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Liberty hill, texas

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According to the following report by survivor Victoria Cloud, Meridell Achievement Center is guilty of neglect, misdiagnosing patients/students, over-drugging and falsely drugging patients/students, and likely using the children in their care for human experimentation for the University of Texas.  Here is her story.


Victoriaís Story (If you would like to contact Victoria, e-mail her at



I have a story about this place.


In the fall of 1998, when I was fifteen, I was placed in the Westwood Behavioral Campus of Meridell Achievement Center. This residential treatment center is located outside Austin in a town called Liberty Hill, nestled in a wooded area which is very pleasing to look upon. I was released in January of 1999, but in the summer I was placed at the Windridge Neurological Campus, which is in another town near Liberty Hill.


Meridell, as an institution, had its good points. We had structured activities (indoor and out depending on the child's stability) and therapeutic group sessions, which were monitored by caring staff. Once I took a pencil and carved into my arm with it, and I was put on suicide watch for that. That may have prevented something catastrophic. We were encouraged to be expressive and honest with each other and with the staff, and I have memories of growing close to several of the girls I stayed with. My counselor seemed like a very kind, very genuine woman who was sincerely interested in my well-being for the most part.


However, there were certain incidents, which, even six years later, trouble me. It seems like both campuses were very keen on using the boys and girls as guinea pigs for psychotropic medications, and I have since learned that it may have been a part of some program set up by the University of Texas at Austin. The predominant drug during my time was Tegretol, and between October 1998-January 1999 a lot of us girls were taking Risperdal. I specifically remembered a time when both myself and my roommate were lactating as a side effect of that drug. I witnessed one boy at the Windridge campus who reported seeing double as a result of taking Tegretol. Later, another boy on Tegretol collapsed twice while playing football outside in 90+ degree heat. The staff members who were monitoring him were aware that people taking Tegretol should never be exposed to excessive heat or sunlight. When I was on Prozac, I reported terrifying dreams to my counselor, and I felt that she dismissed it rather flippantly as a side effect, which would go away. It did not go away and it seemed like weeks before I had the opportunity to report this (or much of anything) to Dr. Riedel.  All of the children on campus shared this psychiatrist. I am almost positive our parents were never notified about the kinds of medications we were taking, or the dosages. I am also quite sure that they weren't aware of much else, either, except the things, which came out during family sessions.


Other things pop out in my memory as well. One boy, Curtis, was taken from the boy's unit at Meridell Westwood in an ambulance after overdosing on pills which he had somehow managed to acquire, and once after a tantrum I was left in the Windridge unit's Quiet Room almost overnight.


The diagnoses I received seemed to have been impulsively decided at best. We'll go with Westwood Behavioral Campus first. You cannot diagnose a teenage girl with traits of Borderline Personality Disorder, which they did. They also decided the first week I was there that I had Schizoaffective disorder. Next on the list was Bipolar disorder. Those are not diagnoses you just throw around. These are major, debilitating problems which disable people's judgment for life. When you label a child with things like that you tell them that they have to fight a bloody war forever. The only thing which made remotely any sense at all was the diagnosis of AD/HD, which is totally obvious and we went in knowing I had that anyway!


At Windridge, the seemingly more underfunded Neurological campus, I was subjected to something called a BEAM test. They said I was having small seizures in my brain which caused me to act out impulsively and they dismissed all the diagnoses I was given at the Westwood campus. I don't think my mother was aware of any of this.


After I was released from Meridell, I learned that most of the things the children were subjected to were bogus practices. This does not invalidate what I learned in group and whatnot but it does cast a serious shadow over the practices of the staff and doctors.


I hope my story helps you, and take care.


Victoria Cloud

Meridell Achievement Center

Westwood Campus October 1998 to January 1999

Windridge Campus August 1999 to November 1999


If you would like to submit a statement about Meridell Achievement Center, please e-mail us for more information.


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