Alleged child abuse at Omega Treatment Center in Greensboro, conditions ‘inhumane’

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The state Department of Health and Human Services said 11 current and former employees of Omega Treatment Center in Greensboro failed to protect adolescent clients and subjected four clients to abuse and neglect.

According to documents from the Department of Health and Human Services, Omega Treatment Center’s license to operate was summarily suspended on Feb. 12. The program is part of Elite Adolescent Care, Inc.

DHHS took emergency action to relocate at least six children living in the facility at 4501 Old Battleground Road.

The 176-page DHHS statement of deficiencies released to FOX8 details interviews with former and current staff, CEO Barsheem Chapman, clients, parents of clients and local inspectors.

DHHS interviewed six clients ages 9, 11, 12, 14, 14 and 15 who were living at the facility for treatment.

In the report, a health inspector said some clients were living on two halls that were not yet licensed. He described the conditions as “inhumane,” adding, “I wouldn’t even allow a dog to live back there.”

According to the interviews, the facility was kept “uncomfortably cold” and had peeling paint, loose wires, rusty showers and exposed screws. Inspectors also described “jagged shards of glass” on at least one bathroom floor and window.

One employee described buying coats for the children with his or her own money because of the cold temperature inside.

A staff member admitted, “There’s no way they could get out if there was a fire.”

DHHS reported Omega Treatment Center failed to request statewide criminal background checks prior to a conditional offer of employment for 14 of 22 current staff and 1 of 8 former staff.

The children treated at the facility had a range of mental illnesses, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Bipolar, Autism, mood disorders, ADD, ADHD and suicidal tendencies.

DHHS said staff members lacked certain training required at state-licensed Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities. In the report, an employee shared, “It would have helped to have had experience and training before starting working here.”

Another staff member told DHHS they’d only been given “bits and pieces” of federal and state rules. “If you want to give me a full set, I’d love to have it,” he or she told investigators in an interview.

According to the state documents, there was no official Medical Director over the staff. The CEO identified one to the state, but that doctor later told investigators he had never been involved with Omega.

A registered nurse who used to work at the center described the situation as “pitiful, just pitiful.” He or she “thought it was odd they were bringing people in straight off the street without any experience,” and eventually the employee “got the heck out of dodge.”

The children and teenagers treated at the facility told investigators about “the chicken wing” restraint where staff allegedly pinned clients’ arms behind their backs and pressed upward until it hurt. The move is against state rules because it can dislocate the client’s shoulders. They are supposed to use what’s described in rules as the “therapeutic hold.”

“You have to help us,” one child told investigators. “They are torturing us here.”

The documents described a situation where two of the clients were left alone and locked in a hallway on more than one occasion. One of the clients has felony sex assault charges and a “high risk to reoffend” according to the paperwork.

The state also reported Omega staff wrongfully used chemical injections as restraints on some children. According to state rules, injections should be a last resort for restraining a client and can only be used if a parent consents and is notified each time it’s used.

One psychiatrist interviewed in the report said the injections were used “as much as needed” and the report repeatedly cited lack of documentation for chemical injections and other actions by staff.

When asked how they handle suicidal behaviors, a staff member said, “we strip the linens so they won’t hang themselves,” but couldn’t elaborate on other methods or strategies for treating suicidal tendencies.

CEO Barhseem Chapman has the right to appeal with detailed explanations and plans for improvements for the chance to get his license back.

No one answered the door for comment at the facility Monday. Two weeks ago Chapman told FOX8 in a phone interview he had already submitted a corrective plan.

Elite Adolescent Care and Omega Treatment Center opened in March 2013. Staff said they received their first clients in November 2013.

The Greensboro Police confirmed they are investigating allegations of child abuse.

A DHHS spokesperson said records indicated no other programs were licensed to Barsheem Chapman or to Elite Adolescent Care, Inc.

The agency issued $31,000 in fines to Chapman for violations of regulations.

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