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Health, Science & Environment
Sent Away is an investigative reporting partnership between KUER, The Salt Lake Tribune and APM Reports, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

‘Troubled-Teen’ Facility Staffer Accused Of Fracturing Teen’s Wrist

West Ridge Academy in West Jordan, Utah.
Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune
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West Ridge Academy in West Jordan, pictured in January.

A staffer at West Ridge Academy, a Utah facility for “troubled teens,” is facing a child abuse charge after prosecutors say he fractured a teen’s wrist during a restraint.

Tyler Haun Feinga, 21, was charged last week with the class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to a year in jail.

Charging records say Feinga told investigators he hurt the youth after the 15-year-old boy was “being loud and disruptive in class” on Jan. 4.

Feinga said he tried to put the youth in a hold, but he resisted. The staffer said he then put the boy in a “bent wrist procedure,” which was also described as a “gooseneck hold.” While Feinga allegedly applied pressure, the boy’s wrist popped and was fractured.

The boy told investigators he was “in a great deal of pain for several days before he was taken to a doctor,” according to charging records.

Bob Stubbs, executive director of West Ridge Academy, said Feinga has been terminated and the facility “take allegations of abuse very seriously.”

Staffers at youth residential treatment centers in Utah can restrain children, but there are rules they are supposed to follow. At that time, they weren’t supposed to use force as a punishment, only putting their hands on the youth if he or she “presents imminent danger to self or others.”

The rules are now even more strict, after Utah legislators passed a bill, SB127, reforming the youth treatment center industry for the first time in 15 years. The type of hold that Feinga used is now banned, and facilities have to report all restraints to state regulators within 24 hours.

“This took place before SB127 was enacted,” tweeted bill sponsor Sen. Mike McKell. “It’s disappointing to see but clearly illustrates why SB127 was needed.”

Under the new law, treatment centers are required to document any instance in which staff used physical restraints and seclusion and to submit reports to the Utah Office of Licensing. The law also prohibits programs from sedating residents or using mechanical restraints, like a straitjacket, without the office’s prior authorization.

The Office of Licensing is now be required to conduct four inspections each year — both announced and unannounced — and will receive additional funding for eight new full-time state licensing employees to achieve that aim. Public records show the office previously inspected most facilities just once a year, and rarely uncover problems.

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