The Denver Post
A 14-year-old rape victim was ordered to strip and touch her toes while three people stared at her from behind for no apparent medical reason.
When the girl resisted, the staff at Adolescent and Family Institute of Colorado threatened to tell other teens at the treatment center that she had a sexually transmitted disease — even though she didn't. She then submitted to the "humiliating" exam, a lawsuit alleges.
The girl is one of four teens who, with their parents, have sued the Wheat Ridge facility in Jefferson County District Court. A parent of a fifth former resident has filed a separate lawsuit.
Former residents of the home that was created to address psychological and behavioral issues of unruly teens allege a laundry list of recurring issues.
They claim agency officials took them off medications for diagnosed medical and psychological conditions without justification; ordered them to lie, including claiming they wanted to kill relatives, to justify treatment; and isolated parents from children and fostered familial rifts, sometimes by claiming incestuous relationships that didn't exist.
AFIC's attorney Michael Drew released a statement saying that the allegations in the lawsuit against the agency are false and misleading. The agency will contest the claims in court, not in the media, he said.
Drew said the facility has been accredited by t he Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations since 1984 and licensed by the Department of Human Services' Child Care Division and the Division of Behavioral Health's mental-health office.
"Through its years of experience and dedication, AFIC has pursued its mission of caring for adolescents with difficult and complex behavioral health problems," Drew's statement said.
Request for damages
The latest lawsuits seek injunctive relief to stop AFIC from abusive conduct because "defendants' conduct is capable of repetition." Plaintiffs in both lawsuits seek more than $100,000 in damages.
Between 1990 and 2000, several civil suits were filed against AFIC, according to court records and a news report. Robert Rouse, a father of a former AFIC resident, said he settled a 1991 lawsuit against AFIC.
AFIC is led by president Alexander Panio, an unlicensed therapist who obtained his doctorate from California Coast University, a distance-learning program that has been described as a diploma mill by federal regulators.
"AFIC is essentially the alter ego of Panio," according to the lawsuit filed by Denver attorneys Jerome M. Reinan and Jordana Griff Gingrass.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Sunday, May 13, 2012
The Denver Post