Author Topic: Former Alldredge Academy employee in a new firm and again deaths start to occur  (Read 3049 times)

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Offline Oscar

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This time the firm is named Q&A Associates. The age of the people who died are older but it is still a tragedy for their families

Quote from: West Virginia Gazette Mail
Lawsuit filed over suicide at Tucker County facility - See more at:
by Erin Beck, West Virginia Gazette Mail

The parents of a man who killed himself at a Tucker County facility earlier this year filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the facility on Friday.

Rick and Kathy Harris, of Louisiana, allege that staff at Q&A Associates, a young adult transitional living program, knew Evan Harris was exhibiting signs of a crisis and made no efforts to prevent his death. They also allege that Q&A Associates staff members were willfully attempting to isolate the 23-year-old man from his parents to prevent them from learning of his deteriorating condition.

Within a month last winter, Harris and another young man died of self-inflicted injuries at Q&A Associates, a Davis business that promises to teach young adults life skills. While Q&A markets itself as appropriate for the mentally ill, it is not required to be licensed by the state because it does not provide behavioral health services.

On Dec. 21, 2015, staff members found a 19-year-old man dead in a barn. Afterward, Q&A Associates’ founder, Angie Shockley, told the Gazette-Mail she viewed the death as accidental, but did not deny it was self-inflicted. She said the man showed no signs of being suicidal.

She also said Q&A Associates did not plan to increase monitoring of clients and that she was not worried about another death occurring because the risk of death comes with the territory of working with an at-risk population.

On Jan. 24, Evan Harris was found dead in the same barn. The state medical examiner has ruled his death a suicide, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit also says Harris was missing for hours before he was found and that there was “little or no effort” to locate him prior to the discovery.

After Harris’ death, Shockley did not return calls from the Gazette-Mail. She asked an employee to call and say, “Out of respect and duty to our families and clients, we have no comment at this time.”

Audrey Peavey, admissions and marketing director for Q&A, said the business had no comment on the allegations in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit names Q&A Associates, Q&A staff members Angie Shockley, Keith Bishop, Matthew Shockley and Sandy Schmiedeknecht, as well as Tammy Robbins as defendants. Robbins was an educational consultant who “falsely represented that [Q&A] could offer all of the services that Evan M. Harris needed,” the lawsuit states.

Throughout the complaint, David Sims, a Vienna lawyer representing the parents, argues that Harris’ death was preventable.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia on Friday. It alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence in performing assessments on Harris, negligent supervision of program participants, negligent hiring of staff, negligent training of staff, negligent staffing levels, negligent program design, negligent program assessments, negligent misrepresentation of fact, intentional misrepresentation of fact, and violations of the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act.

Harris’ parents have said he had a low IQ and was extremely impressionable and that the first suicide likely influenced him. Harris, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, had struggled all his life and was devastated by a relationship that had recently ended.

After Harris’ death, his parents told the Gazette-Mail they only found out after he died that he had began cutting himself again. Self-injury is associated with suicide. The parents also criticized Q&A staff for failing to tell them the first death was a self-inflicted injury. They said the business should have made changes after the first incident to prevent future deaths.

According to the lawsuit, as early as Dec. 24, 2015, Keith Bishop received reports that Harris was cutting himself and expressing suicidal ideation.

The parents have also learned of other signs Harris’ condition was worsening. According to the lawsuit, he left the facility multiple times and was struggling with a desire to drink alcohol. He was also purging and refusing to take his psychiatric medications, do chores and eat with house mates, the lawsuit alleges.

“They are still struggling like it happened yesterday,” Sims said. “They are extremely distraught, as any parent would be, and that level of distraught has gotten worse since we obtained additional information from Q&A Associates about the condition of their son which was never reported to them.”

When Kathy Harris resisted the staff members’ suggestion to turn off her son’s cell phone, they told her she was hindering his progress, the lawsuit states.

The “Defendants were making certain that Evan M. Harris was isolated and his ability to communicate that to his parents was restricted so that they would not learn that their son was in danger of harming himself,” the lawsuit states.

Harris’ parents — who were paying $9,500 a month in tuition to Q&A — have said Q&A staff had access to Harris’ 24-page psychological evaluation.

“Instead of meeting the psychological needs of Evan M. Harris, as outlined in the psychological evaluation, officers and staff members watched Evan M. Harris deteriorate physically and emotionally, while assuring his parents that Evan M. Harris was ‘doing great,’” the lawsuit states.

They also criticize the industry that markets itself to troubled youth.

“Q&A Associates, Inc. has structured itself to avoid being regulated in the State of West Virginia, much like others in the troubled teen and young adult industry,” the lawsuit says. “In reality, the troubled teen industry is itself troubled because of the lack of regulations of entities like Q&A Associates, Inc.”

Shockley served as the director of Alldredge Academy, in Davis, a private school that billed itself as a “children’s wilderness” program, from 2003 to 2006. A 14-year-old boy in that program killed himself in 2001. The day before the boy died, he had sliced his arm from wrist to elbow with a knife that Alldredge officials then returned to him.

Like Q&A, Alldredge was not subject to state regulations. After the student’s 2001 suicide, DHHR officials ordered Alldredge to close, and Alldredge officials argued that the state had no jurisdiction.

Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom ruled that Alldredge could stay open but had to be overseen by the DHHR. Alldredge eventually closed at the end of 2008, with officials at the school blaming the economic recession. Q&A opened in October 2010.

Sims surmises there are other facilities in West Virginia avoiding regulation by the state by using outside agencies for medical and mental health services, similar to Q&A.

“You learn, about them, like the Alldredge Academy, after someone dies,” he said.

Reach Erin Beck at [email protected],, 304-348-5163, or follow @erinbeckwv on Twitter.