CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Some workers at the Potomac Center may have thought what they were doing was joke, but Mark Drennan, the executive director of the West Virginia Behavioral Health Care Providers Association, said what they’re accused of doing to some kids at the Hampshire County site was far from it.

“I would describe them as demeaning and degrading acts,” said Drennan of the allegations that prompted an investigation — focused on the Romney facility — involving State Police, the state Department of Health and Human Resources and several other child advocacy groups.

The Potomac Center is part of the West Virginia Behavioral Health Care Providers Association.  “We’re working, hand in hand, with state regulators to make sure that we get to the bottom of it and we hope that any individuals that participated in this (will) be prosecuted,” said Drennan.

Two dozen children who were part of the Potomac Center’s Intensive Training Program were moved from the Romney facility to other locations in January after managers at the site, a contractor for DHHR, reported what State Police characterized as physical and sexual abuse to state officials.

The program, which is said to be unique in West Virginia, is a six-month to 24-month residential program for kids between the ages of five and 17 who have developmental disabilities and behavioral issues.

Drennan confirmed a small number of workers were directly involved in or had knowledge of three incidents, that he knew of, and three had been fired, as of Tuesday.  Photos of kids in “demeaning” positions, he said, were sent to others via Snapchat, a social media app service that automatically deletes any sent photos once they’re viewed.

Such actions, Drennan said, are not typical of the Potomac Center.  “This Center has an excellent reputation,” he said on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”  “Before even I became the executive director of the association, I placed children at that center.”

In total, the site has 180 employees.  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 month, while work hours and pay were cut for the remaining staff members.

Drennan said dozens of those workers had already been cleared of any involvement or knowledge of the alleged abuse.  He said the goal was to return to regular operations soon.  A meeting with DHHR to talk about that transition was scheduled for Wednesday.

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  • millie smith

    My grandson DC is as of two weeks ago put out of the Potomac center.He call me from Maryland.They were going to send him some where els.He still isn't getting his education as the court ordered for reasons of keeping him.Cps has allow my grandson to slip thur the cracks.

  • Millie Smith

    As of May 20th all charge's were dropped on DC .He was returned back to the Potomac center.As DC had told me a few days before court that the staff had came to the jail and ask him if he wanted to come back to the center he said he told them he wanted to come home.DC was to get his education learn some kind of trade.But the pass 5 months he not received no education to better his life.DC told me the staff told him now since he has been out of school this long he will have to go to school another two years.I hope this is over with soon and the center stops playing with this young mans head.DC has been in care of the state since he was 5 years old my hands have been tied in helping him.DC is now 19 and this is the best this state has to offer him.What happen to my grandson should not happen to no child.This center has abused enough children.

  • millie smith

    What do you call no physical injuries?I'll tell you what's demeading and degrading acts is the care taker of DC being put in the Highland jail for over two months.DC went from one abuse to another abuse at no fault of his own by allowing this 19 year old child to be housed in a jail.Is this the best W V can do for a child?Just as soon as the Potomac center was allowed to reopen DC left the jail and went back to the center.If this is what the center calls intervention its certainly a far cry from intervention I know of.One of the reasons DC was at this center was to get a education and learn a trade to help himself.The pass 5 months he has had nothing but heartache.This place needs to close down and stay closed down.DC needs help but not the kind of help this center has show or given him.CPS orchestrated all this.This child has been done so wrong.He has been treated worst than a dog at the city dog pound.

  • Millie Smith

    Any one know if its true that one of the staff is in jail that worked at this center for killing her husband? It's hard to believe they would allow some one of this nature to be working with disadvantage children.Last name Ohara or Oharo something like that.

    • tim

      that is in fact true

  • Rebecca Sanders

    My daughter was there for three night while I was gone to AIT (military school) my daughter was rush to the hospital and received stitches over her. The statement that was made that the female working that night had left cause of an emergency and there were two males there for the entire house full of females...who do I contact over this...I need more info....thank you

    • Funny

      You need to contact Internal Investigation Unit.

  • frogeye

    really it makes me wonder why he was in the state custody anyway???? I'm for sure if you were the guardian you would have been notified...

    • Millie Smith

      Yes Frogeye his mother was told by one of the staff at the homeless shelter where DC was placed.

  • Tina

    My son was removed and be aside he is in state custody I did not find out about this until today. This made me physically sick. All he says to me is mom I'm going to jail. My son had developmental delays and doesn't understand he did nothing wrong. I can't believe this happened and my son was involved.

  • Friend of Resident

    I know one of the students sent home in this incident. His parents were not given any information when he was sent home. They might tell you that none of the children had physical injuries, but I can assure you that someone had beaten the heck out of this young man. His parents even posted pictures of him on FB. His face had been beaten to a pulp. It made you mad and sad to just look at him. He has Autism and continued to smile during the pictures. So innocent!

    • Friends

      And that case was looked into and dropped. The mother needs to give metro news the picture. Things are still been covered up by the CEO COO AND HUMAN RESOURCES. But not for long. Former employees have lawyers and are going to be talking to the media. Rick won't be sitting behind his computer much longer

  • Mother of ex employee

    My son/daughter had worked at the Potomac Center a few years ago for a brief time. They came home with stories as to how a couple of the staff would instigate the children to set them off so that they would have to be restrained. I sickens me to know that they have gotten by with it this long. The incidents were reported then to the supervisors and the same people still had their job until now. If this has been being investigated since then, then I feel even worse because no child should have to suffer that type of abuse in order to get to the bottom of things.

  • The Sarge

    Jail Time is what is needed here.

  • rumors

    What is sad that is the story behind the scene. UPPER MANAGEMENT. The blame is being placed on the middle management when in fact he asked for help. A lot of stories are going around and a lot of incidents were not reported or Parents were not notified. That is a Management problem.

  • rob

    180 employees to care for 24 kids? Am I reading that right?

    • JIM

      to Rob 24 hrs. per day and also counting 4 group homes not involved in this investigation is why bthe 180 employees sounds high also clerical, maintenance, and house keeping.
      It was not really just for 24 kids.

    • worker

      The 24 kids that were removed were just the campus homes. There are other homes that are not on campus. Thats why there are 180 employees.

  • William