By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Cold fluorescent light bounces off the slick white floors of the hallway. Doors slam; girls scream in the distance. A half dozen police officers march across the tile. Staffers wrapped in blue hospital scrubs trot behind. Outside, 20 cop cruisers and two ambulances paint the parking lot with their reds and blues, responding to a dispatch call of a possible riot.
Fourteen-year-old Kate paces down the hall of the facility for mentally ill teenagers, seemingly glassed away from the chaos. Head down, steps slow as a sleepwalker's. She's just under five feet, baby fat rounding a frame that's covered in a pink hoodie and khaki pants.
As a security video clearly shows, a crewcut police officer darts to Kate's side. A gloved hand reaches for her left arm. Like a sprung trap, she twists around, her right hand crashing two quick blows against the officer's shoulder. His gloved right fist pulls back, then slams into her face. As Kate crumples, the officer clamps down on the back of her head, taking her to the floor. More cops pile in. With Kate pinned beneath his weight, the officer winds up and fires another punch.
"Why are you hitting her!?" someone screams.
Before April 28, 2013, was over, Kate would be pepper-sprayed and hauled off in handcuffs. Later, the teenaged orphan would be charged with battery of a law enforcement officer, a felony.
Ultimately, her arrest would bring attention to a little-known, publicly funded facility — the Center for Adolescent Treatment Services (CATS), a 56-bed program in Pembroke Pines that's run by a Hialeah-based nonprofit group called Citrus Health Network. Former residents describe CATS as a gulag-like holding pen for damaged, low-income kids. Inside, children compete to earn "points" while supervised by a low-educated and reportedly abusive staff — think One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest meets The Hunger Games. Worse, residents claim they were regularly tied face-down to beds with four-point restraints and shot up with a mysterious chemical sedative they took to calling "booty juice."
New Times examined complaints about the facility that were filed with multiple agencies. Official investigations found that many complaints were fully or partially substantiated. But the paper trail leads only to a bureaucratic dumpster fire, where regulations are loosely enforced and responsibility ping-pongs from agency to agency. Meanwhile, the Citrus Health Network continues to hoover up millions of taxpayer dollars while getting slapped with a few largely toothless "recommendations."
Perhaps the August death of a 14-year-old Citrus resident might finally make a difference.
Gordon Weekes could barely believe what he was hearing. The tall, dreadlocked attorney sat inside a dingy conference room at CATS with Jeff Hittleman, another lawyer from his office. Across sat their new client. Before long, Kate (whose name has been changed because she is a juvenile) unloaded.
For 16 years, Weekes had been a public defender in Broward County specializing in juvenile justice, but he had never heard of the Citrus Health Network or its CATS program before Kate's case landed on his desk.
"We see in the course of our work different scenarios, and some of them are pretty shocking," Weekes recalls. "This was off the scales."
Kate's backstory alone was crammed with more hard knocks than most people see in a lifetime. When she was 9, her mother was killed in a car accident. At 10, her father died of an aneurysm. The cousins she was placed with were emotionally abusive. Documents state that "her dependency child abuse record... contained 24 prior intake reports." Kate, now a ward of the state, pinballed between group homes and teen programs and was arrested three times before a judge ordered her to CATS.
Kate had been at CATS only a few weeks when, according to an investigation done months later by the South Florida Behavioral Health Network (SFBHN), a group of eight girls began fighting after a kickball game. An employee called police to report a riot in progress. When 20 police cars screeched up to the center, the girls, "who had been fighting previously, began to instigate, use disrespectful, foul language, and refused orders made by police."
The report states that Kate "was interviewed and revealed that she had poured soap on the floor with the intention of making the officers slip. She stated that the officers were telling the patients to 'calm down' and she told them to 'leave us alone.' " She paced the hallway to calm herself — a coping skill she'd learned in therapy.
After the police officer assaulted her, "the pepper spray caused an asthma attack, so the nurse brought her an asthma pump. Once placed into the police car, she reported kicking the window in an attempt to break it. As a result, she was pepper sprayed again. She reported an ambulance came and she was provided with saline spray for the burning of her eyes. She was then transported to the Juvenile Assessment Center where she stated she did not want to live. She was then Baker Acted and transported by police to a Baker Act receiving facility. A short time later, she appeared in front of her judge who ordered her back into the Citrus CATS" program.
...................and don't think the attorneys care about the patients and conditions of the facility as much as they are really in it for the M O N E Y
cha - ching !
these attorneys smell a potential settlement of which they will typically get MORE than the patient in fees plus costs and the motivation for the patient is also the smell of M O N E Y
I do agree the kids are not "normal " but that is no reason to treat them like animals . These people were def over medicating them . Doesn't sound like the "treatment" was beneficial . And the head Doctor not wanting to face the press ? Hhheeelllloo don't be stupid people . That man doesn't care because he collects his check and that's it . I'm not glad the kid died but I'm glad it has been brought to public attention . Like Heather said , more safety measures need to be implemented . But by no means should they be treated like animals .
Isn't this article education enough?? This article is 7 pages worth of wrong doing by citrus, so what are you talking about Miguelina bloise??
" shot up with drugs " absolutely!!!!! There is no other way to control an agitated delusional psychotic person about to harm themselves or others. Try reporting from the medical stand point. These aren't sane high school kids they are very sick and dangerous
I can't speak for this facility but ive worked mental health. I lasted a month. One guy killed a nurse strangled 3 sleeping patients. They bite throw feces at you, sharpen tooth brushes stab staff...... All controlled by DCF restraints discouraged. I agree restraints were once abused and can actually escalate rage agitation, when a patient is delusional they have " super strength " at what point do we care as much for the life and safety of the staff ? When a person strongly agrees you are the anti Christ about to sacrifice them, they won't hesitate to kill you. Very scary environment I refuse to work until staff safety is ensured.
Having worked I several adolescent psych facilities I am very familiar with the threat and use of "booty juice" All of the mental health facilities use either Haldol or Geodon to subdue patients. Occasionally it is justified but, more often than not it is used indiscretely to make things easier on the staff. These meds are dangerous and should ONLY be used under the DIRECT supervision of a physician. We use them in the ER but only in extreme circumstances and the patient is carefully observed and monitored.
..............otherwise THROW-AWAY kids are kids whose parents deliberately have them to qualify for government assistance and taxpayer funded support like food stamps and free government cheese and obamaphones and section 8 housing reduced rent programs and even disability if the kid himself qualifies
the kids are abandonded or disgarded by the parents who have no intention of raising the kid who is THROWN-AWAY since the parents are typically abusing drugs and cannot work and are unemployable - so the free ride is to feed an addiction not a kid
however these THROW-AWAYs are typically NOT wards of the state or in guardianships because the goverment support would GO elsewhere instead of the parents - which is why you see drugged out mothers pleading the courts for custody despite such abuse and hiding that mothers real financial intentions and why there are typically MULITPLE siblings from different fathers to MAXIMIZE the yield in ripping off and scamming the public programs of taxpayer funds
the kids in this article of course may be THROW-AWAYs but not necessarily - dealing with mental deficiencies and incapacity for the poor alone does not indicate the parental participation which is the main factor in the definition of the label THROW-AWAY kid
Instead of like FB needs a bookmark button so you would loose things you wanna read later. I suspect people like stuff so they would loose it in a tremendous amount of feed
So sad indeed. I hope this place fire all the employees and do an extensive interview for new employees. Gets sued for misusing the "booty juice" its messed up that these kids have to go through more trauma.
^Naomi. people are liking the article....on that note, MNT may occasionally write up lame stories about Bieber farting in a motel jacuzzi but when they do an investigative report, watch the fuck out. They play no kind of games...like
Why would anyone "Like" this? It's disturbing, and really sad. I hope it doesn't mean you actually approve what this facility has done to people.
@frankd4 Yep, proof that life is created in society without little regard for how they will be taken care of until they are self sufficient adults. The way I figure it, those thatd haven't had children wind up picking up the tab on these children. Some of the cowards that had them figured they would use the children as human shields to make up for the lack o their income earning potential. It creates an industry that gets fabulously wealthy off doing as little as possible to actually take care of the children. Some of these folks do the same with their pets, get a cuddly and cute one and then eventually realize they have to be accountable & responsible for raising their poor choices. Sterilization is one solution, but that's no better than what this article exposes. It's deemed inhumane, so they hope free contraceptives under Obamacare resolves as much as possible ? What they don't realize is that the underlying social ills aren't related to a bad situation that went bad because of a recession. It's that these folks breed for a government program that rewards that, then there's prostitution and diseases & unwanted pregnancies. There is no solution to any of it.
@frankd4 these are kids worthy of love and proper care, no matter who their parents are. if you read the article you would have noticed that some of them were orphans,
because there is PROFIT in it for some there will be no real change
otherwise it is not the kids fault when they have shitty parents
problems for these people perpetuates because for the most part the kids are or become as needy as the parent were hence the continual breeding of the criminal uncivilized prospects that exist
and yes our current judicial industrial complex is fixed to PROFIT as judges pensions and LEOs boat payments from overtime and construction workers building jails and courthouses is continual ALL vitally depend on the constant flow of funds into these efforts
these 52 kids are certainly on their way to entering and staying in custody at one place or another - they simply are NOT self-sufficient nor will they be anytime soon
i absolutely agree.......after all it's NOT the kids fault they are either mentally financially or parentaly deficient in our society
sometimes even loving parents however do not have the ability to handle infirmed and difficult kids who need professional help
during WWII kids of all ages were relocated from LONDON and other cities into the suburbs to live with surrogate guardians until the bombing ended and the outcomes were mixed indicating environment while very important is not the only factor