This is a  staff list for ViewPoint Center in Syracuse, UT

(f.k.a. Aspen Institute for Behavioral Assessment a.k.a. Aspen Education Group--Confirmedly Abusive and Associated with the CEDU Cult Model)

(we are working to acquire the complete records for ALL years)


We advise current and/or former staff to report any abuses you may have witnessed while working at the Aspen Institute for Behavioral Assessment.  For information on your rights and how to take action, visit  If you were fired or forced to resign because you opposed any illegal and/or unethical practices at Aspen Institute for Behavioral Assessment, you have the right to take action. 


If you were harmed (family or survivor) by Aspen Institute for Behavioral Assessment, please contact if you remember the long-term employees and from which years.  This will help!   Also, if you recognize any of these staff as having worked at another program, please send in any information about their past or present employment at other facilities and/or cults. 



Please don’t place your loved one in Aspen Institute and rescue them if they are there now. 




Additional Information
Denise Dryden Admissions She has worked in admissions at the NorthStar Center, placing high school students in a therapeutic boarding school at The Oakley School, and now working at the Institute.  Dryden is no longer listed as staff on the Aspen Institute hosted staff list and may no longer be working at the facility.  Dryden is not a licensed mental health nor medical professional in UT.  Source:
Judith Jacques Executive Director Jacques formerly worked for Island View RTC.  Aspen Institute for Behavioral Assessment was considered a branch of Island View RTC.  Now, it has re-branded with much of the same staff, including Jacques and Randi Nelson (below).
Jennifer Wilde Exec. Clinical Director  
Jordan Rigby Director of Assessment  
Michael Connolly Medical Director  
Chris Paegle Nurse  
Jennifer Young Nurse  
Jessinna Nielson Nursing Supervisor  
Clint Fulmer Program Director  
Jennifer Capellen Academic Director  
Britten Lamb Clinical Director  
Jessica Walker Therapist  
Chad Stark Therapist  
Peter Brickey Therapist  
Randi Nelson Admissions She has an identical twin, Brandi, who works in the HR Office at Island View RTC.   Nelson is not a licensed mental health nor medical professional in UT.  Source:
(Dr.) Jared Balmer Executive Director Balmer has over 30 years experience in the treatment of adolescents. He  is the co-founder of the Institute, Island View Residential Treatment Center, and the Oakley School, among unnamed others.  Balmer is no longer listed as staff on the Aspen Institute hosted staff list and may no longer be working at the facility.  Balmer is NOT a licensed medical professional.  Balmer is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in UT and has been since 1986.  Source:
Mike Bulloch Clinical Director Previous to joining the institute, he worked for six years as the Clinical Director of the Oakley School.   Bulloch is no longer listed as staff on the Aspen Institute hosted staff list and may no longer be working at the facility.  Bulloch is NOT a licensed medical professional.  There is a Robert Michael Bulloch (may be a different person) that is a licensed clinical social worker in UT.  Source:
Sue Crosland Nurse She has over 15 years of experience working with children and adolescents in a variety of unnamed settings from psychiatric hospitals to residential treatment facilities.  Crosland is no longer listed as staff on the Aspen Institute hosted staff list and may no longer be working at the facility.  Crosland is NOT a licensed medical professional in UT.  Source:
Richard Davidson Psychiatrist (M.D.) Formerly with the Air Force and a graduate of a Utah college.  Richard S. Davison (may be a different person) is a licensed medical doctor in UT and has been since 1979.  Source:
David Ericksen Psychological Services He has worked and consulted with numerous unnamed inpatient and residential programs for adolescents and adults since 1980.  David G. Ericksen is a licensed psychologist in UT and has been since 1985.  Source:
Matthew Gardiner Psychiatrist (M.D.) Gardiner is originally from Ogden, UT.  And, has spent years "consulting" for numerous unnamed residential treatment programs.  Gardiner is no longer listed as staff on the Aspen Institute hosted staff list and may no longer be working at the facility.  Gardiner is a licensed medical doctor in UT and has been since 2000.  Source:
Kristin Shadow Psychiatrist (M.D.) Graduate of Univ. of UT  Shadow is a licensed medical doctor and has been in UT since 1996.  Source:
Kirk Simon Psychiatrist (M.D.) Simon is no longer listed as staff on the Aspen Institute hosted staff list and may no longer be working at the facility.  Simon is a licensed medical doctor and has been in UT since 1996.  Source:
Jeff Gregson Therapist Formerly worked for Utah Youth Village, Weber Human Services, and Alpine Academy.  Jeffrey Jay Gregson (may be a different person) is licensed solely as a clinical mental health counselor (NOT THERAPIST) in UT and has been since 2000.  He earned his counseling degree from the University of Phoenix.  Source:

"The Justice Department announced today that the University of Phoenix has agreed to pay the United States $67.5 million to resolve allegations that its student recruitment policies violated the False Claims Act.  This case began as a whistleblower action filed in the Eastern District of California under the False Claims Act, which permits private citizens to bring lawsuits for fraud on behalf of the United States and to share in any recovery. Whistleblowers Mary Hendow and Julie Behn, two former University of Phoenix employees, alleged that the university accepted federal student financial aid while in violation of statutory and regulatory provisions prohibiting post-secondary schools from paying admissions counselors certain forms of incentive-based compensation tied to the number of students recruited. Though the United States did not intervene in this action, the Government provided support and assistance to the whistleblowers at many stages of the case, including filing friend-of-the-court briefs when the case was on appeal to the Ninth Circuit. The two whistleblowers will receive $19 million from the settlement."

The University of Phoenix does not have the specialized accreditation necessary for degrees in psychology.  (Source:   It is accredited for teaching and nursing degrees.

Russ Pryor Therapist Graduate of Brigham Young University (BYU)  Pryor is NOT a licensed therapist.  Pryor is a licensed clinical social worker in UT and has been since 1998.  Source:
Melissa Weathers Therapist Formerly worked at a "therapeutic program" in Montana.*   Also, in the late 90's she worked at an unnamed facility while attending BYU.*  Weathers is NOT a licensed therapist.  Pryor is a licensed clinical social worker in UT and has been since 2008.  Source:
Melissa Brooks Nurse Brooks is NOT a licensed nurse in UT.  A Melissa Anne Brooks was licensed as a registered nurse, but, the license has expired as of March, 2012.  Source:
Cheronne Anderson Psychiatrist Anderson is a licensed medical doctor and has been in UT since 1991.  Source:
Mary Burris Psychiatrist Burris is a licensed medical doctor and has been in UT since 2005.  Source:
Don Vardell Executive Director Formerly worked for confirmedly abusive Academy at Swift River and Excel Academy.  Vardell also worked for Peninsula Village (confirmedly abusive) and Shortridge Academy.  Vardell is listed as the current executive director of Shortridge Academy.  And, with Baldwin coming in, this suggests he may have transferred to the Academy and may no longer be with the Aspen Institute.  Vardell is not a licensed mental health nor medical professional in UT.  Source:
Sharelle Baldwin Program Director Baldwin is a licensed psychologist and has been since August, 2010.  Source:
Michelle M. Murphy Therapist Murphy was reportedly not licensed at the time she worked for Aspen Institute of Behavioral Assessment but has subsequently been licensed as an LCSW.  License #: 5941793-3501. 
Partha Vimal Gandhi Psychologist Gandhi's licensed in Utah, License #: 290737-2501 and has been in trouble with the law for "lying under oath and arrested for "crime of moral turpitude"".  Source: 
NO OTHER NAMES NO OTHER TITLES There is no additional information on staff at this location at this time.*
*(Aspen Institute, like many other programs in this industry, keeps a "tight lid" on any specific information regarding their staff, qualifications, and practices.  Please contact us with the names of any staff of which you have firsthand knowledge or experience.  Thank you for your help.)
The Aspen Institute is an Aspen Education Group program.  Thomas J. Croke, Educational Consultant, has denounced Aspen Education Group for putting profits over the safety and care of children in Aspen programs.

All segregated congregate care providers, including those on our watch-list, are welcome to contact us to correct any information or provide additional data that may assist with delivering the whole truth to the public.  We've found in many cases where this offer has been abused or resulted in revealing additional basis for our concerns. For some examples see: and  Now, we are willing to look at the facts and may have questions or require documentation backing up any claims.  We do verify licensing, academic backgrounds, and other qualifications when investigating and researching programs on our watch-list to assist consumers seeking additional information on such programs or victims requiring assistance with getting corroborating evidence of their claims.  We do that in order to make sure the information we provide is accurate and verified and cite our sources.  In the event any information we've posted is in error, we're happy to make a correction.  And, for information on how such requests are handled and have been resolved historically, see:

HEAL does not support segregated congregate care for many reasons which include that many such facilities are abusive, exploitative, fraudulent, and lack effective oversight often as a result of fraudulent misrepresentation coupled with the ignorance of those seeking to enroll loved ones in such facilities, programs, schools, or centers without a valid court order and involuntarily.  In the United States such involuntary placements done without a court order are apparently illegal as they either violate the Americans with Disabilities Act community integration requirement or due process rights of those involuntarily placed.  Now, in regards to parents, in the United States parents have the right to waive their own rights, but, not the rights of their minor children.  See for more information.  Now, most facilities on our watch list include waivers, indemnity clauses, and sworn statements parents must sign assuring the program that the parents have the right to make the placement involuntarily and without due process in a segregated congregate care environment, however, California and federal prosecutors as well as settled law appears to suggest that is not the case.  In fact, in the David Taylor case found at, Taylor sued Provo Canyon School and his mother as co-defendants.  His mother was found liable for 75% of the damages awarded to Taylor as a result of multiple complaints including false imprisonment, while the program was found only 25% liable because the mother owed a duty of due diligence to investigate anyone to which she would entrust care of her child and she failed to do so. 

Now, HEAL opposes segregated congregate care and we find most placements are happening illegally in the USA which if the youth understood their rights would result in unfortunate outcomes for the parents, particularly when they don't exercise good judgment and support the fraud and abuse rather than their own children when they need remedy and justice.  And, HEAL supports all victims of fraud and abuse in seeking remedies at law for any crimes or torts committed against them.  And, that's true whether or not the program or victims are in the USA. 

HEAL has a 5 point argument against segregated congregate care we'd like you to consider:

a.  Segregated care is unconstitutional and a civil rights violation.  It is only permissible if a person is unable to survive independent of an institutional environment.  For more on this, watch the HEAL Report at  Or, see:  which includes in part:    "United States v. Florida – 1:12-cv-60460 – (S.D. Fla.) – On April 7, 2016, the United States filed an Opposition to the State of Florida’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment.  In the Motion, the State had asked the Court to rule, on a variety of grounds, that the United States could not recover damages for unnecessarily institutionalized children to whom the State had been deliberately indifferent."

b.  Institutionalization is always dehumanizing and coercive.  Institutionalization always harms the institutionalized and deprives them of protected civil rights.  Dr. David Straker, Psychiatry Professor at Columbia University's School of Medicine (Ivy League) explains this in detail at  "Many institutions, from prisons to monasteries to asylums, deliberately want to control and manage their inmates such that they conform and do not cause problems. Even in less harsh environments, many of the institutionalization methods may be found, albeit in more moderated form (although the psychological effect can be equally devastating)."  (See website linked in this paragraph for more info.)

c.  Institutionalization is not in the best interest of children.  Institutions are not ever better for a child than living with a loving family.  Source:       

d.  Reform schools, residential treatment programs, and other segregated congregate care settings have been shown to be ineffective and harmful.  Best source on this currently is:

e. Boarding Schools, even the "good ones", result in a form of social death, isolation, and cause both anxiety and depression.  Therefore, it is clearly not in the best interest of the youth subjected to those environments.  Sources: and

Beyond the above arguments against segregated congregate care, we have reports from the NIH, Surgeon General, Yale University Studies, and much more showing the methodologies of behavior modification are damaging, harmful, and ineffective.  You can request these documents via e-mail.  In addition, for such programs offering academic services or claiming to offer diplomas, certifications, or the like, it is important to check to see if it is a diploma mill with no accredited academic services.  Please see article: "Avoiding Scams: What You Need To Know"  for important information on how to avoid education/training scams.

If you'd like to see what HEAL suggests rather than segregated congregate care (i.e. committing a crime or tort against your child if done against their will without a court order), please see articles: "Fix Your Family, Help Your Teen" and "How Would You Handle My Out of Control Teen?".

If you have a complaint against any facility, please file a complaint with the appropriate law enforcement agency or your home state's attorney general.  For reporting resources see:  (Reporting guide is for USA only at this time.)




HEAL has found multiple problems with Aspen Institute for Behavioral Assessment's (Aspen) application and parent handbook, including apparent unconscionable terms and/or contradictory terms leaving us to believe that Aspen Institute for Behavioral Assessment is running a money-making scam on families in need of assistance.  We will be alternating between "quoted text" from pages of Aspen's application and parent handbook (as were downloaded from on September 20th, 2010) and HEAL's questions/concerns.  HEAL will not repeatedly link to the application and/or parent handbook in full throughout this review, and, we advise readers to scroll back and/or open the application and/or parent handbook 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

Application (Page 1)

"LEGALLY, ACCORDING TO JCAHO REGULATIONS, WE ARE UNABLE ACCEPT ANY CHILD INTO THE HOSPITAL WITHOUT HAVING THE APPROPRIATE SIGNED DOCUMENTS.  This means that if we have not received the paperwork before your child arrives, the child must be kept off the premises until we do receive it."

"At time of admission, a deposit of $18,000 is due."

"Then, please sign the second form, but do not fill in the party to release information to.  That way, we will be able to witness over the phone when you give us permission to communicate with another professional or program, without you having to fill out a new form and fax it every time."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

Aspen Institute for Behavioral Assessment is not listed on the "full list" of licensed hospitals in Utah.  And, the Aspen Institute for Behavioral Assessment is not licensed by the Department of Human Services.  From HEAL's research, we have found that the state of Utah may not require private mental health or psychiatric "hospitals" to be licensed.  "Representatives from only four States, Alaska, Delaware, Utah,and Wisconsin, reported no provision for such licensing." (Author: Boyd E. Oviatt, click hyperlink above for more information and complete report.)  In fact, Aspen Institute for Behavioral Health appears to be licensed with only a general business license as a foreign limited liability company in Utah.

And, Aspen Institute for Behavioral Assessment claims to be accredited by the Joint Commission.  This also appears to be a false statement.  Island View Residential Treatment Center is accredited by the Joint Commission (JCAHO) and claims to also provide services at Aspen Institute for Behavioral Assessment.  This shows that Island View is accredited, not Aspen Institute for Behavioral Health.  Beyond this, the Joint Commission has been in repeat trouble for failure to enforce patient safety standards at programs and facilities they accredit.  There is no suggestion by the Joint Commission that Aspen Institute is ever surveyed for compliance, only that their sister facility, Island View, is so surveyed. 

The $18,000 deposit at time of admission covers 18 days of the program according to the charges outlined later in this review.( see: page 26)  The cost of this program is $1000 per day.

The last paragraph in this section raised serious concerns due to the alleged falsity and/or alleged fraudulent activities of Aspen Education Group.  Also, given the Power of Attorney required, it seems to place Aspen in a position to misuse confidentiality waivers signed without identifying the party to receive the information so that Aspen can write in the names you "approve" orally/by phone when "needed".  Or, write-in whomever they wish and later claim you approved it by phone per the contract.  That would turn into a "he said/she said" debate with no means of proving either side sufficiently for a court.  Regardless, as you will see below, Aspen takes no responsibility for anything they do to you or your child and admit to placing your child in harm's way, both emotionally (psychologically) and physically.  This coupled with all of the releases of liability including for negligent and/or careless acts perpetrated by Aspen that result in serious harm, really places injured families in a difficult position.  HEAL suggests families avoid Aspen Education Group programs, including Aspen Institute for Behavioral Assessment. 

Application (Page 4)

"When residents desire to mail any material to any person, they are required to provide the material to the Institute, sealed, in an envelope or other package, without postage.  The Institute then takes the package or envelope, without opening or inspecting the contents, and forwards the envelope or package to the resident's parent or legal guardian.  Likewise, when any mail from any person other than the parent or legal guardian arrives at the Institute addressed to a resident, the Institute takes the mail, unopened, and delivers it to the parents of the resident.  At the time of admissions you will be given a Resident ID Code that must be on all coming mail."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

This section appears to be contradicted by the parent handbook, discussed below.  Also, with this limited ability for the child to communicate with the outside world, it places the child in serious danger.  If a child can't write authorities or report abuse and must only hope for a family response when in crisis, this creates a circumstance where abuse is likely to occur and go unreported.  Other issues in the parent handbook arise as well that point to an unhealthy and/or cruel environment in place at Aspen Institute for Behavioral Assessment (Aspen). 

Application (Page 5)

"You have the right to request that we restrict how protected health information about the minor child is used or disclosed for treatment, payment, or health care operation.  We are not required to agree to this restriction."

"By signing this form you consent to our use and disclosure of protected health information about the minor child for treatment, except where we have already made disclosures in reliance on your prior consent."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

They are not required to agree to restrictions you place on how they use or disclose your protected health information.  This suggests that they are not regulated by HIPAA and further supports the well-founded belief above that they are not a licensed hospital in Utah. 

The second segment above does not make sense.  If they have consent and are requesting it again, this would not create an exception for past or future use given the context.  So, this is at least a confusing, if not misleading consent form.

Application (Page 6)

"During the course of your child's stay at the Institute, it may become necessary for he/she to seek treatment from an outside consultant and/or services such as Dentist, OB/GYN, Orthopedic, Optometry, E.N.T., ect.  You are responsible for the cost associated with these service.  I understand that the Institute will seek parent/guardian approval prior to scheduling such consultations."

"I am aware that the provider of the consultation service will bill me and/or my insurance company for the services provided."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

In the above, we see what appears to be a reasonable agreement for the family to cover all medical costs of their child while in the program.  However, in the likely event that Aspen is responsible for the harm due to negligence, carelessness, or any other cause, they refuse to take responsibility and leave parents paying what may amount to a never-ending bill.  This is developed further in the discussions regarding waivers and releases of liability.

Application (Page 7)

"In an effort to coordinate your child's medication administration, it is necessary for you to complete the Prescription Drug Enrollment form.  This form allows us to fill the medications that the Physician has prescribed in a timely manner without delaying the administration to your child."

"After admission, permission will be obtained from you prior to starting any new medication (Except in an emergency situation)."

"Thank you for your assistance in this matter as it will expedite the process of obtaining and administrating medication for your child."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

Psychiatric drugs are experimental at best and extremely harmful/deadly at worst.  HEAL heartily recommends parents do not use or authorize others to use psychiatric medications that are unproven to safely treat the conditions with which very subjective "authorities" have diagnosed your child.  Please feel free to search the HEAL site for information on the harmful effects and dangers of administering psychiatric drugs to children.  You may also want to consider legal articles that drugging a child without their consent violates their rights.  This is likely especially true for minors who have reached the legal age of consent in regards to their choices.

What situations do Aspen consider to be "emergencies"?  In some programs, children who fold their arms or make eye contact in violation of the program rules are deemed "out of control" by staff and given potent anti-psychotics like Haldol that put them in a semi-coma to "calm" them.  But, it is really being used as a chemical restraint and in a punitive way.  Our concern is that Aspen may operate in this manner and that they may argue that any sign of disobedience is an emergency situation in need of chemical restraints. 

Application (Page 8)

"In cases were a resident would like to be inoculated while at the Institute, the facility will provide the procedure through the Davis County Health Department."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

If Aspen were licensed as a hospital by the Department of Health and approved to administer medicine, why don't they handle vaccines or other medical needs in-house?  This again points to discrepancies between what they say they are and what they are in reality. 

Also, we do point out misspellings and other errors from time to time.  HEAL quotes program literature exactly as it is written/authored by the program itself.  We do not point out every error, but, will make not at times.  In the above statement, we believe Aspen intended "where" not "were". 

Application (Page 9)

"I understand that this authorization extends to all or any part of the records/information designated below which may include treatment for physical and mental illness, alcohol/drug abuse; HIV/AIDS test results or diagnosis.  The information to be used or released includes: ...Psychological Evaluation...Discharge Summary...Consultation Reports...Monthly Progress Report...Verbal Communication...Psychiatric Evaluation...Laboratory Data...Asessments...Psycho-Social History...Treatment Plans...Progress Notes..."

"I authorize the release of such information by mail, fax, regular telephone, and/or cellular phone contact."

"I hereby release the Institute from all legal responsibilities or liability that may arise from the use or disclosure of medical records and other health information in reliance on this authorization."

"Pursuant to Utah State rules, I understand that in case I am below the age of 18, my parent/legal guardian reserves the right to sign this release without my expressed verbal or written consent."

"I certify that I am...The patient/resident/student authorized representative, and the identification and proof of authority that I have provided are true and correct.  My relationship to the resident is that of..."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

The legal age of consent in Utah is 14-years old.  HEAL was unable to find any Utah laws suggesting that a parent can override the civil rights of a child without their consent.  To what law or rule is Aspen referring?  Is this just a manipulation of language to trick the child into signing the form agreeing that they don't have rights that even the state guarantees them?  And again, HEAL understands that parents can sign away their own rights, but, not the rights of their minor children.  This is discussed on our site at  It is a serious concern and it does not seem that Aspen does anything to show it will act responsibly and/or be held accountable for mishandling of protected health information.

Application (Page 11)

"Medication such as an Epi-pen should be made available at all times when potential contact with an allergen is possible."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

All medical facilities should have Epi-pens available with the understanding that severe allergic reactions can be triggered without a documented history of allergic reactions by the patient.  But, since Aspen appears to be something other than a medical facility, we wonder why the above statement is so vague and if such treatment is made readily available or kept on hand in case of emergency.  Such is not implied by the above statement.

Application (Page 12)

"Island View Pharmacy provides services to Aspen Institute for Behavioral Assessment's patients including, but not limited to: Medical supplies, medications, and packaging.  Patients who receive services from Island View Pharmacy must complete the following agreement.  Island View Pharmacy will bill the appropriate/insurance when applicable.  But the patient/responsible party will be responsible for any non-covered charges.  If no insurance/agency is indicated, Island View Pharmacy will bill the patient/responsible party directly through a valid credit card, as per Aspen Institute's policy."

"I understand that by signing this agreement I indicate my wish to purchase health care products/services from Island View Pharmacy.  I will pay for any con-pays, non-covered items, and charges that incur while under this agreement.  I authorize Island View Pharmacy access to the above-mentioned patient's medical records for proper medication assessment."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

Island View Pharmacy is not affiliated with Island View RTC/Aspen Education Group.

Application (Page 13)

"This agreement ("Agreement") is entered into by and between the Aspen The Institute for Behavioral Assessment, L.L.C....operating as The Institute, a licensed program which is described in the program materials that Sponsor has received previously and which is made a part of this Agreement by reference (the "The Institute") and...the parent(s) and/or guardian(s) of the Resident (hereinafter the "Sponsors")."

"On the day of admission, Sponsor shall transfer, by a Power of Attorney in the form received and executed by Sponsor, temporary custody of the Resident to The Institute for the duration of the admission period, or until the Resident attains the age of eighteen (18), unless the Resident (a) has otherwise been placed in the custody of The Institute by a court of proper jurisdiction or (b) voluntarily consents in writing to remain in the Program for any period of time beyond said eighteenth (18th) birthday."

"The Resident is accepted with the expectation that the Resident will complete the individual master treatment program.  The Program fee per month excludes the cost of psychotropic and other medications, laboratory fees, specialty testing, and medical services as may be necessary.  Physician fees are also excluded from the daily program cost.  Sponsor agrees to pay all attorney fees, court costs, filing fees, and charges of commissions that may be assessed by any collection agency retained to pursue collection of any outstanding sums."

"Payments not received in the current due month of service are subject to a $250 late fee and may result in discharge of the resident from the Institute.  Upon discharge, the account must be paid in full."

"Sponsor is responsible for payment of all tuition and fees not paid."

"The current daily rate fee is subject to increases upon 60-day notice."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

Is Aspen Institute for Behavioral Assessment a "licensed program"?  They are not licensed by the Department of Human Services.  They do not appear to be licensed as a hospital, and, in this portion of the agreement they do not claim such status.  And, as stated above, they appear to be licensed solely as a foreign limited liability company.  All of this suggests misleading and deceptive terms in the contract itself.

Aspen did not include the Power of Attorney they require in their online materials.  However, Aspen Achievement Academy did include the Power of Attorney required for that program and the documents are likely the same or similar as both are Aspen Education Group programs.  Our concerns are stated clearly regarding Aspen's requirements under the Power of Attorney form review (pages G & H).

Parents should take note that most clinical and/or therapeutic services appear to be subcontracted or to come with additional fees above and beyond the minimum $1000 per day.  What are you getting for your money?  In reviewing this contract, it appears what parents get is a 6-week rip-off followed by a referral to yet another Aspen-owned program so Aspen can continue to profit at the family's expense.  It certainly doesn't appear to be ethical. 

The late fee of $250 is contradicted by a late fee of $50 reported on page 19 of the contract.  These slight variations along with other blatant contradictions in the contract raise concerns of unconscionability and/or hidden fees and costs attributed to the program and/or their "methods". 

Application (Page 14)

"If Sponsor or authorized third party withdraws Resident before completion of the individual master treatment plan, Sponsor understands and agrees that Sponsor shall immediately (1) pay all outstanding account balances and payments through the discharge date."

"In addition to the treatment fee, Sponsor agrees to pay for the following expenses of the Resident: transportation from the Resident's current residence to Syracuse, Utah, and return transportation to the Resident's current residence; food and lodging for any holding period before admission to the Institute and/or after discharge from the Institute; all medical, dental, medical-surgical hospital, prescription medication, assessment, specialty testing not included in the daily per diem rate, and related expenses incurred by or for the Resident, and all required personal items specified in the resident clothing list.  Sponsors are also responsible for any additional escort fees required for transporting Resident to and/or from the Institute to another location (i.e., airport, doctor's appointment or other facility), outside the normal business hours (i.e. business hours are Monday-Saturday 9:00am-4:00pm...)."

"Sponsor agrees to accept full responsibility for (1) the repair or replacement of any property damaged, defaced, or destroyed by the Resident, whether owned, leased, or controlled by The Institute or any third party, and (2) any personal injury to any The Institute personnel, other residents or third parties caused, in whole or in part, by the Resident; and to promptly reimburse The Institute for any costs and expenses, including legal fees, it may incur in connection therewith."

"In the event the Resident runs away from The Institute, The Institute will make every reasonable effort to find the Resident and return the Resident to the Institute or to the Sponsor.  An accounting of the expenses incurred by The Institute in finding and returning the Resident will be made to the Sponsor who agrees to accept full responsibility for any and all such costs and expenses..."

"The Institute is not liable for any loss of, or damage to any of the Resident's property."

"Sponsor agrees and consents to The Institute's subcontracting certain services to be rendered under this Agreement to persons or entities deemed by The Institute to be properly qualified to provide said services, at no additional cost to Sponsor unless otherwise agreed to by both parties.  The Institute is not responsible for the services provided by such third-party contractors and is hereby released from any liability arising from such services."

"If the Resident's condition is such as to need the service of a special duty nurse, it is agreed that the Sponsors must arrange such.  The Institute shall in no way be responsible for failure to provide the same and is hereby released."

"Sponsor acknowledges that The Institute offers a some sports, exercise and recreational activities which can pose serious hazards and dangers, known and unknown, including but not limited to, emotional and physical injuries, illness or death that may arise from strenuous cardiovascular activities, exposure to the elements, plants and animals, running away from The Institution, "acts of God" (nature), the ropes course, stress, involvement with other residents, self-inflicted injuries, and transportation to and from activities.  Sponsor understands that in participating in the Institute, Resident will be in locations and using facilities where hazards exist and is aware of and appreciates the risks, which may result.  Sponsor understands that accidents occur during such activities due to the negligence of others, which may result in death or serious injury.  Sponsor and Resident are voluntarily participating in the Institute with knowledge of the dangers involved and agree to accept any and all risks."

"In consideration of being permitted to participate in all aspect of resident services at the Institute, Sponsor agrees to not sue, to assume all risks and to release, hold harmless and indemnify The Institute 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 Education Group, Inc. (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 Resident under theories of contract or tort law."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

If by "discharge date" Aspen is referring to the date they projected at the signing of the contract for discharge as opposed to the actual discharge/withdrawal date, then families would appear to owe thousands of dollars for services they did not receive.  The reason there is some confusion about this clause is that in other Aspen agreements, they require that all fees that would have been paid had the child remained in the program be paid as if the agreement was fulfilled regardless of the early discharge/withdrawal.  This is a serious concern and should be clarified by Aspen.

It is a concern that many, if not all of the "therapeutic" services of the program are optional and appear to come at an additional cost.   

The third 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 Aspen to demand parents accept liability for their child's actions resulting in damage to people or property.  But, only with that caveat that Aspen 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 Aspen staff at times, this clause may raise concern for families.  Aspen 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.

Aspen 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, Aspen demands control of what "independent contractors" will be utilized and granted the fees charged for their services.  However, Aspen 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 likely 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.  However, psychological and emotional harm should not be an inherent risk and stating that it is reveals the harmful nature of the Aspen Institute 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 and below in the review of page 15.  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  We also reiterate that this review is independent and does not constitute legal advice.  If you need legal advice, consult an attorney.

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.

Application (Page 15)

"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 Resident's participation in any aspect of the Program, 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 upon their breach of any duty owed to Sponsor or Resident as a result of their participation in any aspect of the Program.  Sponsor understands and agrees that this Waiver and Release is binding on his or her heirs, assigns and legal representatives and that the 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 Resident's personal health and safety, and the personal property Resident brings with him or her....Sponsor accepts full responsibility for any costs incurred for medical treatment due to failure to procure or maintain insurance, or providing outdated or falsified insurance information.  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 Resident 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 Resident, including, without limitation, claims related to or arising out of the Minor's participation in the Program."

"In the event of an accident, injury, illness, or other medical necessity, Sponsor hereby authorizes The Institute to: (a) provide emergency first aid to the Resident at the facility, and in route to any hospital or clinic; (b) arrange for emergency medical, dental, psychiatric, hospital, ambulance or other health-related care for the Resident deemed necessary by The Institute's staff; and (c) emergency authorization of a physician, dentist or other health-are professional(s) to perform any procedure(s) that the health-care professional(s) deems necessary for the well-being of the Resident.  All costs and expenses incurred for these services shall be the sole responsibility of the Sponsor.  Sponsor also authorizes The Institute to arrange for a physical examination (including a drug screen urine/blood test, at The Institute's option) and any psychological assessments of the Resident deemed necessary by The Institute prior to the Resident's admission to the Institute."

"Sponsor hereby authorizes The Institute personnel to search the person and personal effects of the Resident at any time.  The Institute is further authorized to confiscate any and all items deemed by The Institute to be contraband or counterproductive to the Resident's successful completion of the Program.  The disposition of all items confiscated by The Institute shall be left to the sole discretion of The Institute."

"AUTHORIZATION FOR BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION/THERAPEUTIC HOLDS AND SPECIAL TREATMENT PROCEDURE (STP).  Sponsor hereby authorizes The Institute personnel to therapeutically hold, restrain, seclude, control, and detain the Resident by the exercise of necessary techniques and holds when deemed necessary by The Institute for purposes including but not limited to escorting the Resident to and from the Institute's location, returning the Resident to the Institute if the Resident runs away, or preventing the Resident from jeopardizing the Resident's own safety or the safety of others."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

In addition, in other areas of the contract, Aspen 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. 

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 Aspen 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 Aspen'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.

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 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 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, Aspen does not limit the use of physical restraint to just the event in which a child is a danger to self or others.  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.

For a detailed explanation of "behavior modification", please see our free e-book.

Application (Page 16)

"Throughout the stay, the sponsor may ask for further clarification with regard to the benefits and risk associated with treatment."

"Sponsor hereby authorizes The Institute to use data from the Resident's records, tests, and assessments for purposes of ongoing research, provided that the Resident's name and identity will be kept confidential and not used in any published materials."

"In the event that The Institute elects to terminate the Resident pursuant to the terms of this paragraph, Sponsor understands and agrees that Sponsor shall immediately (1) pay all outstanding account balances and fees through the discharge date of the Resident."

"If during the course of treatment, The Institute, in its sole discretion, determines that the resident's clinical needs can no longer be met through the program delivery system, resulting in the termination from the program, sponsor shall immediately pay all outstanding account balances."

"Sponsor agrees to exercise good faith best efforts to attend any seminars for parents and guardians of the residents conducted by The Institute during the Program, and to give Sponsor's full cooperation to The Institute personnel throughout the Program, in order to maximize the benefits of the Program for the Resident and the Sponsor."

"If an escort is required to bring the Resident to Syracuse, Utah to the Institute, or to return the resident from Utah or for any other transport deemed necessary by The Institute, Sponsor agrees that any escort or escort service used by Sponsor, whether or not Sponsor is referred to the escort by The Institute, is in all respects an independent contractor contracting directly with Sponsor.  Sponsor agrees that The Institute bears no responsibility of any kind for any such escort service or the negligence or failure thereof."

"Sponsor warrants that the Resident 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 Resident may suffer or incur during the Program; or take personal financial responsibility for such costs.  Whatever deductibles or coverage exclusions may apply in a given case shall be satisfied entirely by Sponsor."

"Sponsor warrants that the Resident is a minor, both by age and as a matter of law, which the Resident does not qualify under the law as an "emancipated minor," and that the laws of the Resident's state of residence permit Sponsor to place the Resident in the Program without the Resident's consent."

"Any controversy or claim arising out of or relating to this contract, except at The Institute's option the collection of monies owed by Sponsor to The Institute, shall be settled by binding arbitration conducted in the State of California in accordance with the rules of the American Arbitration Association."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

The initial statement in the above section suggests that the details of what risks are involved in the Program are not thoroughly disclosed in the materials provided prior to signing of the contract.  This suggests that families are not aware of what they are signing up for and coupled with all of the waivers and releases of liability raises quite a few concerns.  What exactly is the "Program" and why are the real risks not explicitly outlined for families prior to admission?

Again, Aspen 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).

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 Aspen and remove him/her from the program, you lose all the money you paid to Aspen.  Now, if Aspen 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 application).  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 Aspen 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 eighth segment above, Aspen again reiterates how the program is not voluntary for the child.  So, this directly contradicts page 14 that states the child has "voluntarily" agreed to participate in the program.  This is clearly not the case. 

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. 

Application (Page 17)

"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 The Institute for all reasonable attorneys' fees and costs incurred by The Institute in connection with those matters concerning which Sponsor has agreed to pay or indemnify The Institute hereunder."

"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 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, and any qualified (American Arbitration Association-approved) arbitration service in the State of California, County of Los Angeles, to enforce this Agreement.  The parties acknowledge that this agreement constitutes a business transaction within the State of California."

"Sponsor hereby acknowledges that Sponsor has read this agreement and that Sponsor understands and consents to all of its provisions; that this Agreement constitutes the entire agreement between the parties hereto with respect to the subject matter hereof; and that all other prior agreements, promises, expectations and conditions, oral or written, between the parties are incorporated herein...The Institute gives no warranties of any kind, express or implied, to either the Sponsor or the Resident concerning the Program; and Sponsor acknowledges that Sponsor is not relying on any warranties or representations of any kind other than the express commitments of The Institute set forth herein."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

The first segment above seems more a tool of intimidation to frighten you from pursuing legal action by having you agree to pay for Aspen's attorneys' fees regardless of the legitimacy of your claims.  This seems unconscionable.

Again, why is a program in Utah stating that the contract or agreement is a business transaction in California?  Why is Los Angeles the sole location for disputes to be decided? 

Aspen promises nothing in this contract but exposure to extreme risks, extraordinary costs, and a referral to another Aspen program.  Families are asked to subject themselves to extreme risks, including death that is the fault of Aspen's negligence, carelessness, or other misconduct and to pay dearly for these risks with no guarantee or warranty regarding the outcome.  This is such an unfair contract and seems to be illusory and arguably void/voidable as a result.  It may also be void as a matter of law as some of the terms seem to imply conspiracy to commit kidnapping/false imprisonment of the minor. 

Application (Page 18)

"The parties authorize the release of the Resident's information via E-mail, Internet technology, voicemail, or US mail.  While every effort will be made to maintain confidentiality, The Institute accepts no responsibility for the mis-transmission that could result in information becoming available to someone other than the intended receiver."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

And, we see Aspen again stating they accept no responsibility for violations of your confidentiality or privacy. 

Application (Page 19)

"I hereby give my consent to the aspen Institute to charge my credit card each month for services rendered.  I understand that if my credit card declines, a late fee of $50.00 may be assessed..."

"I also give consent for the Institute to charge my credit card for charges related to shipping costs of my son/daughter's personal belongings as they are incurred.  The charges will also include a $2.00 processing fee per shipment."

"By signing below, I understand and agree to the statement relating to charges to my credit card and authorize the Institute to process such transactions relates to my child's confinement."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

We include the above to show the contradiction between the $250.00 late fee mentioned in page 13 of the contract.  Is it possible that families would be charged both fees totaling $300 per late payment?  This seems extremely excessive.

The additional charges for sending items home is reasonable if the items returned home are not needed by the Resident. 

The third segment above describes exactly what family's are paying for, the "child's confinement".  Parents typically don't have the legal right to confine their children in a lock-down environment without third-party representation for the child's interests.  This again suggests this may be an illegal contract and in violation of the child's due process rights.  Again, this is not legal advice.  If you would like legal help, please consult an attorney.

Application (Pages 20 & 22)

"Patient's Rights and Responsibilities"

"Common questions and answers..."

"What is a ventilator?"

"Who can make a Living Will?"

"Do Living Wills include organ and tissue donation?"

"What is a Special Power of Attorney?"

"Pursuant to State Law, the legal guardian of a minor patient must be informed regarding Transferable Physician Orders in the event the patient is transferred to a medical surgical hospital for live-sustaining treatment.  Associated with live-sustaining treatments are advanced directives such as a living will."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

HEAL was hoping the patient's rights pages would include legitimate patient's rights regarding the treatment and access to the outside world and a legitimate complaint process.  But, it is all about if the child is in need of life-sustaining treatment and whether or not to pull the proverbial "plug".  Since Aspen is not a hospital, from what we can see, we are unclear of the purpose of including these documents unless it is to frighten families or cause emotional trauma in contemplating such a horrible outcome of said treatment at Aspen.

Application (Page 23)

"We are required by law to:...Follow the terms of the notice that is currently in effect."

"We may use medical information about the minor child to provide medical treatment or services.  We may disclose medical information about the minor child to facility personnel who are involved in caring for the minor child while they are in our facility.  For example, the milieu staff or kitchen staff may need to know if the minor child is a potential suicide risk so that precautions are taken for the child's safety."

"We may use and disclose medical information about the minor child for facility operations...We may also combine medical information about facility residents to decide what additional services the facility should offer, what services are not needed, and whether certain new treatments are effective.  We may also disclose information to other facility personnel for review and learning purposes."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

What terms of the notice are currently in effect in regards to Aspen Institute for Behavioral Assessment?  If none or very few, this is a serious concern.

The second segment seems reasonable.  But, it is a concern that staff or other residents may be given sensitive information and that they may use it to humiliate the child as part of the "therapeutic community" program.

The third segment again suggests that Aspen is experimenting on the children to determine of their methods are effective.  This goes to show that they do not know the efficacy of their own treatment models or the harm such models may cause.  Why are you paying Aspen to experiment on your child?

Application (Page 24)

"Under certain circumstances, we may use and disclose medical information about the minor child for research purposes.  For example, a research may involve comparing outcomes of treatment."

"We may disclose medical information to a health oversight agency for activities authorized by law.  These oversight activities include, for example, audits, investigations, inspections, and licensure.  These activities are necessary for the government to monitor the health care system, government programs and compliance with civil rights laws."

"We may release medical information about the minor child to authorized federal officials for intelligence, counterintelligence, and other national security activities authorized by law."

"You have the right to inspect and copy medical information that may be used to make decisions about the minor child's care."

"We may deny your request to inspect and copy in certain very limited circumstances.  If you are denied access to medical information, you may request that the denial be reviewed.  Another licensed health care professional chosen by the facility will review your request and the denial.  The person conducting the review will not be the person who denied your request.  We will comply with the outcome of the review."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

What are all the types of research conducted by Aspen Institute for Behavioral Assessment?  Other Aspen programs claim it can include experiments regarding the efficacy and/or side effects of psychotropic drugs.  This is a serious concern as such experimentation can expose children to long-term debilitating side effects or results.  A member of HEAL recently had a stroke in connection with psychotropic medications prescribed for depression/anxiety.  This was after years of being off the medication that resulted in the long-term health problems.  Parents should really consider if they have a right, either morally or legally, to expose their children to such severe risks to health and life without their informed consent.  What are the implications and what are children taught who are deprived of liberty in this manner?  Are they taught submission to authority regardless of personal harm involved?  This is a serious ethical issue that could result in a lifetime of victimization of the child who will be a willing subject to abusers following such behavior modification protocols.  Do you want your child to be a miserable, hopeless slave to authority?  Is that the future you would want to be prepared for?  If not, don't expose your children to environments that will dictate such results.

The third 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 program) may be considered a form of torture.  Does Aspen 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 Aspen programs may be something highly unethical and unsuitable for children.

Well, families can request copies of information as it is their right to do so and to obtain such copies.  But, by signing the agreement and reviewing this notice, families apparently agree that Aspen can deny such requests.  This is a concern as it will likely result in families being unable to obtain the paperwork to help substantiate probable claims of negligence or wrong-doing as a result of the agreement and/or program.

Application (Page 25)

"You have the right to request a restriction or limitation on the medical information we use or disclose about the minor child for treatment, payment, or health care operation.  You also have the right to request a limit on the medical information we disclose about the minor child to someone who is involved in the care of the minor child or the payment for the care, like a family member or friend.  We are not required to agree to your request."

"To request confidential communications, you must make your request in writing to the Institute."

"We reserve the right to change this notice.  We reserve the right to make the revised or changed notice effective for medical information we already have about the minor child as well as any information we receive in the future."

"If you believe the minor child's privacy rights have been violated, you may file a complaint with the facility or with the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services."

"You understand that we are unable to take back any disclosures we have already made with your permission, and that we are required to retain our records of the care that we provide to the minor child."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

By authorizing the disclosure of your or your child's private records to Aspen, 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 Institute for Behavioral Assessment.  These seeming contradictions suggest misleading and deceptive practices.

Application (Page 26)

"We, as guarantors/insureds/Parent(s) on the above mentioned patient account understand that Aspen Institute for Behavioral Assessment may not be contracted with my insurance provider network(s)."

"We further understand that all insurance carriers are billed at our normal daily per diem rate of $1000.00 per day."

"Aspen Institute, will, in turn, determine what additional monies are owed, based on the normal daily per diem rate, and will charged the account, as per the signed financial agreement and credit card authorization on file at Aspen Institute."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

HEAL has mentioned the above to show that Aspen is likely not covered by your insurance provider.  And, the reason for this is likely that they are not a legitimate mental or medical healthcare provider as is required by most insurance providers.

HEAL also includes the above to show that the daily rate is $1000 per day and that this does not include fees for psychological assessments or other tests claimed to be provided or required by the program.  Also, in other areas of the contract already discussed, such assessments are excluded from the per diem expenses. (see Page 14)

Application (Page 26)


HEAL's Questions/Concerns

The primary issue with the psycho-social assessment forms is that it is required to be completed by emotionally burned-out and/or irrational family members who are writing the history out from a very subjective and biased position in regards to the child to be enrolled.  This does not show an objective or inclusive environment for therapy. 

Application (Pages 33-35)

"Is your son/daughter sexually active, do they have more than one partner, use birth control?"

"Current relationship with significant other (feelings, sexual, communication, conflicts, parenting, etc.)"

"What is your childs attitude regarding his/her sexual identity/orientation?  What effect(s) does this have?"

"Abuse or Neglect:...Was case ever reported to the proper authorities?"

"Does your child identify with a religion, spiritual group/church, and/or higher power?"

"Describe resident's/family's upbringing (e.g., church membership, attendance, youth group involvement, etc.)"

"What cultural influences may be important regarding treatment at The Institute?"

"Has your child demonstrated behavioral outbursts? (i.e. swearing, verbal/physical aggression/threats...)"

"What are your goals/expectations regarding the focus/outcome of treatment at The Institute?"

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

Most of these questions are very personal and it would be highly unlikely that a family, that was so desperate to even consider the "scam" known as Aspen Education Group, would be able to accurately answer the majority of the above questions.

It is a concern that minor instances of self-expression involving anger, distress, or frustration (i.e. swearing) are considered "behavioral outbursts" in need of firm regulation.  This micro-managing of a child's behavior is unproductive and suggestive of an over-controlled environment.

Treatment goals should be set by the child/young adult and his/her treatment team.  Treatment should always be voluntary.  Involuntary treatment is substantively inhumane and disrespectful to the integrity of the individual.  Involuntary treatment imposed as a matter of convenience, as opposed to as a result of a court order, is also arguably a violation of the child's liberty interests.  This is affirmed by the decision in Milonas and Rice v. Provo Canyon School.

Application (Page 36)

"Families that become overly focused on the minutia of a particular report or picture can become prey to the pitfalls of micromanagement.  As you review progress notes about your child, you will note that the progress is rarely linear, nor consistent across the landscape of education, therapy, the milieu, and recreational programming.  That variability is how change occurs."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

HEAL's primary concern here is that Aspen claims to provide education above, while in other portions of their enrollment materials they claim that the program is too short for any credits to be earned and that they therefore do not provide accredited educational services. (see page 11 below)  Another serious concern is that it suggests that families are discouraged from questioning practices of the program that raise concerns, by accusing such involved parents of "micromanagement". 

Parent Handbook (Page 3)

"In an effort to protect the confidentiality of the resident and parents, this section explains how you may access your child at the Institute..."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

How will Aspen limit your access to your child?  Do you think it is right for an employee to deny you access to your child?  These types of controls show the mentality of the program that requires obedience from parents as well as their children.  This is a concern.

Parent Handbook (Page 5)

"For these reasons, the average length of stay is typically under two months, but not shorter than five to six weeks."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

Based on the above average, you may spend $56,000.00 for a referral to a more long-term Aspen Education Group program.  That is a steep price for a referral.  That $56,000.00 is a minimum and does not cover the excluded items such as "assessments" and "psychiatric testing" required and/or requested by Aspen for an "accurate" assessment and referral process. 

Parent Handbook (Page 6)

"Multi-Disciplinary Team contributes recommendations for the Integrated Multi-Disciplinary Report (MDR)."

"Preliminary testing review with referral source and sent to potential programs."

"Reviewing the MDR with referral sources."

"Reviewing the MDR with Parents and Referral Sources."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

As stated above, this is a 6-week holding period until a child can be funneled into a long-term Aspen or related program.  And, you are paying them $56,000.00+ for a referral to one of their own programs.  This seems highly unconscionable.

Parent Handbook (Page 7 & 8)

"Notwithstanding, regardless of the Institute's efforts in this regard, the adolescent may approach the admission reluctantly, and in some cases, with a great deal of opposition.  Hence, the child will employ all of his/her "skills" to convince you to take him/her home."

"The central aim of guilt-loading has one and one purpose only--for you to rescue your child and bring him home."

"It is known among behavioral scientists as "triangulation".  This simply means that one person is misinforming, lying, or telling half-truths to a second person about a third person in order to get the third person "in trouble"."

"The third method is the "horror story" approach.  Through misrepresentation or exaggeration, the child tries to make you feel guilty.  Examples are: "They are not feeding me...There is never hot water for the showers...I feel unsafe..."

"For the most part, after about 3-4 weeks your child is over the anger stage for having been placed.  Albeit, your child might still deal with anger for various reasons, however, such anger typically is not for placing him at the Institute.  Your child may be angry about a sexual assault, for losing a parent, for being mistreated by peers, etc."

"His reply may sound something like this: "But mom, you don't understand, this place is crazy."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

The above raises many concerns.  Does Aspen assume all children admitted are liars and manipulators?  It certainly seems to be their position.  And, this is not approaching children from an understanding, compassionate, and therapeutic perspective.  This is a serious concern given that you are leaving your child with these people. (Hopefully, you will not be making that mistake.)  If your child reports abuse, you should take such reports seriously and contact local authorities in Utah immediately to demand an investigation.  Reports of abuse and neglect should never go unanswered or ignored.  And, children have died at Aspen programs and other programs after being accused of "manipulation" and "faking".  These are serious concerns. 

Why is your child likely to report that the environment is "crazy"?  Why is a child subjected to mistreatment by peers that create hostility and anger in a supposedly "therapeutic" environment?  These conflicting notions really bring into question the type of "treatment" a child receives in Aspen programs.

Parent Handbook (Page 9)

"It is important for you to understand that certain core assessments and tests should not be administered during the first 10-14 days at the Institute.  Administering a test too early may result in false data, as the child is not acclimated to the environment."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

The above is an accurate statement, but, contradicts the immediate "assessments" made in other Aspen programs.  It is interesting that Aspen knows that such immediate assessments are likely to produce false data and that they do them anyway in programs like Aspen Achievement Academy.  Where is the oversight and quality control?

Parent Handbook (Page 10)

"Hence, the psychiatrist will visit with the respective resident on a regular basis to evaluate the need, and/or the effectiveness of psychotropic medication."

"Second, the frequency of the psychiatric rounds is dependant on psychotropic medication issues.  Numbers of medications, titrating, reduction or introduction of new medications, all influence the frequency of the psychiatric oversight."

"Hence, individual and group therapies are conducted on a regular basis with two aims.  First, to initiate, or in some cases to re-initiate, the change process, and second, to evaluate the qualitative and quantitative extended therapy services that best fit the need of the child."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

It appears that the primary purpose of psychiatric care at the facility is the prescribing and monitoring of the use of psychotropic drugs.  This is a serious concern.  Please see our parenting guide for warnings and healthy alternatives to this type of treatment.

It is also a concern that the focus is to change your child.  The focus should be on healthy communication and mutual respect being restored between child and family members.  Alternative purposes that insist upon forced changes to personality and/or behavior are violative of basic human and civil rights and ought to be avoided.

Parent Handbook (Page 11)

"Routine counseling is provided for those residents where the assessment shows that such interventions are part of the comprehensive treatment plan."

"The therapists' offices are strategically located throughout the building, encouraging spontaneous integration with the resident population.  The result is that the therapist has numerous opportunities to interact with your child.  All such interaction has therapeutic value and is part and partial of the individual and/or group therapy processes.  Hence, if you child is claming that she/he is "therapeutically deprived", it is like that the child is attempting to manipulate you."

"Due to the short length of stay, providing a formal, accredited educational curriculum that offers credit is unrealistic."

"Yes, in the event that the end of the block/semester is occurring at the time of admission and the school district is willing to allow A.I. to proctor exams."

"For that purpose, the resident is part of a therapeutic community with rules, expectations and consequences.  These ruses are based on safety and pro-social behavior."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

Is regular counseling typically included in Aspen's comprehensive treatment plans?  If not, why not?  "Talk Therapy" is the best way to understand what is going on with the individual and to help overcome communication barriers that are effecting family relationships.  Why is this not a necessary component for all children "treated" by Aspen? 

There are quite a few spelling errors in this section.  Why is that?  And, do you think walking by someone's office is therapeutic?  Please take your child's reports of neglect and abuse seriously.  It could save both you and your child from much heartache and expense.  It is Aspen that is manipulating you, not your child.

According to Utah law, programs that last more than one month are required to provided accredited educational services.  Why does Aspen think they can ignore this law? 

How often to schools allow or deny Aspen the ability to proctor exams?  What reasons are given for denying Aspen the ability to proctor exams? 

A therapeutic community setting is a "buzz word" for abusive, confrontational "therapy".  Aspen should be avoided.  HEAL does find the error in using the word "ruses" over "rules" amusing as a "ruse" is a type of deception and that seems to be the "rule" or guiding "principle" of Aspen programs.

Parent Handbook (Pages 12 & 13)

"Fist, we must insure the safety of all residents and staff...Hence, tell your child to cope the best he/she can under the circumstances."

"Nurses participate in the administering of medication, medication education, primary care issues and the implementation of the therapeutic milieu."

"However, as the diagnostic picture evolves, and more questions arise regarding certain areas of physical, neurological, biological, emotional, cognitive and/or psycho-social functioning, additional tests and/or assessment procedures may be indicated...Additional assessments are only administered with your permission."

"The cost associated for all optional test/assessments are billed on an individual basis and are not included in the daily rate charges."

"During the course of the stay at the Institute, you will communicate with the psychiatrist at least once...Depending on medication related issues or other medical issues, the psychiatrist will communicate with you as needed."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

There seems to be quite a few Freudian slips in this paperwork.  Between "ruse" in the last segment and "fist" in this one, HEAL wonders if Aspen can keep a lid on their underlying agenda.  If your child is suffering from neglect or abuse, do not require they "cope" alone and without investigation and/or intervention.  Children die in Aspen programs.  Children have died at Youthcare (an Aspen program in Utah), SageWalk, and others.  This is nothing to take lightly and any reports of neglect or abuse should be dealt with proactively. 

Who is doing the diagnosing and what benefits are they likely to gain by stating or diagnosing non-existent problems?  Again, this appears to be a very expensive referral service to other Aspen programs.  And, those other Aspen programs also appear to be deceptive and misleading. 

As a consumer, one would expect more communication between a treating psychiatrist and the family over such a long stay (typically two months).  This is another concern given the frequency of medicating of youth at this program.

Parent Handbook (Pages 15-17)

"Visits should always be prearranged through the Primary Therapist."

"Visitors should not bring food items to the resident."

"The receptionist will check the visitation log to make sure the visitor is on the approved list."

"All mail to the resident is opened by the resident in the presence of a staff member to insure that no contraband is passed on to the facility.  The staff member who observes the opening of mail may not read the content of the mail unless invited by the resident."

"Incoming mail must be from a person on the approved communication form that the parents fill out at admission.  The mail will go directly the resident.  If the incoming mail happens to be from someone not on the approved communication form, the mail will first go directly to the therapist.  If the therapist deems the mail as inappropriate in anyway, that mail will be forwarded to the parents at which time the parents may decide what to do with it."

"Following a one to two week observation period, phone calls between a resident and parent may occur if deemed clinically appropriate."

"In the first two weeks of their stay there will be no phone calls from the resident to their parent/guardian.  At the beginning of week three a phone call may occur between the resident and family if deemed clinically appropriate by the multidisciplinary team."

"If phone contact results in significant upheaval, distraction, or regression on the part of the resident or family, direct communication will be discontinued."

"We strongly discourage parents/guardians from bringing food to their child at the Institute...It has been our experience that large care packages can lead to bartering among residents.  This should be avoided."

"Hence, please do not provide your child with personal spending money."

"The Institute is licensed as a specialty psychiatric facility and therefore has locked doors."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

It is a concern that there are not regular visiting hours and that all visits need to be pre-approved.  Even in psychiatric hospitals there are normal visiting hours and families are welcome and permitted to bring food or treats to their family members. 

Given the nature of the program, would a child be considered "withholding" if they did not share a letter?  What types of pressure is used and how much authority is granted to staff?  If a child's letter is read without his/her permission, what are the options for dealing with this issue?  Will such reports be written off as "manipulation"?  These are all legitimate concerns. 

The limitation of access to a phone is also a serious concern.  This is compounded by the denial of phone calls until permitted by the program.  This is on our warning signs list for abusive facilities.

Show us the license, Aspen.  There is no record showing that Aspen Institute for Behavioral Assessment has anything more than a standard business license.  It appears to only be licensed as a foreign limited liability company.  It is not licensed by the Department of Human Services.  And, in reviewing the full list of licensed hospitals provided by Utah, it is not there.  So, please, show us the license or admit you are not licensed as a psychiatric hospital in Utah.  This appears to be a private prison, not a therapeutic environment.

Parent Handbook (Pages 23 & 24)

"When residents are out of bed they should be properly covered at all times as sleep attire is not proper when in the hallway or when walking around in the room."

"Hair will not obscure eye contact."

"No punk hairstyles permitted."

"Male students are expected to be clean shaven."

"For this reason all residents are expected to abide by the following Code of Conduct, and will not engage in the following:...Threatening or hurting oneself by self-mutilation, suicidal threat...Any form of inappropriate boundaries, including petting, touching, kissing, note writing, exhibitionism, or sexually offensive comments, etc."

"If you should have any complaints or grievances that you would like to address, please feel free to complete the grievance form and hand in to any staff.  This complaint will be reviewed by the administrative team in an attempt to resolve the issue.  If this complaint can not be resolved in an appropriate you may contact the CRC Corporate office...You may also contact the Joint Commission...or Utah Dep't of Health at (801)538-6101."

HEAL's Questions/Concerns

During bedtime, if a child needs to use the bathroom are they required to put on day-clothes when moving from their bed to the bathroom?  If so, this is very unreasonable and disruptive of sleep. 

Who determines what is a "punk" hairstyle?  What if a student's religion requires them to grow facial hair?  What actions are taken to insure compliance with these "rules"?  Are children's heads ever shaved as part of the "admission's process"/"intake"? 

Does Aspen allow hugging or comforting by one resident to another resident?  If not, why not?  What constitutes exhibitionism for Aspen in Utah?  And, what does Aspen consider a sexually offensive comment?  At the recently closed Aspen program, Mount Bachelor Academy in Oregon, girls were forced to do lap-dances as therapy.  Is it okay for Aspen to use sexually offensive or exploitative methods for "therapeutic" purposes?  And, does the Institute allow for psychodrama and/or confrontational "therapy" in which children are told to verbally attack each other using offensive, and sometimes sexually offensive language such as "druggie", "whore", "loser", etc.?  If so, what is the lesson imparted?  Are children learning that absolute authority means absence of accountability and responsibility?  This seems to be the lesson taught at Aspen programs.  And, it is not a healthy or good lesson for anyone looking to be happily successful and/or successfully happy.

HEAL recommends you do not place your child in Aspen Institute for Behavioral Assessment. 


 Last Updated: January 26th, 2021

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