The eating disorder community does not have an oversight agency, is without any type of dire consequences for reprehensible conduct and is without ramifications for bad faith behavior for those who exploit our loved ones for the sake of making a profit. There is no organization which has had the means nor will power to stop bad actors.
Organizations with a checkered history, for those who hurt people entrusted to their care have found ways to protect themself.
They start by simply changing their name. They can file a fictitious name certificate, change all internet references about their old name and substitute their new, slick fictitious name. They can market that they are a brand-new company. And all the while, they remain the same. They fool most of the people most of the time.
After all, who is going to check on things in the eating disorder community? The saying, “If a lie is printed often enough, it becomes a quasi-truth, and if this “truth” is repeated often enough, it becomes an article of belief, a dogma, and men will die for it.” has been in existence for thousands of years (although most recently attributed to Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister for the Third Reich.)
Without consequences, bad actors do not have to conduct thorough background checks on prospective employees. They can pay a low hourly rate to employees who have the most interaction with patients, employees they refer to as “their MVPs.” [Shouldn’t that really be “MVE,” Most Valuable Employees?]
They can become an organizational cesspool attracting reprobates and predators. They can invent any treatment protocol they desire. They can invent new names for their employees (We made up our corporate name … let’s just make up job titles too. Who needs Direct Care Staff when they can be called … Behavioral Health Technicians!) They can concoct efficacy numbers which would be cartoonishly embarrassing if they didn’t also contribute to deception.
They can do all of this without fear of reprisal. And why? Because there are no consequences. There are no ramifications. There is no oversight. There is no governing board, person or agency who can or will impose draconian measures to keep in check bad faith conduct.
Enough … Enough.
In the past month, three courageous yet frightened patients entrusted to the care of Castlewood, patients who were “allegedly” abused and betrayed by Castlewood, have become the faces, the public voices in three separate lawsuits filed in federal court against Castlewood Treatment Center d/b/a Alsana. Yes, Castlewood. That Castlewood. The Castlewood which never went away. The same Castlewood which was, and still is using Alsana merely as a pasteboard mask. There are other lawsuits against Castlewood which are waiting in the wings, undoubtedly, to be filed.
The same Castlewood which, in an article appearing in the St. Louis Dispatch on February 1, 2022, contains the following, “In a statement, Alsana CEO Gayle Devin called Doe’s lawyer, Steven R. Dunn, “a well-known critic of Alsana and the eating disorder treatment industry generally.” She further stated, “We will aggressively defend ourselves against these baseless claims in court.”
Ms. Devin also stated, “We take seriously allegations of misconduct by our staff, and as we made clear – in the context of a completely unrelated matter last week – we are prepared to thoroughly investigate those claims when they arise,” Devin said, referring to a statement last week, in which she said new admissions were being halted at two residential programs and one outpatient program. That statement said the decision was triggered by allegations that “employees may have been involved in inappropriate conduct involving a client receiving outpatient care at our St. Louis program.” [emphasis added]
Ms. Devin, you are to be commended for “thoroughly investigating” claims after your patients have already been hurt. But here is an idea which may seem novel … implement a thorough vetting process doing a complete background check on prospective employees before they become employees. Better yet, have an outside third party do the pre-employment investigation, drug screening and have a hand in the employment process. In that way, those steps significantly lessen the likelihood of having any more patients be harmed.
On March 1, 2022, Ms. Devin issued another statement. This statement is hard to find. Apparently, it was only sent to Alsana’s “partners.” Those entities which potentially refer patients to them. So, why wasn’t it sent out to the public? Why wasn’t it extensively shared on social media?
If a person looks for it on Alsana’s website? No, nothing to see there, move along, move along. When a person looks at Alsana’s LinkedIn page, no nothing to see there either, move along, move along. [But at about the same time Ms. Devin’s email blast was going out to Alsana’s partners, Alsana’s LinkedIn page posted an article about Channing Tatum saying his Magic Mike body was not a healthy body!] Channing! Say it ain’t so!
So, let’s allow the public to read Ms. Devin’s statement:
In evaluating Ms. Devin’s statement, if a “thorough investigation” had been done, in less than one month, Castlewood would have done the following:
- Identify all possible issues;
- Retain a law firm;
- Have that law firm draft a Request for Proposal (“RFP”) to identify the issues to be researched;
- Accept responses to that RFP;
- Choose the organization best suited to this investigation;
- Negotiate with them and their cost for this exhaustive investigation;
- Have that “independent quality consultant” assign employees to this project;
- Extensively review Castlewood’s long, sordid history;
- Interview all employees and former employees;
- Interview current and former patients (Oh… that’s right, you call them “clients” … it makes them seem less in need of care and more like corporate commodities), especially those patients who had been victimized;
- Review the lawsuits which had been filed during this time and do a thorough investigation into the allegations, review documented evidence and speak with all attorney’s involved;
- Conduct due diligence into safety and security measures implemented at other eating disorder treatment centers;
- Conduct an exhaustive study of past surveys and research projects undertaken by AED, iaedp and other organizations;
- Formulate the price tag for implementing changes;
- Request and review bids from various third parties to perform the work to be done;
- Implement the wholesale changes recommended by this independent consultant, which implementation would undoubtedly require construction work and remodeling at the St. Louis facility;
- Fix the broken-down septic system in St. Louis so that new patients do not have the pungent aroma of fecal matter greeting them when they first arrive in St. Louis;
- Then, implement these same studies at all the Castlewood facilities.
And to think that undoubtedly, this “thorough investigation” was done in the span of one month. And the important findings from “thorough investigation” were:
“While that review resulted in very positive feedback, there is always room for improvement, and Alsana is in the process of acting based on specific recommendations that came out of that review process. We are implementing clinical and safety program enhancements in our St. Louis program intended to reinforce company policies, including supplemental training for all Alsana program teams in St. Louis, and plan to expand these clinical and safety program enhancements to all program sites nationwide in the coming months.”
Of course, no one knows what deficiencies were found because well, there is no transparency about that. And no one knows what specific “enhancements” are allegedly being implemented because well, there is no transparency about that either. Has Castlewood filed any complaints with any administrative agencies regarding those offending employees? We do not know.
We do know that even before Castlewood has completed its implementation of these alleged new changes, they are going to start accepting patients … err, clients again on March 2, 2022! YAY! Those private equity owners are not going to wait forever for the money spigot to be turned back on. Nothing to see here, move along, move along.
All of that coming from the same CEO who regarding the lawsuits, in the span of less than 24 hours, “thoroughly investigated” and reviewed all documents and evidence, interviewed former employees and patients, and then in compassionate support for her former patients, stated in the press that these were “… baseless claims in court.” Baseless claims which resulted in Castlewood firing how many employees? 4? 5? 6? More? Oh… that’s right. Castlewood has not been transparent about that either. Which brings up the seminal questions, “Ms. Devin, if the claims are baseless, why did you fire those employees?” If the claims are baseless, why the need for this exhaustive study and alleged changes to the program?
Tthe exact same expression, “baseless claims” was once utilized by one of Ms. Devin’s infamous predecessors, the now disgraced former CEO of Castlewood, Mark Schwartz. [As an aside, perhaps the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.] Certainly, Ms. Devin is to be applauded for being able to conduct her “thorough investigation” in less than one day and then label in the press as “baseless,” litigation instituted by her former patients who were so harmed by her employees, employees who were fired. And yet employees Ms. Devin and Castlewood are now required to stand behind and support.
Ms. Devin’s message was trumpeted loudly and clearly. And that is, “If you are a patient at Castlewood, and you are hurt by an employee and then seek compensation for your injuries, we will not only turn our back on you, but we will attack you in the media. Who cares if we cause your condition to worsen? How dare you come after us and our profit margin?
We have a name for people like that Ms. Devin … they are called bullies.
And bullies are only allowed to thrive in communities which have no consequences, ramifications or accountability. Bullies are only allowed to thrive in communities where there are no people of uncommon courage, strength, and resolve. People who remain victims. But, regarding the eating disorder community, that is no longer the case. I am not speaking about the legal system. Although the legal system can and will impose consequences where needed. I am instead referring to those incredible young women who are standing up to be counted. Heroes all.
So, Ms. Devin, as Castlewood opens its arms to welcome new patients … I mean clients, on March 2, 2022, there are a few, absolute truths of which you should be aware.
First, you are the face of those employees you fired because of the harm they caused to those young souls entrusted to your care.
You are the face of the company whose primary purpose is to make a profit at any and all costs.
You are the face of the company that cannot even be truthful about its own name.
You are the face of the company which “allegedly” hurt a number of young souls entrusted to your care.
As for me being a well-known critic of the eating disorder industry, perhaps so, but more importantly, I am merely a conduit, a means, through which young women, struggling and in such pain, are finding … renewed hope at life.
Young women who have been so hurt.
Young women who dare to stand up and be counted.
Young women who dare to say, “No more. No longer will I stand idly by and let others be hurt.”
Young women who have found or are finding their incredible voices.
Young women filled with renewed strength, with resolve, with love, with hope for the future.
Young women who have already won.
No matter what lies ahead.