CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Officials with State Police, the state Department of Health and Human Resources and several child advocacy groups are involved in the ongoing investigation focused of allegations of physical and sexual abuse against children housed at the Potomac Center in Hampshire County.
Two dozen children who were part of the the Potomac Center’s Intensive Training Program were moved from the Romney facility to other locations in January. The program is a six-month to 24-month residential program for kids between the ages of five and 17 with developmental disabilities and behavioral issues.
Lt. Michael Baylous, State Police spokesperson, said there are as many ten suspects in the alleged abuse.
“We’ve got a lot of people to interview and it’s going to take some time to do this and do it right,” Baylous said. As for the possibility of criminal charges, “That just depends on what the final conclusion of the investigation is,” he said.
Managers of the Potomac Center, a DHHR contractor, reported the abuse to state officials in January and the executives who oversee the non-profit Potomac Center have been cooperating with investigators since then.
There are reports an unspecified number of employees have already been fired or suspended because of the allegations.
DHHR officials have said some Potomac Center employees subjected the children, who stayed in three family-type houses at the Potomac Center, to “inhumane and degrading treatment.”
“I am outraged and deeply saddened by the exploitation of children and lack of compassion by some employees at this facility,” said Karen Bowling, DHHR secretary, in a statement. “Let me reiterate, in the strongest terms, my condemnation of this behavior.”
Potomac Center CEO Rich Harshbarger also addressed the matter in a statement. “I am appalled and saddened that the actions of a very few have affected so many,” he said.
In total, 180 people work at the Potomac Center. Because of the ongoing investigation, Medicaid has cut off payments to the site and, as a result of that, 50 Potomac Center workers were temporarily laid off last week, while work hours and pay were cut for the remaining staff members.