Author Topic: Deaths at Q&A Associates  (Read 7736 times)

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Deaths at Q&A Associates
« on: August 22, 2017, 12:56:49 AM »
People do not seem to like that they were sent there, so they kill themselves:

Quote from: Charleston Gazette-Mail
Two deaths reported at WV young-adult transitional living program
By Erin Beck, Charleston Gazette-Mail Staff Writer, February 8 - 2016
In recent weeks, two young men have died of self-inflicted injuries at a Tucker County facility that markets itself as appropriate for those who are mentally ill or developmentally disabled.

On Dec. 21, staff members at Q&A Associates found a 19-year-old man dead in a barn at the group’s facility.

In an unattended-death report obtained from Tucker County Prosecuting Attorney Ray LaMora through a Freedom of Information Act request, Q&A staff member Keith Bishop said he heard other clients yell for help around 2:30 p.m., just before the body was discovered.
Bishop wrote that Irene Crowl, another staff member, told him she couldn’t find the client at 2:15 p.m. Crowl said she told Bishop sometime between 1:15 and 2 p.m. that the client was missing.

Q&A Associates’ founder Angie Shockley said she believes the man’s death was accidental, but did not dispute that it was self-inflicted. She said he showed no signs of being suicidal.

In the wake of the first death, Shockley said, Q&A Associates did not plan to increase monitoring of clients, and she said she was not worried about another death occurring.

“If I was, I would have to stop doing what I’m doing,” she said. She said she is passionate about her work, and believes most of the youth who participate benefit from the program.

Shockley said the risk of death, whether by accident, homicide or suicide, comes with the territory of working with an at-risk population.
“These kinds of things are going to happen,” she said. “I have to accept that as part of what I do here — there’s going to be another young person die.”

On Jan. 24, Evan Harris, a 23-year-old who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, according to his family, was found dead in the same barn.

“The officers found nothing on scene that would indicate this was anything other than a self-inflicted injury,” according to a statement from the Tucker County Sheriff’s Office.

LaMora said last week that the unattended-death report wasn’t complete because police are waiting on information from the medical examiner. The prosecutor did say that staff members didn’t know where the client was from 2:10 until 3 p.m., the time during which Harris died.

After the second death, Shockley asked an employee to return a reporter’s call and say “out of respect and duty to our families and clients, we have no comment at this time.”

▪ ▪ ▪

Q&A Associates, in Canaan Valley, promises to teach young people life skills. It includes three programs for young adults: Applewood Transitions, for young women; The Journey WV, for young men; and the Cabin Mountain Living Center, for people with autism. Staff members aim to “help them discover their own personal values and goals” and give clients “the skills they need to cope with day-to-day responsibilities of adulthood in a successful and productive fashion,” according to the website.

Clients pay up to $7,000 a month to participate. While the business lists specific mental illnesses it aims to help with on its website, it is not licensed with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources — nor is it required to be.
“This type of facility is considered to provide community supportive services, but not behavioral health services,” DHHR spokeswoman Allison Adler said in an email. “In this way, they are not providing a program that would require licensure from [the] DHHR.”

Q&A’s website says clients who are suicidal or who struggle with active desire for self-harm or severe mental illness may not be appropriate for the program. It also says young adults come to the program with a variety of mental illnesses, including depression and bipolar disorder, both of which are associated with a higher risk of suicide, and other problems, including autism, lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem.
Peggy Harris, Evan Harris’ aunt, said that in literature and conversations, Q&A Associates staff members presented themselves as capable of helping Evan become more independent.

“They said they had a combined 100 years of experience working with this group,” Peggy Harris said.

She said her nephew was from Metairie, Louisiana. He loved animals and the outdoors.

His family believes that his death was a “copycat suicide.” Peggy Harris said her nephew was “impressionable” and emotionally vulnerable, and was devastated by a recent break-up.
Evan Harris had been at Q&A since November. He had difficulty regulating his emotions, his aunt said.

She said her nephew had struggled all his life.

“He knew that he was different, and, of course, that makes people feel very isolated,” she said.

Her family hoped Evan would leave Q&A better able to cope with his anger and his insecurities, hold down a job and practice self-care strategies, and make his own decisions.

His parents were too distraught to agree to an interview, Peggy Harris said: “They are just trying to make it through the day.”

His aunt, speaking on behalf of the family, said they hope to see an investigation into whether Q&A should be held liable for the death, and potentially shut down. She said the family didn’t find out about the lack of state licensure until after Evan died.

“We’re very concerned for the kids,” she said. “I call them kids, because that’s pretty much the level that they’re at.”

LaMora said authorities are still investigating.

“I really can’t say anything,” he said in an email. “I just will not close the door on anything until all the information has been gathered and is complete.”

Peggy Harris said the family also submitted a consumer complaint to West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office. Curtis Johnson, spokesman for the office, said the law prohibits Attorney General’s Office staff from confirming or denying the existence of investigations.

Harris recalled a conversation at a meeting she had with Q&A staff after Evan died.

“At that meeting, I asked the staff what they are doing differently, since they’ve had two suicides within a month, and they said there was nothing that they would do differently,” she said. “I said, ‘So you’re saying you may have a third suicide next month,’ and they said ‘Yes,’ that there was basically nothing they could do.”

Harris said she questions whether Q&A staff has the skills or the judgment to work with an at-risk population.

“He was allowed to leave and go off and smoke in a barn where another kid had killed himself,” she said. “It’s just kind of like, what were they thinking?”

▪ ▪ ▪

Barri Faucett, director of the suicide prevention group Prevent Suicide West Virginia, said she would work with organizations like Q&A Associates, if asked.

“I can only say that every suicide is a tragedy, and our work is to provide for education, technical assistance and consultation of best-practice recommendations to anyone serving our West Virginia citizens,” Faucett said in an email.

Q&A Associates has been a member program of the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs since 2014, according to NATSP spokeswoman Megan Stokes. NATSP is a member association that provides guidelines but is voluntary and does not accredit groups.
Stokes said some states do require licensing for young-adult programs. “That’s something that would be completely dependent on the state,” she said.

Shockley said Q&A has expanded staff since 2014 and, as of January, employed two social workers, a licensed clinician, a life coach who is licensed in marriage and family counseling and two licensed professional counselors. There are no psychiatrists or psychologists on staff, she said. Clients who need to see a psychiatrist are taken to one in Winchester, Virginia, a drive of about 100 miles.

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.

Shockley said Alldredge and Q&A are not similar. She clarified that Q&A is a young-adult transitional living program, not a children’s wilderness program. She said she did not work at Alldredge at the time of the suicide.

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.

The mental health conditions, such as depression, associated with suicide are treatable, and suicide is preventable. For more information, call the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255(TALK).

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