Apr 2, 2024 - News

Abuse allegations inside N.C.'s psychiatric facilities for kids

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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

North Carolina has two dozen psychiatric residential treatment facilities where children with severe mood or behavior disorders can be admitted for treatment.

  • But the facilities, sometimes hundreds of miles from a child's home, can fall short of treating these children and returning them home on a path to healing, a WUNC investigation found.

Why it matters: Families and guardians often turn to these facilities as a last resort, such as after a suicide attempt or manic episode.

  • Advocates and experts say the current system can leave children isolated and further traumatized.

Driving the news: A WUNC review of more than 500 psychiatric residential treatment facility inspection reports since 2018 found dozens of accusations of staff hitting, kicking or punching children.

What they're saying: Jason deBruyn, the WUNC reporter who investigated the facilities, says groups like Disability Rights North Carolina have been calling for changes to the system for years — especially the practice of sending kids to out-of-state facilities.

  • "It occurred to me that it's almost hard to imagine a more disenfranchised person than a child in the foster care system that is placed in a PRTF out of state," deBruyn told Axios in an email.
  • "With that in mind, I wanted to inspect these facilities as much as I could, with the hope that bringing some of the conditions to light will spur positive change for the mental health needs of our state's most vulnerable people," he said.

Go deeper with part 1 of WUNC's series

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