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Brooklawn ‘disagrees’ with state order to remove children from facility

a photo of the marquee for Brooklawn on a grassy lawn.
Bellewood and Brooklawn
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According to a release, the state is revoking the license from Uspiritus-Brooklawn, which provides residential treatment for children with severe emotional and behavioral needs. Most of the children the center serves are in foster care.

The head of Uspiritus-Brooklawn is taking issue with the state’s decision to close the residential psychiatric treatment center and remove children after an investigation into the death of a 7-year-old.

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) announced its intention Thursday  to revoke the license from Uspiritus-Brooklawn after looking into the asphyxiation death of Ja’Ceon Terry at the center.

“While we understand the immense pressure the Cabinet is under at this time, our organization disagrees with this decision and reserves the right to appeal,” Uspiritus-Brooklawn president and CEO Abbreial Drane said in an emailed statement.

“We have placed the safety of children as our top priority throughout our 170-year history, and we will continue to do so,” she wrote.

The nonprofit has 30 days to appeal the cabinet’s decision. Uspiritus-Brooklawn, also known as Bellewood and Brooklawn, provides residential care for children with emotional and behavioral needs, many of whom are in foster care. The campus is off Goldsmith Lane in Louisville. The facility is part of the larger nonprofit Seven Counties and shares the same executive leadership and board of directors.

Seven-year-old Terry died at Uspiritus-Brooklawn on July 17 due to “positional asphyxia,” according to the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office. That means the child’s body was in a position that didn’t allow him to breathe. The coroner ruled Terry’s death a homicide.

After a monthslong investigation, the cabinet issued preliminary closure orders Thursday to three of Uspiritus-Brooklawn’s “cottages,” where children are housed and treated.

CHFS spokesperson Susan Dunlap told LPM News more details about the state’s findings will be released if the revocation order becomes final.

However, the orders themselves offer some details.

At the Pilots cottage at 2108 David Graves Drive, the preliminary order to close said the nonprofit failed to comply with the following requirements for state-licensed psychiatric residential treatment facilities:

  • Maintain staffing ratios that ensure safety.
  • Document incidents or accidents that present an immediate threat.
  • Review and update comprehensive treatment plans as clinically indicated.
  • Prohibit cruel and unusual disciplinary measures including verbal abuse, ridicule or humiliation.
  • Follow regulations that require seclusion and restraint only be carried out by a licensed practitioner trained in use of emergency safety interventions.

“These areas of non-compliance ultimately led to the death of a child,” a notice of revocation reads to the Uspiritus-Brooklawn Pilots facility.

“In order to ensure that residents are not subjected to risk of death or serious harm, you are directed to cease operation at the facility at 2108 David Graves Drive and to safely transition the children to alternate placements immediately with all residents safely transferred within 15 days of the date of this notice,” the order reads.

In addition, the revocation notices to the Horizon cottage nearby at 2104 David Graves Drives and the Academy facility at 3115 Brooklawn Campus Drive identify violations of the following rules:

  • Maintain adequate staffing 24-hours a day.
  • Ensure at least one direct-care staff member is awake and available on each living unit while residents are asleep.
  • Staff should know where each resident is at all times.
  • Document incidents or accidents that present an immediate threat.
  • Follow provisions limiting the use of restraint or seclusion and requiring that the practice not result in harm or injury.
  • Review and update comprehensive treatment plans as clinically indicated.

In her statement, Drane opposed the state’s decision to close the facilities, saying the nonprofit has made “extensive changes to prevent serious harm, including dismissing employees, retraining staff, and increasing supervision.

“We have also worked cooperatively with all investigations, including those by local law enforcement,” she said.

So far, no charges have been brought in Terry’s death.

The orders require the nonprofit to release all children in state custody from the facility within 15 days. Currently, the state has only a handful of children at Uspiritus-Brooklawn because the cabinet stopped new placements after Terry’s death.

Dunlap told LPM News one child is leaving Friday, and the cabinet is working on finding placements for four remaining youth.

Drane’s statement said seven children were affected by the decision. Dunlap could not explain the discrepancy.

Children who are not in state custody may remain at the facility. But according to Dunlap, Uspiritus-Brooklawn will not be able to serve them either if the appeal window expires and the center’s license is revoked.

Jess Clark is LPMs Education and Learning Reporter. Email Jess at jclark@lpm.org.