INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) -- I-Team 8 has been reporting on issues at a live-in mental health facility for young people for the past year.
The allegations uncovered were stunning. Multiple former and current employees and residents reported fights, assaults, understaffing and runaway issues.
As we have gone through our reporting, changes started happening at Resource Residential Treatment Facility. According to its website, the facility addresses a variety of psychological issues, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse and PTSD.
After our reporting, they put a new CEO in charge and the facility has fixed a lot of the problems we have told you about.
The story started in a neighborhood, miles from the facility. A frustrated woman living there called I-Team 8 for help: Jane Smith said a vacant home on her block was serving as a hideout for runaways from Resource.
After her story aired, we got dozens of calls, messages and emails about the facility. Through those calls and messages, we met Jeromy and Audrey. Jeromy's son and Audrey were residents at Resource.
During the course of our investigation, we learned about what employees and residents said went on inside the walls: fights, inappropriate relationships between employees and residents, and kids kicking down doors and walls to escape. The people who own Resource and the facility's former CEO refused to do an interview or answer our questions.
“A friend of mine said to call you guys, and I think we've got some progress going,” said Smith.
We returned to her neighborhood and talked to Smith about the changes.
“I thought it was great,” Smith said of the progress. “I thought it was great because it's safety of those kids.”
What has changed? After our reporting, the facility put up an outside fence. The facility also agreed to let us inside to interview its new CEO, who told us about even more we couldn't see from outside.
Brady Serafin took over as CEO of Resource in June 2018. Prior to that, he worked in New Hampshire at its version of the Department of Child Services.
We asked him if he was aware of some of the controversy surrounding what had occurred at Resource.
“Absolutely, said Serafin. "I did my homework.”
But before Serafin got to Indianapolis, many changes had already been made.
“There have been steps taken to ensure the safety of the young people here in the facility,” he said. “I think you'd notice that the security fence has been put up, the doors are different, the walls have been reinforced. Resource has taken considerable steps to ensure that the facility is as safe as we can possibly make it for these young folks.”
Serafin said the facility also added more than 65 security cameras inside. Multiple sources had told I-Team 8 they previously had no security cameras of any kind.
Serafin has made his share of improvements, too.
“Before I was here, kids attended about two-and-a-half hours a day of school,” he said. “They now attend a full day of school. I thought, operationally, that made much more sense. In transition back into the community, it made more sense that they were used to that kind of structure.”
He is also letting some residents work on projects outside the walls of the facility. His hope with the changes is to improve the lives of those children and our community.
"We know if we do nothing with these young people, we know what we're going to get," he said. "But if we can engage them differently, allow them to have some success, there's no end to the possibilities or the potential that they have."
The day we visited Resource, there were 69 kids, 55 of whom were sent there by DCS.
If you have a problem with a facility like Resource, you are encouraged to contact Indiana Disability Rights at 317-722-5555. Mental illness is considered a disability.
Below are statements from the Indiana Department of Child Services on our reporting about Resource:
Safety is at the forefront of our minds when we consider where to place a child that has been removed from the home. If a concern arises about one of the facilities we license, we take swift action to investigate those claims and place a hold on referring Indiana children there if necessary. Our team then works with the facility to put a plan of correction in place, and we do not lift a hold until we are confident the conditions are safe for the children in our care. -Andria Hoying, DCS deputy director of placement support and compliance
Director Stigdon personally visited Resource in mid-March. While it might not always be the director who visits, it is customary for the residential licensing staff to check in regularly on facilities we license. Each facility is subject to an annual review of their contract and license (these reviews happen independent of one another, not at the same time). In addition, each the children referred to the facility by DCS is visited regularly (policy dictates at least once per month) by either their FCM or by their probation officer, offering another opportunity for DCS staff to see the facility and ensure it is a safe living environment for children in our care.