#AdvocacyMatters: Brick by Brick

October 22, 2021 / #AdvocacyMatters

Systems of oppression typically don’t magically appear overnight. Legal rights are slowly stripped away, while one’s avenues to air these offenses are closed off. Every brick in these walls might not be purposeful: Political convenience and corruption of power often trample over those without the power to fight back. Regardless of why each stone is placed, these walls often become insurmountable to the souls suffering on the other side. It’s far easier to reinforce a fortress than it is to tear it down.

Last week, the National Disability Rights Network released an exhaustive report on abuses and injustices within the for-profit youth residential facility industry. By reviewing investigations and reports from 18 states – including the Disability Rights Ohio investigation of Sequel Pomegranate – a disheartening reality is made clear. Through a lack of consistent and on-site regulation, a prevalence of abuse, and a focus on the almighty dollar, thousands of young people all across America are left to suffer… locked away, voiceless in a nearly-inescapable system that often views them as little more than billable assets.
DRO’s 2020 report on the Sequel Pomegranate Youth Residential Treatment Facility uncovered peer bullying, intimidation by staff. a poorly supervised, unstructured, re-traumatizing environment, insufficient access to nutrition, and the use of unapproved, dangerous, and painful restraint techniques, and physical abuse.. The report, along with action and investigation from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, set in motion a chain of events that lead to the facility bring rebranded before its ultimate closure this year.

“All children deserve welcoming, clean, safe, structured, trauma-informed environments that support them on their individualized treatment journeys and help to facilitate their recovery and growth in the most multiculturally inclusive and the least restrictive environments possible,” remarked Amy Price, DRO’s Associate Advocacy Director. “Residential treatment facilities and acute psychiatric hospitals are locked facilities. They are not community-based treatment options. I’m very proud of the work our team and community has done to continue to shed light on injustices.”

Just because this is the way things are, doesn’t mean it’s the way they have to be. NDRN’s report summarizes a comprehensive slate of recommendations to finally address hydra that the for-profit youth warehousing industry has become. We must recognize that this system has failed for far too long, inflicting trauma on the very lives they claim to be helping. Remember that walls aren’t built tall and thick just to keep people from getting out, but also to keep others from seeing in. Because #AdvocacyMatters, we’re fully committed to the tenacity and collaboration necessary to tear them down… brick by brick.

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