NW mental health center for teens, adolescents under investigation for safety violations


FOX 12 Investigators have uncovered serious safety concerns at a mental health treatment center for teens and adolescents in Gladstone.

On its website, Northwest Behavioral Healthcare Services describes itself as a secure environment that provides residential care and treatment for adolescents ages 12-17.

But for Dean Wier and his family, the place has been the center of controversy and concern.

Wier says his 15-year-old daughter was being treated for depression and anxiety at the facility.

"We got our first phone call Tuesday night, about 1 a.m.," said Wier. "We got another call on Thursday of last week from the state DHS and Child Protective Services, CPS, letting us know that the director had been removed and there was a number of safety violations."

The Department of Human Services declined to go on-camera, but did release the preliminary findings of their investigation.

In an 11-page notice to Northwest Behavioral Healthcare, DHS lists a series of safety issues and violations of the facility's license.

The notice describes teen patients being subdued or sedated using chemical restraints, placed in seclusion in "quiet room" for up to two days, and a lack of attention by staff to suicidal behavior.

Things at the facility came to a head on Oct. 31. Gladstone police responded to a call for several teens fighting, and officers had to restore order.

After the phone call from DHS, Wier made the decision to bring his daughter home even though she was just nine days into her 30 day treatment program.

"At that point, we made the decision to bring her home and keep her in an environment that wasn't as chaotic as what was going on," said Wier.

According to DHS, the facility's director, Dan Mahler, was told he was no longer approved to work in that position back in August.

Mahler pleaded guilty to federal tax fraud charges earlier this year, admitting to hiding more than $700,000 in income from the government.

Despite DHS' August order, the agency says he continued to run the facility, and according to staff reports, was its sole decision maker.

"The looseness of the institution were the concerns for us," Wier said. "It didn't seem like it was an orderly place."

Calls and emails to Northwest Behavioral Health Services asking for comment were not returned.

In its notice of violation, DHS put several restrictions on the facility, ordering any seclusion to be reported to the state within 24 hours, and ordering the chemical restraints to stop immediately.

The agency also ordered the facility to stop admitting new patients.

When asked if he would send his daughter back to the facility, Wier's answer was pretty straightforward.

"No. I think it should be shut down," said Wier. "I think there should have been more controls placed on that facility."

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