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ASPEN ACHIEVEMENT ACADEMY

 

In loa, utah

 

Staff List, Background, and Survivor Statement(s)

HEAL SPECIAL REPORT:

aspen achievement academy

ENROLLMENT agreement REVIEW

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 Aspen Achievement 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
Enrollment 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.    
Enrollment Agreement (Page C)

"Information disclosed 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."

"If authorization 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.

Enrollment 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..."

"Notwithstanding 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."

"Such information 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."

Aspen Achievement 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 against AAA.

Enrollment Agreement (Page E)

"There is just too much dust and wind and contact lenses increase the risk for an eye infection."

"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 our program."

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 other infections? 

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?

Enrollment 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.

Enrollment 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")."

"Without limiting 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)."

"To physically restrain the Student should he/she become a danger to himself/herself or to anyone else, as deemed necessary by Aspen."

"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 materials."

"FamilyIQ' 4 CD series"

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, consult an attorney.

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"?  Federal court decisions have shown that censoring/monitoring a child's mail is a violation of their rights.  These are all serious concerns.

FamilyIQ was 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 avoided.

Enrollment 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."

"RESPONSIBILITIES OF ASPEN EDUCATION GROUP AND ITS AFFILIATED ENTITIES"

"Make sure that health information that identifies you is kept private (with certain exceptions)"

"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 same condition..."

"USES AND 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 authorization."

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?

Regarding the seventh 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 program) 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.

Enrollment Agreement (Page L)

"This agreement ("Agreement") is entered into by and between Aspen Achievement Academy, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company (hereinafter "Aspen") an outdoor adolescent therapy program..."

"Assuming the 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 jurisdiction."

"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 therapy/professional fees."

"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. 

Also, AAA 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.

Enrollment 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."

"A cancellation received less than seven (7) days prior to the arrival date will result in a 50% refund."

"If Sponsor 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."

"Sponsor agrees 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 property."

"Sponsor agrees 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 clinician."

"ASSUMPTION OF 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."

"In consideration 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 law." [This 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 contradictory. 

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.  Anasazi 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 program. 

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 above in 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 at www.heal-online.org/legalarguments.htm

And, repeatedly 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.

Enrollment 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."

"Sponsor 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."

"Sponsor 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 Programs."

"Sponsor agrees 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."

"Sponsor hereby 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 Aspen."

"Sponsor hereby 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."

"Sponsor hereby 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 consult an attorney.

Strip-searching without 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.

Using restraint 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.

Again, AAA 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). 

Enrollment 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."

"Sponsor agrees 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 failure thereof."

"Sponsor warrants 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."

"Sponsor warrants 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."

"This Agreement, 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 California."

"The parties 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 intended receiver."

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.

Aspen again 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. 

Enrollment Agreement (Pages R-T)

"PSYCHOLOGICAL TESTING/Optional"

"Behavioral: 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 values."

"Aspen Education Group has my permission to release information to any professional who is working with my child."

"Hartman Color Code"

"The University of Rhode Island Change Assessment (URICA)"

"Information 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 support."

"I understand 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 serious concern.

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? 

Parents 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 the 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.

Enrollment 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:

"Residential Treatment Center: 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 there now.

 

Also see: Staff List, Background, and Survivor Statement(s)

 

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