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Report faults Brown's center

The draft report from the Department of Children and Families says Brown Schools has not delivered the quality or quantity of required services.

By JIM ROSS

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2001


LECANTO -- The Brown Schools is trying. But it isn't there yet.

So says the Department of Children and Families, which has hired Brown Schools to operate the Lecanto treatment center for children with severe emotional problems.

Children and Families issued a blistering, negative report card in late December, threatening to fire Brown if performance didn't improve.

Now Children and Families has wielded its marking pen again. And the results, released in draft form Thursday, weren't exactly cheery.

"Even though improvements have been made since various deficits were identified earlier in the contract year, the provider (Brown) has not delivered the quantity or quality of services agreed upon," the draft read.

Reviewers complained that 42 percent of Brown's residents don't meet admission criteria. They also noted that clinical staffing levels are below par, as is the amount of therapy provided to residents.

Reviewers listed a variety of paperwork problems, both with client files and personnel files.

They also chastised Brown for creating a form that uses Children and Families' letterhead, a move that reviewers feared could suggest the department had approved an admission. Indeed, reviewers said Brown used that form to falsely indicate that meetings concerning four residents had taken place.

But there was good news, too: Children and Families praised Brown for repairing its building and doing a better job of preventing damages; for increasing direct-care staffing ratios; for discontinuing the use of seclusion and restraint; for involving children in community projects; and for having administrative staffers interact regularly with children.

Early Thursday, Brown spokeswoman Donna Burtanger said her company declined to comment on the report because it is just a draft. Brown prepared a written statement later in the day and notified the Times, but the newspaper was unable to obtain it. Indeed, Children and Families officials emphasized that the report and its conclusions could change.

The residential treatment center is housed in the former Heritage Hospital building off County Road 491.

Black Diamond residents have taken legal action, saying an improper county zoning decision cleared the way for Brown to set up shop.

Brown, a Texas-based company that works with emotionally troubled children, has faced all sorts of other problems. Four residents have escaped from the facility, only to be caught. Three of those residents have been accused of committing crimes while on the run, and the other was taken into custody under the state's Baker Act.

The monitoring report said the state-imposed admissions moratorium will remain in effect.

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