in 2015, said “I hope they are never allowed to have children back there because I don’t think anyone truly gets help from them.”

Morgan says during her more than week-long stay at the facility, she got help from another patient – and not staff – when she began to self-harm.

“There were times when I was restrained and gotten put into a hold and two staff members had at times and once even during that said if I didn’t stop resisting and kind of squirming to get out of that restraint they would make it hurt more,” she said.

After 10 Investigates’ initial report last July, the state cited Sequel Pomegranate for improperly restraining children – noting residents “experienced soreness or suffered an injury as a result of a physical restraint.”

Sequel Pomegranate promised to retrain staff and adopt a new model that moved away from restraint holds.

But problems persisted.

In late October of 2019, a young girl was punched and kicked repeatedly by a nurse while being restrained. The nurse and a mental health advocate were later fired for their roles in the incident.

Additional troubles followed in 2020.

In March, the Columbus Division of Police was called for a riot situation unfolding inside the facility. Police records reviewed by 10 Investigates show that police have responded to hundreds of calls for service dating to 2017. In 2020 alone, there were more than 20 calls for service through April.

911 calls from that March incident included staffers demanding that officers respond to the facility.

The Department of Youth Services confirmed to 10 Investigates that it has removed 9 teens from this facility over the summer and canceled its contract with Sequel Pomegranate last month.

A DYS spokeswoman said the decision to remove children followed incidents in April involving DYS girls who became defiant with staff and were later restrained. The spokeswoman also said the department’s decision was also in part based on staff reductions at the facility and a notification from the state that it would begin the revocation process on Sequel Pomegranate’s license.

During the upcoming hearings in December, the facility will have the ability to defend its license.

10 Investigates has left messages with Sequel Pomegranate’s attorney.

We also reached out to Sequel Pomegranate Friday through a spokesman seeking comment. As of this writing, neither had responded.

The state has said a series of violent incidents this spring involving staff and children hurting themselves is part of what prompted to begin this revocation process. In May, there were also a series COVID-19 infections among youth and staff – and one weekend in May where the facility did not have a nurse on staff to care for the children.

Since 2011, Sequel Pomegranate has received more than $18 million from the state through Medicaid reimbursements and contracts with the state.

Pomegranate’s parent company – Sequel Youth and Family Services – operates approximately 50 programs in facilities across the country. The company drew national headlines this summer after a teen at one of its now-former Michigan facilities died following a restraint.