What’s The Deal With Treatment Centers?


Bryce Myers

Jack Swanson, a senior at Boulder Prep, attended Liahona Academy for 19 months and since his return he's been visibly and emotionally affected by it. Photo via Bryce Myers.

Bryce Myers, Staff Writer

If you go to a Boulder Valley school and have friends who suffer from mental illness or substance abuse issues, then you might also know someone who’s been taken from their home and sent to an unfamiliar place for treatment. Many people in Boulder High can account that at least one friend has been sent to a treatment center for months and come back with their destructive behaviors unchanged. So why are treatment centers so seemingly ineffective? To understand why, you first have to know where they went, why they went and what happened when they came back. There are different treatment centers with different methods, some involve staying outdoors which is meant to teach the youth how to enjoy life without risky behaviors. Others put you in school and offer different types of therapy. These aims don’t sound bad and they aren’t in theory. Their goal is to help children, so why do many cases of treatment not work? 

One such case involved a student named Jack Swanson. Swanson spent his sophomore and junior years at Boulder High, but before that, he spent two years in Liahona Academy, a treatment center. Jack described how they brought him there, saying, “two big dudes came into my room at 3 am and kidnapped me; they zip-tied my hand and put me in their van.” This was his parents’ choice, as they felt he needed it because of his schizophrenia and mild drug use (cigarettes, cannabis and alcohol). Liahona Academy ran their center in a manner similar to a jail; bad behavior sometimes led to being locked in a cold room for days on end. Swanson was put in that room for weeks, which only worsened his mental health. The methods they used didn’t help in any way, especially for someone suffering from a mental illness. When Swanson came back he was noticeably traumatized and ended up going back to his old ways. Liahona Academy is currently under investigation according to Swanson and The Salt Lake Tribune for being cruel and unethical. 

Manny Ramirez is a senior who attended the Monuments treatment center for about 7 months and that time there has changed his life forever. Photo via Bryce Myers.

While Swanson’s experience was harrowing, most experiences are not as extreme as his. Manny Ramirez, a senior at Boulder High, spent his junior year at Monuments Treatment Center because he was drinking a lot and taking his parents’ car to drive around at night (not at the same time thankfully). He says it ruined his relationship with his parents as they didn’t trust him anymore, so they felt he needed help outside of them. When describing his time at Monument, Ramirez said that “the staff didn’t really care what we did and treated us poorly.” Certain members of staff would provide a vape when he asked, which didn’t help his situation. By providing Ramirez with things he was addicted to, the staff was not trying to help the addiction in a healthy way. Ramirez stated that he would say the things they wanted to hear so he could get out, which still took him a year. When Ramirez left Monuments, he finally came back and was given an eight o’clock curfew and was not allowed to see his friends that often, if at all, which was part of the returning process. He fell behind in school, as Monuments didn’t provide the right classes he needed for graduation. When he returned, Ramirez had to take online classes as well as a class at BHS to catch up. His relationship with his father hasn’t improved much as Ramirez would still sneak out to be with his friends. After getting caught, he was grounded for weeks and responded by running away from home and staying with a friend. He’s been with this friend ever since and hasn’t been in touch with his father and only speaks to his mom occasionally. His parents seem to have given up; they know where he is staying and haven’t done anything to get him back. They lost trust in him due to his problems and mistakes, and he lost trust in them because of their methods to deal with it resulting in an unhealthy relationship.

The issue with treatment centers is that though they can help, in order to change you have to want to change. The problem with most teenagers facing addiction is that their parents’ first step is sending their kids away. This, in turn, makes them feel like a problem that their parents don’t want to deal with. That attitude makes kids not want to change and makes them mad at their parents for not caring about them. Even though the parents do care, it isn’t shown when their response is having someone else deal with their kid. Oftentimes, if a parent notices a problem with their kid, and they handle it by talking to them, getting them therapy, or any other means of trying to help, they maintain a healthy relationship with their kids, even if they have to send them to treatment. Treatment centers often work as a last resort because most are not bad places, and teenagers realize that their parents still care about them and just want them to get help. However there are some that are damaging to the youth, and parents should be careful about where they send their children.