Restraint Death Ruled a Homicide

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An Ohio youth residential treatment center is under investigation after a 17-year-old girl died there in December while being held down by center employees who used a controversial face-down restraint. Last month, the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office ruled her death a homicide.

The victim, Faith Finley, died at Parmadale Family Services in Parma, where she had been a resident for about six months. News reports say Finley had become disruptive at the center before being restrained. Parmadale is operated by Catholic Charities Health and Human Services and licensed by the state.

The coroner’s report states that Finley died when “physical restraint induced near traumatic asphyxia.” It also says she choked on her own vomit.

News reports have stated the girl died while being held in the controversial “prone restraint,” which has been banned in several states. Ohio is not one of them.

The incident is being reviewed by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. A spokesman for the agency says that, depending on the outcome of the investigation, the department could simply impose a corrective action plan or revoke Parmadale’s license.

Finley had been placed at Parmadale by Summit County Children’s Services, which has since removed most of the nine children it had placed there. The remaining children it placed will be removed as soon as a suitable placement can be found, a Summit County official said.

J. Thomas Mullen, president of Catholic Charities, did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

Parmadale staff members have received training in physical restraint from Cornell University’s Residential Child Care Project. Directors at the Cornell project declined to discuss the fatal incident, because many details have not been disclosed.

“There is too much missing to make any conclusions or even guesses from this report,” said Martha Holden, co-developer of the Cornell project. She reviewed the coroner’s report on Finley’s death at the request of Youth Today.

Her remarks were echoed by other experts who train residential care workers in how to use physical restraint.

“It’s our position that you have to look at [these cases] more specifically. You can’t just make an assumption that this is a result of prone position,” said Joseph K. Mullen, president of JKM Training and creator of JKM’s Safe Crisis Management Program. (Joseph K. Mullen and J. Thomas Mullen are not related.)

Mullen said there are safe and unsafe uses of prone restraint, and other variables, such as prescribed medication and other medical conditions, including sickle cell disease, can contribute to a prone position-induced death.

Two center employees are on paid leave while police investigate.