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'Failing the children': Former Eliada employee speaks out after allegations come to light

'Failing the children': Former Eliada staffer speaks out after allegations come to light
Eliada Homes, located in Asheville, North Carolina (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

Two Eliada Homes facilities, located in Asheville, for teenagers who have experienced severe psychological and sexual trauma have been shut down. The action was taken after state inspectors reported children in the residential homes were in “imminent danger,” according to state health department license revocation letters obtained by News 13.

Eliada, which promotes itself as Western North Carolina’s oldest nonprofit organization, has other child programs, including foster and daycare. But it’s the in-treatment program for teenagers that’s under fire. A former employee and counselor in the residential program spoke with News 13 on the condition his name would be withheld. He said the program once had six residences but that several have been closed amid problems and repeat citations by the state over the years.

“Now, we have DHHS reports that show, this is really bad,” the former staffer said. “I feel Eliada is failing the children.” The staffer, who feared retaliation for speaking out, said the program has been rife with understaffing issues as well as a lack of structure and accountability, both for staff and for students.

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“I definitely saw them get mishandled by staff. Students would often times end up injuring each other or staff members. I saw staff get multiple concussions happen.”

The homes closed are Cummings Cottage and Lions Cottages. Skilled staff are supposed to closely supervise and care for teens with psychiatric disorders. Records for the program that date to 2018 show a myriad of citations, including reports of high staff turnover, sex between a staff member and a client and clients or teen patients escaping the campus. One report stated "a client who struggles with traumaescaped, walked into the middle of a lane and stopped.. Cars nearly hitting her..."

The report also stated there was another incident involving the patient escaping from campus where she was supposed to be supervised at Eliada. “Once she left (a) local pharmacy, she ran from staff and into a forest...She states that the man from the store followed her and raped her in the forest,” the health department report states. “No one from the facility contacted law enforcement."

“I feel Eliada is failing them,” said the former staffer. “I feel it should be shut down.”

“We have learned there are still three to five children still in these cottages that have had their licenses suspended,” said Kristine Sullivan, supervising attorney with Disability Rights NC, an advocacy group following developments in the Elaida license suspension cases. Sullivan said she learned of three serious occurrences last weekend she said she could not detail due to privacy laws.

“We have ongoing concerns for the safety of these children.”

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Past records for Eliada and the psychological residency program show children are often placed in physical restraints. Sullivan said such restraints are dangerous and often used too often when there is no imminent danger. One report for Lions Cottage stated “there were 81 documented instances of staff-employed restrictive interventions with clientsnursing was not always called.”

“Not having nursing involved to make sure the children are safe and recovering is very, very concerning,” said Sullivan.

“I feel the CEO, Cindy Davis-Bryant, is not familiar with how a residential program works,” said the former Eliada staffer.

Cindy Davis-Bryant, CEO of Eliada Homes, declined an interview, but sent the following statement to News 13 by email:

As of February 18th, Eliada Homes received a summary suspension of our licenses to operate two cottages on our campus from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The DHHS notice stemmed from an investigation by the Division of Health Services Regulation (DHSR) of several incidents over the past 4-5 months. At least one of the items had been corrected during the investigation. The agency has filed an appeal regarding the suspensions.
Upon receipt of the DHHS notice, our case management team immediately called parents and DSS workers for the children residing in those two cottages and began exploring alternative placement options. We can assure you that each and every child on Eliada’s campus remains safe and under the care of our skilled staff members. The agency is staffed according to requirements for all programs.
We are currently awaiting receipt of a detailed report on the DHSR investigative findings, which is due to us within 15 business days of last week’s notice. Until we have this report, we cannot provide further information regarding the allegations.
In the meantime, we continue to adhere to all state directives. All other programs on our campus remain unaffected and continue to run as usual. We remain committed to providing high-quality services to children and families in our community, and across the state, as we have for 118 years.



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