PERRYSVILLE -- A local judge sided with Mohican Young Star Academy Wednesday following a civil hearing where the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services sought to place the facility under third-party management.
Ashland County Court of Common Pleas Judge Ronald Forsthoefel denied the department's motion to appoint third-party management and dismissed this action and the department's complaint in a late Wednesday decision.
After listening to arguments from both parties over two days, Forsthoefel said Attorney General Dave Yost's Office did not make a convincing case against the Perrysville-based residential facility.
"The issue here is they haven't proven their case by clear and convincing evidence that conditions exist at the residential facility presently, or present a substantial risk of physical or mental harm to the residents, and no other remedies at law are adequate to protect their health, safety and welfare," Forsthoefel said.
Other options could include an on-site monitor, which the court had already authorized late last week. Both the department and the facility had agreed to the on-site monitor in a conference Friday, March 5.
Trista Turley of the Attorney General's Office presented security videos of what she called as improper restraints. The residential facility is to use the least restrictive restraint when a resident must be restrained, which Turley argued was not the case in the videos. She described some incidents as examples of "painful" restraints that might have made it "hard to breathe" for the affected residents.
In her opening statements Tuesday, she described an instance where a resident was held face down with the weight of multiple adults on top of him and another situation where an item was placed near a resident's face in a way that may have restricted breathing.
"It's escalated to a point where the department needs to take action right now to prevent a kid being hurt," Turley said.
The attempt to place the facility in third party hands was not an attempt to "tear down a business willy nilly," she later continued. The department deemed it a necessary action to protect residents.
Owner of Mohican Young Star, Olga Starr, has denied the allegations of abuse and restraints. Her facility is a residential facility intended to treat youth suffering from mental health and/or addiction issues.
Attorney Marion Little Jr., who represented the facility and Starr, described the restraints differently. Perhaps a pillow was placed under a resident's head when they were slamming their head against the floor, he said in his opening statement Tuesday or an employee used their arm to shield against a resident who was spitting at them.
He argued the state's department could not prove a current danger to the residents.
Forsthoefel admitted that "some really bad stuff" happened, but agreed with Little.
"I don't think the standards for restraining residents should divulge into a situation where because you're afraid to act other people in the room get hurt or are subject to severe injuries," Forsthoefel went on to say.