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Group wants center closed after girl's death


A Wisconsin advocacy group is calling for the closure of a treatment center where a 7-year-old girl was fatally injured after being restrained in May.

Disability Rights of Wisconsin called for the Northwest Counseling and Guidance Clinic to be shut down for the safety of other children in treatment.

"Although our investigation is still ongoing, we felt that we could not wait until its conclusion to express our deep concern at the department's decision to allow this facility to remain open in the light of its findings of such numerous and significant violations," said Disability Rights Wisconsin attorney Kristin M. Kerschensteiner in a letter this week to the Wisconsin Health and Family Services Department.

The department said it is considering several options and could revoke the facility's certification. But state officials are waiting to hear a plan on how the clinic will correct deficiencies found by investigators.

Angellika Arndt, who had attended the clinic's day treatment center five days a week for a month for behavioral problems, had been restrained on nine separate occasions, according to the state report released June 22.

She died May 26, the day after she was injured while being restrained at the center.

The Hennepin County medical examiner in Minneapolis ruled her death was a homicide caused by "complications of chest compression asphyxiation" leading to "cardiopulmonary arrest while restrained by another person."

"Unfortunately, it took a young girl's death to bring to light the pervasive failure of Northwest Counseling and Guidance Clinic to properly train or supervise their treatment staff in their Rice Lake facility," Kerschensteiner wrote.

Disability Rights Wisconsin is a nonprofit watchdog group that receives government funding. It has the authority to conduct its own investigations. It can also take legal action and sue the state.

The Health and Family Services Department report cited multiple violations of state law at the clinic, including the law governing physical restraint of clients.

Northwest Counseling President Denison Tucker has denied any wrongdoing by his staff in Arndt's death. Citing a request from state officials, he declined to comment Friday on Disability Rights Wisconsin's letter.

"We are fully cooperating, and we will be submitting a comprehensive response next week," Tucker said.

2006 Jul 16