Desisto Director Answers Allegations
By Kathy Nussberger
Woodbury Reports Correspondent
Recent headlines alleging the DeSisto School in Berkshire, Mass., had allowed students to be put at “serious risk” prompted further investigation by Woodbury Reports.
The Boston Globe http://nl.newsbank.com reported that Desisto was under state investigation for nine incidents triggering serious risk to its students. The article led off with a January incident where a staff member failed to seek medical attention for 90 minutes when a female student had self inflicted razor wounds and swallowed two razor blades.
“We admit the staff response in seeking medical attention and providing necessary information was inadequate,” said Frank McNear Executive Director of Desisto. “We are in the process of retraining our staff on the appropriate measures and policy to follow in the future. One new policy we have initiated is for the on-call supervisor to notify the hospital of all medical emergencies immediately and provide a detailed account of the problem while the student is en-route. We at Desisto are committed to providing the best care possible for our students, and we are doing much better now than we ever have in the history of the school.”
McNear added that prior to enrolling at Desisto, this student had spent two years in a lockdown facility where she had exhibited the same behaviors, and after this incident the student was again placed in a lockdown psychiatric facility.
“The sad part is they are releasing her and sending her home because no one else will take her,” McNear said. “We would love to take her, but we made an agreement with the State Office for Child Care Services not to do so until we have increased and improved our staff training.”
McNear added that another student with the same types of problems was turned down by 17 different facilities before being accepted at Desisto.
As for the nine separate investigations, McNear said he did not understand what the Globe meant except that these were ongoing site inspections for licensing by the state.
“The state licensing study has been going on for a year, and many of these problems are things like deadlines are approaching for staff recertification in first aide training, updating service plans for students who aren’t supposed to contact a parent because of divorce, etc.,” McNear explained. “One incident involved five boys who were asked to leave the dinning room because they were improperly dressed; they were asked to change their clothing, they refused to return to the dinning room afterward, and we did not deliver dinner to them in their room.”
Other incidents outlined by the Globe included a student who had a fractured hand because of improper use of restraints, and an allegation of a student receiving a double dose of Lithium.
“The student had punched a wall and injured his hand the day before the staff member restrained him,” McNear said. “A dorm parent followed an outdated medication order when giving the student the lithium, and the doctor said there was no risk to the child. Contrary to the story, the student was not weaned off the Lithium, it was completely discontinued.”
Many of the incidents in the Boston Globe article happened in the 80’s and 90’s according to McNear.
“Although there were practices and problems in the past, we are an entirely different school now with a new administration and board of directors,” McNear said. “We are dedicated to complying with the state requirements and updating our training and procedures to better ensure the safety of our students.”
Founder of the Desisto School, A. Michael Desisto, died in November 2003.
For a more complete story see the Berkshire Eagle newspaper story published on Feb. 19 at www.berkshireeagle.com.