Cornelius Fredericks, 16, started a food fight at a Michigan behavioral treatment facility, and wound up losing his life .
Lakeside Academy provides services to young adults either placed there by their parents or the foster care system. Video from Lakeside shows Fredericks being restrained in the cafeteria by staff for around 8 minutes, before being given chest compressions, while unresponsive on the floor. But portions of the video are missing.
Sequel Youth and Family Services, the owner of Lakeside Academy, admits that staff did not act in accord with the facility’s policy that restraint be employed as an emergency safety measure only when a student exhibits imminent danger to self or others.
Prosecutors say two staff members lay across Fredericks’ torso as they tried to restrain him. Cornelius went into cardiac arrest, dying two days later at Bronson Methodist Hospital.
An investigation of the facility by the Michigan Dept. of Health and Human Services (MDHSS) concluded that staff employed restraint that was “significantly disproportionate” to Fredericks’ behavior. Altogether, MDHHS found 10 licensing violations. The agency has since terminated all contracts with Lakeside, and initiated the legal process to revoke the facility’s license.
Three facility staff members, Michael Mosley, 47, and Zachary Solis, 28, and Heather McLogan, 48, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and child abuse.
Society has grappled with the question of how much restraint is appropriate for those with mental and/or emotional difficulties . The potential population includes not only children with behavioral issues, but adults and teens suffering from schizophrenia or other psychoses; the elderly suffering from dementia; and addicts of all ages.
The Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC) was created by the 21st Century Cures Act to ensure coordination across federal agencies relative to individuals with serious mental illness or emotional disorders and their families .
Alternatives to Restraint
The alternatives to restraint include the following :
- Consistency in staff and routines.
- Ongoing explanation of procedures.
- Limited number of staff in attendance on a patient.
- Family members or volunteers present at “high risk” times.
- Reduced noise levels.
- Calm voice and soothing music.
- Review of lighting levels to avoid misinterpretation of objects.
- Distraction, i.e. diversionary activities.
- Assessment and treatment of problems contributing to agitation, e.g. UTI or dehydration.
- Individualized behavior management strategies.
- Validation therapy (respectful and empathetic communication with those suffering from dementia).
- Reminiscence therapy (structured intervention in which the elderly share past experiences with their peers).
Additional alternatives exist for those who are bedridden.
Situations that can change from moment to moment demand both sensitivity and judgment from professionals. We should expect no less.
“…and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them” (Matt. 4: 24).
 CNN, “3 staff members charged after teen’s restraint death in Michigan have been released on bond” by Kristina Sgueglia, 7/1/20, https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/01/us/michigan-teen-death-staff-arraigned/index.html.
 CNN, “Attorney releases video showing 16-year-old Cornelius Fredericks being restrained and given chest compressions later” by Mirna Alsharif, 7/8/20, https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/08/us/michigan-cornelius-fredericks-video-restrain/index.html.
 GovInfo, US Senate/Committee on Appropriations, “Deaths from Restraints in Psychiatric Facilities”, 4/13/99, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CHRG-106shrg57118/html/CHRG-106shrg57118.htm.
 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Laws and Regulations, Federal Laws Related to SAMHSA, https://www.samhsa.gov/about-us/who-we-are/laws-regulations.
 Bendigo Health, Loddon Mallee Regional Dementia Management Strategy, Alternatives to Restraint, http://www.dementiamanagementstrategy.com/Pages/ABC_of_behaviour_management/Management_strategies/Alternatives_to_restraint.aspx.
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