Alabama father brings lawsuit against Sequel facility alleging staff abused his son.
A parent-filed lawsuit against Sequel Courtland, a youth facility in northern Alabama, contends staff and peers abused and neglected a child placed there by the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) for mental health treatment. The parent, identified only as Hunter C., said his child entered Courtland in 2018 at the age of fourteen and for the duration of his stay he suffered horrific abuse.
“For the next ten months, Sequel Courtland would be a house of horrors for Hunter,” the lawsuit, filed in circuit court in Lawrence County, states, referring to the center as a “scary and dangerous place.” The filing also notes, “Sequel was paid approximately $330 a day by the state of Alabama through DHR to treat Hunter and other children placed there.” Included as defendants are Sequel TSI of Courtland, parent company Sequel TSI of Alabama, Sequel’s executive director and other unnamed staff.
Sequel operates in twenty states. The Alabama DHR reports “approximately 500 to 600 children” were placed into psychiatric residential treatment facilities every year for the past five years, and the lawsuit comes after an investigation by the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program that determined Sequel’s Courtland location was riddled with problems, including unsafe living conditions and staff abuse of its residents.
Birmingham attorney Tommy James, representing Hunter, said, “There is a culture of violence and abuse that pervades throughout Sequel facilities across the country. It is disgusting when our most vulnerable children are placed in these facilities and then treated like animals.”
Sequel compliance director Marianne Birmingham respond, “What we do is we strive every day to provide the best care we can for kids in these facilities.” She added, “Staff members are encouraged to report concerns about misconduct to a company hotline to ensure no child is abused while in a Sequel facility.”
The lawsuit reads, “Hunter left the Courtland facility in February 2019 after three physical attacks by staff and residents in a 10-day period and a failed suicide attempt.”
Michigan previously canceled its contract with Sequel after 16-year-old Cornelius Fredericks died in May of this year after being restrained by seven staff members for roughly twelve minutes for tossing a sandwich, according to a report from Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The staff responsible there criminally charged. Ohio also recently revoked licensing for a Sequel facility and California, Maryland, Oregon, and Washington have all stopped placing children in its care.
“Over and over, the children told us that they don’t feel safe,” Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program (ADAP) Associate Director Nancy Anderson explained. ADAP, along with the Southern Poverty Law Center and Children’s Rights, have asked state leaders to revoke Sequel’s license indefinitely, suspend all Medicaid payments to the company, and find new placements for its children.
The state’s Department of Human Resources’ spokesperson Daniel Sparkman said the agency “took action following ADAP’s report, visiting the facilities unannounced and finding corrective actions were already underway. Most if not all deficiencies had been addressed and/or corrected at the time of these visits. Sequel’s corrective action has consisted of companywide staff training and renovations/enhancements of the living areas, as well as the physical properties. Only Sequel Montgomery required a corrective action plan and has since addressed all noted areas.”