Judge addresses allegations around private juvenile detention ce - WSMV Channel 4

Judge addresses allegations around private juvenile detention center

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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 Maury County judge is calling for more communication when problems arise at a private juvenile facility.

A Channel 4 I-Team investigation looked at how troubled teens get medical care at the Middle Tennessee Juvenile Detention Center in Columbia.

Part of Judge George Lovell’s job is to place delinquent teens in juvenile detention center.

“If there’s something going on, I would want to know,” Lovell said.

According to parents and former employees, something is going on.

An I-Team investigation examined redacted medical records, 911 calls and police reports to look at what kind of medical care teens were receiving.

Karissa Taylor claimed last year her son could have died. She said no one called an ambulance after her teen tried to kill himself.

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

Redacted records revealed other issues, such as nurses making multiple requests for kids to receive psychiatric or mental evaluations.

“We expect [the center] to do what they contract to do,” Lovell said. “And part of the contract is that they take care of the medical issues of the children.”

“Are they doing that, though?” reporter Alanna Autler asked.

“I don’t know,” Lovell said.

Even so, Lovell said he still feels comfortable sending teens to the facility, at least until DCS – the agency that investigates alleged abuse or neglect—tells him otherwise.

But the judge did call for more transparency during those investigations.

“Perhaps they should let the juvenile judge that placed the child in their custody know what’s going on,” Lovell said.

The I-Team also pressed DCS for answers.

“Should parents be concerned that if their kids go to this facility they won’t get the necessary medical attention?”

“If they have any concern, they should let their kid’s case manager know, they should express those concerns to the facility itself or, like I said before, they should call the hotline and report it,” said Rob Johnson, spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Children Services.

Parents like Karissa Taylor said dealing with the center could be difficult.

On the day her son attempted suicide, Taylor found herself calling 911.

“He has tried to commit suicide and cut himself and they won’t transport him,” Taylor can be heard saying on the 911 call.

But Johnson denied that issues over medical care were systemic at MTJDC.

“My information is that they’ve been a good provider,” Johnson said. “When there are issues, they’re responsive.”

Johnson encouraged concerned citizens to call the DCS hotline at 877-237-0004.

The center, which is privately owned, has denied any allegations of wrongdoing. DCS contracts with the facility, where most of the children are in state custody.

The facility also detains children who come through the juvenile court system.

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