Disability Law Center’s Investigation of Youth Residential Treatment Facilities in Utah

Press Statement
For Immediate Release

Posted: October 2, 2020

The DLC is investigating the treatment residents receive in Youth Residential Treatment Facilities (“YRTFs), sometimes described as therapeutic boarding schools, wilderness camps, teen boot camps, residential treatment centers, or behavior modification centers. Utah boasts over 100 of these facilities throughout the state housing thousands of youth from across the country. The structure and purpose of these programs can place its young residents in a vulnerable position. Although YRTFs can be beneficial under appropriate oversight, it is clear that some of Utah’s facilities have failed to meet this standard over the years. We are determined to shine a light on this system and advocate for change where needed to ensure any child in the care of a YRTF receives dignified and safe treatment.

Recent news coverage regarding Paris Hilton’s stay at a Utah YRTF as a teen has brought the conditions of such facilities under critique. There are many similar locations across the state and many more unspoken experiences. DLC hopes to hear as many of these stories as possible in an effort to close the gaps on abuse and neglect in residential facilities of all kinds. As the process of collecting data begins, DLC is calling for the wider community to offer input by completing a survey regarding experiences at YRTFs. Since beginning the survey earlier this week, DLC has seen over 100 respondents.

Based on complaints, incident reports, resident/patient advocate referrals, or survey results from facility licensing, and as determined by the team, the DLC monitors long term care facilities and institutions for serious abuse or neglect, and provides legally-based advocacy to residents of these facilities who are allegedly being seriously abused or neglected.

It is the mission of the Disability Law Center to enforce and strengthen laws that protect the opportunities, choices and legal rights of people with disabilities in Utah.

Disability Law Center’s long-term goals for this ongoing investigation are:

  • Investigate incidents of abuse and neglect in YRTFs
  • Investigate areas where YRTFs routinely fail to meet a standard of care which may lead, or
    has led, to abuse or neglect
  • Diagnose the causes for these failures
  • Investigate the regulatory and oversight scheme
  • Identify necessary improvements to regulation and oversight

Wide participation in this survey will help the team collect knowledge of the resident experience in a YRTF, and to develop better monitoring practices. Find the DLC’s survey regarding Utah YRTFs through this link: Survey – Youth Residential Treatment Facilities.

Craig Blake / Abuse and Neglect Team
cblake@disabilitylawcenter.org / 801-363-1347