Elevations RTC

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Albert Flores

Elevations RTC is a residential treatment center in Syracuse, Utah, for teens ages 13-18. The facility was formerly known as Island View Residential Treatment Center until 2014, when it was acquired by Syracuse RTC, LLC, which does business as Elevations RTC. The Elevations campus is shared with Seven Stars and ViewPoint Center.

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Background

Opening of Syracuse campus

The Syracuse campus initially opened in 1994 as the Island View Residential Treatment Center. Its founders were W. +more Dean Belnap, MD, Lorin Broadbent, DSW, Jared Balmer, PhD, and W. Kimball DeLaMare, LCSW. They had been associated previously with other similar treatment programs.

In 2004, Aspen Education Group acquired Island View. CRC Health Group, a company owned by Bain Capital, purchased Aspen Education for $300 million in 2006. +more Aspen and CRC Health Group owned and operated the Syracuse campus until 2014.

Rebranding to Elevations RTC

In April 2014, Syracuse RTC, LLC acquired Island View and changed the name to Elevations RTC. Many Elevations employees had previously worked at Island View.

Elevations has described itself as a "residential treatment center that works with students of all genders". The facility today caters to a large population of transgender and gender non-conforming teens, partially caused by the lack of other treatment centers that accept transgender students into their programs.

Elevations belongs to the National Association for Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP), which is a membership program and trade organization.

Elevations also has a co-ed transitional living program called The Approach for students ages 15 to 19 who have completed the therapeutic program at Elevations.

Partnership with Family Help and Wellness

Elevations is partnered with Family Help & Wellness. It provides management, financial, and marketing support to Elevations’ ownership team.

Family Help & Wellness is owned by private equity investors Trinity Hunt Partners who first invested in 2014.

Family Help grew by taking over shuttered facilities, including Elevations, from other troubled teen companies. The company's founder Dupell was the executive vice president and CFO of Aspen Education from 1999 until 2004. +more Dupell also served as the CEO of Family Help until 2017, when he stepped down.

Programming

The program at Elevations includes individual, family, and group therapy, an educational program, and recreation activities. The Elevations School is accredited by Cognia. +more Most classes at Elevations meet college entrance requirements.

Elevations utilizes a level system consisting of five tiers. Students in higher levels have additional privileges.

The base level is the Orientation Phase and the status is referred to as "Community Break", which is designed for students who have violated rules and are significantly disrupting the community. While on Community Break, students may not communicate with peers and at night may be required to sleep in the hallway. +more Students may be on Community Break for considerable lengths of time, often with other restrictions or sanctions.

The facility utilizes a de-escalation or time-out room for kids who are overstimulated and need to regulate away from the community. Teens can be restrained by staff.

Phone use at Elevations is restricted. Students are permitted to write letters to family.

Tuition at Elevations costs approximately $16,000 per month or $192,000 per year. According to Elevations, the average stay is eight to ten months, although students often stay there much longer. +more Insurance companies have denied coverage on the grounds that long-term care at Elevations is not medically necessary.

Elevations provides parents a list of typical things that kids new to the program may say to manipulate their parents into letting them come home. Common statements include "I feel unsafe, they treat us like we are in prison, the faculty are trying to brainwash us, and they lied to you about what this place is, it is nothing like they said. +more" Parents are told these statements are either exaggerations or lies and to avoid such "parenting traps".

The therapeutic methods used at Elevations RTC were also used at Island View RTC, many former clients of both facilities have asserted that the only thing about the facility that changed, is the name.

Controversy

Allegations of abuse and mistreatment

Former residents at Elevations and Island View have alleged experiencing some form of physical, sexual, or psychological abuse at the Syracuse facility. They describe staff tormenting and abusing them, and leaving the program with more trauma than they came in with. +more Former residents have also reported that sedatives were given at Island View to quell disobedience.

The Utah Department of Human Services Office of Licensing investigated a 2020 incident in which a student’s head was hit by a staffer’s head and again by the ground while the staff restrained the teen. Following the incident, Elevations terminated the staff member, the student returned home, and an employee reported an abuse allegation to Child Protective Services.

In 2018, a former resident filed a lawsuit against Elevations RTC, alleging that a staff member threw her to the floor. The girl alleged that as a result she sustained traumatic brain and nerve damage resulting in permanent disfigurement of her eye and impaired vision. +more Despite her headaches, nausea, vomiting, and double vision, the former resident alleged that Elevations failed to provide medical assistance for six days. Elevations settled the case in September 2019, and the court dismissed it with prejudice.

In 2014, the Utah Department of Human Services detailed students' claims that staff at Elevations were mistreating them, including using restraint on them too often when unwarranted and belittling them.

Around the time the facility was renamed Elevations RTC, Island View was involved with several lawsuits, including a highly publicized one with Dr. +more Phil, which were subsequently dismissed. The lawsuit which included Dr. Phil alleged that a teenage girl's arm was broken and its main nerve severely damaged during an incident with staff at Island View after Dr. Phil had offered to pay for the girl's treatment there following a 2013 appearance on his TV show.

Several former residents of the center claimed in 2012 that they had received inadequate medical care during their time there, and that they had been subjected to solitary confinement and other harsh physical and psychological treatment.

In 2007, the disappearance of a then 15-year-old resident, Emily Graeber, made headlines after she escaped from the facility. Emily stayed on a Southwest airlines flight that was headed to Utah. +more Instead of deplaning in Utah, the teen remained onboard during its connecting flight to San Francisco, where she hid for 18 days in the suburb of San Leandro. She was punished for running away by being put in isolation for 58 days, which included not being allowed to speak or even make eye contact with the other residents, as well as being forced to urinate on herself. Her dramatic disappearance and continued outspoken activism has played a major role in exposing alleged abuses at Island View, Elevations, and the troubled teen industry as a whole.

In 2004, a 16-year-old boy hung himself in a bathroom at Island View. Island View was required to submit a plan of corrective action. +more The staff were unsuccessful in reviving him.

In 2002, a former resident filed a $135 million lawsuit against her father in part for having her admitted to Island View where she says she was traumatized.

The local police department responded to 219 emergency calls at the facility's address between January 2005 and October 2020. Some of the calls have been related to abuse, sex offenses, or suicide attempts.

Activism

Former Island View and Elevations resident Misha Osherovich attended a rally held by Paris Hilton in protest of alleged abuse at Provo Canyon School and programs for at-risk youth, where they spoke out about the abuse allegations.

Freaky star Osherovich described their experience at Island View on the website Them. Osherovich likened what the facility did to conversion therapy. +more Misha further alleged that Island View administrators punished patients for any expression of queerness as rebellion. The American Bar Association with Osherovich, Hilton, Senator Sara Gelser, and the mother of a former Island View resident, which explored youth being funneled into prison-like "behavior modification" centers under the guise of treatment and conversion therapy.

Program origins

Jared Balmer, Kimball Delamare, Lorin Broadbent, and W. Dean Belnap founded Island View. +more Balmer later expanded the campus and opened Aspen Institute for Behavioral Assessment (now Viewpoint Center). In addition, Balmer, Delamare, and Broadbent opened the now-closed Oakley School, a therapeutic boarding school, in 1998. Delamare and Balmer were also founding members of the National Association for Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP), Delamare being NATSAP's first president.

Prior to Island View, Kimball Delamare was the director of KIDS of Salt Lake, an offshoot of Straight Inc. +more, which was investigated and ultimately had its license revoked. Delamare also worked as a director of the Rivendell Psychiatric Hospital, which Balmer cofounded. The Rivendell hospital had multiple abuse allegations, including from one former resident, Lyn Duff, that made headlines for allegations that they had engaged in conversion therapy.

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