Some medical system
deficiencies anticipated, boss says
Officials from the juvenile-offender program Peace River Outward
Bound expect that an annual inspection conducted after the June 17
death of a 14-year-old boy will cite some deficiencies in the
program's medical services.
But that wouldn't be unusual.
The inspection includes a review of the contractor's compliance
with more than a dozen health program standards, and, typically,
there's always room for improvement, said Jon Howard, program
director for Hurricane Island Outward Bound.
"I mean, there's always areas they identify as things to work
on," Howard said.
Although the so-called Quality Assurance site inspection has
recently been completed, details won't be released until the
Department of Juvenile Justice completes a report on the inspection,
said Tara Collins, spokeswoman for the department.
Typically, the reports take more than a month to complete.
The department contracted with Hurricane Island, which is based
in Tallahassee, to operate several youth-offender programs in the
state. Hurricane's programs include the 35-bed residential program
Peace River Outward Bound, located along Horse Creek off Kings
Highway in DeSoto County.
The Peace River program has come under scrutiny since the June 17
death of Dillon Tyler Peak, 14, of Punta Gorda.
Peak first became ill around May 14, when program staff found he
had a fever of 104, according to his mother, Pamela Peak. She said
the staffers took her son to DeSoto Memorial Hospital.
He was treated and released the same day back to Outward Bound,
where he resided in a tent with several other boys, his mother said.
Four days later, staffers found the boy incoherent and going into
seizures, she said. Again he was taken to the hospital. He was then
transported to All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.
At some point, he slipped into coma from which he never emerged,
his mother said.
Doctors have theorized that Peak initially had a strep infection
and later contracted a rare form of encephalitis, a virus typically
borne by mosquitoes.
The death appears to be due to a medical condition, but the exact
cause won't be determined until lab results from an autopsy are
completed, according to the Pinellas County Medical Examiner's
Both the Department of Juvenile Justice's inspector general and
the Outward Bound corporation are conducting separate inquiries into
the death, officials have said.
Hurricane Island has assigned Outward Bound staffers from
programs in other counties and a safety specialist from out of state
to assist in its internal investigation, Howard said.
The department's inspectors, in an exit interview with Peace
River staff, indicated they "haven't found anything way out of the
ordinary," Howard said.
As a precaution, however, the Peace River program has put a hold
on accepting new detainees and has discontinued having boys reside
in tents while awaiting investigation results.
If the inquiries recommend improvements to the medical service
provided by Peace River, they will be implemented, Howard said.
In 2005, department inspectors found the Peace River facility in
full compliance with the minimum standards of its contract,
according to a report. The facility was rated "acceptable" on a
scale that ranges from failure to "commendable."
The report rates the facility's performance on dozens of specific
categories. Peace River's program management and training and staff
development, for example, performed at a "minimal" level, according
to the report.
Outward Bound's contract requires employees to undergo 120 hours
of training before working with youth, but a number of employees
only had 40 hours of training, according to the report.
Also rated "minimal" was "safety" at the facility.
The facility's health program scored an "acceptable" rating,
according to the 2005 report.
Outward Bound had contracted with a local hospital for services,
as well as a physician, dentist and psychiatrist for outpatient
services and consultations, as required, the report states.
Also, Outward Bound adequately trains staff to administer both
first aid and medications, the report indicates. The medical
procedures were considered "satisfactory," according to the 2005
Pamela Peak, in a recent interview, said the family feels Outward
Bound bears responsibility for her son's death. She said staffers
should have notified her when her son first became ill, as required
under the contract.
Peak's family could not be reached for comment Thursday.
By GREG MARTIN