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ASPEN RANCH (a.k.a. aspen ranch school)

IN LOA, UT

Staff List, Background, and Survivor Statement(s)

HEAL SPECIAL REPORT:

aspen ranch

ENROLLMENT agreement REVIEW

HEAL has found multiple problems with Aspen Ranch's enrollment agreement including apparent unconscionable terms and/or contradictory terms leaving us to believe that Aspen Ranch 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 Ranch (Aspen) in their enrollment agreement (as was downloaded from aspenranch.com on September 22nd, 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 1)

"IEP if applicable"

"Please send your payment of $18,715.00 made out to "Aspen Ranch" for the following: a. First month's tuition of $7,982.50...b. Transitional Service fee of $7,982.50 for 1 year service beginning upon student's discharge...c. Enrollment fee of $2,750.00.  The enrollment fee includes initial psychiatric evaluation, mental status exam, physical and lab work, and initial student gear which includes clothing."

"Please send only what is on this list... 1 Twin size comforter for twin size bed... Sleeping Bag... Athletic Shoes..."

An "IEP" is an Independent Education Plan.  It typically refers to children who have been placed in a program by their home school district or board of education.  Since IEPs are generally funded by city, state, and federal funds, programs that accept children under these plans are generally required to obey federal laws in regards to civil rights of minors in schools receiving such funds.  HEAL makes note of this to alert readers that in other portions of the agreement such civil rights of minors appear to be violated by Aspen Ranch and this would present a serious issue given Aspen Ranch appears to receive some federal funding through IEP placements.

We have included the above fee information to alert readers to the initial costs involved with this program.  In other portions of the contract, the daily rate appears to be $350 per day.  It is a significant drop from the $1,000 per day of Aspen Institute for Behavioral Assessment.  But, both appear to be providing the same or similar services.

Aspen Ranch claims they will supply your child with most of their necessities while in the program.  Aspen asks you only send with your child the above listed items.  That is the limit on items they appear to approve upon admission.  Elsewhere in the contract, Aspen claims that families will be charged separately for school supplies and other necessities.  Those items are not included in the tuition costs of the program.  HEAL is not reviewing page 2 of the contract which provides the list of items Aspen Ranch provides enrolled children.  These items appear to be covered or are intended to be covered by the enrollment fee of $2,750.00 mentioned above.

Enrollment Agreement (Page 3)

"I/We further authorize the release of this information to be received via E-mail, Internet technology, voice mail or US mail.  While every effort will be made for confidentiality, Aspen Education Group accepts no responsibility in the mis-transmission that could result or information becoming available to someone other than the intended receiver."

This is the first of many waivers of liability included in the Aspen Ranch contract.  This one is particularly concerning as it involves the protected/private health information of children and their families.  The segment is written in a way that the waiver is clear, but, the circumstances under which that information may be erroneously or improperly delivered to recipients is not clear.  This is a concern.
Enrollment Agreement (Page 4)

"PATIENT NAME"

"For the purpose of paying all or part of monies owing to ASPEN EDUCATION GROUP for services it has or will render to the above patient, the undersigned hereby irrevocably assigns to ASPEN EDUCATION GROUP any benefit payments payable for the benefit of said patient by the above insurance company or companies and all rights and interest in said policy but only to the extent necessary to pay ASPEN EDUCATION GROUP in full."

"Undersigned agrees to remain liable to pay the full amount of all monies billed by ASPEN EDUCATION GROUP as a result of rendering services to the above mentioned patient and undersigned's liability will only be reduced by the amount of benefit payments received by ASPEN EDUCATION GROUP from the above referenced insurer."

"Undersigned understands that the nature of patient's disability may be such that no benefit payments will be payable under the policy specified above."

"Any monies owing by the undersigned under the terms of this Agreement shall be paid in full within thirty (30) days after billing by ASPEN EDUCATION GROUP unless other arrangements have been made.  In the event that collection efforts are undertaken by ASPEN EDUCATION GROUP to enforce any of the terms of this Agreement, all expenses associated therewith, including attorneys' fees, will be paid by the undersigned."

Aspen Ranch 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 Aspen is not licensed by the Utah Department of Health and is not a recognized mental or medical health program.  Aspen Ranch is licensed by the Department of Human Services, Office of Licensing, as "residential treatment."  Utah defines "residential treatment program" as "a 24-hour group living environment for four or more individuals unrelated to the owner or provider in accordance with Subsection 62A-2-101(15)." (from www.rules.utah.gov, September 22nd, 2010) 

Here we also see the inference that some insurance carriers do not recognize Aspen Ranch 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 Aspen Ranch.

Enrollment Agreement (Page 5)

"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 and Aspen Ranch, 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 and/or Aspen Ranch Program (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."

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), 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.  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, Aspen 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.

Enrollment Agreement (Page 6)

"VOLUNTARY PATIENT CONSENT TO RECEIVE PSYCHOACTIVE MEDICATIONS"

"Your signature below constitutes your acknowledgment: 1) that you have read and agree to the foregoing; 2) that the medications and treatment set forth below have been adequately explained and/or discussed with you by your supervising physician; and that you have received all of the information you desire concerning such medication and treatment; and 3) that you authorize and consent to the administration of such medication."

"Patient/Parent/Legal Guardian (Please circle)...If signed other than patient, indicate relationship"

This form is a concern as it is expected to be signed prior to admission and seems to indicate that any child in the program can be given psychoactive medications without the child's consent, if parental consent is given.  Since the parent would not be present to witness the effects of the drug on the child, it seems granting permission without oversight would be in violation of the child's rights.  As consent would be given in advance of such medications by the signing of this document, it is a serious concern.  Please see www.heal-online.org/parent.htm for important information on treatment options and the dangers of psychoactive medications.  You may also wish to use the HEAL search box to search for additional articles and information on the problems associated with psychoactive medications. 
Enrollment Agreement (Page 7)

"Consent to Administer Psychological Testing"

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

"Yes, I agree to have my child participate in psychological testing at a cost of $2000.00-$3,000.00"

Later in this contract, we discover that all psychological testing is subcontracted out as are the "therapeutic" services and oversight.  This brings into question what the function of Aspen Ranch is since the areas under which they claim expertise are subcontracted to professionals outside of Aspen.

We include the above to show the cost of the psychological testing.  This cost is in addition to the program tuition costs and fees.

Enrollment Agreement (Page 8)

"I hereby give permission for my son/daughter to work in any agricultural/farm occupation NOT declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor."

This is a serious concern and raises a number of issues.  Are the children compensated for their labor?  What kind of agricultural/farm work will they be forced to do?  Will they be working on large farms or providing free labor for large agri-business?  Does the work only result in privileges?  What are these privileges?  Are any of these privileges considered necessities by law or public policy?  If so, does Aspen deny children their necessities if they do not provide free labor?  Does Aspen receive any pecuniary benefit from the work performed by the children?
Enrollment Agreement (Page 9)

"I hereby authorize Aspen Ranch School to call an emergency ambulance in case of an accident or acute illness and to arrange for necessary emergency medical or surgical care in case I am not immediately available."

"I also hereby agree to accept responsibility for the cost of the above medical services."

Our concern here, and this is developed further below, is that the family is held responsible for all medical expenses even if the injury or illness was caused by Aspen's actions or failures to act.  It is a concern that families are expected to indemnify Aspen from its own failures.
Enrollment Agreement (Page 10)

"I understand that requester may not further use or disclose the medical information unless another authorization is obtained from me or unless such use of disclosure is specifically required or permitted by law."

"I hereby authorize release of the above specified information."

Are further disclosures permitted by law?  Is Aspen Ranch a facility that is regulated by HIPAA?  HEAL doesn't believe it is and this is because it is not licensed by the Utah Department of Health which is charged with enforcing HIPAA.  Since it is only licensed as residential treatment, defined above, this becomes a serious area of concern. 
Enrollment Agreement (Page 13)

"LIN'S PHARMACY"

"I agree that should the client be discharged from Aspen Ranch, it is my responsibility to notify Lin's Pharmacy.  If medication is delivered after discharge and is not refused at the time of delivery, it cannot be returned for credit and I therefore agree to be responsible for payment of these medications.  I agree to pay Lin's Pharmacy at the time of service through a major credit card...Upon request, Lin's Pharmacy will provide billing information to the guarantor for insurance reimbursement and tax purposes."

Why is it the parent's responsibility to notify the pharmacy with which Aspen Ranch does business that a drug ordered by Aspen Ranch for their discharged child is no longer required?  Isn't Aspen Ranch in the best position to cancel such orders/requests?  And, what happens to the drugs that are delivered and not immediately returned?  Are they shipped to the family for continued care or does the program keep it for its own use?  If the latter, why are parents buying drugs for Aspen Ranch?
Enrollment Agreement (Page 14)

"You have the right to know that if a child is a danger to him/herself or others, PCS physical restraints may be used by trained staff."

"You have the right to appeal level changes or discipline without repercussion or retribution."

"You have the right to communicate and visit according to rules of The Ranch."

"If you feel you have been denied any of these rights or that quality of services has been less than standard or that discipline or level drops were inappropriate, you have the right to present your concerns by written notice to: Program Administrator, Aspen Ranch, P.O. Box 369, Loa, UT 84747."

"An attempt to resolve the difference will be made by the program administrator and you will receive a written answer within 5 working days...If you believe your concerns are not adequately resolved via the Program Administrator, you have the right to appeal to the Regional Director, Robin Stephens.  If you believe your concerns are not resolved by the Regional Director, you have the right to appeal to the CRC Consumer Affairs office.  Contact information for any and all of these people is available by contacting Aspen Ranch.  Your child has the same rights and a copy of these rights are contained in the student handbook...No punitive action will be taken by the Ranch toward anyone submitting a concern."

PCS stands for Positive Control Systems®, an unlicensed "business" in Utah.  Positive Control Systems is also used by WWASPS and other abusive/fraudulent programs.  Also, later in the review, we will expose that restraint is used in far more circumstances than just when a child is a "danger to him/herself or others".  So, this is another concern and being restrained certainly doesn't seem like a right, more a violation of a right.

Does the ranch have the right to deny parents access to their child?  Does Aspen have the right to deny the child access to the outside world without due process of law?  The information HEAL has gathered would suggest "No" is the appropriate response to both questions.  See www.heal-online.org/legalarguments.htm.  Also, limited or barred communication with the outside world is one of many warning signs of an abusive program.  For our warning signs list and important questions you should ask, visit www.heal-online.org/warn.htm.

If a child appeals a level change or disciplinary action, are they expected to write a letter to the program administrator and wait 5 days for a response?  What if the child has been abused?  What are the complaint procedures?  If a child submits a complaint instead of a "concern" will they be punished?  Are children discouraged from filing appeals of this nature?  Have children ever successfully appealed a decision made regarding their status?  And, in the event of abuse, the 5 day wait is long enough alone to rule out a proper investigation by authorities.  This is something parents should take very seriously given the history of Aspen Ranch and other Aspen Education Group programs.

Enrollment Agreement (Page 15)

"I understand that Wayne Community Health Center will not bill my insurance directly, but send me a claim I can submit for reimbursement.  I/WE authorize the doctor to bill my credit card."

"I/WE also authorize the facility to treat the patient identified, in the even that I/We are not present at time of service."

Our concern here, and this is developed further below, is that the family is held responsible for all medical expenses even if the injury or illness was caused by Aspen's actions or failures to act.  It is a concern that families are expected to indemnify Aspen from its own failures.
Enrollment Agreement (Page 16)

"Aspen Ranch Medical Office"

"The Aspen Ranch Medical Director and Medical Provider oversee all medications administered at Aspen Ranch.  Unfortunately, we are unable to fill new prescriptions from family physicians after treatment has begun.  During your child's stay at the Ranch, we will only administer medications prescribed or approved by the above providers."

Aspen again represents itself as a medical facility when it is not licensed as a medical facility.  This suggests deceptive marketing practices and deception in the contract itself.  It is a serious concern.  Also, by placing Aspen Ranch in control of prescriptions, it takes the need to communicate with the child and/or family's physician out of the picture.  And, this is another concern as that physician would likely be able to assist in identifying anything faulty with Aspen's actions in medicating the child.
Enrollment Agreement (Page 17)

"This agreement ("Agreement") is entered into by and between Aspen Ranch, a Delaware limited liability company (hereinafter "Aspen"), operating Aspen Ranch, a licensed residential 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 "Program") and "Parents'' Name:_____parent(s) and/or guardian(s) of the student (hereinafter the "Sponsors")..."

"Sponsor warrants that Sponsor is the legal parent(s) and/or guardian(s), having legal custody of the following child:....(hereinafter the "Student"), and the Sponsor desires to and does hereby contract with Aspen for the Student's enrollment in the Program according to the terms and conditions of this Agreement."

"If the Student satisfies Aspen's screening criteria, Aspen shall accept the Student and, except as otherwise provided herein, permit the Student to complete the Program.  If the Student fails to satisfy Aspen's screening criteria, the Student will be returned promptly to Sponsor and Aspen will also return the prepaid tuition fee to the Sponsor, less a $750.00 evaluation/screening fee and a deduction for all reasonable expenses incurred by Aspen on behalf of the Student and/or the Sponsor prior to the Student's return."

"Assuming the Student is accepted into the Program, the term of this Agreement shall be a minimum of Nine Months...On the Arrival Date, 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 pursuant to paragraph 10 herein 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 or (b) voluntarily consents in writing to remain in the Program for any period of time beyond said eighteenth (18th) birthday."

"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: Three Hundred Fifty Dollars ($350.00) per day for the Program, including therapy."

"The current tuition fee is subject to an annual increase effective January 1st each year.  The program shall provide a 60-day notice detailing the amount of the increase."

"Payments are due the 1st day of the month of service.  For example, October tuition is due October 1st.  Payments not received by the 10th of the month of service are subject to a $250 late fee and may result in discharge of the student from the program."

"Sponsor shall pay the first month's co-pay and deductible at that time.  If the contracted insurance provider fails to pay within 60 days of submission of a claim, Sponsor shall pay the amount due."

What does Aspen mean by "residential program"?  How is the "program" described in the "program description" provided to parents?  Is it explicit to the environment and level system?  In reviewing the "Aspen Ranch Program Details" included in the enrollment materials, it is not explicit at all regarding what the program is and how children are treated in the program.  In fact, the program details (described later in this review) are very limited and include some of the alleged civil rights violations (i.e. a communications blackout period during early portions of the program, censoring of mail, unlawful imprisonment, etc.) in writing in those details.  These are serious concerns.

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 $94,500.00 and as some, if not most, insurance carriers won't cover Aspen Ranch, this is a pretty steep price to pay.  This is especially so where there is no clear purpose of the Aspen Ranch program.  "Harvard University will increase tuition next school year by 3.8 percent, the school announced yesterday, bringing the annual cost of a Harvard education, including room and board, to $50,724." (Source: boston.com, March 19th, 2010)  Think about it, this program is charging almost double the annual cost of Harvard University (including room and board) and doesn't even provide advanced placement classes.  The cost of $94,500.00 is the minimum cost and does not cover the additional psychological assessment or care fees associated with the program.  It does not cover anything but the base-price for the minimum stay of 9 months.  And, Aspen says that children normally stay longer than 9 months.  So, families are looking at double the tuition of Harvard for one year of a lot of nothing from Aspen Ranch.  Also, Aspen Ranch subcontracts all arguably "legitimate" therapeutic work to third-parties and charges families extra for those "services".  So, families are paying nearly twice the annual cost of Harvard tuition to send their children to a program in Utah which provides at best a below standard secondary education, no legitimate therapy, and out of the deal Aspen gets free labor for their agricultural endeavors or those of their friends in agri-business.  It sounds like a scam and one that could leave families psychologically and financially devastated. This will be developed throughout this review. 

Also, Aspen 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 18)

"If Sponsor withdraws Student before expiration of the period of enrollment without the recommendations of the Executive Director, forfeiture of the $7,982.50 alumni fee will occur."

"In addition to the Program fee, Sponsor agrees to pay for the following expenses of the Student: transportation from the Student's current residence to Salt Lake City, Provo, or Loa, Utah, as the case may be, and return transportation to the Student's 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 List.  Sponsors are also responsible for any additional fees such as off campus activity expences, 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."

"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, it may incur in connection therewith."

"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 to 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 Student's clinician to obtain Sponsor's informed consent, when required, for medical, surgical, or psychiatric treatment, special diagnostic or therapeutic procedures, or other services rendered to the Student under the general and special instructions of the clinician."

"If the Student's condition is such as to need the service of a special duty nurse, it is agreed that such must be arranged by the Sponsors.  Aspen shall in no way be responsible for failure to provide the same and is hereby released from any and all liability arising from the fact that Student is not provided with such additional care."

"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 low physical impact and risk of physical injury, conducted in urban or metropolitan areas with ready access to medical and other emergency services.  Museums, zoos, theaters, restaurants, golf courses, bowling alleys, community activities and service, arcades, shopping centers, historical sights, church attendance, picnics, livestock shows, county fairs, correctional facilities, schools, universities, national and state parks, spectator sporting events, 12 step meetings, medical appointments, softball, volleyball, basketball, high school rodeo events, penning, roping, barrel racing, strenuous hiking, climbing, rappelling, Questing, rock climbing, horse back riding, and camping in a natural environment, exposure to the elements, plants and animals, running away from the Program, "acts of God" (nature), the ropes course, kayaking, whitewater rafting, sail-boarding, snow skiing, swimming, fishing, mountain biking, water sports, stress, involvement with other students, self-inflicted injuries, and transportation to and from the Program's field location(s).  Sponsor understands that in participating in the Programs Student will be in locations and using facilities where many 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 Student are voluntarily participating in the Programs with knowledge of the dangers involved and agree to accept any and all risks."

"In consideration of 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."

If you remove your child from the program, you forfeit nearly $8000. (possibly more--see page 20)  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 2nd segment above, Aspen states that Sponsor will be charged additional fees for psychiatric and psychological testing and services.  But, in the 6th segment, Aspen says it will cover costs of those services included in the agreement.  This is confusing language and contradictory. 

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 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 Aspen 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 5 and 18; and below on page 20.  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 19)

"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 and 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 Student as a result of their participation in any aspect of the Programs.  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 Student's personal health and safety, and the personal property Student 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 technician/emergency transport company that may provide services to Student as a result of injury/illness during the Programs."

"Sponsor agrees that this Release extends to all claims of every nature and kind whatsoever, and hereby expressly waives all rights..."

"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."

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

"Aspen shall handle all such protected health information (also "PHI") pursuant to the guidelines promulgated in the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act ("HIPAA") of 1996."

"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 Aspen Ranch 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.

Also, parents should understand that in the third segment quoted above they are giving Aspen permission to seek and obtain psychiatric, mental health treatment, and medical treatment for the child and at the sole discretion of Aspen.  In signing the Power of Attorney and the agreement, the parents are giving Aspen the right to seek and obtain such treatment.  The clinician and/or other mental health professionals will be contracting with Aspen on behalf of your child and will likely report solely to Aspen in regards to the care of your child.  Aspen's control and ability to deny you access to the records of such services is an additional concern.  In the likely event your child is harmed, how will you begin to determine who should be held accountable?  Who can be held accountable when the waiver extends to "volunteers" and "community organizations" with which Aspen contracts?  Please consider these issues seriously.

Aspen Ranch is not licensed by the Department of Health in Utah.  The Utah Department of Health is charged with enforcing HIPAA.  That enforcement applies to services licensed by the Department of Health.  By implying that Aspen Ranch is governed by HIPAA, Aspen Ranch appears to be misleading consumers.

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, 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). 

Enrollment Agreement (Pages 19 & 20)

"In the event of any such termination by Aspen after the Student has been accepted into the Program, neither Sponsor nor Student's insurer shall be entitled to a refund of any part of the Program fee or tuition."

"In the event Sponsor or any authorized third party, after he Student's arrival date, withdraws the Student for any reason prior to the end of the Program, or if the Student decides to leave the Program after the Student's eighteenth birthday, neither Sponsor nor Student's insurer shall be entitled to a refund of any part of the Program fee or tuition."

"Aspen's entitlement to and retention of the entire Program fee payable under this Agreement in the event of an early termination or withdrawal is not considered by either of the Parties to be a penalty for early withdrawal of the Student."

"Sponsor agrees to attend the seminar for parents and guardians of the students conducted by Aspen during 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."

"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."

"Any controversy or claim arising out of or relating to this contract, except at Aspen's option the collection of monies owed by Sponsor to Aspen, shall be settled by binding arbitration conducted in the State of Utah in accordance with the rules of the American Arbitration Association.  Judgment upon the award rendered by the arbitrator(s) may be entered in any court of competent jurisdiction for purposes of executing upon the award."

"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 hereunder."

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 enrollment agreement).  If you pulled your child from the program and believe you are due a refund, you should consult an attorney.  In addition, it is a concern that you would forfeit or be forced to pay the minimum enrollment fee of over $90,000.00 as a "liquidated damages" clause.  This seems outrageously steep and unconscionable.

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.

In the fifth segment above, Aspen again reiterates how the program is not voluntary for the child.  So, this directly contradicts page 18 that states the child has "voluntarily" agreed to participate in the program.  This is clearly not the case. 

Also, here it appears that Aspen will allow disputes to be settled in Utah.  This differs from other Aspen contracts.  And, the sixth segment above is contradicted by page 21 of the contract which requires disputes to be resolved in Los Angeles, California.  This contradiction will be explored below.  Since Aspen 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(s) of their choice, then they shouldn't accept children from other states. 

The seventh 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.

Enrollment Agreement (Page 21)

"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.  Other than the express commitments set forth in this Agreement and the Program description, Aspen gives no warranties of any kind, express or implied, to either the Sponsor or the Student 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 Aspen set forth herein."

"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 mistransmission that could result in information becoming available to someone other than the intended receiver."

HEAL points out that the above statements regarding the settling of disputes in Utah is contradicted here on page 21.  All disputes are to be resolved in California according to this page of the Agreement.  Throughout this contract we have seen numerous contradictory and unconscionable terms.  This appears to be an illusory contract offering absolutely no legitimate service to families while charging extraordinary fees to those families.  The families take all the risks, absolve Aspen of its own wrongdoing, and Aspen reaps all the rewards.  This appears to be nothing more than a scam on families in crisis or whom have been convinced by Aspen and/or its co-conspirators (i.e. educational consultants) that it is necessary.

We included the second segment above to highlight that the contract is the entire agreement.  Aspen has agreed to do nothing but keep a child confined until their eighteenth birthday or until the program decides they are ready to "graduate" the program.  Aspen guarantees nothing and offers no warranties or other consideration for the extraordinary fees they charge.  It is truly outrageous.

Also, we again see that Aspen will not be liable for your private/protected health information being disclosed to unintended parties.  This again suggests that they are not regulated by HIPAA as Aspen suggests in other areas of the contract.  This suggests deceptive practices.

Enrollment Agreement (Page 22)

"Sponsors' initial nonrefundable payment upon admission, as described in Section 2 and 4B of the Enrollment Agreement, is $2,750.00."

"Sponsors' personal financial obligation for the Ranch Program, which also reflects a discount on the actual tuition, will be $7,982.50 month, months including therapy services.  The Transitional Services fee is $7,982.50 for one year service.  A deposit of $18,715.00 (1st month tuition and one year transitional service) is due upon admission...Sponsor will provide a credit card, which will be charged on the 1st day of each month."

On this page of the enrollment agreement, the $2,750.00 is nonrefundable.  However, in previous segments of the contract $750.00 of the fee is refundable.  These are contradictory terms.

Even if the discounted rate applies for the entirety of the contract, the total for the minimum 9-month stay is $71,842.50.  This does not included the additional costs of legitimate psychiatric and/or psychological assessment subcontracted out by Aspen.  And, it is still more expensive than one year of tuition (including room and board) at Harvard University in 2010.  This is nothing more than a rip-off that hurts families both psychologically and financially. 

Enrollment Agreement (Page 23)

"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."

HEAL believes that Aspen Ranch may qualify 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 Ranch 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 Ranch. 

HEAL sincerely and heartily suggests you do not place your child in Aspen Ranch and rescue them if they are there now.

Enrollment Agreement (Pages 27 & 28)

"Aspen Ranch Program Details"

"In order to maintain a safe environment for students and staff, we will conduct a thorough intake which includes a strip search and search of all belongings upon admission and upon return of all off-campus visits with parents."

"Your child will be provided most of the items he or she will need at Aspen Ranch."

"Other family members can write letters later in the child's treatment as he or she moves through the level system.  Students can only receive letters from friends in the final stages of treatment and only with parental approval."

"Typically, the first eight weeks in the program are a time of orientation and emotional adjustment for the student and family.  Our experience has indicated that it is more productive when family and student have made this adjustment separately.  Therefore, parent visits can be set up with the therapist after the eighth week in treatment."

"The student will be present for at least one family session via teleconference each month after the blackout period."

"The minimum time that a student can complete the program is nine months.  For most students, completion of the program will take longer than nine months."

"A minimum of (2) parent education workshops and Family Enrichment is required."

"We retain the services of a psychiatrist who visits the Ranch once a month...We also retain the services of an Family Nurse Practitioner who visits the Ranch once a week."

"Students who attain Rider or Wrangler are eligible for off campus trips that may include hikes, visits to National Parks, snowboarding, river rafting and trail rides.  These are privileges that students must earn.  Typically, students are not able to earn this level and these privileges until they've been in treatment for at least 6 months."

"Aspen Ranch is a Residential Treatment Center...For a child to be successful in all aspects of the program, the parent's attitude needs to embrace all aspects of the program."

"Aspen Ranch is accredited through the Northwest Association of Accredited Schools...Aspen Ranch offers a college preparatory track, but does not offer Advanced Placement options...Students may take a foreign language through a correspondence course available through Brigham Young University.  Parents are responsible for the extra fee that this incurs."

"Parents should understand that academic progress waxes and wanes relative to therapeutic progress."

"Students must complete the program in order to receive transitional services.  If you elect to terminate your child's care prior to his/her completion of the program, you forfeit the $7,982.50 pre-paid fee for transitional services."

"Monthly tuition covers room and board, supervision, therapeutic care and academics.  In addition, parents will pay for miscellaneous expenses including: escort fees, clothing & hygiene products, minor school supplies, birthday cakes, activities and SAT/ACT testing."

HEAL has amply covered the issues regarding the strip searches conducted by Aspen.  We include it again above as a reminder that body cavity searches are included and conducted on all children in the program regardless of the child's needs or history.  This is a serious concern and an apparent violation of the child's rights.

What necessities are not provided by Aspen?  Why are children deprived of any item they need while being under the control of Aspen?  Deprivation of needs would suggest blatant child neglect.  Neglect is a serious child abuse issue.  These and other abuses are described in detail on HEAL's Teen Rights' page at www.heal-online.org/teenrights.htm.

It is one of HEAL's primary warning signs of an abusive program that they deny or severely limit contact with the outside world.  Denying children the right to speak with parents by phone, and vice versa, during the first few months of "treatment" is a sign of an abusive program.  See www.heal-online.org/warn.htm for more warning signs and questions you should ask any program you consider. 

How long is the blackout period?  Does it ever last more than two months?  What is the longest period a child has been denied contact with the outside world (including parents) while in the program?

What is the average length of stay in the program?  How many years of "Harvard tuition" will be sucked up by Aspen's scam?  How many vacations or homes will be forfeited as a result of the extraordinary costs of this program?

Are the seminars included in the cost of the program?  Are the seminars and other parenting materials to be purchased separately by the family? 

For what purpose does Aspen retain the services of a psychiatrist?  Why does the psychiatrist only visit once per month?  Is the psychiatrist's sole purpose to prescribe psychoactive drugs to children?  Is the sole purpose or primary purpose of the nurse's weekly visit to monitor the effects of psychoactive drugs on children?  Are any legitimate professional therapies provided by Aspen?  They do not appear to be.

Are children held within the confines of Aspen Ranch on location for 6-months or more without any interaction with the outside world?  If so, this seems like a blatant violation of the child's civil rights.  See www.heal-online.org/provocases.htm and www.heal-online.org/legalarguments.htm for more information.

Again, we have Aspen demanding parents support the program without question.  This is a serious concern as many reported practices of Aspen appear to violate the rights of children.  These include practices that may be considered child abuse by authorities.  This is a serious concern.

For information on issues with accreditation agencies, see www.heal-online.org/accreditation.htm.  It is HEAL's understanding that the NAAS allows self-evaluations as the primary basis for accreditation.  This is in no way effective oversight.  Also, a foreign language taught by correspondence course is not going to benefit the child in understanding the language or culture of the language's origin.  This is a serious concern.  Also, since most colleges require foreign language as a pre-requisite for acceptance, this may hamper a child's future.  Why does Aspen charge extra for providing a lame correspondence course?  Greed?!

Are children denied access to an educational curriculum/academic services at any point of the program?  What does Aspen mean by "academic progress waxes and wanes relative to therapeutic progress"?  In many programs, the right to an education is deprived during certain phases of the program.  This is a serious concern.  What does Aspen mean by "therapeutic"?

Why are parents expected to pay for minor school supplies, activities, and academic testing?  Shouldn't these costs be included in the steep tuition cost (more expensive than Harvard University)? 

Readers may notice that the program description does not describe the program, the level system used, the definitions imposed by the program in regards to privileges/disciplinary actions/etc., or any detail that would suggest the program is providing a legitimate service.  Since this is the only description included of the program, the overall contract appears to be illusory, void/voidable, unenforceable, and amounting to nothing more than a scam that defrauds families and injures children, emotionally, psychologically, and/or physically.  Aspen Education Group should be immediately shut down by regulators and/or the Department of Justice and penalties should be imposed and victims should be provided with refunds and/or compensation for any and all injuries.

Enrollment Agreement (Pages 29 & 30)

"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 Aspen 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 Aspen 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 Aspen is not licensed to provide mental health or medical services in Utah.

The sixth segment above begs some questions be asked of Aspen: "What do you mean by "support our business activities"?  Does Aspen use client information in studies that result in financial benefit to Aspen Ranch or Aspen Education Group?  If my child is included in a research study conducted by Aspen, 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 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.

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 Aspen claims it can and/or will disclose your protected health information (PHI) without your consent.  See the enrollment agreement in full for more information.

HEAL heartily recommends you do not place your child in Aspen Ranch and that you rescue your child if he/she is there now.

 

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

 

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