Utah regulators say girl died after youth treatment center failed to provide ‘necessary medical care’
Maple Lake Academy is under investigation – and may be closed – after the youngster died last month.
A teenage treatment center in Utah County could be closed after state regulators said a girl died because she did not receive proper medical attention.
The girl died on January 16 and had attended Maple Lake Academy, a small residential treatment program in Spanish Fork. His death was attributed to a medical issue, according to state officials.
For at least a week before her death, the girl had reported worsening symptoms to staff, according to an agency action notice released by the Utah Licensing Office.
“After repeated requests from parents, the program resulted in the client being evaluated by a physician,” the notice reads. “After the doctor’s visit, the client complained of worsening symptoms but was not referred for medical attention.” The girl died early the next morning, according to the Licensing Office.
Utah County Sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Cannon declined to discuss details of the case because the agency is still investigating, but he said deputies were called to the facility on January 16 for a medical issue. Staff at the facility had started CPR after calling dispatchers, he said, but the girl later died after being taken to a local hospital.
John Osgood, an attorney representing Maple Lake Academy, said the facility is cooperating with investigators but disagrees with the state’s claim that the girl did not receive care. appropriate medical.
“Maple Lake is devastated by the death of one of its students and devastated by this process,” Osgood said. “His students are devastated by the events that have transpired.”
State regulators can issue a Notice of Agency Action when they find that a licensed facility has violated state rules it is supposed to follow to keep children safe. The action is considered punitive, but may be waived if a facility returns to compliance.
For Maple Lake Academy, regulators are requiring the facility to stop taking new clients and ensure that proper medical care is provided to young people already in care. Academy officials are also required to submit staffing sheets so the state knows they have enough workers and to cooperate with investigators, among other requirements.
Amanda Slater, director of the Office of Licensing, said there was always the possibility that her department could revoke the facility’s license, pending the outcome of its investigation. She added that a licensing investigation usually follows investigations by police and child protective services.
“When something tragic like loss of life happens, we try to act right away,” she said. “We felt it was important to do some fair agency action to ensure the health and safety of these people there until we can conclude this investigation.”
Osgood said Maple Lake Academy is appealing the state’s action.
“We dispute the finding of a violation regarding the failure to provide necessary medical care,” he said.
Maple Lake Academy website says it’s for teens who have autism, anxiety, depression, and certain learning disabilities. Its girls’ campus can accommodate up to 15 young people, while a nearby boys’ hostel has 16 beds.
The facility has had limited interactions with state regulators in the past. Maple Lake Academy’s boys’ campus was required by the state to take corrective action in 2020 after a staff member twisted a boy’s nipple as part of a game, records show. The establishment reported that it had issued a warning to the employee and reminded him to respect the appropriate limits.
Utah’s youth treatment centers have come under intense scrutiny in recent years, as the Salt Lake Tribune has documented cases of abuse, neglect, and mistreatment of young people.
This flagging led to legislative action in 2021 that marked the first reform of the so-called “troubled teen” industry in 15 years.
The new law placed limits on the use of restraints, drugs and seclusion rooms in youth treatment programs. It also required facilities to document any instances in which staff use physical restraints and isolation and submit reports to the Licensing Office.
The Licensing Office is also now required to perform four inspections per year, both announced and unannounced.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, said Thursday his legislation may not have gone far enough. He noted that two children have died in licensed facilities since the law took effect: the Maple Lake Academy girl and a 9-year-old boy who was left in a hot car last July in a day treatment center. called Roost Services.
He called the most recent death “extremely disturbing”.
“I think we need to improve the tools. Frankly, I think our tools are not strong enough today,” he said. “I will say that after passing Senate Bill 127, I think we see improvement across the board, but there are some violations that absolutely warrant a facility closure. … I think there are violations that are too egregious to fix.
McKell, however, does not plan to introduce a bill this session to bolster the power of state regulators. He said he wanted to wait until the new reforms, which started last May, have been in place for a year before deciding whether more legislation was warranted.