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01 July 2005 @ 04:44 pm
More on the Zach front...

Today, the Washington Blade reports that the state of Tennessee is opening new investigation into LIA. They suspect the group of operating an unlicensed drug/alcohol treatment facility.

It's a good article, but...

Turner said that if the program is strictly faith-based it would not require licensing by the state, but that according to the group’s Web site, Love in Action has licensed counselors and provides services related to alcohol and drug addiction on site.

“If this is the case, they are required to be licensed as a drug and alcohol treatment facility in Tennessee,” Turner said.

So if they did this treatment with unlicensed counselors, that would be A-OK with the state? That's troublesome. Because as bad as things must get in that camp, having untrained counselors would likely make it worse.

Further on, though, I find this:

Lassiter said that only licensed professionals should provide mental health care in Tennessee and that the state has an interest in making sure that whatever services are offered are beneficial.

So if they were operating as a strictly faith-based institution, offering gay-cure therapy, would that count as mental health care? I really really fucking hope so. Because I've been researching these places (more about that in a second) and the horror stories I'm finding are beyond anything I imagined went on in America, Guantanamo notwithstanding.

I've heard vaguely of other treatment programs for troubled kids-- drug/alcohol abuse, running away, etc.-- and the detailed rules for Refuge got me wondering about other such institutions. So I started researching at NoSpank.org, which led me to a site detailing horrific acts of child abuse in the name of keeping children safe. This is TheStraights.com. This page has links to testimonials, affidavits, and forums for teens who went through programs such as Straight, Inc., The Seed, and SAFE.

The main thrust of these programs was to brainwash children ages 11-21 into believing that a) they were hopeless drug/alcohol addicts, b) the only way to become a good person would be to graduate from the program, and c) if they left the program before graduation, they would end up dead, insane, or in jail. They used standard brainwashing tactics such as sleep and food deprivation, beatings, forcible restraint and isolation, constant observation, and humiliation. Most of the "clients" of these programs came out with deep psychological scars; there are 40 known suicides, and countless self-injuries and suicide attempts, both during and after "treatment."

On thestraights.com site, there is a chart detailing the grandparent program (Synanon) and its numerous imitators (The Seed, Straight, and many others). While Straight, Inc. and The Seed were shut down in the early 90s, the spirit is alive in other camps for problem children, such as Tranquility Bay in Jamaica and Growing Together in Fort Worth, FL.

The rules of Refuge/LIA sound a lot like they're based on the Straight model, only geared to anti-homosexuality rather than anti-drug use. Tennessee CPS cleared the camp of child abuse charges (all Straight, Inc. institutions were shut down due to child abuse at each one), but some of the brainwashing techniques such as being forbidden to speak, restricted in reading and listening material, forced confessions, etc., might not technically be recognized as child abuse. You know it is. I know it is. Does the state know it is?

I hope so, especially now that they're investigating LIA through the Department of Health. Since they couldn't make child abuse stick, they might be out to get them this way. I do hope so.

Oh, and it's interesting to note that the founders of these programs give lots of money to... wait for it... the Republican Party! Mel Sembler, founder of Straight, Inc., was twice made ambassador to Italy based in part on the "humanitarian" work he did with Straight, and in part on the huge donations he made to the GOP.