WEBSTER GROVES, Mo. (KMOV.com) - More than a month before the president of Great Circle, Vince Hillyer, was charged with assault and endangering the welfare of a child, the State of Missouri ordered changes to the agency.
A statement from the Department of Social Services says the Children’s Division entered into a corrective action plan on March 26, 2019 with Great Circle.
This week, a grand jury indicted Hillyer in connection with a video that a former employee says shows Hillyer choking a 12-year old autistic boy. Hillyer’s attorney, Joel Schwartz, said the allegations are coming from disgruntled ex-employees.
A 19-year old woman who stayed at a Great Circle facility in Webster Groves on two occasions because of severe behavioral problems, said she saw staff members abuse children. Cora Little said on several occasions, the agency failed to provide diagnostic tests or treatment ordered by a judge. And she also said the staff would retaliate if she or her parents complained.
"You would get phone calls, but they never answered my mom's calls because they didn't like my mom. So, I would have to always call my mom, they wouldn't allow her to call in," said Little.
Little also said, while staying at a Great Circle facility in Columbia, a male staff member treated her in an inappropriate and illegal manner. But she didn’t want to give details of the incident.
"It was a traumatic experience in some cases," said Little.
A spokesperson for Great Circle said the agency couldn’t comment on the specific allegations because of privacy rules, but released a statement:
“The safety and well-being of the young people we serve is our top priority at all times. Staff and clients are encouraged to raise any questions or concerns they may have about treatment or behavior at any time. We encourage such reporting as part of our commitment to quality treatment. Every Great Circle staff member is expected to comply with established policies and procedures in all of their interactions with clients.”
The Department of Social Services said it strongly encourages anyone who suspects child abuse or neglect to call a toll-free hotline at 1-800-392-3738. The department issued this statement:
“Great Circle is licensed through the Department of Social Services as a Residential Treatment Agency for Children and Youth. The Children’s Division Residential Program Unit monitors and works with all licensed residential treatment facilities for children and youth to ensure licensing regulations are upheld, including implementation of measures to ensure the safety of children in care of each licensed residential facility. Great Circle is also accredited by the Joint Commission, which provides additional oversight of the agency’s practice and policy.
The Children’s Division entered into a corrective action plan on March 26, 2019 with the Great Circle, St. Louis campus. The corrective action plan includes the following: a review of emergency procedures; a written supervision plan to address responses to critical events; critical incident report training; security camera installation; required access for law enforcement in the event of a critical incident; critical incident report monitoring; and unscheduled on-site monitoring by Children’ Division staff. Children’s Division will continue to provide whatever support necessary to ensure the safety of children in our care.”