Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Agency closing children's mental health center in Riverview

RIVERVIEW — A state agency has begun shutting down a 20-year-old children's mental health treatment center after investigators found evidence of sexual assaults, a fearful atmosphere, and a dangerous lack of proper supervision.

Tampa Bay Academy, a 24-acre Riverview campus of treatment facilities and live-in duplexes at 12012 Boyette Road, has until Jan. 9 to relocate its clients to other centers and begin serving an indefinite suspension, said Fernando Senra, spokesman for the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.

The state report on conditions at the center portray a facility where the staff was intimidated, and some patients preyed upon employees and fellow clients.

During a period in November and December, state health care investigators said they saw at least three separate incidents of clients acting sexually inappropriately or in an assaulting manner, according to the state emergency order.

In perhaps the most serious allegations, authorities said a client sexually assaulted a staff member twice, with another client participating in the second attack.

In another instance, two to four clients subjected a staff member to "sexually inappropriate and assaultive behavior.'' That staff member had been working alone, the report said.

One employee admitted being so fearful of clients that the person "hid within the safety of staff offices,'' leaving clients "devoid'' of supervision.

And a client who claimed to have gonorrhea and HIV had sexual contact with another client despite a doctor's order to keep them separated.

Other cases the state documented include clients blocking entrances with chairs, stealing staff keys, pulling fire alarms and biting each other.

In response, state health care officials said, Tampa Bay Academy failed to redirect its staff, act on the problems, notify law enforcement or governing agencies or refer the children to mental health services, the emergency order said.

The center has been prohibited from taking any clients while it works to move its 54 children, who are between ages 8 and 17.

"We are actively monitoring the facility to ensure resident safety," Senra said.

"Florida's children and adolescents who suffer from mental illness deserve treatment and services which protect them from the risk of injury. … Children and adolescents must not be subjected to such threats and dangers," the state order states.

Attempts to reach Tampa Bay Academy officials late Wednesday were unsuccessful. A message left at the academy wasn't returned.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office has launched a separate criminal investigation into the allegations, said spokesman J.D. Callaway, who declined to elaborate.

Academy parents and guardians have been notified, Senra said, and state officials are making random checks up until the deadline to ensure the children are safe.

The academy's clients include a mix of private-pay children, those funded by Medicaid as well as children sent there by the Department of Children and Families.

The academy "has exhibited an incident reporting, investigation and intervention system that has failed in all regards," the state order said.

Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or [email protected]

Agency closing children's mental health center in Riverview 12/17/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 6:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Sen. Nelson urges FEMA to examine high number of denied flood claims


    Sen. Bill Nelson urged FEMA on Tuesday to ensure fairness, proper oversight and transparency in processing Hurricane Irma aid following a report by the Palm Beach Post that 90 percent of Irma claims under the National Flood Insurance Program had been denied.

    Sen. Bill Nelson is calling for FEMA to ensure the flood claims process post-Hurricane Irma is fair and ethical following reports that 90 percent of claims under the National Flood Insurance Program were denied. | [Times file photo]
  2. Pasco delays Irma food distribution after problems elsewhere

    Local Government

    DADE CITY — Pasco County has pulled the plug on a planned Food for Florida distribution at the Land O'Lakes Recreation Center that had been scheduled to open to the public on Sunday.

    Pasco County has postponed a planned Food for Florida distribution at the Land O' Lakes Recreation Center on Collier Parkway and is seeking an alternative site. Last week, commissioners said they feared a repeat of the long lines of traffic that appeared outside Plant City Stadium on Oct. 9. The nutrition program for people affected by Hurricane Irma had been scheduled to come to Land O' Lakes Oct. 18 to 27.  [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  3. Editorial: UF can set example for free speech


    White nationalist Richard Spencer is bringing his racist message Thursday to the University of Florida in a legitimate, if utterly repugnant, display of the First Amendment at work. As a public university, UF has little choice but to allow Spencer's speech to take place. Now the university and the broader community has …

    By responding with peaceful protests and refusing to be provoked into violence, UF and the Gainesville community can provide a powerful repudiation of Richard Spencer’s hateful message.
  4. Percussionist rocks out with a blazing triangle solo during Florida Orchestra performance


    Oh, the poor triangle. It's the orchestra equivalent of a rock band's tamborine, and such easy fodder for jokes.

    John Shaw performs a triangle solo.
  5. Amazon expands in Tampa with Pop-Up shop in International Plaza


    TAMPA — A new retailer known largely for its online presence has popped up at International Plaza and Bay Street.

    Shoppers walk past the new Amazon kiosk Tuesday at the International Plaza in Tampa. The kiosk, which opened last month, offers shoppers an opportunity to touch and play with some of the products that Amazon offers.
[CHRIS URSO   |   Times]