It didn't seem to matter what happened at the teen treatment center. The state of Utah always gave it another chance. Death. Allegations of abuse. Criminal charges. Bizarre punishments. Whistleblowers coming forward. Each time, the place got a pass.
A team of reporters from three news organizations has spent the last year digging into the untold stories of Utah's massive teen treatment industry. Some 20,000 teenagers facing depression, delinquency and other problems have been sent there from every state in the country over the last six years. Sent Away investigates how the government failed to keep all those kids safe — through the voices and stories of the teens who lived it.
A dark cave. A tragic accident. A new treatment center. The state of Utah tries to hold it accountable. But that turns out to be harder than you’d think.
What They Saved
With the state off its back, Integrity House is free to grow. We learn what it was like to live there day after day — what the people who worked there saw, and what the state did when one of them blew the whistle.
Even after the police raid Integrity House, the state still doesn't shut it down. A new owner vows to turn the place around. But when his staff are caught practicing a bizarre form of "therapeutic discipline" the state once again gives him a pass.
Up until 2019, the agency regulating Utah's massive youth treatment industry rarely cited facilities for violating rules — even after cases of abuse. After a 2016 incident left a teenager with a concussion, state regulators listened to his mom's complaint — and then did nothing about it.
Utah has become a national center for youth treatment, and it goes easy on the industry. At one facility, teen girls were forced to sit in a horse trough as punishment, and state regulators chose not to punish the people who did it.
Thousands of children are sent away to Utah for treatment at "troubled-teen" centers and wilderness programs. But it has been hard to identify which places have a good track record and which ones don't. Until now.
Sent Away is a production of APM Reports, KUER and The Salt Lake Tribune. The reporting is funded in part by Arnold Ventures, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the Hollyhock Foundation. See more collaborative reporting.