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Documents: Daybreak Youth Services did not cooperate in investigation into staff misconduct

According to documents, Daybreak CFO Richard Reathaford interjected, answered for staff members and would not allow staff members to respond to certain questions.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Daybreak Youth Services could have its licenses suspended after reportedly failing to cooperate with an investigation into ongoing patient safety concerns, according to the Washington State Department of Health (DOH).

Daybreak Youth Services is a behavioral health and residential treatment facility that serves female children and teens in Spokane. 

DOH began an investigation into allegations of "patient boundary issues by a staff member" in March 2022. According to DOH, Daybreak Youth Services has not provided any requested information to the department.

The investigation into Daybreak began on Feb. 10 after the Department of Children, Youth and Families Child Protective Services filed a report regarding inappropriate conduct towards patients from a staff member. A second report was filed with the Spokane Police Department (SPD) regarding the same staff member in March.

The staff member in question was hired by Daybreak as a skills coach in November 2021, according to documents. His duties involved daily contact with female minor patients. During his time with Daybreak, he allegedly engaged in "inappropriate contact and boundary violations" with patients.

Documents state the inappropriate conduct started around the same time the staff member was hired.

The staff member allegedly visited Daybreak on Dec. 8, 2021, which was reportedly his day off. He said he was visiting to "hang with the girls." Documents state he received counseling from Daybreak as a result of this incident.

Approximately three weeks later, a patient filed a complaint against the staff member, stating he allegedly hugged her and used "prison sign language" to say he loved her.

By Jan. 19, another patient complained that the staff member was attempting to engage with her on social media.

The staff member was also accused of sharing lunch trays with patients, telling patients that complaints had been filed against him by other patients, telling a patient that an implant in her arm was "disgusting," "slut-shaming" patients by commenting on their clothing choices and engaging in "retaliation and bullying" against patients who filed complaints about him.

Following the complaints against the staff member, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) stopped referring patients to Daybreak.

An internal investigation into the staff member began on Jan. 19, 2022. Through the investigation, documents state that "a concerting pattern of misconduct" was revealed. However, Daybreak ultimately determined the staff member did not violate the code of ethics and did not fire him.

DOH said Daybreak did not report any of the complaints from patients to the Residential Treatment Facilities Program, which later opened its own investigation into the staff member.

The external investigation began on March 8-9. The document said Daybreak was cooperative during the initial visit and gave investigators access to all of the staff member's training records and improvement plans. 

During a second on-site investigation on April 11-12, other staff members at Daybreak were interviewed. On May 9, investigators met with Daybreak's management team virtually to "discuss the next steps" in the investigation.

During the May 9 meeting, documents state investigators asked for complete records of specific clients, complaints filed against the accused staff member and supervision noted related to the staff member.

From May 9-24, Daybreak did not provide any of the requested documentation, according to documents. Daybreak also did not schedule staff interviews or client interviews regarding the investigation.

Because of this, investigators returned to Daybreak on May 24-25 to investigate the facility's response to the allegations. During this visit, Daybreak allegedly refused to give investigators access to everything they needed. The facility only allowed investigators to see parts of three clients' records and one complaint filed against the staff member.

Between May 26 - June 22, Daybreak told investigators they intended to cooperate with the investigation, but continued to question the investigation, according to documents. 

Investigators sent Daybreak CEO Thomas Russell a letter on July 7 stating the purpose of the investigation and the information they needed in order to conduct the investigation. On July 13, investigators emailed Russell and another employee requesting copies of any complaints made against staff members for inappropriate behavior. They also requested a staff list with job titles and schedule information, as they intended to interview staff members.

One week later, Daybreak, through counsel, responded to investigators telling them their request was "overly broad." Daybreak said they would only give investigators access to "a small number of employees necessary for DOH to conduct the review" and 280 pages of documents.

Investigators went to Daybreak on July 18 to conduct staff interviews. That same day, Russell emailed investigators to document an earlier conversation about the investigation. Documents state the email indicated investigators and Daybreak agreed about the scope of the investigation, and Daybreak would give investigators access to client records.

However, Russell reportedly told investigators clients could not be interviewed without their written consent.

As investigators began interviewing staff members on July 18, documents state Daybreak CFO Richard Reathaford interjected, answered for staff members, attempted to control the scope of the interviews and would not allow staff members to respond to questions he believed were "he-said, she said."

The next day, while investigators were attempting to interview other staff members, Reathaford again interrupted and told the staff member to "only answer questions related to policies, procedures and processes." 

During the next interview on the same day, Reathaford again interrupted an interview by telling the staff member the scope of the interview was only limited to discussing policies and procedures, according to documents.

In the next interview, investigators asked the staff member about staff-to-patient interactions that could make patients feel uncomfortable. Reathaford once again interrupted the interview and became confrontational. Documents state Reathaford argued the question about inappropriate interactions could not be answered because it called for speculation, asking "how would Daybreak staff know what makes a client uncomfortable."

Reathaford continued to interrupt every interview investigators attempted to do that day and the next day, July 19. At one point, an investigator asked him, "to be clear, you're telling me that if you don't agree with the way things are said, you're going to say something?" To this, he responded that he would interrupt and that it was his obligation to do so, stating "I will not allow questions to deviate from policy and procedure."

Investigators stopped trying to conduct staff interviews at this point, as they felt they were not able to get reliable information from staff if Reathaford was present.

Daybreak Youth Services now has 28 days to request a hearing on the license suspension before it actually goes into effect. If the facility did request a hearing, it would postpone the suspension until an administrative law judge makes a final decision.

If the facility's licenses are suspended, operations must stop immediately and all patients must be transferred to another facility, according to DOH.

The investigation into the allegations is ongoing at this time.

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