Background, and Survivor Statement(s)
HEAL SPECIAL REPORT:
aspen achievement academy
HEAL has found
multiple problems with Aspen Achievement Academy's enrollment
agreement including apparent unconscionable terms and/or
contradictory terms leaving us to believe that Aspen Achievement
Academy is running a money-making scam on families in need of
assistance. We will be alternating between purple
background and/or words for HEAL critiques and questions and
a light pink with red words
for the words of
Academy (AAA) in their
enrollment agreement (as was
downloaded from aspenacademy.com on September 19th, 2010). HEAL will not repeatedly
link to the enrollment agreement in full throughout this review,
and, we advise readers to scroll back and/or open the enrollment
agreement in a new window while reviewing our work for accuracy
or if additional contextualization is preferred. This is
an independent review and if you are in need of legal assistance
or advice, please
consult with an attorney.
Agreement (Page B)
"AUTHORIZATION FOR USE
OR DISCLOSURE OF HEALTH INFORMATION"
"This form is a
RELEASE OF INFORMATION FORM. Completion of this document
authorizes the disclosure and/or use of individually
identifiable health information, as set forth below, consistent
with State and Federal law concerning the privacy of such
information. Failure to provide all information requested
may invalidate this Authorization."
Throughout much of the
enrollment agreement, the impression is made that Aspen
Achievement Academy is HIPAA compliant. Aspen Achievement
Academy (AAA) is
licensed in Utah as "Outdoor Youth Treatment". The
state of Utah has made recent changes to their laws, some of
which seem to already show that AAA is not in compliance with
Utah laws. For instance,
the new laws state that programs lasting for more than one-month
require an educational component and that the program be
approved by the Utah State Board of Education. On page
"L" of the agreement AAA claims that a minimum stay of 35 days
is required. This is beyond one month and by law would
require they include an educational component and be approved by
the Utah State Board of Education. Of course,
Utah is known for
its lax laws in regards to programs and a lax enforcement of
laws that would regulate such programs.
AAA is not accredited by the Utah State Board of Education.
However, AAA claims on their website (aspenacademy.com/acaunder.html
on 09/19/10) that they are recognized as a "special alternative
school". This may show both misleading and deceptive
marketing on the part of Aspen Achievement Academy.
Agreement (Page C)
pursuant to this authorization could be re-disclosed by the
recipient and might no longer be protected by federal
confidentiality law (HIP AA)."
"This form may
not be used to release both psychotherapy notes and other types
of health information...If this form is being used to authorize
the release of psychotherapy notes, a separate form must be used
to authorize release of any other health information."
is for use or disclosure of PHI for research, including the
creation and maintenance of a research database or repository,
the statement "end of research study," "none" or similar
language is sufficient."
Throughout much of the
enrollment agreement, the impression is made that Aspen
Achievement Academy is HIPAA compliant.
Aspen Achievement Academy is not licensed by the Utah Department
of Health and is not regulated by the Utah Department of Health
which is charged with enforcing HIPAA in Utah. Therefore, by authorizing the disclosure of your or your child's
private records to AAA, you have likely already agreed to their
disclosing that information to anyone they wish without your
consent. While the confidentiality of your and your
family's information is implied by the language of much of this
contract, these brief passages disclose to you the reality of
the security of your private information in the hands of
Aspen Achievement Academy. These seeming
contradictions suggest misleading and deceptive practices.
In the second
segment above, AAA begins revealing the likelihood of your child
being used in a research study conducted by or with the
participation of AAA. Since your child is likely in this
program involuntarily and is likely being denied anything in the
form of legitimate informed consent, this is a serious concern
and suggests violations of the Nuremberg Code.
Agreement (Page D)
"For the purpose of
paying all or part of monies owing to ASPEN EDUCATION GROUP for
services it has or will render to the above patient..."
the above, undersigned's liability will not be reduced until
ASPEN EDUCATION GROUP has collected its full retail or contract
rate. Undersigned understands that the nature of patient's
disability may be such that no benefit payments will be payable
under the policy specified above."
may include psychiatric evaluations, diagnoses, history and
physical examination reports, program notes, physicians' orders
and laboratory results, as well as school information."
"We will do our
best to process the prescription and medical expenses under your
insurance, but please understand that some insurance companies
do not contract with all pharmacies and doctors/clinics."
Academy implies it is providing clinical and/or professional
mental and/or medical health treatment by referring to enrollees
as "patients". It is important to remember that AAA is not
licensed by the Utah Department of Health and is not a
recognized mental or medical health program.
Also, information they
claim to share includes "program notes" and "psychiatric
evaluations". Previously mentioned, psychotherapy notes
may not be shared under HIPAA without obtaining separate
consent. But, in this section again we see that such
information is shared in seeming violation of terms mentioned
elsewhere in the contract. This suggests deception within
the agreement itself.
Here we also see
the inference that some insurance carriers do not recognize
Aspen Achievement Academy as a mental or medical health facility
and your child may not be covered. This means this program
will likely cost you thousands of dollars. This may be
acceptable to you, but, when you consider what you are getting
for your money, you may make a wiser decision by choosing
Agreement (Page E)
"There is just too much
dust and wind and contact lenses increase the risk for an eye
"If your child
needs to have Epi-pens available for allergic reaction, please
send two (2) in their prescription boxes."
"Please get any
dental problems taken care of before your student is admitted to
How much dust and
wind will a child be exposed to at AAA? Are eye infections
common? How often do children in the program get eye or
This page of the
agreement states "Do not send over the counter medications.
We will provide meds such as benadryl, tylenol, ibuprofen as
needed." And, it includes Epi-pens as medications that
must be provided by the family. However, this is
contradicted on page "F" as Epi-pens are claimed as
"over-the-counter" medicines they will provide. How often
do AAA or their subcontractors prescribe medications to children
in their program? Will parents be consulted prior to the
administering of any psychiatric or experimental drugs used
on the child? If not, under what circumstances?
If a child needs
oral care while in the program (i.e. broken tooth), will the
program insure they see a dentist within 24 hours?
Agreement (Page F)
"We have the following
over the counter medications available for your child while
he/she is a student in our program. We need your
permission to administer these medications...Epinephrine (Epi-Kit)
for severe allergic reaction..."
In both pages "E"
and "F" of the agreement, the children in the program are
referred to as students, not patients. This may be more
accurate, but, not accurate enough given they are not accredited
by the Utah State Board of Education.
Also, we see
above that Epi-Kits are provided by AAA and therefore that
statement seems to contradict the statements on the previous
page of the contract.
Agreement (Page G & H)
"POWER OF ATTORNEY"
"KNOW ALL MEN BY
THESE PRESENT, that I/we _______(the parent(s)/legal guardian(s)
and hereafter known as the "Sponsor"), do hereby certify to
Aspen Education Group, which owns and operates the program known
as Aspen Achievement Academy, that I/we are the true and lawful
attorney in-fact and legal custodian(s) for ____(hereinafter the
"Student")...We hereby execute this Power of Attorney for the
purpose of providing custodial care, educational, therapeutic
and clinical services in connection with the Aspen Achievement
Academy (hereinafter known as the "Program")."
or qualifying the general Power of Attorney granted and
delegated by Sponsor to Aspen in the paragraph above, Sponsor
specifically grants to Aspen the following powers:"
"To provide or
obtain all medical, dental, psychiatric treatment and hospital
care, and to authorize a physician to perform any and all
procedures that may appear to be medically necessary."
"To guide and
discipline the Student as deemed necessary and reasonable by
Aspen (but not to include physical punishment)."
restrain the Student should he/she become a danger to
himself/herself or to anyone else, as deemed necessary by
"To allow the
Student to participate in all activities that may risk physical
injury or illness."
"To search the
person and personal effects of the Student at any time as Aspen
Education Group in its discretion deems appropriate, and seize
and confiscate any items deemed by Aspen to be contraband or
counterproductive to the Student's successful completion of the
Program. The search of the Student's person may require
Student to remove all of his or her clothing and may include a
"strip search" of all or any portions of Student's body,
including cavities in which contraband could be hidden."
"To restrict the
Student's access to telephone calls, visitors, and delivered
"FamilyIQ' 4 CD
Many programs in the
industry require a limited power of attorney. And, we
remind parents that they can sign away their own rights, but,
not the rights of their minor children. This likely
includes the right to be protected against unreasonable searches
and seizures. For more information, see
www.heal-online.org/legalarguments.htm. This is for
information purposes only. If you need legal advice,
In addition, in other
areas of the contract (to be discussed below), AAA limits all
liability for harms up to and including death and places all
risk on the side of the family. It is a concern and seems
unconscionable that a program would demand such authority over a
child while taking no responsibility for the care of that child.
What are parents really getting out of this lopsided bargain?
It is reasonable
for the program to request the power to obtain medical care in
the event it is required. There is nothing wrong with that
portion of the agreement. However, the following
statements are contradictory.
The use of
physical restraint is a form of physical punishment as is using
pressure points and other torture techniques to enforce
compliance with scheduled hikes and activities in the program.
The program will argue that they have to get the kids from one
destination to another for their own "safety" and that using
restraint and other physical abuse is necessary for the "safety"
of all the children in the program. This is not the intent
of laws preventing or limiting the use of physical restraint.
An immediate threat of imminent bodily harm created by an
individual warrants restraint. Any "threat" that involves
a slow-down in the hike or delay in reaching destinations should
be managed in a way that does not violate the rights of the
child or the intent of laws regulating the use of restraint.
In addition, AAA does not limit the use of physical restraint to
just the event in which a child is a danger to self or others.
This is developed in discussion of later pages of the contract.
The claim that they don't use physical punishment and that they
do use restraint beyond the limits claimed in this section of
the document suggests misleading and/or deceptive practices.
It is a serious
concern that the child's contact with the outside world is
severely limited by the program. What restrictions are
placed on a child's communication with their family? Do
they have access to a phone in the event of an emergency or even
simply the need to talk to "Mom or Dad"?
court decisions have shown that censoring/monitoring a child's
mail is a violation of their rights. These are all
created by Mark Hobbins, senior vice president and chief
marketing officer of Aspen Education Group. It is not an
independent program. And, the "nice" appearance of their
"system" and the lack of reference on FamilyIQ to its Aspen
Education Group connection really suggests additional deception
by both parties. It could be an attempt to begin
rebranding as Aspen Education Group has been facing extensive
criticism for their practices. Children have died and been
severely injured in Aspen wilderness programs and residential
programs. This is something that suggests Aspen should be
Agreement (Pages I & J)
"Under the Health
Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 ("HIPAA"),
Aspen Education Group and its affiliated entities (collectively,
"Aspen") must take steps to protect the privacy of your
"protected health information" (referred to in this Notice as
"PHI" or "health information")."
"In addition, these
entities, sites, and locations may share health information with
each other for treatment, payment, or health care operations
purposes as described in this notice."
OF ASPEN EDUCATION GROUP AND ITS AFFILIATED ENTITIES"
"Make sure that
health information that identifies you is kept private (with
"Follow the terms
of this Notice that are currently in effect"
"We may use or
disclose your protected health information without your
authorization as follows in relation to health care operations:
--To administer and support our business activities or those of
other health care organizations (as allowed by law) including
providers and plans."
"We may use or disclose
your protected health information without your authorization as
follows in relation to health care operations: --To other
individuals (such as consultants and attorneys) and
organizations that help us with our business activities. (Note:
If we share your health information with other organizations for
this purpose, they must agree to protect your privacy.)"
"We may use or
disclose your protected health information without your
authorization for legal and/or governmental purposes in the
following circumstances: --Military activity and national
security--To the military (if you are a member of the armed
forces), and to authorized federal officials for national
security and intelligence purposes..."
"We may also use
or disclose your protected health information without your
authorization in the following miscellaneous circumstances:
--Facility directory information-Unless you object, we ma use
and disclose your name, the location at which you are receiving
care, your general condition (e.g. fair, stable, etc.), and your
religious affiliation in our facility directory...-Research-For
research purposes provided that certain steps are taken to
protect your privacy. For example, a research project may
involve comparing the health and recovery or all patients who
receive one medication to those who received another, for the
DISCLOSURES OF YOUR PROTECTION HEALTH INFORMATION BY ASPEN THAT
REQUIRE US TO OBTAIN YOUR AUTHORIZATION...Except in the
situations listed in the sections above, we will use and
disclose your health information only with your written
The above goes into
additional information regarding to whom or with whom AAA can
disclose or discuss your private mental and medical health
information without your authorization. It is important to
notice that the terms apply "that are currently in effect".
This language implies that there may be terms not in effect.
For instance, as stated above, the implication that AAA is HIPAA
compliant means nothing since HIPAA laws generally do not apply
to entities that are not licensed medical or mental health
facilities/services. So, the HIPAA compliancy would not be
provable and would arguably not be "in effect". It seems a
shifty way to suggest confidentiality while avoiding disclosing
that AAA is not licensed to provide mental health or medical
services in Utah.
The sixth segment above begs
some questions be asked of AAA: "What do you mean by "support our
business activities"? Does AAA use client information in
studies that result in financial benefit to AAA or Aspen
Education Group? If my child is included in a research
study conducted by AAA, will we or our child be compensated and
informed as to the dangers of participation in such a study?
segment, can families expect the same treatment of their privacy
from other organizations with whom Aspen shares information as
Aspen treats said privacy? Meaning, if enough independent
organizations signed confidentiality or privacy agreements,
could your private information end up in the hands of someone
you would not wish to have that information? (i.e. an employer)
The eighth paragraph
is a concern as many of the practices (i.e. forcing children to
"wipe" with frozen snow/ice packs in freezing cold conditions
as occurred at
Adirondack Leadership Expeditions, another Aspen wilderness
may be considered a form of torture. Does AAA run "intense
interrogation" tactics in order to research "effective"
practices for dealing with POWs? Is this a possible and/or
probable explanation for this clause? Generally, schools
and other institutions do not need to disclose information to
the military or national security and if truly needed, would not
need to be disclosed in a contract. This is what leads us
to believe that the research at AAA programs may be something
highly unethical and unsuitable for children.
Is it appropriate
to include so much personal information about participants in a
facility directory? And, is it appropriate to do so
without the consent of participants?
HEAL did not
include every instance in which AAA claims it can and/or will
disclose your protected health information (PHI) without your
consent. See the
enrollment agreement in full for more information.
Agreement (Page L)
("Agreement") is entered into by and between Aspen Achievement
Academy, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company (hereinafter
"Aspen") an outdoor adolescent therapy program..."
Student is accepted into the Program, the term of this Agreement
shall be ______Days, with the minimum length of stay being 35
days...Sponsor shall transfer, by a Power of Attorney in the
form received and executed by Sponsor, temporary custody of the
Student to Aspen for the duration of the Agreement, unless
either party terminates this Agreement prior thereto by giving
written notice to the other party...or until the Student attains
the age of eighteen (18), unless the Student (a) has otherwise
been placed in the custody of Aspen by a court of proper
"The Student is
accepted with the expectation that the Student will complete the
entire Program. Unless otherwise set forth in Exhibit "A",
the Program fee is Four Hundred Sixty Five Dollars and no cents
($465.00) per day, a non-refundable Two Thousand Four Hundred
Dollars ($2,400.00) enrollment fee and any optional
"At the time of
admission, private pay sponsors shall pay the full initial
amount of the student's scheduled stay plus the enrollment fee."
"The program is
not in a position to absorb delinquent insurance balances.
The program reserves the right to discharge students whose
insurance claims become delinquent. Students with a
contracted insurance provider must provide the program with
pre-approval by the insurer at the time of admission.
Sponsor shall pay the enrollment fee, co-pay and deductible at
that time. If the contracted insurance fails to pay within
60 days of submission of a claim, Sponsor shall pay the amount
due. Students with a non-contracted insurance provider
must pay the full program cost, including the enrollment fee, at
the time of admission."
What does Aspen mean
by "outdoor adolescent therapy program"? And, what school
credits will be earned and transferrable to a child's regular
school? Why does Aspen refer to itself as an "alternative
school" in its promotional materials? Why is no mention
made of school or educational provisions in the contract?
The issues with the
Power of Attorney form were covered above. We included
much of this section to show that the total amount for the
minimum stay in the program is $18,765.00 and as some, if not
most, insurance carriers won't cover Aspen Achievement Academy,
this is a pretty steep price to pay. This is especially so
where there is no clear purpose of the AAA program. This
will be developed throughout this review.
mentions it accepts adjudicated youth and court-ordered youth.
This suggests that they may be receiving both state and federal
funds for those youth and this would imply that their violations
of children's rights by strip-searching them without probable
cause is a serious concern.
Agreement (Page M)
"Upon written approval
by the program, the Sponsor of a student who is admitted within
48 hours of the initial call shall pay a deposit of a minimum of
10 days and sign an enrollment agreement...If payment for the
remainder of the agreed upon minimum length of stay has not been
received within seven days of admission, the student will be
discharged prior to 10 days."
received less than seven (7) days prior to the arrival date will
result in a 50% refund."
withdraws Student before expiration of the minimum period of
enrollment without the recommendations of the Program Director,
Sponsor forfeits the remaining balance of the minimum stay."
"In addition to
the Program fee, Sponsor agrees to pay for the following
expenses of the Student: transportation from the Student's
current residence; food and lodging expenses for any holding
period before commencement of the Program and/or after
completion of the Program; all medical, dental, hospital, and
related expenses incurred by or for the Student and all required
personal items specified in the Student Clothing/Equipment List.
Sponsors are also responsible for any additional escort fees
required for transporting Student to and/or from the Program to
another location (i.e. airport, doctor's appointment or special
event). Sponsors are responsible for the cost of any
psychiatric evaluations performed by a psychiatrist or
psychological testing performed by a contracted psychologist."
to accept full responsibility for (1) the repair, or replacement
of any property damaged, defaced, or destroyed by the Student,
whether owned, leased, or controlled by Aspen or any third
party, and (2) any personal injury to any Aspen personnel, other
students or third parties caused, in whole or in part, by the
Student; and to promptly reimburse Aspen for any costs and
expenses, including legal fees."
"In the event the
Student runs away from the Program, Aspen will make every
reasonable effort to find the Student and return the Student to
the Program or to the Sponsor. An accounting of the
expenses incurred by Aspen in finding and returning the Student
will be made to the Sponsor who agrees to accept full
responsibility for any and all such costs and expenses."
"Aspen is not
liable for any loss of or damage to any of the Student's
and consents that Aspen's subcontracting certain services to be
rendered under this Agreement to persons or entities deemed by
Aspen to be properly qualified to provide said services, at no
additional cost to Sponsor unless otherwise agreed to by both
parties. Aspen is not responsible for the services
provided by such third-party contractors and is hereby released
from any liability arising from such services. All
clinicians furnishing services to the Student, including any
psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health professionals, or
internists or the like, are independent contractors with the
client and are not employees of Aspen. The Student is
under the care and supervision of his/her attending clinician
and it is the responsibility of the Student's clinician to
obtain the Sponsor's informed consent, when required, for
medical, surgical, or psychiatric treatment, special diagnostic
or therapeutic procedures, or other services rendered the
Student under the general and special instructions of the
RISKS; RELEASES AND INDEMNITIES. Sponsor acknowledges
serious hazards and dangers, known and unknown, inherent in the
Program, including but not limited to ranch, agricultural, and
vocational activities, emotional and physical injuries, illness
or death that may arise from strenuous hiking, climbing and
camping in a natural environment, exposure to the elements,
plants and animals, running away from the Program, "acts of God"
(nature)...stress, involvement with other students,
self-inflicted injuries, and transportation to and from the
Program's field location(s)....Sponsor understands that
accidents occur during such activities due to the negligence of
others which may result in death or serious injury.
Sponsor and Student are voluntarily participating in the
Programs with knowledge of the dangers involved and agree to
accept any and all risks."
for being permitted to participate in the Programs, Sponsor
agrees to not sue, to assume all risks and to release, hold
harmless and indemnify Aspen and any and all of its
predecessors, successors, officers, directors, trustees,
insurers, employees, managers, agents, volunteers, community
organizations, administrators, heirs, attorneys, executors,
assigns and/or related or affiliated business entities
including, but not limited to, Aspen Achievement Academy, Aspen
Education Group and Aspen Ranch Residential Treatment Center
(collectively all of the above persons and entities shall be
referred to as the "Released Parties" hereafter) who, through
negligence, carelessness or any other cause, might otherwise be
liable to Sponsor or Student under theories of contract or tort
section ends on page "N" of the contract.]
If you change your
mind about Aspen after already signing the agreement, you can
get 50% of your money back if you let them know at least seven
days prior to the scheduled start date of your child. But,
if you remove your child from the program, you forfeit nearly
$20,000. This agreement puts families in an awkward
position and increases the risk to children by creating a
circumstance in which parents would be less likely to make the
wise choice of early termination of the agreement. The
best decision being not to enroll a child in the first place.
It is a concern
that the "therapeutic" services of the program are optional and
appear to come at an additional cost. This too is
contradicted. In the 4th segment above, AAA states that
Sponsor will be charged additional fees for psychiatric and
psychological testing and services. But, in the 8th
segment, AAA says it will cover costs of those services included
in the agreement. This is confusing language and
The fifth segment
is reasonable, or would be reasonable, if Aspen's program did
not intentionally provoke or cause violent or extreme outbursts
by the very nature of their methods. It is reasonable
for AAA to demand parents accept liability for their child's
actions resulting in damage to people or property. But,
only with that caveat that AAA is providing a nurturing
environment and not provoking angry outbursts through
humiliation or physical assault of the children. Since it
has been reported that such outbursts are intentionally provoked
by AAA staff at times, this clause may raise concern for
families. AAA should insure against such incidents through
good business practice and proper insurance that would be
required of any licensed childcare program or facility. It
is wrong to solely place liability with the parents who are
entrusting the supervision and care of their child to the
program. And, families should require an investigation
into any incidents of this nature to insure that they are not
being stuck with a bill that is not their own or their child's.
Even though Aspen
demands full power of attorney and custody of your child, they
do not accept any responsibility in the event your child escapes
the program. Programs like Anasazi Foundation at least
assume 50% of the financial responsibility in such events.
is troublesome too and this is not an endorsement, just a
comparison of fact. Anasazi's practices in regards to such
responsibility seems more appropriate or fair given the
circumstances. And, Aspen's practices seem weighted
primarily on financial gain with no risk for Aspen and likely
nothing but debt and heartache for families.
AAA is free to
steal from your child as a result of the clause freeing them of
liability for lost or damaged property. Theft of personal
property at programs is fairly common. Theft of personal
property at elderly-care facilities are equally as common.
It is always a good idea to keep any items of pecuniary or
sentimental value safe at home, this includes your children.
In addition, AAA
demands control of what "independent contractors" will be
utilized and granted the fees charged for their services.
However, AAA does not take responsibility for the care provided
by the contractors they deem "properly qualified". And,
since they are asking you trust their judgment in regards to
choosing said independent contractors, they would arguably be
liable for faults found with their judgment in the event harm or
other violations occur. But, they demand you hold them
harmless if there is a problem with the subcontractor.
And, they put full responsibility on the outside or
"subcontracted" clinician for the supervision and care of your
child which rights/responsibilities you transferred to Aspen
with the Power of Attorney, and, they likely give permission in
your stead with your permission protecting everyone else from
any liability for any and all harms done to your child while in
Aspen's program. This seems to be an unconscionable
contract with many unconscionable terms.
The above also states
that risks of emotional (i.e. psychological) and physical harm
are inherent to the program. This may be true of physical
harm given that exploring wilderness with limited
supplies and/or improper supplies for warmth/hydration/etc. is likely to
result in physical harm and is a semi-reasonable assumed risk
when adventuring in such conditions. However,
psychological and emotional harm should not be an inherent risk
and stating that it is reveals the harmful nature of the AAA
Stating that the
child is voluntarily participating in the program is an open lie
and contradicted by the sections on running away/recapture and restraint covered
the review of pages G & H. Again, we remind parents that they
have the right to sign away their own rights, but, not the
rights of their minor children. This is discussed further
stated is that the parents waive their rights to pursue legal
action even in the event of serious injury or death. These
appear to be unconscionable terms given the inherent harm in
participating in the program.
Agreement (Page N)
"Sponsor intends by
this Waiver and Release to release, in advance, and to waive his
or her rights and discharge each and every one of the Released
Parties, from any and all claims for damages for death, personal
injury, or property damage which Sponsor may have, or which may
hereafter accrue as a result of Student's participation in any
aspect of the Programs, even though that liability may arise
from negligence or carelessness on the part of the persons or
entities being released, from dangerous or defective property or
equipment owned, maintained or controlled by them or because of
their possible liability without fault. Additionally,
Sponsor covenants not to sue any of the Released Parties based
up their breach of any duty owed to Sponsor or Student as a
result of their participation in any aspect of the
Programs...Released Parties shall be exempt from liability to
Sponsor, his or her heirs, assigns, and legal representatives."
acknowledges that Sponsor, and Sponsor alone, is solely
responsible for Student's personal health and safety, and the
personal property Student brings with him or her."
understands that it is ultimately Sponsor's responsibility to
provide payment to any hospital/emergency response
technicians/emergency transport company that may provide
services to Student as a result of injury/illness during the
to indemnify the Released Parties from any and all actions,
causes of action, claims, demands, damages, costs (including
attorneys' fees), expenses, liabilities and charges, known or
unknown (the "Liabilities") arising out of or in connection with
claims and/or actions relating to or brought by or on behalf of
Student, including, without limitation, claims related to or
arising out of the Minor's participation in the Program."
authorizes Aspen personnel to search the person and personal
effects of the Student at any time, including a "strip search."
In connection with such search, Aspen may, in its discretion,
require Student to remove all of his or her clothing and may
search Student's entire person, including any body cavities in
which contraband may be hidden. Aspen is further
authorized to confiscate any and all items deemed by Aspen to be
contraband or counterproductive to the Student's successful
completion of the Program. The disposition of all items
confiscated by Aspen shall be left to the sole discretion of
authorizes Aspen personnel to physically restrain, control, and
detain the Student by the exercise of necessary restraints when
deemed necessary by Aspen, for purposes including but not
limited to escorting the Student to and from the Program's
location, returning the Student to the Program if the Student
runs away, or preventing the Student from jeopardizing the
Student's own safety or the safety of others."
authorizes Aspen to use data from the Student's records, tests
and assessments for purposes of ongoing research, provided that
the Student's name and identity will be kept confidential and
not used in any published materials."
HEAL thinks it is
important for families to understand the indemnity clauses
placing them in the position to take full responsibility in the
event of serious injury or death of their child in the program.
Many families have lost their children in programs similar to
AAA and some of these deaths occurred in Aspen programs.
At least two children died at Aspen's SageWalk program in Oregon
before it "voluntarily" suspended operations as the death(s) are
investigated by authorities. These risks are very real and
parents should think if the worst happens and AAA's methods are
responsible, how they will feel with nowhere to turn for
justice. Be careful and always seriously consider what you
are agreeing to in signing any contract. Again, this is
not legal advice. If you would like legal help, please
probable cause is a violation of the civil rights of the child.
Assuming every child, with or without a history of drug use, is
in need of a strip-search is unreasonable. Searching
children at "any time" suggests such searches are used as a form
of humiliation as opposed to being done for any legitimate
purpose. And, this is a serious concern.
to detain and control the child while in the program also shows
that the program is not "voluntary" for the child and that the
child is forced to participate in the program through physical
force. Congress is working on legislation (HR 4247, the
"Keeping All Students Safe Act of 2010") to stop these misuses
of restraint in programs and schools that often result in
serious injury and death.
references the use of your child and/or your child's data in
"ongoing research". What is this research and will you be
made privy to all studies in which your or your child's private
information will be used? If not, why not? Informed
consent to participate in any research includes knowing the
purpose of the research and the projected risks involved in
participating. This again suggests possible violations of
the Nuremberg Code (International Human Rights Laws).
Agreement (Pages O & P)
"In the event that
Aspen elects to terminate the Student pursuant to the terms of
this paragraph, Sponsor understands and agrees that Sponsor
forfeits all monies pre-paid to the program."
to attend the seminar for parents and guardians of the students
conducted by Aspen at the end of the Program, and to give
Sponsor's full cooperation to Aspen personnel throughout the
Program, in order to maximize the benefits of the Program for
the Student and the Sponsor."
"If an escort is
required to bring the Student to Utah for the Program, Sponsor
agrees that any escort or escort service used by Sponsor,
whether or not Sponsor is referred to the escort by Aspen, is in
all respects an independent contractor contracting directly with
Sponsor. Sponsor agrees that Aspen bears no responsibility
of any kind for any such escort service or the negligence or
that the Student is presently covered, and will for the duration
of the Program be covered, by adequate health insurance covering
claims that may arise in connection with any accident, injury or
illness that the Student may suffer or incur during the Program.
Whatever deductibles or coverage exclusions may apply in a given
case shall be satisfied entirely by Sponsor."
that the Student is a minor, both by age and as a matter of law,
that the Student does not qualify under the law as an
"emancipated minor," and that the laws of the Student's state of
residence permit Sponsor to place the Student in the Program
without the Student's consent."
"In the event
that either party is found in default or material breach of any
specific promise, term, or condition expressly set forth in this
Agreement by an arbitrator(s) or a court of competent
jurisdiction, said party shall be liable to pay all reasonable
attorneys' fee, court costs and other related collection
costs and expenses incurred by the other party in enforcing its
contractual rights hereunder in said arbitration and/or court
proceeding(s). In addition, Sponsor agrees to compensate
Aspen for all reasonable attorneys' fees and costs incurred by
Aspen in connection with those matters concerning which Sponsor
has agreed to pay or indemnify Aspen herein."
and all matters relating hereto, including any matter or dispute
arising between the parties out of this Agreement, tort or
otherwise, shall be interpreted, governed, and enforced in
according to the laws of the State of California; and the
Parties consent and submit to the exclusive jurisdiction and
venue of the California Courts in Los Angeles County,
California...The parties acknowledged that this agreement
constitutes a business transaction within the State of
authorize the release of the Student's information via E-mail,
Internet technology, voice mail or US mail. While every
effort will be made to maintain confidentiality, Aspen accepts
no responsibility for the mis-transmission that could result in
information becoming available to someone other than the
And, of course,
if for some reason Aspen terminates the agreement and/or you decide it was a bad decision (with which
HEAL would heartily agree) to place your child in AAA and remove
him/her from the program, you lose all the money you paid to
AAA. Now, if AAA isn't, which they don't appear to be,
open about the "environment" they create for the children which
reportedly includes both physical abuse and humiliating verbal
attacks, then you should be due a refund. The comparison
between the claims made in promotional materials and the "agreed
to terms" of the contract may mean the difference between
proving fraudulent inducement (i.e. misleading advertising
and/or oral assurances of the programs safety/success rate) and
assumption of risk (i.e. the terms of the enrollment agreement).
If you pulled your child from the program and believe you are
due a refund, you should
consult an attorney.
HEAL recommends that
parents ask what Aspen means by "full cooperation". If you
witness abuse and try to prevent said abuse in opposition to the
protocol of Aspen's program, will you be in violation of the "full
cooperation" clause? This is likely how AAA sees it.
And, anyone who demands full cooperation and/or unquestioned
authority over others is not acting in the best interest of that
individual or family.
refuses to take any responsibility for "independent contractors"
to whom they refer or subject your child. Since they are
holding themselves out to families as being experts who can best
govern the "treatment" of a child, they would be considered
responsible, at least in part, for any harm resulting from those
"expert" recommendations. Also, does Aspen receive any
benefit whether financial or promotional by referring and
subcontracting with those to whom they refer? If so, why
is it all benefits for Aspen and all risks for families?
This contract seems to be an illusory contract with contrary and
unconscionable terms throughout. This is not the way
honest people do business.
In the fifth segment above,
Aspen again reiterates how the program is not voluntary for the
child. So, this directly contradicts page M that states
the child has "voluntarily" agreed to participate in the
program. This is clearly not the case.
The sixth segment
above seems more a tool of intimidation to frighten you from
pursuing legal action by having you agree to pay for AAA's
attorneys' fees regardless of the legitimacy of your claims.
This seems unconscionable.
Also, why are
disputes regarding a program in Utah being limited to
California? Since AAA chooses to conduct business in and
enroll children from other states, including Utah, they should
be able to be sued from the home-state of their dissatisfied
clients. If they do not wish to assume the risk of
litigation outside of the state of their choice, then they
shouldn't accept children from other states.
And, we see AAA
again stating they accept no responsibility for violations of
your confidentiality or privacy.
Agreement (Pages R-T)
Screen for substance abuse...Screen for risk of self-harm,
aggression, and treatment compliance or flight. Detect
malingering and deceit. Screen for behaviors that are high
risk, illegal, or violate the rights of others or major social
Group has my permission to release information to any
professional who is working with my child."
of Rhode Island Change Assessment (URICA)"
about how to prepare for a successful transition following your
child's wilderness experience whether the next step is a
residential treatment center or transition home with aftercare
that the information to be released or disclosed may include
those relating to sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS or HIV,
alcohol/drug/substance abuse under 42 CFR 2.31. I
authorize the release or disclosure of this information after
having specifically considering and expressly waiving those
federal consent requirements and restrictions."
Our concern with
the discussion on "behavioral" screening is that these
"screenings" take place when a child is already scared and not
in a position to build immediate bonds and trust with those
doing the screening. Therefore, someone exhibiting
"shyness" may be confused or subjectively determined "deceitful"
for not being "open" about themselves to the satisfaction of the
screener. Also, does AAA consider homosexuality a
violation of "major social values"? If so, this would be a
What does Aspen mean by
"professional"? Would they include staff that do not hold
a professional degree in mental health and/or medicine in that
number? How about outsiders or other programs not working
directly with your child?
have the right to waive their own rights, but, not the rights of
their minor children. This would arguably include a
limitation on the parent's right to waive the right to privacy
of said minor children. For more information, see
www.heal-online.org/legalarguments.htm. This appears
to be an illegal clause in the contract. Also, this
appears to be another hint that HIPAA laws do not apply and a
requirement showing that even if they do, you waive those rights
by signing the "consent" form.
How common is it for
children to be referred to long-term care facilities following
this wilderness program? How often do children stay in
some form of treatment setting until they reach age 18 after
being in one of your programs? What is the longest period
a child has spent in Aspen programs and/or referred to programs
after being once enrolled in an Aspen program?
HEAL asks many of
the above questions because it is not infrequently reported that
children entering a program at age 10 or 11 will and/or have
remained in a "treatment" or "program" setting until reaching
adulthood. Often the younger children's parents believed
the program to be a summer school or summer camp for personal
enrichment and that period is used to persuade the parent into
further "treatment" options as long as the financing is
available. It is our concern that programs like AAA are
considered only an entry-level into longer term and damaging
imprisonment of children in other programs.
URICA is run by
Cancer Prevention Research Center. It is highly likely
that the requirements of URICA include the voluntary
participation of individuals undergoing the assessment.
Since a child's participation in these "screenings" are
involuntary, they will likely not lead to legitimate findings or
suggestions regarding appropriate and effective actions or
treatment for the child. Using the questionnaire provided
for free on a college website is not the same as being trained
in that field of study. Parents should be very careful in
assuming the practical applications of claimed "expert analytic
tools" by amateurs or alleged frauds like Aspen.
Agreement (Pages U-X)
"Attached, please find
Form ICPC-100A and 100B (the Interstate Compact Placement
Request Form). This is an Interstate Compact, which in its
essence informs the state of Utah that your child is coming into
their state as a temporary resident. It, in turn, notifies
your home state that your child will be temporarily residing in
Utah. It is an agreement between the 50 states that,
should your child ever be in need of government services, the
receiving state (Utah) is agreeing to provide care and
supervision while your home state agrees to bear the cost."
"Type of Care
Requested:...Residential Treatment Center"
HEAL does not
believe that Aspen Achievement Academy qualifies as a
Residential Treatment Center according to
laws defining "Residential Treatment Center". Here is
how the law defines "Residential Treatment Center" in relation
to Interstate Compact Placement Request forms:
a group care facility which provides a specific treatment
program outside the realm of a medical hospital, psychiatric
hospital or institution for the mentally retarded or mentally
ill; e.g., a residential program for the treatment of
alcohol/drug abuse. The receiving state is not obligated to
supervise this type of placement made by the sending state."
(Taken from ocfs.state.ny.us on September 20th, 2010)
So, based on the above, this contradicts the statements
made by Aspen Achievement Academy that Utah will supervise and
agrees to provide such supervision by receiving/recording the
ICPC form. This is a blatantly false statement as Utah has
made no such agreement and/or no such agreement could reasonably
be implied given that the above statement that "The receiving
state is not obligated to supervise this type of placement"
openly contradicts the statement made by Aspen that "the receiving
state (Utah) is agreeing to provide care and supervision."
Misleading statements, deception, and more await those looking
to do business with Aspen Achievement Academy.
HEAL sincerely and heartily suggests you do not place your
child in Aspen Achievement Academy and rescue them if they are
Background, and Survivor Statement(s)