February 24, 2006
A Charlottesville mental health facility for teens may be shut down after several allegations of physical and sexual assault surfaced Friday.
The crimes allegedly took place at Whisper Ridge Behavioral Health systems on Arlington Blvd. in Charlottesville. The facility houses teens ages 13-17.
Police said they have had several calls about this facility in the past and the State Department of Mental Health tells us they are also investigating numerous incidents that may have happened at the facility.
The state says they're investigating 50 citations against Whisper Ridge, many involving physical and sexual assaults between residents and some between residents and employees. It was an assault on January 14, 2006 in which the state said a teen was allegedly beaten and strangled so badly he was left unconscious that first alerted authorities.
"A resident there was assaulted by some other residents and was seriously injured. We went in and began investigated that and in the course of that [investigation] several other issues came to our attention," said Virginia Mental Health Licensing Director Leslie Anderson.
In a press conference earlier today, Charlottesville police say they too are investigating Whisper Ridge. According to police reports there were multiple incidents of inappropriate sexual behavior including fondling and rape reported on February 1, 2006. Last night police searched the facility and seized documents relating to 10 to 12 people, both residents and employees.
"I don't want to give the impression in any way that we are speaking of 10 to 12 residents, I don't know that to be the case," said Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo.
On Monday the state plans on sending a letter to the facility revoking their license. However, Whisper Ridge has the right to fight the state. In the meantime, any employee accused of misconduct has been removed from the facility and residents involved are under increased supervision or also have been removed. Right now no charges have been filed and the investigation continues.
"Our interest from the beginning of this investigation has always been the best interest of those people that are housed there," said Longo.
Whisper Ridge released this statement late this evening. They said, "The safety and well being of the adolescents residing in our facilities is our foremost concern. The allegations in this case are serious and we have treated then as such."
The facility also said they are cooperating fully with the investigation.