ASHLAND CITY, Tenn. (WTVF) – Two teenage girls have died after authorities say they overdosed on over-the-counter drugs while they were attending a residential treatment program in Ashland City.
Now, a former Oak Plains Academy patient, who wishes to remain anonymous, is speaking out about the conditions there. She was 15 at the time and was placed there in 2015 to help with a drug problem.
Online, the treatment center is described as a psychiatric residential treatment service for children aged 5 to 17 with emotional and behavioral problems. The former patient says he’s sad the teenagers died, but says she’s not surprised they were able to break into the medicine cabinet.
Since 2017, the Montgomery County Sheriff has received 238 reports to the Oak Plains Academy address. These responses range from assault, runaway calls, DCS referral calls, juvenile issues, and many more. The sheriff’s office said it did not know how much Benadryl the teens took, but would perform autopsies.
“I had a member of staff who told me personally that she hated it there. She said the only reason she stayed was because she felt like the only member of staff there -bas who did not abuse children,” the woman said.
This woman only spent two weeks at Oak Plains Academy in 2015, but said it was just chaos. She went after her mother decided she needed residential treatment to continue her path to sobriety.
“The images shown to you are these beautifully made beds, windows that light comes in, beautiful rooms where you can sit and read and watch TV,” she said.
This is not what she experienced.
“They give you Bob Barker shoes like they do in prison. That’s all I could think of. The walls were completely bare. Bloodstains obviously, dirty clothes everywhere, beds torn and not made and people who fight,” she said.
The fights are what she remembers the most.
“Children are allowed to fight whenever they want. Staff members would instigate fights and laugh about it when it happened,” the woman said.
Fast forward seven years and the deaths of two teenagers flooded his memory of the past. She felt compelled to speak, knowing that she said some of the children might not have anyone to do it for them.
“They told me that I started fighting in school or started doing drugs and DCS took control of me because my parents couldn’t control me, and they sent here. Hearing these stories, it’s truly heartbreaking. It’s basically a DCS dump. These kids don’t have a family to come home to and they need a place to stay before they go out of the system to adulthood,” she said.
NewsChannel 5 contacted the establishment by phone and email and did not receive comment on the investigation.
NewsChannel 5 survey discovered that the facility had undergone a few changes over the years. In the past, Oak Plains Academy was known as Chad Youth Enhancement Center. Under this name, the facility was the focus of two major investigations between 2005 and 2006.
At the time, NewsChannel 5 survey reported the deaths of two teenagers within a few years almost immediately after they were acquired by Universal Health Services.
Both deaths involved staff using force to restrain the teens, but parents said NewsChannel 5 survey that they believed the force was excessive.
No staff members were charged in their deaths, so the parents filed their own lawsuit and eventually settled.
Years later, NewsChannel 5 survey uncovered other lawsuits against Oak Plains Academy. In 2016, a parent said staff ignored repeated threats of violence against his son. The lawsuit said that instead of providing her son with a safe environment to receive treatment, staff allowed him to be “violently attacked” by another resident of Oak Plains Academy.
NewsChannel 5 survey spoke with the teenager’s mother who says she is not free to speak about the trial, but the allegations only add to a history of trouble at the facility that dates back years.
NewsChannel 5 has asked the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services for comment.
They said they were aware of what happened but would not comment further at this time.
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