Funding flows to CATS from Medicaid through Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). For the 2012-13 financial year, CATS billed $5.7 million for services. Paperwork provided by one former resident shows that Medicaid was billed $406 per day for the care.

"There was a spider in the tuna."

Patients inside earn points for good behavior. According to a "Behavioral Management Program Guide" that is passed out to families, there are five stages — introductory, A, B, C, and D. Points are awarded for maintaining good hygiene, doing chores, going to school classes held on campus, and participating in therapy. With each level come more privileges such as extended time on the phone, later bedtimes, and weekend visits home. Any "maladaptive behavior"earns "a point freeze," the program guide says.

"Corporal punishment and fear-eliciting procedures are strictly prohibited," the guide says. Florida administrative code, however, specifies that facilities can use timeouts in five-minute increments or longer periods of seclusion as disciplinary methods.

The law also allows use of extreme tactics — physical restraints, chemical restraints (medication), and seclusion — when patients are deemed an imminent threat to themselves or others. These three methods are deemed Emergency Treatment Orders (ETOs). They must be ordered by a doctor, and only after other, less-invasive tactics are tried first. The law specifies that restraints and seclusions should last a maximum of two hours. The child must be monitored and guardians notified within 24 hours. Afterward, staff and child must meet for debriefings. The whole process is required to be extensively documented in the child's file. The program guide at CATS explains, "Restraint or seclusion use is limited to emergencies."

"The expected length of stay is four months," the document adds.

Howell first put her son in the Hialeah program in April 2011. Octavious responded well. That December, he came home but soon reverted to his old problems.

After a group home in Boca Raton didn't pan out, an exasperated Howell turned back to Citrus. Octavious, now 14, had aged out of the Hialeah program. CATS seemed like his last option.

"What do I do as a mother?" she wondered. "Allow him to stay home? Or do I put him in a program to try and get him some help so that when he comes back out, he'll be a good man?"

The debate was still roaring in her head as she sat in the Pembroke Pines waiting room.

Samantha Wright wasn't inside CATS 24 hours before she was brawling. The runaway, a husky girl with caramel-colored skin, says she had entered the program with a positive attitude. But after that first day, she dumped any ideas about getting better.

In 2010, Wright was a 15-year-old pummeled by depression who smoked weed and ran the streets. With no parents in her life, she bounced between her grandma's and auntie's houses. Wright was scooped up by police and Baker Acted after running away. A judge shipped her off to the program.

But Wright began having second thoughts when she arrived at the peach-colored single-story building that sat amid a drab checkerboard of industrial buildings bisected by tidy plots of crabgrass.

Wright says that on the first day, she sat silent in the activity room with about 20 other girls. "Oh, this ho thinks she can't talk to nobody," another girl said to a friend before flicking a sour look at Wright. "Yeah, I'm talking to you." Wright claims no staff intervened. And with that, Citrus Health Network's newest resident was on her feet, fists swinging wildly. Staff hauled the frantic girl into a white-walled room.

Wright says she was thrown face-down onto a bed. Her twisting right arm was tied to the bedpost. Then her left. Her right leg. The left.

"I'm going to give you a shot," a nurse told the prone girl. "It's called booty juice."

"What the hell is that?" Wright says she said.

"Something to calm you down." When Wright saw they were going to drop her pants and deliver the injection into her ass, she screamed louder. The nurse spiked the girl's arm instead.

Wright's energy began to leave her like air gradually leaking from a balloon. Soon, she was too tired to scream, too tired to open her mouth, too tired to keep her eyelids propped. She awoke later — how long later, she didn't know — red-eyed and woozy.

"I went in with an open mind. I was ready to change," Wright says today. "After that first day when they restrained me, I didn't care."

New Times interviewed six female and one male former residents of CATS, plus several of their parents and grandparents. Each of the youths had done prior long stints in group homes and juvenile justice programs, but all gave similar accounts of Citrus' program.

They said that during the week, they'd met with therapists in group and one-on-one sessions. Some staff cared, but the majority were "very unprofessional," says Monica Lyons, now an 18-year-old who did two stints at CATS. "The staff acted like the kids."

Hillary, who asked that her real name not be used, was a pixie-ish repeat runaway from a broken home. She says the staff "were always taunting us, bullying us. It was a sick environment." Staff would laugh at patients who were so medicated they could barely speak or who were constantly drooling.

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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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