A nonprofit that has provided behavioral health treatment to thousands of teens in the Spokane and Vancouver, Washington, areas says it’s facing a $500,000 budget shortfall and may have to close its doors.
Daybreak Youth Services says its financial situation follows the troubled expansion of its treatment facility in Brush Prairie, just north of Vancouver, which triggered investigations and prompted the federal government to temporarily cut off Medicaid reimbursements, resulting in a $3 million loss.
Now the organization, which was founded in Spokane in 1978, is seeking loans and donations to continue providing services on both sides of the state. Daybreak leaders said $500,000 in “bridge financing” would keep the organization afloat until March, when the Brush Prairie facility is expected to return to full capacity.
In Spokane, Daybreak provides short- and long-term inpatient treatment for girls ages 12 to 18 with mental health and substance use problems. The organization also provides outpatient counseling for teenage boys and girls in Spokane Valley.
Sarah Spier, Daybreak’s director of external relations, said the organization serves about 1,000 teens each year. Many, she said, have been victims of sex trafficking or have struggled with thoughts of suicide.
“The idea that Spokane youth, and youth across the state, will not have access to our services quite literally is a life-or-death situation that we are dealing with,” Spier said.
Daybreak purchased its Brush Prairie facility in 2016 in an effort to expand its inpatient treatment services for boys. The facility has 54 residential inpatient beds; Daybreak’s old Vancouver location had only 16. Outpatient and short-term evaluation services provided at the Brush Prairie facility are co-ed.
The state Department of Health began investigating and threatened to revoke one of Daybreak’s licenses after Clark County sheriff’s deputies raided the Brush Prairie facility in September 2018, seizing documents and computers.
The sheriff’s office accused Daybreak of failing to report assaults, rapes and other sexual misconduct to law enforcement. Daybreak’s former vice president for compliance, Michael S. Trotter, 43, has been charged with three counts of failure to report child abuse or neglect, a gross misdemeanor.
According to a criminal complaint filed in August in Clark County District Court, Trotter documented but failed to report several troubling incidents to law enforcement or Child Protective Services.
In May 2018, a boy reported he had been repeatedly bullied and sexually assaulted by other boys at the Brush Prairie facility, including one incident in which he was shoved to the ground and sexually assaulted in the shower.
The victim’s mother removed him from the facility and contacted Trotter about the assaults. Trotter told her video confirmed the boy’s account but then stopped returning her calls, according to court records. CPS learned about the assaults not from Daybreak but from a hospital where the boy was taken for an examination, according to court records.
In April 2018, another boy reported his roommate had sexually assaulted him in his sleep. According to court records, Daybreak possessed a video that confirmed the boy’s account. Trotter had reviewed the video, but Daybreak staff, in a meeting with the boy and one of his parents, “implied that law enforcement had been contacted and there was not enough evidence to proceed further with the investigation,” court records state.
Trotter and former Daybreak CEO Annette Klinefelter also failed to contact CPS while telling the boy’s mother that authorities were aware of the assault, according to court records. Trotter allegedly stopped investigating after several days because the boy’s roommate had run from the facility and was no longer a threat.
In August 2018, Daybreak staff allegedly failed to seek prompt medical attention for a girl who suffered a head injury during a fight with another girl. According to court records, staff members later drove the girl to a hospital but failed to report the incident to law enforcement or CPS.
Trotter has not been convicted. A hearing to review the charges is scheduled for Jan. 27.
Daybreak sued the sheriff’s office in federal court, calling the allegations baseless and accusing deputies of exposing confidential patient information. A federal judge found the sheriff’s office had enough reason to execute the search warrants and dismissed the civil case.
The case, however, was continued in Clark County Superior Court, where a judge granted Daybreak a protective order outlining how patient information should be used and disclosed, the Columbian reported. The case is now pending in a state appellate court.
In one incident that the sheriff’s office characterized as sexual abuse, a Daybreak staffer remarked that her upper back was sore and a patient rubbed the spot over her T-shirt. Other staffers who were in the room reported the incident to the sheriff’s office.
In court, Daybreak filed a statement from the patient, who had since left the treatment program and used the pseudonym Jane Doe.
“There was nothing sexual about that back rub,” the statement says. “(The staffer) never even touched me. It was nothing – the claim about sexual abuse was made up.”
Daybreak continued operating the Brush Prairie facility while the investigations were underway. It reached a settlement with the Health Department last month, agreeing to improve its staffing, training, security and reporting policies.
Among other problems, Health Department investigators found the Brush Prairie facility did not have nurses on duty around-the-clock to evaluate incoming patients, did not have enough staffers to deal with fights among patients and failed to follow up on a variety of reported incidents.
In the settlement order, the Health Department said Daybreak’s failure to meet standards “placed its residents at an unacceptable risk of harm.”
Since it was put on notice in November 2018, however, Daybreak has made “significant changes” to improve resident safety, the Health Department said. “These changes include the hiring of a new CEO and a new organizational structure based on a medical treatment model.”
Under the settlement order, the Brush Prairie facility is currently capped at 25 residents. The capacity will grow in a gradual, controlled manner over the next several months, Daybreak officials said.
They also stressed that the problems in Brush Prairie had nothing to do with services provided in Spokane.
Tom Russell, who took over as Daybreak’s CEO last spring, said the sheriff’s office was overzealous, though Daybreak is working to address concerns documented by the Health Department.
“Certainly there were some staffing issues that needed to be addressed and some policies that needed to be in place … but the sheriff really blew a lot of that out of proportion,” Russell said.
“The whole situation is bizarre, quite frankly,” he said. “We’re in the process now of trying to correct the record.”
The Clark County sheriff’s and prosecutor’s offices did not respond to messages seeking comment Monday.
Catherine Reynolds runs Daybreak’s life-enrichment program, which introduces patients to a wide range of recreational and therapeutic activities, such as boxing, yoga, horseback riding and meditation. The program was recently expanded to Vancouver.
Reynolds said Daybreak “really needs a Christmas miracle” to keep its doors open.
Anyone interested in donating to Daybreak can send a check to the organization’s administrative office at 960 E. Third Ave. in Spokane. The phone number for the office is (509) 444-7033, ext. 2006. Donations also can be made via Daybreak’s website at daybreakyouthservices.org.
Editor’s note: This story was updated on Jan. 8, 2019, to include information about the charges against Michael Trotter. A previous version incorrectly described the outcome of the criminal investigation into Daybreak. Information also was added about Daybreak’s pending lawsuit against the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.
Local journalism is essential.
The journalists of The Spokesman-Review are a part of the community. They live here. They work here. They care. You can help keep local journalism strong right now with your contribution. Thank you.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.