Monday, May 12, 2014

Abuse by Unlicensed Professional? ~by Legal Pub

Did an unlicensed professional, lead people to believe he was a medical doctor?   Did this same man run a facility for adolescents with mental illness and drug abuse problems for decades despite complaints to state regulators alleging abuse?  These questions are now being asked about an inpatient treatment center that operated in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, for almost 30 years.
15 civil suits and over 20 complaints to state regulators have been alleged against Adolescent and Family Institute of Colorado (a.k.a. AFIC.) Allegations range from verbal to physical and sexual abuse.  In some cases, fraud has also been alleged against AFIC's president and founder, Alexander Panio Jr.  Apparently, Alexander was not a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist in Colorado. (Panio got a doctorate in psychology in 1979 from a distance-learning school. Its accreditation at the time was not government-approved and it no longer offers PhDs in psychology. Panio did work as a faculty member at Northwestern University from 1972 to 1978.) 
In one civil suit, parents claim their daughter Jessica Palmer "was repeatedly told by AFIC staff that she was a 'bitch,' 'dumb,' and a [expletive]. She was told that her parents didn't love her and that she was the source of all their problems."
The Palmers' lawsuit claims that  "As a result of her experience at AFIC, Jessica Palmer became more depressed, suicidal and filled with self-loathing," Jessica Palmer took her own life in 2012 after leaving AFIC.
Other patient lawsuits allege abuse include sexual misconduct during physical exams.  , such as fondling and measuring genitalia. Complaints of verbal abuse were made to the Colorado Department of Human Services from 1990 through 2012.  Another lawsuit alleges that a patients medication was inappropriately  abruptly terminated without tapering. It is alleged that the abuse of this patient also included "... being told that he's basically, no good, just the scum of the earth, that he's just a liar and a manipulator and he's really not sick."
The Colorado Board of Registered Psychotherapists issued Panio a cease-and-desist order in March of 2013. Panio appealed. The state Department of Regulatory Agencies is waiting for a ruling by the administrative law judge. The state never shut down AFIC. The facility voluntarily closed on July 1, 2013, Many of the employees are licensed to continue working. No criminal charges have been filed involving AFIC. 
AFIC, Panio and staff members, deny all of the allegations in the civil complaints. It is the plaintiffs who have the burden to prove their contentions. The defendants have no burden to disprove the allegations. (Panio is represented by attorney Katherine Fritz.) 


Anonymous said...

This is a case to watch!

Edited Comment said...

Their mistreatment was not confined to unsuspecting families... Mr Panio and the therapists listed in the articles circulating in the news and internet were highly skilled in the art of what I term ''verbal savagery.'' ... I am glad the families who brought the lawsuits against them persisted in uncovering the truth and exposing this verbal con artist and his special team.

Legal Pub said...

15 civil suits and some two dozen complaints can claim anything but it is just a bunch of allegations and not proof until they are proven in court.

Mike Stoli said...

I lived in that hell hole. Ran away twice and attempted suicide once while being there for my 5 month stay.