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March 2, 2024

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Daybreak Youth Services says budget gap could close Brush Prairie, Spokane facilities


A nonprofit that has provided behavioral health treatment to thousands of teens in the Spokane and Clark County areas says it’s facing a $500,000 budget shortfall and may have to close its doors.

Daybreak Youth Services says its financial situation follows the troubled expansion of its treatment facility in Brush Prairie, which triggered investigations and prompted the federal government to temporarily cut off Medicaid reimbursements, resulting in a $3 million loss.

Now the organization, which was founded in Spokane in 1978, is seeking loans and donations to continue providing services on both sides of the state. Daybreak leaders said $500,000 in “bridge financing” would keep the organization afloat until March, when the Brush Prairie facility is expected to return to full capacity.

Sarah Spier, Daybreak’s director of external relations, said the organization serves about 1,000 teens each year. Many, she said, have been victims of sex trafficking or have struggled with thoughts of suicide.

“The idea that Spokane youth, and youth across the state, will not have access to our services quite literally is a life-or-death situation that we are dealing with,” Spier said.

Daybreak purchased its Brush Prairie facility in 2016 in an effort to expand its inpatient treatment services for boys. The facility has 54 residential inpatient beds; Daybreak’s old Vancouver location had only 16. Outpatient and short-term evaluation services provided at the Brush Prairie facility were co-ed. Spier previously said the facility would likely serve only boys moving forward, as part of an agreement with the state Department of Health.

In Spokane, Daybreak provides short- and long-term inpatient treatment for girls ages 12 to 18 with mental health and substance use problems. The organization also provides outpatient counseling for teenage boys and girls in Spokane Valley.

The state Department of Health began investigating and threatened to revoke one of Daybreak’s licenses after Clark County sheriff’s deputies raided the Brush Prairie facility in September 2018, seizing documents and computers.

The sheriff’s office accused Daybreak of failing to report assaults, rapes and other sexual misconduct to law enforcement.

Daybreak sued the sheriff’s office in federal court, calling the allegations baseless and accusing deputies of exposing confidential patient information. The case was dismissed in July and continued in Clark County Superior Court. There, a judge found the sheriff’s office had enough reason to execute the search warrants.

In July, Judge Jennifer Snider granted Daybreak’s motion for a protective order that outlines how substance use disorder patient records and protected health and treatment information should be used and disclosed. The state lawsuit is pending in the Washington Court of Appeals, Clark County Civil Deputy Prosecutor Leslie Lopez told The Columbian.

On Aug. 22, prosecutors filed a complaint in Clark County District Court against the former vice president of compliance at the Brush Prairie facility. Michael S. Trotter, 43, is facing three counts of failure to report child abuse or neglect.

According to the complaint, Trotter was in that position in May 2018 when a client was assaulted, sexually harassed and bullied by other boys there. The victim’s mother told deputies Trotter said he reviewed video and confirmed the boy’s report of sexual assault; Trotter allegedly avoided the mother after the conversation.

Incidents unreported

During the service of the search warrants, deputies obtained documents showing Daybreak investigated whether “policies were violated for supervision of the youth during this incident,” the complaint says. The investigative report, completed by Trotter, listed several recommendations for more staff to prevent similar incidents. However, the report “does not list or talk about any reporting of the incident to law enforcement or (Child Protective Services) as required by law,” the complaint says.

An investigator confirmed the incident was never reported to Child Protective Services by Trotter or anyone else at Daybreak. It was subsequently reported by a hospital, court records say.

The complaint details another alleged sexual assault at Brush Prairie. Trotter told a deputy he closed his investigation into this second incident because the suspect ran away from the facility and was no longer a threat to the victim. Additionally, in an email to the suspect’s mother, former Daybreak CEO Annette Klinefelter told the woman she consulted with Trotter, and they decided together not to file a police report because “there was no evidence of a crime committed,” the complaint says.

The third incident listed in the complaint alleges that a female client suffered a head injury in August 2018, and staff on duty failed to immediately call for medical aid and never reported the assault to police.

Trotter’s case is slowly moving forward. He is being represented by Portland defense lawyer David T. McDonald. A review hearing is scheduled for Jan. 27.

Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Camara Banfield said Tuesday that no one else has been charged in connection with the sheriff’s office’s investigation into Daybreak. She said there is the possibility of additional, related cases being filed if new information is uncovered.

Facility still open

Daybreak continued operating its Brush Prairie facility while the investigations were underway. It reached a settlement with the Health Department last month, agreeing to improve its staffing, training, security and reporting policies.

Among other problems, Health Department investigators found the Brush Prairie facility did not have nurses on duty around-the-clock to evaluate incoming patients, did not have enough staffers to deal with fights among patients and failed to follow up on a variety of reported incidents.

In the settlement order, the Health Department said Daybreak’s failure to meet standards “placed its residents at an unacceptable risk of harm.”

Since it was put on notice in November 2018, however, Daybreak has made “significant changes” to improve resident safety, the Health Department said. “These changes include the hiring of a new CEO and a new organizational structure based on a medical treatment model.”

Under the settlement order, the Brush Prairie facility is currently capped at 25 residents. The capacity will grow in a gradual, controlled manner over the next several months, Daybreak officials said.

They also stressed that the problems in Brush Prairie had nothing to do with services provided in Spokane.

Tom Russell, who took over as Daybreak’s CEO last spring, said the Clark County Sheriff’s Office was overzealous, though Daybreak is working to address concerns raised by the Health Department.

“Certainly there were some staffing issues that needed to be addressed and some policies that needed to be in place … but the sheriff really blew a lot of that out of proportion,” Russell said.

“The whole situation is bizarre, quite frankly,” he said. “We’re in the process now of trying to correct the record.”

The Clark County sheriff’s and prosecutor’s offices did not respond to messages seeking comment Monday.

Catherine Reynolds runs Daybreak’s life-enrichment program, which introduces patients to a wide range of recreational and therapeutic activities, such as boxing, yoga, horseback riding and meditation. The program was recently expanded to Vancouver.

Reynolds said Daybreak “really needs a Christmas miracle” to keep its doors open.