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West Jordan youth center understaffed, faking paperwork, employee claims

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WEST JORDAN, Utah -- The Department of Human Services launched an investigation after a weekend riot at a West Jordan youth facility. But a youth center worker says some of the paperwork turned in by the center has been doctored, to make the facility look like it’s in compliance with state regulations.

A worker at the Copper Hills Youth Center in West Jordan said Sunday’s riot goes deeper than just a few kids acting out.

The employee, who we’ll call “Bill,” asked to keep his identity private. He’s claiming Copper Hills is faking its paperwork, to cover up what’s really going on inside their walls.

"The police have been called a few times in the last few months," Bill said, explaining that the recent calls for help from the center are nothing new.

He said that’s partly because, "The kids know that we’re understaffed, and can manipulate the situation."

Bill said not enough workers patrol the halls, leaving room for trouble. He also said the short-staffed situation leaves current employees burnt out, and over-worked.

And that, he said, impacts the care of facility patients.

He thinks a combination of those factors played a role in Sunday’s riot.

"They were understaffed," he said.

The ordeal ended with 10 teens in juvenile detention, after reportedly assaulting Copper Hills workers, and police.

Some now face felony charges.

The next morning, Bill said Copper Hills came to them with a request.

"People who were not on the units were asked to sign papers, showing that they were working on the units,” he explained.

He’s talking about the Daily Staffing Report- a document employees fill out, which is turned over to the Department of Human Services.

DHS licenses the youth treatment facility, so Copper Hills must abide by certain laws.

Bill said people were asked to indicate they were working inside a particular unit, even though they weren’t.

"So that we appear that we’re in state regulation,” he said, “and not so short staffed."

He said this wasn’t the first time employees had been asked to falsely sign the forms.

Fox 13 has been in communication with Copper Hills CEO Rebekah Schuler, who initially responded to a series of emails and answered questions about the riot.

When asked about the employee’s claims and the staffing report, she did not send a response.

The state will now be taking a close look at Copper Hills’ practices, after Sunday’s mishap.

"We will be reviewing if any rules were violated that contributed to that incident," said DHS spokeswoman Heather Barnum said.

If they find anything is out of compliance, DHS could take action against the facility.

5 comments

  • Jim C

    As a former employee of this facility with close friends still working there I can tell everyone that this is the worst there’s been. However this was something staff have seen coming for awhile now. Copperhills takes kids that no facility wants and then removes any assemblance of authority from there staff placing safety and comfort of the residents over safety of their staff. At the time of the riot the building was 6 staff short of meeting state required ratio. It is state law to have one staff for every 5 residents in order to ensure facility wide safety. So that is 30 kids unaccounted for. The day of this report they were 9 staff short. This is an ongoing issue that has not been corrected at copperhills for years now. So while this is shocking and troubling for everyone involved. Copperhills has been managed in such a way that it’s shocking this only just now took place. The training mentioned in this video consists of taking new hires and having them watch videos for a few days then one day of practical development in restraint techniques. Then once they’re on the floor only a handful of staff are comfortable handling the frequent crisis situations that occur and those staff are quickly held accountable for policing the entire building. However if handled poorly, run the risk of termination and charges from DCFS (division of child and family services). So there is a genuine fear to intervene. Compound this with inadequate staffing and it’s a powder keg, and a dangerous place for anybody, staff or resident a like. Also, the administration of this building are simply trying to save their jobs in that email statement. A staff was assaulted with a chair and is being evaluated for a concussion and another has a black eye. I guess the CEO may see that as safe. But, then again I suppose she’s seen the building as safe through the chronic mismanagement. A lot of great work has been done for the children of this facilty through the years and there are some fantastic staff there that genuinely care about the kids and their success. However, this is a dangerous place to work for embattled employees that only now have a chance to speak out against this place. Some will come out and defend it, but the truth is the staff here in large part feel trapped and simply don’t want to lose their job. Those fortunate to have left, miss the kids, but can look back and see a facilty that drasically needs to change or close it’s doors. The forgery of the staffing reports has been happening for at least 5 years. They use the states scheduled visits to plan the paperwork. They’ll even have teachers and other employees sign the staffing reports to appear as if they are within ratio although not all employees work with the children. Also not mentioned in the story is that on Monday staff were told not to speak to the media. Continue questioning current and former staff there is a larger story here.

  • CSH

    This is not surprising in the least. I worked there just recently and chose to leave because the same thing happened while I was there. CHYC was constantly understaffed and in a scramble to call in employees who where scheduled off or had already worked a shift for the day. I was never asked to falsify any documents but I was often asked to stay later than my scheduled shift or sign up for other shifts because they were consistently short on staffing. The employees were most definitely over worked and that did build up to a riot a couple of years ago on a particular unit. And that was the breaking point for me and I chose to leave.
    Some of the staff hired are older and less-abled to handle a violent teen so they would simply leave the situation and other staff who were younger and more able to deal with the situation were left alone in escalated settings. While I know there is no discrimination against age/gender/etc… CHYC really needed to focus on hiring people who could handle ALL situations and not just ‘babysit’ while the other staff had to do restraints over and over and over and constantly be the “bad cops” dealing with escalated youth. It does burn out those employees very quickly.
    Upper management (at the time) were blissfully ignorant to what was happening out on the floor on the units. They would read a report and just go off of that. They would make certain demands for expectations but didn’t realize the work and effort it took on behalf of ALL the employees to make that happen. It didn’t feel like management cared about the employees and that also took its toll on everyone.
    I am sad for the current employees who had to endure the riot on Sunday. They deserve a better environment to work in. They deserve support from all levels. They deserve recognition for their hard work. They deserve a schedule that doesn’t require being on call constantly to work 16+ hour days repeatedly.
    I hope this investigation helps make it happen or at least hold some people accountable for some of the poor working conditions there. Times are tough so no one deserves to lose a job, but if this facility doesn’t get it together and start holding up standards that are required then something needs to happen.

  • Getoverit

    I like how all these pansies talk to the media hiding their face, or make comments which are easy to hide behind, yet none of you went over the CEO’s head to report these illegal doings. Contact corporate or contact the state

    • Jim C

      Says the one that can’t even put their name. Many have contacted the corporate hotline and attempted to contact the state. The problem is you have a facility that has repeatedly lied to keep their doors open. This is the employee’s first legitimate chance to be heard. I have also contacted fox 13 and made myself and several others available for interview. Won’t be hiding anything on camera. Enjoy hiding behind your anonymous name speaking about a situation you know little or nothing about.

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