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By C.J. BAKER
Powell Tribune Via Wyoming News Exchange 

Park County investigates abuse allegations at Clark facility

 

April 4, 2019



POWELL — In recent weeks, more than a dozen women have contacted the Park County Sheriff’s Office to report being abused at a Clark facility for troubled teenage girls. The allegations — from 15 former patients of Trinity Teen Solutions — are all years old, dating as far back as 2007 to as recently as 2015.

Angie Woodward, who cofounded Trinity with her husband Jerry, said in an interview that the business takes any allegations of abuse or mistreatment very seriously.

However, she also said the complaints appear to be coming from a group of young women who have repeatedly complained about the facility over the last decade.

“We’ve been doing this for 17 years and it’s just devastating to have those kind of reports come through,” Woodward said last month.

On its website, Trinity Teen Solutions describes itself as a Catholic residential treatment center that combines evidence-based therapy with a Christian environment. The for-profit business sits on a 160- acre ranch off Road 8RA that borders the Shoshone National Forest.

Park County Sheriff’s Office Public Affairs Officer Lance Mathess said the recent complaints — which came in between late February and mid-March — are the first reports of abuse that his office has received about Trinity Teen Solutions.

Records do show that the Wyoming Department of Family Services, which licenses the residential treatment facility, has previously received complaints. Reports provided to the Tribune by Woodward indicate that the department cleared the facility in four separate investigations.

DFS officials looked into a litany of allegations in 2011 and 2012. At the time, unnamed former patients alleged that Trinity failed to provide adequate medical care; humiliated them by making them wear signs, calling them names or putting girls on “leashes;” punished them by restricting access to the bathroom and food or forced girls to sit in a chair all day without speaking; and censored communications with family members.

However, the DFS investigation concluded that all of those allegations were unsubstantiated, finding there was either no evidence or not enough evidence to support any of the claims.

More complaints were lodged in 2014 and 2018, and the reports show that Trinity Teen Solutions was exonerated in those DFS investigations as well.

“These [allegations] have been investigated multiple times by the Department of Family Services,” Woodward said.

It’s unclear exactly what has been alleged in the recent criminal complaints to the sheriff’s office. When she spoke to the Tribune last month, Woodward said she knew nothing about the reports, as she had yet to be contacted by the sheriff’s office. Mathess, meanwhile, declined to comment on any of the details of the allegations, citing the pending investigation.

He also said he couldn’t comment on why the women decided to come forward now and in an apparent bunch: The first six reports came into the sheriff’s office on Feb. 24, with the rest trickling in at the rate of one, two or three reports per day through March 13.

Over the years, a handful of former patients have taken to Yelp, Google Review, the Better Business Bureau, a Facebook group and even started a “Trinity Teen Solutions Survivors” website, posting allegations of abuse that are similar to the reports made to the Wyoming Department of Family Services.

In 2016, Trinity Teen Solutions sued three former patients for defamation for various online posts; the Woodwards alleged that the three women — Florida residents Claire Malone Matson and Mollie Lynch and Chanel Plander of California — had knowingly made “wildly false statements” about the center in an effort to damage it. The lawsuit ended with a confidential settlement, Woodward said, and the reviews and postings in question from the women appear to have been removed from the web.

Still, some negative reviews remain. In January, a Yelp user identifying herself as Maggie H. of Illinois gave Trinity a one-star review and shared many of the allegations that the Department of Family Services has said are unsubstantiated.

For instance, Maggie alleges that girls were punished by being forced to sit in a chair for weeks without speaking — and had to eat “a bowl of kidney beans and olives instead of a regular meal” if they broke the rules. The 23-year-old also says she received a poor education and became someone she hated.

“... We were constantly reminded that if we didn’t behave and change, that we would be held there indefinitely,” wrote Maggie, who said she was at the center from October 2011 to July 2013.

After the program, “I sought treatment as an adult at facilities that had a proper understanding of my mental illnesses and addictions, and were able to effectively treat these things,” the 23-year-old wrote. “I am doing better now, it is in spite of Trinity Teen Solutions, not because of it.”

For its part, Trinity says a full 96 percent of the girls who complete their program “effectively overcome the struggles in their lives.”

Woodward said the negative reviews and complaints are outliers among the roughly 2,000 girls from all over the United States who have gone through Trinity Teen Solutions since its founding.

She called the situation “very sad.”

“It’s just devastating, because of course we’re never in the paper for the good we do,” she said. “A couple thousand girls and we’re never in the paper for that, for the little lives we save.”

Different sheriff’s deputies are handling the investigations into the 15 complaints of abuse and assault, Mathess said.

“We have no way of knowing when the investigations will be completed,” he said, adding Monday that, “They are all still open and ongoing.”

 
 

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