Kate laid out her version of the incident to her lawyers, who were even more transfixed when the conversation detoured to daily life in the program. Residents were tied down and injected for minor infractions, Kate explained.

Residents were tied face-down with four-point restraints and shot up with a mysterious chemical sedative they took to calling "booty juice."

Kate would later tell investigators from the Broward Sheriff's Office that she had been physically restrained 14 times, "and in each instance she was administered medicine (chemical restraint) in which she became 'loopy.' " She "felt medical personnel at Citrus never checked her vital signs when these incidents occurred" and "personnel would also yell and use profanity during these instances."

"We were shocked," Weekes says. "It was sickening that the staffers would become so cold and callous toward these young girls that they would think it was appropriate to tie them down and knock them out routinely."

Illustration by Pat Kinsella

Still, both attorneys knew to step carefully when dealing with accusations from tough kids. "With any child making any allegations, you are concerned that they had an agenda, so you always want to corroborate," Hittleman says. In the following weeks, the lawyers trekked back out to CATS to interview other residents. "They all told the same or similar stories time and time again. It was ordinary for these young ladies."

In early August, Weekes penned a letter to Esther Jacobo, interim secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families. He outlined the complaints relayed by Kate and other Citrus residents in four points: (1) Kate had been pepper-sprayed and punched by an officer; (2) "Female patients are commonly placed in isolation for prolonged periods of time using a four-point physical restraint technique"; (3) "Minor girls are routinely tied face-down to a bed for minor infractions, without the staff first employing less restrictive alternatives"; and (4) "While tied down by their arms and legs, chemical sedatives are routinely administered to further subdue female patients."

Weekes released the video clip of security-camera footage from the April fight that showed the police officer punching Kate. After media outlets aired the clip, DCF promised to investigate.

Then, a few days after Kate's knockout was filling the top slot on the evening news, a Citrus resident died.


On an afternoon in December 2012, Tanisha Howell sat in the waiting room at CATS. Her 14-year-old son, Octavious, squirmed beside her. This was the last best hope for her baby boy.

In the crib, they had dubbed him "butterball." He had plump cheeks no one could resist kissing. Later, when Octavious began slaying school placement tests, "Einstein" was the new tag. Howell, an executive secretary for Miami-Dade County; and her husband, Robert, a nurse, saw a big personality busting through the spunky kid with jutting ears. He told everyone he was going to study entrepreneurship at Yale University. Before the Howells rounded out their family with three additional kids, Octavious would beg his mom not to have any more children. He wanted her all to himself. "He was a very affectionate, passionate little boy," Howell says.

But by age 3, Octavious would sometimes throw violent tantrums. In school, he'd smash a chair against a window or bolt for traffic. "He'd apologize when it was over," Howell says. "Then he'd do good for a little bit, but when something didn't go his way, he'd start the cycle all over."

He was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, with an oppositional defiant disorder. He was prescribed a battery of meds. Howells hopped her son from program to program for kids with behavioral problems. When he reached middle school, the problems ballooned.

He began running away, eventually notching 22 disappearances. Every time, Howell filed a police report, then spent a sleepless night waiting. Several times, Octavious would be involuntarily institutionalized into Jackson Memorial Hospital under the Baker Act. It was there that someone first suggested Howell look into the Citrus Health Network.

Founded in 1978, the nonprofit today is a string of health facilities for low-income adults and kids, with revenue of $54 million per year. According to its website, Citrus serves 10,000 people annually, half of them minors. The network runs two main health clinics, crisis mental health centers for adults and juveniles, and substance abuse programs. It also provides school-based programs and housing for people who are homeless, mentally ill, and/or transitioning out of foster care.

As part of its sprawling network, Citrus operates two residential facilities for troubled kids under 18 — a 16-bed facility in Hialeah for boys under 14 and CATS in Pembroke Pines, which houses boys and girls between 14 and 18.

These are two of 15 extended-stay facilities in Florida's Statewide Inpatient Psychiatric Program (SIPP) for high-risk kids. They're last resorts for kids referred through DCF's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Program. Judges can order juveniles here, or parents can voluntarily admit them.

According to the latest available tax filings, Citrus receives $25 million a year in contributions and grants. Five of the network's top doctors have salaries north of $200,000. The network's CEO, Mario Jardon, makes more than $400,000.

Citrus is overseen by a 12-person governing board, which until summer 2013 was chaired by Jorge Forte, a consultant who advised entities how to land government contracts. Forte was arrested in August when the FBI alleged that in April 2012, he agreed to accept $20,000 in kickbacks along with his business partner, the mayor of Sweetwater. In November, Forte pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge and was sentenced to one year in prison.

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38 comments
Lynxx3
Lynxx3

Great article Kyle.I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, and hope you keep the pressure on. Sometimes the media is the best bet to get something looked into. This is an atrocity! We are failing these children, and all this red tape is bureaucratic Bull Shi**

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

...................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

cha-ching !

Gil Rodriguez
Gil Rodriguez

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 .

perroviejo160
perroviejo160

Ok so what happened or will happen to the dirty pig who punched the girl?

Halley Fitzsimmons
Halley Fitzsimmons

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??

Heather Rogerson
Heather Rogerson

" 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

Heather Rogerson
Heather Rogerson

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.

gjpnaples
gjpnaples

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.

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

..............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

Tracey Jones
Tracey Jones

Who got the money? Citrus Health Network in Hialeah?

Miami New Times
Miami New Times

Eddie, if you're on your phone you need to download to Pocket app.

Eddie Feliz
Eddie Feliz

Where on my Android is this mystical button called Pocket, that you speak of Miami New Times???

Miami New Times
Miami New Times

Merlina, there is a button up top called Pocket, it's a great service that does exactly that.

Jerry Gonzalez
Jerry Gonzalez

So the low income uneducated watch the kids while the 200 to 400k a year doctors play golf?

Merlina Francis
Merlina Francis

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

sodapop1987
sodapop1987

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.

Alex Anico
Alex Anico

^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

Naomi Lauren Ross
Naomi Lauren Ross

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.

Jimbo99
Jimbo99

@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.

lamorta
lamorta

@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,

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

@Jimbo99 @frankd4  


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

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

@lamorta @frankd4  


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

 
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