Highfields Board Chair Reacts to Report

By: Tony Tagliavia
By: Tony Tagliavia

News 10 brought you an exclusive look Thursday at the state's licensing report looking into allegations of abuse at Highfields. Now, the chairman of the board at Highfields is responding.

Highfields could face disciplinary action for violations that are outlined in the state licensing report. News 10 obtained that report from the Michigan Department of Human Services, which wrapped up its investigation in mid-March.

State investigators reported two violations in each of two alleged abuse incidents at the youth treatment facility. The first involved residents throwing soap, disinfectant, spoiled milk, and shaving cream cans at a new resident at Highfields -- and a Highfields worker refusing to report the students.

The second involved workers inappropriately restraining a student who was taken outside in the winter without a coat, possibly for an hour.

Charles Corley is the chairman of the board at Highfields. He says the report is an impetus for change.

"An opportunity to focus more of our correction plan, in terms of what needs to be specifically addressed," Corley said.

The report says Highfields staffers didn't respond appropriately to residents. Corley says specific changes will be made.

"Some people shifting around, people taking on different roles ... to ensure safety, training, better communication," He said.

The licensing review also recommends disciplinary action against Highfields. It doesn't specify the action, but Highfields could lose its state license.

Corley wouldn't speculate.

Ingham County Probate Judge Robert J. Garcia is in part responsible for the decision to return children to Highfields' residential program. He says the residential treatment center at Highfields needs to be substantially rebuilt.

"I don't know how they're going to do it, except to start over," Garcia said.

Still, he says the county is interested in seeing the facility re-opened.

Corley, of course, is interested in that as well. He says, it may take some time.

"A couple of months or more. If you've got to do it, do it well," Corley said.

The licensing report is one of two state reports to look into the allegations of abuse. The other hasn't been completed.

The Ingham County Sheriff's Department also investigated the abuse allegations. Its report has been turned over to the county prosecutor's office. The Ingham County Prosecuting Attorney could decide to file criminal charges as a result.

News 10 expects to hear more from the prosecutor's office in the near future.

-- in East Lansing, Tony Tagliavia, News 10.


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