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WA considers suspending license of Spokane youth mental health and addiction center

Seattle Times - 8/4/2022

Aug. 4—Daybreak Youth Services, a nonprofit providing addiction and mental health services to minors in Washington, is facing possible closure in Spokane after state officials say the organization failed to cooperate with an investigation into ongoing patient safety concerns.

On Tuesday, the Washington State Department of Health first announced the notice of intent to suspend Daybreak's residential treatment facility and behavioral health agency licenses at its Spokane inpatient facility, which has 36 beds.

An investigation started in March, looking into "allegations of misconduct related to patient boundary issues by a staff member."

Reports from health officials said the unnamed staff member, a skills coach, would ask the teenage girls at the facility for hugs, talk about their bodies and comment on their clothing choices, as well as visit them on the staffer's day off and contact the youth using their personal social media account.

Daybreak initiated an internal investigation but found the staffer had not violated the company's code of ethics and allowed them to keep their job. CEO Tom Russell said Thursday the facility stands by that finding.

"We placed the employee on a performance improvement plan," he said. "Their performance improved, and there were no more complaints. That is the way that we should treat every complaint that comes up."

Russell added that the staffer has since left of their own accord.

State health officials said the facility's leadership did not cooperate with the investigation, stalling on staff and client interviews and blocking access to evidence like client records. Daybreak later agreed in writing to cooperate, but the state's report said that in follow-up interviews, Daybreak's chief financial officer answered questions for another interviewee, and told staffers not to respond to questions he believed were "he said, she said" questions.

Daybreak provides both inpatient residential treatment and outpatient services for teens, with locations in Vancouver, Spokane and Brush Prairie, Clark County. According to its tax filings, Daybreak's revenue in 2019 was at $6.9 million and it serves an estimated 1,000 patients a year as Washington's largest youth Medicaid treatment provider.

Daybreak has 28 days before the suspension begins, but Russell said it will appeal the notice.

"I believe that we will prevail as the facts come out," he said.

In 2018, the Clark County Sheriff's Office investigated Daybreak's Brush Prairie location for allegations of sexual contact between clients, between staff and a client, and for failing to report criminal conduct.


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