Wyalusing Academy voluntarily relinquishes
license to operate; will cease operations on Nov. 8
By Ted Pennekamp
Wyalusing Academy, 601 S. Beaumont Road, Prairie du Chien, will permanently close and cease doing business as a residential care center for children and youth on Friday, Nov. 8. Clinicare Corporation, headquartered in Minnesota, agreed to surrender their license to operate Wyalusing Academy and close the facility in lieu of license revocation by the Department of Children and Families.
The settlement stems from an appeal made in September by Clinicare Corporation to the Department of Children and Families, which revoked the facility’s license to operate based on an incident involving a resident that occurred on June 24. Pending the outcome of the appeal, Wyalusing Academy was permitted to continue operations.
“This is a difficult decision to make, but we appreciate the discussions we had with the Department of Children and Families regarding ongoing operations of Wyalusing Academy. As a result of those talks, we’ve decided to voluntarily cease operations there as of Nov. 8,” said David Fritsch, president of Clinicare Corp.
As of Oct. 29, there were 45 residents utilizing Wyalusing Academy. Administrative staff is assisting those individuals and their families with relocation efforts to other residential care facilities. The Department of Children and Families will work with Clinicare to ensure they carry out relocations of the current residents in a safe and orderly manner. During the closure process, the department’s licensing agents will ensure that conditions at Wyalusing are maintained and that the children are treated with care.
Clinicare has contacted the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development’s Enhanced Rapid Response Program in an effort to assist the facility’s 144 employees with their transition to new employment.
“While this is difficult news for everyone involved, we are doing everything we can to assist residents and employees with making necessary transitions,” said Fritsch.
Clinicare operates two other residential care centers in Wisconsin. Both of those facilities will remain open.
Representatives of the Department of Children and Families said their first obligation is the safety of the children at Wyalusing Academy. The department had previously stated that they made the decision on Sept. 20 to revoke the license to operate Wyalusing Academy for the following reasons:
•A child (a 14-year-old boy) was severely injured during an incident that took place on June 24. Wyalusing Academy staff failed to provide appropriate care to the child after the injury.
•On Aug. 27, Crawford County Human Resources substantiated that four employees of Wyalusing Academy were found to have committed medical neglect as a result of the events that occurred between June 24 and June 25.
•Wyalusing Academy has committed numerous violations of Chapter 48 of Wisconsin Statutes and that despite progressive sanctions and a variety of corrective action plans, they have continued to fail to comply with licensing rules.
The license that was relinquished had been in effect since Aug. 1, 1977. According to a 90-Day Summary Report by the Department of Families and Children, the facility has a history of licensing violations, including one or more violations in each of the 16 licensing visits in the past three years. Wyalusing Academy had a license to serve 81 children.
According to the 90-Day Summary Report, on June 24, the 14-year-old boy was placed in a series of physical holds during which he was injured. He was not medically assessed after the hold. The child complained at various times throughout the day and evening of pain, numbness and weakness. Despite his complaints, no medical assessment was completed. The next morning the child told staff he could not move his legs and they were numb. The child was evaluated by medical staff and an ambulance was called.
The report stated that the staff members believed the child refused to cooperate for behavioral rather than medical reasons. The boy had emotional, behavioral, and cognitive disorders. When staff noticed the child could not move his legs, an ambulance was not called immediately, which further delayed medical treatment for his injuries, the report said.
According to its website, Wyalusing Academy opened in 1969 as a residential treatment facility. The facility, originally a Catholic high school for girls, is located on 17 acres in a quiet residential area overlooking the Mississippi River.
Wyalusing Academy provided residential treatment for boys and girls ages 10-17 who are lower functioning or significantly below grade level. Wyalusing Academy had been licensed to accept children and adolescents with emotional disorders, conduct disorders, behavior disorders, mild mental retardation/neurological impairment, aggressive behavior, impaired social relationships, delinquent activity, and other disorders.
Prairie du Chien City Administrator Aaron Kramer said that he is in the process of contacting the Department of Workforce Development to see what assistance the city can provide to help with the soon-to-be-displaced employees.
“We are also remaining in contact with the Department of Children and Families as the process of relocating the Wyalusing population begins,” said Kramer. “This is truly a blow to the local and regional economy, and we are going to simply have to work that much harder on economic development with this unfortunate news.”