Former workers raise questions about medical attention at privat - WSMV Channel 4

Former workers raise questions about medical attention at private juvenile facility

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The Middle Tennessee Juvenile Detention Center in Columbia detains teens who have been accused of delinquent offenses. (WSMV) The Middle Tennessee Juvenile Detention Center in Columbia detains teens who have been accused of delinquent offenses. (WSMV)
COLUMBIA, TN (WSMV) -

A nurse practitioner said what he witnessed inside a juvenile detention center was so egregious he needed to expose it.

That medical worker provided more than 60 redacted medical records that raise questions about whether this privately-run facility is failing to care for troubled teens, many of whom are in state custody.

The Middle Tennessee Juvenile Detention Center in Columbia detains teens who have been accused of delinquent offenses ranging from theft to rape.

But the nurse practitioner and a former supervisor said under no circumstances should a child ever be denied medical attention.

The facility formally contracts with the Department of Children Services, as well as the Montgomery County Juvenile Court, but accepts juveniles from all over the state.

In many cases, it is a place where delinquent teens stay while they await placement at another facility.

Karissa Taylor said her son has been held at MTJDC on more than one occasion. She said she’ll never forget what happened last year.

“It was very scary,” Taylor said. “Not knowing what he was thinking, what he might be doing, if I’d ever see him again or anything of that nature.”

Taylor said she received a call from mobile crisis, informing her that her son had tried to commit suicide at the detention center. But Taylor found herself, not the center, calling 911.

“He has tried to commit suicide and cut himself and they won’t transport him,” said Taylor during a 911 call she made last year. “Can an ambulance come get him and transport him?”

The mother said for whatever reason, the facility would not transport her son.

“Did they take him to the hospital?” a 911 dispatcher asked.

“No ma’am,” Taylor replied.

A Channel 4 I-Team investigation found a former nurse practitioner and a former supervisor share concerns about how teens in the facility get medical attention.

Chandler Anderson owns the Right Care walk-in clinic in Columbia, which until last year provided on-site medical services to the detention center.

Anderson provided the I-Team with more than 60 redacted medical records he believes raise red flags. The records are redacted to protect and conceal the identity of the teens.

“We have absolutely failed these children,” Anderson said.

One medical record notes that a patient with scabies had not received anti-fungal cream “due to cost.”

In other cases, Right Care employees had to make repeated requests that teens receive a psychiatric or mental evaluation.

A former supervisor, who asked the I-Team to conceal her identity, said sometimes patients needed to see outside specialists or go to the hospital.

She claimed the center’s director, Tom Irwin, often resisted transporting teens.

“We don’t take kids out unless it’s absolute life or death,” she said.

According to another medical record, a nurse had recommended that the facility take a teen to the emergency room after having a seizure. The nurse notes in later charts that the facility instead called the clinic three times.

On another occasion, when a teen reported a knot in his nipple, a nurse wrote: “This is imperative this be evaluated in conjunction with a mammogram at a certified breast center.”

Anderson said his clinic never received confirmation that ever happened.

The child’s mother, who asked to stay anonymous, said she also doesn’t know if her son saw a specialist.

“Proper medical care is a basic human right,” Anderson said.

So why would a facility not transport certain teens?

According to the former supervisor, the reason deals with the potential for escapes.

“A lot of that is the mindset of the administration,” she said. “‘They’re just trying to get out of here, trying to get to the hospital.’”

The I-Team requested all Columbia Police reports involving the facility since 2012.

In the records provided, only one report states a teen escaped during a medical visit.

In 2013, a teen tried running away from the clinic she was visiting with a chaperone. Authorities eventually apprehended her, according to the police report.

It’s unclear how many times teens have been transported for medical reasons, yet the I-Team found it does happen.

“We have a juvenile that needs an ambulance,” said a facility employee in one 911 call.

“I need an ambulance to transfer one of our youth,” another employee stated in a separate 911 call.

Even though there’s proof the center had reacted to some emergencies, Anderson said he had had enough. He said he stopped working with the center because of an incident last fall.

The medical records said an employee at the center gave a patient the wrong dose of lithium, landing a teen in the hospital.

But director Tom Irwin had little to say about any of the allegations.

“Are these accusations made up?” asked reporter Alanna Autler. “Are they unfounded? We are trying to get your side of the story here.”

“I have no comment,” Irwin said.

Anderson said the center still owes him about $500 for kids he treated. He said he plans to take legal action.

Irwin said the relationship with Anderson ended because he didn’t show up on time.

The former supervisor recently quit.

Irwin released a statement that reads in part:

“The allegations made have been initiated by a former disgruntled employee and former disgruntled medical practitioner. Unfortunately, in this instance, the complete story isn't being told....To this date, the center has been found to be in compliance with all state standards and cleared of any wrongdoing with regards to any allegations made.”

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