Has Straight really closed?

Straight gives its official date of closing as July 1 - 2, 1993. So why do so many view that date with skepticism.

Significant dates associated with the Straights
Camp Actual location opened closed Notes
Saint Petersburg, Florida,  known today as the Drug Free America Foundation Saint Petersburg April 22, 1976 Active  Straight, Inc. was incorporated on April 22, 1976 but did not start operating a treatment camp until September 1, 1976.  After Straight lost its appeal for falsely imprisoning Fred Collins and had to pay him $220,000, mostly in punitive damages,  Straight officers became very alarmed that they could be  personally sued, so they made an astonishing maneuver.  On  September 26, 1985 they changed the by-laws for Straight, Inc. by changing its mission to one of  educating the public on the dangers of adolescent substance abuse.  The name was changed from Straight, Inc. to Straight Foundation, Inc.    An article was added that said foundation funds could be used to hire attorneys to defend board members in case they were sued.  An article stated that in the event a legal judgment was made against a board member,  then foundation money could be used to pay the judgment!    Then they created a brand new organization whose mission it would be to treat adolescents from drug addiction just like the old Straight, Inc. had done.  This brand new treatment organization was also incorporated on September 26, 1985 and was named Straight, Inc.!!!  Through the years the old Straight, Inc., now called Straight Foundation, Inc.,   had managed to buy up property--and had amassed some cash.   It now leased this property back to the new Straight, Inc. and even made grants to penniless Straight, Inc. to operate.   Physically the foundation and the national headquarters for the drug rehab program ran out of the same facility until April of 1993 when the headquarters for Straight, Inc. transferred to Atlanta, Georgia.  On July 2 - 3 1993 Straight, Inc. formally ceased to exist,  but not Straight Foundation, Inc.--the education arm.   In an effort to distance  itself from the name Straight which today is synonymous with "child abuse",  on December 5, 1995 Straight Foundation, Inc. changed its name once again to its current name--the Drug Free America Foundation, Inc.
Saint Petersburg, Florida Saint Petersburg September 26, 1985 April 24-25, 1993 Survived multiple state health investigations, warnings and probations;  civil suits including a $720,000 judgment for abusing former client Karen Norton;  and criminal investigations before finally transferring its remaining clients to Straight-Atlanta and closing.  Was investigated by FBI for fraud after closing but no indictments ever isued.  Was investigated by state health department after closing for allegations that Mel Sembler had interfered with a state health team which had wanted to close Straight-St Pete  in 1989 for repeatedly failing to comply with state health regulations.  
Sarasota, Florida Sarasota November 1980 July 19, 1983 Closed after state prosecutors produced a report of multiple counts of violent criminal acts substantiated by Straight counselors who had been granted immunity for their testimony,  and after several former clients sued.
Atlanta Marietta August 1981 July 1-2, 1993 Straight - Atlanta was founded in Marietta, Ga. in August 1981 as the second Straight expansion program.   In April 1993 Straight - St Pete closed its flagship program in Saint Petersburg, Florida and transferred its clients to Straight - Atlanta.  The national corporate office was also transferred to Straight - Atlanta .   Straight - Atlanta (the last Straight operating facility) closed on July 1 - 2, 1993.  But on June 21, 1993,  just 11 days before closing,   Straight official Kathleen M. Cone incorporated a Straight-like program called Phoenix Institute for Adolescents  4 � miles from Straight�s facility.
Cincinnati Milford March 22, 1982 1987 In 1987 the state of Ohio took Straight to court to close it down for criminal child abuse.  The day the trial was to start Straight voluntarily closed and  transferred its clients to Atlanta and Detroit.  In 1990 Kids Helping Kids of Hebron, Ky.--a Straight-like program co-founded by former Straight officer George Ross--changed its name and moved into the old Straight facility in Milford, Ohio where it operates today as Kids Helping Kids of Cincinnati.
Washington, DC 1 Springfield, Virginia  October 28, 1982 July 26, 1991 Straight was under criminal investigation in Virginia when the state health department decided not to renew its license.  Straight demanded a hearing before a judge,  but voluntarily closed the day before the hearing and just "popped" open three days later in Maryland taking its clients with it..  
Washington, DC 2 Columbia, Maryland July 29, 1991  February 28, 1992 Straight-Columbia officials just walked off the job leaving their clients to fend for themselves when this Straight closed in Maryland.
National Headquarters in St Petersburg Saint Petersburg January 30, 1983 May 1993 Ground was broken for construction of the facility on 1-30-83.  Actual operational start date not known. 
National Headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia Marietta May 1993 July 1-2, 1993
Orlando Orlando January 1984 August 14, 1992 On August 14, 1992 Straight - Orlando officially closed and on that very day Michael Scaletta, the executive director of Straight - Orlando,  incorporated SAFE, Inc. taking Loretta Parrish, Straight - Orlando's marketing director,  and Straight's clients with him.  He leased his facility from Straight.   Today Ms. Parrish  is the owner and executive director of  SAFE.  
Dallas, Texas Dallas October 31, 1991
Detroit Plymouth February 23, 1986 1993 On June 18, 1993, three days before Straight official  Kathleen M. Cone created a Straight-like program named Phoenix Adolescent Institute in Marietta, Ga. 4 � miles from the Straight facility in Marietta, former Straight official Helen Gowanny, helped found  Pathway Family Center only 15 miles from the old Straight facility near Detroit.
Boston, Massachusetts Stoughton July 1991 Straight closed when the state of Massachusetts pulled Straight's foster care license. 
Southern California  Yorbi Linda July 1989 August 1990 Straight's former national clinical director, Dr. Miller Newton,  ran one of his KIDS programs in Yorbi Linda.  KIDS closed in 1989 under criminal investigation and Straight moved into the facility and took over KIDS' clients.  California closed Straight down for child abuse in 1990 and Straight transferred its clients to Straight-Dallas.  The failure of Straight-Southern California probably stopped the formation of Straight-Seattle.


Reverend Doctor Doctor Miller Newton and KIDS. 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.

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.�

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 (a Canadian TV program which aired a segment called Krystal in 2002).  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

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?

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.�