MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — A new lawsuit alleges months of physical and emotional abuse at a state-funded behavioral center in Owens Cross Roads escalated until a teenager was pinned to the ground and repeatedly kicked in the face and stomach by residents.
The 17-year-old left the facility with a broken jaw and severely bruised ribs.
Sequel Youth and Family Services runs a behavioral center claiming to help troubled youth. They have facilities all over the country, but several have faced complaints of abuse and neglect, including centers in North Alabama.
According to the lawsuit filed on Wednesday in Madison County, the 17-year-old plaintiff said she experienced physical and verbal abuse over a series of months, and she made several reports to the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program.
“[The state of Alabama] need(s) to either shut these facilities down, or they need to ensure that these children, who are placed there to get help, are safe,” said attorney Tommy James.
The suit claims the plaintiff called 911 in December of 2021 after months of continued abuse.
“She was assaulted by a staff member and thrown to the ground,” James said. “The staff member put her knee on my client’s back, held her down, and asked two other residents to help hold her down. Then, she was kicked in the head and assaulted severely by three different residents.”
James said there were two additional employees in the room while the assault happened, and they did not step in to prevent it. When the police, called by the plaintiff, arrived at the facility, James said they took his client to Huntsville Hospital Women and Children where she was treated for a broken jaw and severe bruising on her face and ribs.
James has three additional open lawsuits against Sequel. One involves a 14-year-old claiming he was neglected at a Sequel facility in Courtland. The other two lawsuits involve abuse cases at the Sequel center in Tuskegee.
“Our leaders, our elected leaders, know this is going on,” James said. “They’ve been on notice that Sequel, this company, and this particular facility and others in Alabama have had problems for years now, but we’re still placing children in them.”
James’ clients are not the only sources alleging abuse at Sequel facilities in Alabama. A 2020 report from the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program found residents at the Courtland facility were abused. The report called the living conditions “deplorable.”
The Alabama Department of Human Resources continues to place kids, many from the foster system, in Sequel facilities.
According to the lawsuit, Alabama pays sequel facilities roughly $330 per day for each patient they house. Sequel FSI has been paid approximately $2.1 million by the state so far in the 2022 fiscal year.
A Sequel facility in Madison was closed last year after the city revoked Sequel’s business license. That facility was the subject of numerous complaints, and residents and city leaders started calling for action on the facility after two residents who escaped the facility were arrested and charged with murdering a man behind Publix on County Lind Road.
See the full lawsuit below: