Brian Farragher, LMSW, MBA is the Executive Vice President and COO at the Andrus Children's Center, Yonkers, NY. He generously shared his insights gleaned from years of discussion with his staff and residents, including the inspiring vignette of "Angela's Story" in the final segment of the film.
"Several years ago, we had a young girl who was held [restrained] on a regular basis. Once the restraint option was removed, the root of the problem was exposed."
An Investigative Reporter with the Hartford Courant, Dave Altimari was one of the team of journalists who contributed to the landmark 1998 Courant series "Deadly Restraint." During our interview, Mr. Altimari revisits the most disturbing memories from his work on that series, offers his perspective more than ten years later, and poses the lingering, unanswered questions that still plague him today.
Ray Bradbury once said, "Find out what your hero or heroine wants, and when he or she wakes up in the morning, just follow him or her all day." I took this advice from the first moment Dr. LeBel approached me about producing a documentary about the use of restraints and seclusion in child settings.
Psychologist Janice LeBel is a nationally recognized expert in the area of restraint/seclusion reduction. She and several, brave colleagues have championed this cause for over a decade and have evidenced an amazing return on their efforts, particularly in Massachusetts' Department of Mental Health facilities. Following my heroine took me and this story exactly where it needed to go, invoking powerful images and relevant themes along the way. It was sometimes a bumpy, rocky road, littered with false starts and stops; but before long, my crew and I were "in the zone" with Real Danger and there was no turning back.
Karen and Bob Wilson lost their only child, Tanner, 11, during a deadly restraint performed at a residential treatment facility in Mason City, Iowa. They graciously opened their home and hearts for this film by recounting the day they received a call informing them that Tanner had died en route to a local hospital. Since that tragic, life-altering time, the Wilson's have worked with state and federal agencies to insure that Tanner's death will not be forgotten, but will intrepidly serve as a catalyst for improved staff training and careful oversite of all interventions in child settings.
Barely in her twenties, Lori Gaskin is wise and compassionate beyond her years. Lori is a Peer Mentor for UMass Transitions in the Worcester, Massachusetts area mental health facilities. The camera followed her through a typical work day at the Westboro State Hospital, where she spent most of her adolescent years as a treatment consumer. She and several other young people were eager to share their personal experiences and perspectives on restraints and seclusion in a way no book, journal article or lecture could ever fully capture. Lori's enthusiasm as a contributing member of the group composing the Youth Position Paper on R/S has prompted more awareness about creating trauma-sensitive environments as part of the restraint reduction/elimination philosophy.
Dr. Philippe Pinel’s humane work with Parisian, psychiatric patients in the early 19th century offers us a chance to look back as our understanding of restraints evolves. Dr. Pinel is brought to us via an imaginative "time travel" archival piece produced by Walter Cronkite. It proves invaluable as a reminder of how some Draconian practices continue despite substantial evidence that argues for more effective, compassionate, mental health interventions.
"Is that really necessary?" she gently asks a clearly agitated young man as he pounds his fists on a chalkboard. Raylena Loiselle's position as a Peer Mentor with UMASS Connections is more than just a job - It's a conviction. Raylena calls upon vivid, not-so-distant memories to inform her work as a peer mentor. She poignantly reflects, "I lost count at 54 restraints while I was in mental hospitals." From pet therapy dogs, and outside space, to sensory approaches and laughter, Raylena believes it is critical, "to just know as much about whomever you are serving as possible and help them find their releases before things escalate out of control." Spending a few days with Raylena as she went about her duties, which have come to include her contribution to a Youth Position Paper on Restraint/Seclusion Reduction, was inspiring and rewarding.
Interesting, illuminating, and passionate about galvanizing medical and mental health treatment providers, juvenile justice staff, and teachers to relinquish the myth that so-called "holds" or restraints are of any therapeutic value. "They are not. A child can die in a prone restraint in 3-10 minutes, and that's not a lot of time," a statement Dr. Mohr has repeated many times as an expert witness for the court and in her countless lectures around the globe. Author, expert, mother, grandmother, RN and Ph.D. degree holder, Professor of Nursing at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey -these roles all keep her busy. However, nothing diverts her from this important goal that she has pursued since graduate school - eliminating the use of all restraints in child settings.
"These aren't isolated incidents. This is an epidemic," says Port St. Lucie, Florida parent, Anna Moore. Her then 7-year-old, autistic, son Isaiah was mistreated and restrained by staff at his school in 2007. Rallying support from Rep. Dorothy Hukill and House Bill 81, (Use, Prevention and Reduction of Restraint and Seclusion) Ms. Moore, along with several other like-minded parent-adovcates have banded together and are determined to bring about change.
Ms. Moore utilizes social media: http://floridafamiliesagainstrestraint.blogspot.com/
. . . for blogging, tweeting, and posting relevant clips on YouTube.
"We can all see some of the physical harm, but what we can't see are the emotional scars. These children have been forever changed inside. This must stop. Schools need to be held accountable!"
Admissions Director at Wayside, Framingham, MA
Amy Feucht coined the phrase "kid dynamics" and operationalizes it every time she interviews new staff at Wayside. "We look for traits. We want staff with confidence, patience, who can hold their space on the floor but are not aggressive, who can build a sense of safety, be relaxed and have fun. Kid dynamics," she says with a playful toss of the head. She believes that building relationships with youth is most important, adding, "Treat them as respectfully as you’d want anyone to be treated."
Asked about her personal involvement with physical restraints throughout her 12 years at Wayside, Ms. Feucht was forthcoming, "I have used restraints and it never feels good."
Wayside CEO, Framingham, MA
"We still have to be ever attentive and ever vigilant to make sure that our training is at the top and that we never, ever become complacent in thinking . . . that just because we’ve learned a lot means that we are past the risk of something like this happening again." Dr. Masi possesses first-hand knowledge of the horrors of restraints. Over a decade ago, he and his staff suffered the loss of a young man who died in the course of a physical restraint at the Wayside program. Eric Masi did not falter when questioned about the impact this tragedy has had on the entire Wayside community as well as other mental health and social service agencies in Massachusetts. "The power of that event resonated through our organization and still does today. It was a unique experience that I wouldn’t want anyone else to have to go through." Dr. Masi made these observations on a crisp, autumn day, as he stood in the shadow of a tree planted in memory of Mark Soares, the youth who died while a resident at Wayside.