Forced Labor: How A Utah Rehab Center Exploited Patients

 The license for an addiction treatment center in Utah is currently hanging in the balance after state regulators reported that clients were exploited for personal gain, and were embarrassed, humiliated and even frightened as part of their "treatment." The Ark of Little Cottonwood, located in Sandy, received a violation notice in January from the Department of Human Services, specifically citing facility director Gloria Boberg for at least one instance of "improper use of clients for manual labor for personal gain to Boberg Family, (moving family members' residences)."

The notice also stated that clients were "shamed, embarrassed and verbally abused due to actions of Gloria Boberg" and that staff members used methods "designed to frighten or humiliate a consumer." Some clients also claimed that despite the hefty $13,000-15,000 monthly fee, they had to act as unofficial groundskeepers for the center. "We were made to shovel the manure out of the stalls," said one. "And shovel the snow. And do whatever yard work needed to be done. Free labor, you know. Get your stalls cleaned, they don't have to pay to have that done or do it themselves."

Further alleged violation included improper dispensing of medication and interference with clients' rights to interact with their families. Boberg said having clients work on the grounds was a legitimate part of therapy, designed to teach responsibility. She denied all the other charges, claiming they were stirred up by angry alumni. State regulators placed The Ark's license on conditional status and ordered a number of reforms they must implement by next month to remain open—including ethics training for the entire staff.

The Fix / By McCarton Ackerman

Posted at April 11, 2012, 9:38am

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