ELAN SCHOOL ARTICLES 1975

Lewiston Daily Sun, Saturday, August 2, 1975
Visit to Elan One Impresses Longley
By GEOFFREY GEVALT Sun Staff Writer


POLAND SPRING - After an hour-long visit late Friday afternoon at Elan One, Gov. James B. Longley came away feeling "impressed," but he said that no formal statement will be made until next week, after he has had a chance to review the reports of the state's evaluation team.

Longley's visit to the rehabilitation center was prompted by allegations from Mary Lee Leahy, director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

The director claimed that the emotionally disturbed youngsters were being mentally and physically abused, and after an evaluation team from her department viewed the center at Upper Range Pond, the 11 Illinois children in the program were ordered home. Three of the children have since returned voluntarily to Elan, and a fourth has began litigation to return.

Elan's founder, Joseph J. Ricci, characterized the allegations as slanderous and said he will be filing a $3 million suit against Leahy, the Illinois DCFS evaluation team and the state itself. During his visit, Longley talked with one of the Illinois children as well as 10 other youngsters.

"I was very impressed that the kids were saying that the program was helping them," Longley commented.

But Longley would go no further for the moment, saying that he first wanted to talk with Illinois Gov. Daniel Walker. He noted that he had tried to reach Walker Friday evening, but had not been able to. Longley hopes to reach him this weekend.

Longley said that he will meet with Maine Health and Welfare Commissioner David E. Smith and the evaluators from his department on Monday.

Smith said Friday night that he had not had any feedback from his seven staffers, but "the initial indication" is that the allegations from the people of Illinois have no foundation."

The commissioner explained that three evaluation teams from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island have already given favorable reports on the center.

The evaluation by the Maine officials, including a psychologist and psychiatrist, was requested by Longley, who said that a formal statement from the study will be released "no later than Wednesday."

But as to Elan's activity in the next week, Ricci commented "we're going to try to get life back to normal. The victims in this whole thing have been the kids. I think we'll have a huge picnic…something to relieve the tensions."

Ricci said that Longley had a chance to talk with evaluators from both Maine and Connecticut during his visit.

The governor was appreciative that the Elan administration was open and cooperative.

Commenting on why he came back to Elan, one Illinois youth said "I came back because I wanted to get help, and I knew this was the only place I could get it."

The 18-year-old believes that his state's charges were trumped up.

"We tried to tell the investigators that they were crazy, but they weren't interested in what we felt about Elan. The just kept trying to convince us it was a bad place."

Ricci reportedly has stated that the Illinois investigators were rude and biased and were eventually asked to leave because of it.

The children at Elan's six centers, located in Poland Spring, Auburn, Parsonsfield and Waterford, are mostly from detention centers, state hospitals and foster homes. They have been in drugs, prostitution and larceny and have other emotional problems.

Elan administrators say that their program can work with these kids and object to the allegations and the way they were first reported in the news.

Ricci claims that the whole issue is a result of political haggling in the State of Illinois, concerning whether problem youths should be sent to out of state institutions.

Speculation is that Elan's fee, $1,200 a month, may also have been a reason for Illinois to take the kids out of the center.

Ricci has reportedly commented that Leahy was "acting outside the scope of her own authority" and the allegations made "are quite frankly a lie."

Ricci claims that the state's evaluation team came for an express purpose of finding fault to give the state an excuse to back out.

Elan is a controversial program, Smith noted at a recent news conference, and staffers from his agency have been working with the centers.

"You've got to remember these are some of the toughest children around," he said.




Lewiston Evening Journal, Thursday, August 7, 1975
Investigation Shows No Evidence of Abuse at Elan One Center
By MAUREEN CONNOLLY Associated Press Writer

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - A preliminary investigation of the Elan One treatment center found no evidence of abuse and mistreatment of youngsters, state officials reported today.

The investigation into the Poland Spring center for troubled youngsters was launched last week after the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services withdrew 11 Illinois state wards from the facility, charging they had been mistreated.

State officials said the report was the unanimous opinion of the investigative team.

"The Maine investigation revealed no evidence of unjustifiable denials of civil liberties or of mistreatment, brutality or anything that could be considered abhorrent to all acceptable standards of child care," the Maine Department of Health and Welfare said in a statement.

"The investigation revealed that the Elan program was one of significant value that was achieving positive results in dealing with adolescents who had failed to respond to more traditional treatment or correctional methods," according to the statement.

Investigators said they felt "the staff appeared dedicated, competent, and caring and the residents of Elan appeared healthy, responsive, content and supportive of the program, staff and other residents of Elan."

The report continued "The residents interviewed usually expressed newly found feelings of dignity, self-assurance and mental well-being, and they attributed these feelings to the treatment they were receiving at Elan."

Gov. James B. Longley ordered Health and Welfare Commissioner David E. Smith to evaluate Elan after Mary Lee Leahy, head of the Illinois agency made the abuse charges.

She said the children were subjected to degrading treatment and violent punishment.

The staff of Elan, a privately owned facility, denied the abuse charges and said they were the result of political infighting among Illinois officials.

Several young people at Elan also told reporters in private that the charges were false.

The Department of Health and Welfare said it will send a final report to Illinois, incorporating the findings of other investigators from Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. In addition, Smith said an Illinois evaluation team has been invited back to Maine to meet with other investigators.

The Maine investigation was conducted through Health and Welfare's Office of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Prevention. Team members included a psychiatrist, a psychologist, and attorneys.


The Lewiston Daily Sun, Friday, August 8, 1975
State Probe Gives Elan a Clean Bill of Health

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - A preliminary report by state officials Thursday cleared the Elan One youth treatment center of charges of child abuse. The Department of Health and Welfare released the results of a week-long investigation into the Poland Spring center for troubled youngsters.

The state action was taken after the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services withdrew 11 Illinois state wards from the facility, charging they had been mistreated.

Maine officials said the report was the unanimous opinion of the investigative team.

"The Maine investigation revealed no evidence of unjustifiable denials of civil liberties or of mistreatment, brutality or anything that could be considered abhorrent to all acceptable standards of child care," the report said.

"The investigation revealed that the Elan program was one of significant value that was achieving positive results in dealing with adolescents who had failed to respond to more traditional treatment or correctional methods," according to the report.

Investigators said they felt "the staff appeared dedicated, competent, and caring, and the residents of Elan appeared healthy, responsive, content and supportive of the program and other residents of Elan."

Gov. James B. Longley ordered Health and Welfare Commissioner David E. Smith to evaluate Elan after Mary Lee Leahy, head of the Illinois agency made the abuse charges.

The director said the children were subjected to degrading treatment and violent punishment.

The staff of Elan, a privately owned facility, and its residents denied the abuse charges. Staff members said the allegations were the result of political infighting among Illinois officials.

The Department of Health and Welfare said it will send a final report to Illinois, incorporating the findings of other investigators from Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. In addition, Smith said an Illinois evaluation team has been invited back to Maine to meet with other investigators.


Portland Press Herald, Friday, August 8, 1975
Elan Center Cleared in Preliminary Report

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - A preliminary report by state officials Thursday cleared the Elan One youth treatment center of charges of child abuse.

The Department of Health and Welfare released the results of a week-long investigation into the Poland Spring center for troubled youngsters.

The state action was taken after the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services withdrew 11 Illinois state wards from the facility, charging they had been mistreated.

Maine officials said the report was the unanimous opinion of the investigative team.

"The Maine investigation revealed no evidence of unjustifiable denials of civil liberties or of mistreatment, brutality or anything that could be considered abhorrent to all acceptable standards of child care," the report said.

"The investigation revealed that the Elan program was one of significant value that was achieving positive results in dealing with adolescents who had failed to respond to more traditional treatment or correctional methods," according to the report.

Investigators said they felt "the staff appeared dedicated, competent, and caring, and the residents of Elan appeared healthy, responsive, content and supportive of the program and other residents of Elan."

The report continued "The residents interviewed usually expressed newly found feelings of dignity, self-assurance and mental well-being, and they attributed these feelings to the treatment they were receiving at Elan."

Gov. James B. Longley ordered Health and Welfare Commissioner David E. Smith to evaluate Elan after Mary Lee Leahy, head of the Illinois agency made the abuse charges.

She said the children were subjected to degrading treatment and violent punishment.

The staff of Elan, a privately owned facility, and its residents denied the abuse charges. Staff members said the allegations were the result of political infighting among Illinois officials.

The Department of Health and Welfare said it will send a final report to Illinois, incorporating the findings of other investigators from Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. In addition, Smith said an Illinois evaluation team has been invited back to Maine to meet with other investigators.


Portland Press Herald, Monday, August 11, 1975
Elan is Cleared

The Department of Health and Welfare, in a preliminary report, has cleared Elan One of charge of child abuse.

We're delighted at that finding and are confident if a more detailed report follows it will be in the same vein. From the information that had been made public, it would have been difficult to understand any other conclusion. But it is good to have a clean bill of health made official.

The investigation came after the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services withdrew 11 of its wards from the Poland Spring facility charging mistreatment. But officials of two other states immediately conducted their own investigations and found no reason to withdraw any of their wards, nothing that they could classify as mistreatment.

It was significant, too, that two of the young people returned to Illinois promptly ran away and came back to Elan One at Poland Spring. No one runs away to get back to people who abuse them. They obviously wanted what Elan One was offering.

What seems to be in much greater need of thorough investigation than Elan One is the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. If the Illinois governor and other appropriate officials are as diligent in probing their own department as Maine officials have been in checking the Illinois complaint against Elan One, they might find something truly scandalous.

The real tragedy here is those nine young Illinois people who are being denied the help that their troubled contemporaries at Elan One are receiving - and that other Illinois young people might receive in the future.


Portland Press Herald, Wednesday, October 22, 1975
Connecticut Investigators Okay Elan

POLAND SPRING, Maine (AP) - Connecticut investigators say they will continue sending youths with severe problems to a controversial care facility where therapy includes having the kids scream at each other.

"The kids we send to Elan are those we would have had to send to an adult correctional facility or a maximum security mental hospital," says Anthony Lovallo, director of treatment for the Connecticut Department of Children and Youth Services.

His boss, Commissioner Francis Maloney, says the program has helped most of the Connecticut youths sent there but adds there has not been a complete follow-up study.

The program is conducted by the Elan Corp., which runs five therapeutic communities in the Lewiston area. Connecticut has put troubled youths in Elan's care since 1973.

"We don't screen any of these kids before they come here. We don't care what their problems are or what crimes they have committed. After all, there has to be some place to treat kids like this," says Joseph Ricci, a former drug addict and Elan's therapeutic director.

To those unaccustomed to the program, screams coming from Elan's converted farm house often are terrifying. The visitor soon discovers it's part of the program.

"Primal scream is simply a way to give these kids an exit for their pain," Ricci says. "You can't hold anything back while screaming. The mind can't do two things at once."

The therapy also involves intense encounter group sessions and peer group pressures.

About 30 Connecticut youths, most of them with lengthy juvenile court records and most between 13 and 16 years old, are in Elan programs. Connecticut pays between $670 and $800 monthly per youth, which officials say is cheaper than at other private facilities. Regardless of cost, says Lovallo, Elan takes children unacceptable to other private facilities.

The Elan program recently gained attention when Illinois withdrew its children. State investigators said children were forced into boxing rings to settle disputes and some were handcuffed and placed in straitjackets.