UTAH (ABC4) – A Utah residential treatment center that was supposed to be helping teens suffering from a plethora of mental, emotional, and physical struggles is now being sued by 26 former residents.
A lawsuit alleges that the treatment center, Vista, “employed treatment modalities” that emphasized humiliation and ostracization by peers as well as forced physical and emotional isolation.
The lawsuit alleges that every decision and action taken by a resident was recorded and judged. Noncompliant residents were punished with isolation and loss of basic human privileges.
One former resident said therapy sessions would be used as an incentive to cooperate. If students were in trouble, they would withhold therapy sessions from them.
Another former resident was denied medical treatment after a snowboarding accident and was told she was “being dramatic,” court records state.
Former residents say that the fear they had of being reprimanded, isolated, or punished, governed all of their decision makings, diminishing any real or substantive therapeutic benefit from the program.
The treatment center also pitted residents against one another, court records state.
Residents were allegedly encouraged and coerced to belittle and berate one another, to report when others broke the rules, and to exploit emotional vulnerabilities.
One example was a point system, that dictated all levels and priveledges. Points could be deducted for things such as forgetting a shampoo bottle in the shower, the suit alleges.
Residents would have to earn points to get to a phase where the patient was allowed to talk.
The lawsuit called out Vista’s “incredibly relaxed position” toward its hiring practices, alleging that the company hired unqualified and predatory people.
Staff was allegedly not trained therapists and received no training regarding psychotherapy or other therapeutic “modalities,” court records state.
A minor who was sexually abused by a staff member was ostracized by therapists, and other staff who blamed the victim, using humiliation tactics to isolate the victim from their peers, the lawsuit alleges.
All of the victims suing are now adults who were students at various Vista Treatment Center locations in Utah from the years 2003 to 2019.
Vista at Dimple Dell LLC has two locations in Sandy and one location in Magna.
According to the lawsuit, none of the Vista facilities were accredited by National Quality Programs and none of the facilities implemented “the best practices developed by the accrediting organization.”
Allegedly nearly all of the parents or caregivers of residents were paying out-of-pocket for treatment at Vista, giving the facility a financial incentive to keep residents at the facility for as long as possible.
Vista is a Utah teen treatment center, a residential therapeutic center for minors that is able to treat depression, dysthymia, trauma, eating disorders, attachment issues, substance abuse, and many more illnesses.
The full lawsuit can be viewed here.