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Parents Protest Straight's Fate : Substance abuse: Dozens demonstrate anger at state's denial of license for controversial youth treatment program.

November 02, 1990|CARLA RIVERA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Allegations of abusive behavior have followed the Straight program for years, despite praise from such notables as President Bush, former First Lady Nancy Reagan and others.

The program has come under investigation in several states, was on probation in Florida and has been sued in Ohio.

California investigators received complaints about the Yorba Linda facility and host homes indicating, according to state records, that children had been "subjected to unusual punishment, infliction of pain, humiliation, intimidation, ridicule, coercion, threats, mental abuse . . . and interference with daily living functions such as eating, sleeping and toileting."

However, Straight supporters say such complaints may stem from the natural reactions of kids who have hit bottom but are not yet ready to accept their problems or treatment.

"Those things never happened to me," said Scott Ogle, who graduated from the Yorba Linda program in September. "I have never seen anyone mentally attacked. . . . People show their feelings, but I have never seen anyone tormented."

"Some kids get very upset and lie and some parents believe them," added Jim Henderson, a former Straight patient who is now a counselor in the program.

Sixteen-year-old Kami Harkins of Rowland Heights said that by the time her parents put her in the Straight program she had attempted suicide eight times with various pills. She knew she was in trouble but did not want to blame herself.

"Straight saved my life, and that is what scares me about the program being gone now," she said. "I think a lot of unfortunate people are not going to get the help I got."

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