AARC: Recovering Krystal.  
Straight officials have generously allowed me to witness some of their group sessions firsthand . . . I believe that Straight's treatment can be fairly compared with 'brainwashing' in prisoner-of-war camps as documented by Brown (1963, chap. 2). Thus, procedures that would be reprehensible in any context outside of a prisoner-of-war camp are considered acceptable 'treatment' in the case of drug addiction.
Dr. Bruce K. Alexander of Simon Fraser University in Peaceful Measures: Canada's Way Out of the 'War on Drugs', p. 75 and referencing Techniques of Persuasion: From Propaganda to Brainwashing by J. A. C. Brown.
Straight, like many religious cults, has maintained its right to conceal its aims from potential inductees. . .By any objective standard, the activities of Straight Inc. and its imitators run afoul of these criteria [Susan Andersen's Four Criteria for inferring cult-like deceptive practices]. While Straight may be among the worst offenders, it is far from alone.
From Treatment, Thought Reform, and the Road to Hell by Professor Barry L. Beyerstein, a leading Canadian researcher on opiates and brain functioning who operates a laboratory at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada.

On Thursday Jan. 2, 2003 at 9 PM CBC, a Canadian TV syndicate, will air the program Recovering Krystal on its "Nature of Things" program. The segment will feature the Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre (AARC)   juvenile rehabilitation program which is described as doing "groundbreaking" work in the field of rehabilitation. The story is produced by Dr. David Suzuki, a Canadian scientist. But is AARC a "groundbreaking" program or is it a third generation Straight? From 1976 to 1993 Straight, Inc. operated, off-and-on, 12 treatment centers in major metropolitan areas in the United States, and Straight had a reputation for child abuse.��

In 1983 after losing a court case for false imprisonment of a college student which cost Straight a $220,000 jury verdict; and facing a deluge of other civil suits (one ending in a $721,000 verdict against Straight for Dr. V. Miller Newton [then the national clinical director for Straight] personally assaulting a teenage girl); and having dodged at least two criminal investigations of Straights Dr. Newton left Straight to form his own second generation Straight which he called Kids of Bergen County in one of the wealthiest counties in America--Bergen County, New Jersey-- just outside New York City. (A summary of abuses under Dr. Newton at Straight is  here.)  Oddly, Straight did not establish a treatment facility in the largest American metropolitan center of all--New York City--but, then Miller Newton did. Being a Florida-based corporation, almost all Straight board members lived in Florida as one might expect, but there were a few exceptions. Two exceptions were the two Straight board members who lived in New Jersey.  

Soon after fleeing Florida and setting up shop in New Jersey in 1984, Dr. Newton started his own chain of second generation Straights which he called Kids Centers of America. In 1986 Straight did a very strange thing. Remember that most Straight board members were from Florida. But in 1986 the board for Straight Foundation selected a board treasurer, not from Florida, but from Los Angeles! Straight did not even have a treatment program in that giant metropolis, but two years later Kids Centers of America did. Kids of Southern California signed a lease for a property at 3780 Prospect Ave., Yorba Linda, California about 40 miles out of Los Angeles commencing March 1, 1988. Kids of Southern California was quickly closed under a state investigation for child abuse. The day Kids of Southern California closed, Straight moved into 3780 Prospect Ave. and took over its child clients. [The day Straight - Orlando closed, Michael Scaletti, Straight - Orlando's director, opened SAFE out of the former Straight facility and began treating Straight's former clients. In similar ways Pathway Family Center in Detroit and Phoenix Adolescent Institute in Atlanta were created by former Straight officials upon closings of Straights in Detroit and Atlanta.] California authorities soon closed Straight of Southern California for alleged child abuse and Straight shut down in California on Sept 28, 1990. Kids also opened franchises in Salt Lake City and El Paso, Texas. Both those programs were also closed under state investigations for alleged child abuse.�

In 1993 three Kids of North Jersey counselors were convicted of beating a client. Three years later a complaint was filed against one of the previously convicted counselors for assault. Another counselor was convicted of assault in 1999. In 1996 Dr. Newton agreed to pay the federal government $45,000 in return for not being prosecuted for 254 counts of insurance fraud. In 1993 the Prudential Insurance Company stopped paying insurance claims to Kids when its own independent investigation determined that health-care professionals were not being employed to treat clients at Kids. [The Bergen Record, Sept 24, 1996, p. A4] On June 9, 1997, as Dr. Newton's reputation for fraud and child abuse continued to grow, he was the keynote speaker at the Houston Drug Free Business Initiative meeting. Later Calvina Fay, the director of the Houston Drug Free Business Initiative, would become the director of Straight Foundation, Inc. which today calls itself Drug Free America Foundation (DFAF). In 2000 Newton finally closed Kids of North Jersey after settling for $4.5 million with a former client for abuse she sustained there. Newton is currently being sued for abusing another teenager at Kids. He moved back to Florida and became a professor at Saint Petersburg Junior College which is where the federal government headquarters the Multijurisdictional Counterdrug Task Force Training program, a program to train police officers on an international level in drug interdiction. Straight co-founder Betty Sembler who lives in Saint Petersburg, Florida where Straight was also headquartered is also on the board of the MCTFT. DFAF helped sponsor the Canadian Drug Conference in May 2002 in Vancouver where AARC is trying to expand its $50,000 /a year per person program.�

On November 1, 1988 Straight, Inc. added a "sales" office at 104th Street, Suite 114 Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to its insurance coverage and on January 13, 1989 Straight added "Straight Association of Edmonton" to its insurance coverage. Meanwhile Miller Newton was recruiting so many Canadian teens from Calgary, Alberta (173 miles from Edmonton) into his New Jersey program that he opened Kids of the Canadian West--a support center to aid kids who had been through his New Jersey program in integration back into society; but also Newton hoped to make KCW his Canadian franchise treatment program. Before opening Kids of Salt Lake City, its director, W. Kimball DeLaMare, trained under Newton at Kids in New Jersey. That's how Kids' franchises work. Such was the case with Kids of the Canadian West. Dean Vause learned of Kids while working as a guidance counselor at North Battleford High School which was a source for sending many Calgary kids to Newton. Vause took a job at Kids with the intention of directing KCW.��But in 1989 CBS's West 57th Street (the week night edition of 60 Minutes) aired a damaging segment on Kids of Bergen County. Case after case of fraud and abuse was reported. After that Newton changed the name of his program to Kids of North Jersey. In August 1990 Bergen County prosecutors stormed his program looking into allegations of false imprisonment and child abuse. By then Kids of Bergen County had 40 Canadian clients and the Canadian government was paying $25 for each or $1,000 a day. It was then Canadian authorities learned that they had not been paying for psychiatric or physician services and thus stopped payments to Kids. But not until they had paid Kids $250,000 [The Bergen Record, Aug 16, 1990, p. B1]�After the raid by Bergen County prosecutors Newton moved operations to neighboring Hudson County and set up shop in Secaucus. (One of the two Straight board members from New Jersey was in Secaucus.)

According to the Vancouver Sun of January 23, 1999, Vause claims that in 1990 he was invited to take over KCW, but he "had reservations about the treatment offered" in Kids and so he convinced the planners that the $1 million that had been raised by the Rotary Club could be better used by starting a brand new program which he called AARC--Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre. [Sandy Levy Barbero is another person who applied for a position with Kids around the time Dean Vause was there. She was so shocked by what she saw that she wrote this  report to state health authorities and to the ACLU to try to close them. If Dean Vause had "reservations" with Kids why did he not do something more pro-active like Barbero had done--or did he not see any abuse?] One of the problems with any Straight-legacy program is start-up. Synanons or confrontational-style therapeutic communities like Straight and Kids frequently employ program graduates as counselors. Vause would have had this problem too. He took at least one former guy from Kids--Brian Neal--to be an AARC counselor. Tragically, Brian Neal hung himself in 1996.�

While clinical director at Straight Miller Newton got a PhD from Union Graduate School (AKA Union Institute) in Cincinnati. At the time Union was a non-accredited, alternative college. He did not have to attend classes or take tests. He did attend some seminars called colloquiums. Newton had to write a paper which was his project to demonstrate excellence or PDE. In 1981 he received a Doctor of Philosophy for his paper "The Organization and Implementation of Family Involvement in Adolescent Drug-Use Rehabilitation." Essentially this paper described the six new parent raps which he implemented at Straight. [See Newton's education background  here.] Sharon Wegscheider is a woman Newton met who was also attending Union. Newton had her visit Straight and give an independent evaluation of Straight. According to Case # 584418 filed 3-9-89 with the Superior Court of Santa Ana, California it was alleged that an official from Kids of Southern California claimed that he or she had also attended Union Graduate School.�In 1993 Dr. Newton was an Adjunct Professor of Neuropsychology at Union where he taught colloquiums in Cincinnati (December 8 - 12) and in Boston (June 23 - 28 and July 6 - 10). Vause received a degree in physical education and history from the University of Saskatchewan and later got a masters in educational psychology. In 1994 Vause got a PhD from Union in Educational Psychology. His project demonstrating excellence is titled: "The Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre: A Treatment Centre for Chemical Dependent Youth and Their Families." In his Union PDE, Newton writes that Straight is "kids helping kids." Today Kids Helping Kids of Cincinnati is a Straight-legacy program running out of the old Straight - Cincinnati facility.�

Perhaps AARC really is much different from Straight/Kids. After all, Straight made client Ginger Warbis call herself Virginia because it felt "ginger" is a druggie label. At least AARC lets Krystal call herself Krystal. While this editorial makes no claim of abuse at AARC, it should be remembered that Straight's predecessor program was accused of child abuse. That there has never been one Straight that has not been accused of child abuse. That SAFE, a Straight legacy program in Orlando, has been accused of abuse as has been Growing Together, another Straight legacy program in Florida. That Newon's Straight-legacy programs in Texas, Utah, California and New Jersey all closed under allegations of child abuse. Listen to what former AARC clients are saying about their AARC experience  here.   

There are at least two Canadian drug addiction experts who have written about Straight's brutal and ineffective methods. It needs to be stressed that AARC's methods are not "groundbreaking" as stated on the Nature of Things.  The idea of treating the whole family is one  AARC feature that is not new.  For a parent to place a wayward kid into a treatment program only to find out that the parent himself necessarily also has a problem is ludicrous and without merit. As I viewed the brief CDC segment on Krystal, one thing that immediately struck me that was right out of Synanon Church and Straight is confidentiality. AARC has no problem revealing Krystal's picture though I'm sure Krystal has signed a waiver. Straight and Kids does this all the time when clients portray Straight in a good light.  But as soon as Straight is asked about specific abuse, Straight claims that it can not respond due to federal confidentiality laws. 

Straight parents are forbidden from talking with their children until their child earns back that privilege. After a few weeks or months their child may earn TALK. The parents finally meet their child who is always accompanied by a program official for a staged 5 minute session. Each parent recites, as he has been trained to do, from a rote script about a time in his child�s "druggie past" and how it "made him feel." Each parent must chose one of the 99 possible feeling words found on page 53 of Dr. Newton's graduate thesis. There are no other possible ways to feel. Next the child recites his own script about an incident in his "druggie past" and "how it made him feel." And that�s it. The meeting is over. Even if the child has been beaten or raped he can not report it during TALK--his only time to speak to his parents. Even if their child has a black eye, has lost considerable weight, or has sores on his face from receiving "spit therapy," the parents are not allowed to ask about his present condition. It is forbidden to ask about current events. 

During Straight synanons clients and parents indict one another or tell on themselves for committing various offenses. The rest of client Group or parent Group go around the room blasting each other for these indictments. But each indictment is closed with, "but I love you" to the point that the word love ceases to have meaning. Time and time again one will observe a Straight client or parent breaking down, flooded with tears and emotions only to be interrupted by some juvenile counselor asking, "so how did it make you feel?" And he would not let go  until the indicted person had picked an accepted feeling word from Newton's list. Words like love and feel become robotic in Straight.  They lose any emotion or feeling.   Let's listen to them counsel Krystal  to see how she  feels from this segment from Recovering Krystal

   Just 7 months after Betty Sembler and DFAF helped sponsor the Vancouver drug policy summit in May 2002, the parents there are calling for second-generation Straight.

Newcomers at Kids live in a foster home provided by parents further along in treatment. In his Union thesis on Straight Dr. Newton calls these foster homes "host" homes. The concept was actually developed in 1970 at Straight's predecessor, The Seed, which was accused of brainwashing by the US Senate. [According to the Saint Petersburg Times, the founder of The Seed had a degree in psychology from a mail order college.] AARC calls host homes "recovery" homes. AARC's web page speaks of "peer" staff. "Peer" staff at Straight/Kids are teens further along in their treatment who tend to newcomers which is how "synanons" or confrontational-type therapeutic communities operate. According to AARC's web page it is funded through a combination of "user fees, private and corporate donations, government grants, service group donations, third party fundraisers," and AARC's own fundraisers. AARC is a tax exempt charity and got a $1 million gift from the Rotary Club. It has been reported that it got $600,000 from the Canadian government (though Newton and Kids may have gotten that). There is a classroom and two teachers, so that is a cost. But AARC clients are boarded in host homes. Though there is a medical doctor for clinical work when a child gets sick, there appears to be no medical doctors on the actual drug rehabilitation staff with their high salaries, and it sounds like at least some of the kids further along in treatment serve as "peer" staff (perhaps unpaid). Other counselors may be program graduates (perhaps not demanding high salaries). This is drug recovery and requires no specialized medical equipment. So why does AARC charge $50,000 a year for treatment?

At AARC, can a parent freely contact his child at reasonable times like Wednesday night from 7 - 9, and Sunday afternoon from 1 - 4--and in private? If he can not, then that is not acceptable. But then, what do I know? AARC's web page has this endorsement from Dr. Audrey Olsen Faulkner, MSW, Ph.D., ACSW, Social Work Professor with the Union Institute:   My professional assessment is that the AARC is a model program, grounded in research on addictions and on adolescent development.  And this endorsement from Dr. Robert McAndrews, Professor at the Union Institute:  Now that I see the �hard� evidence and follow your thorough analysis, as a critical reviewer I am convinced that your model and actual program is one worth replicating everywhere possible . . .  Dr. Bonnie L. Kelly, Ph.D., a therapist in Pennsylvania has this to say on AARC's web page, The adolescents� commitment to the program and the community�s support and involvement is commendable.  [A Bonnie Louise Kelly received a PhD in Clinical Psychology in 1993 from Union, the year before Dr. Vause earned his.  ed.] 

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