Heritage Schools Inc. (1984-present) Provo, UT
Residential Treatment Center
History and Background Information
Heritage Schools Inc. (also called The Heritage School, Heritage RTC, Heritage Home, and The Heritage Community) is a behavior-modification program that opened in 1984. It is marketed as a Residential Treatment Center for adolescent girls and boys ages 12 to 17. The program claims to treat teenagers with a history of any of the following: Anxiety Disorders (Panic, Obsessive Compulsive, Post-traumatic Stress Disorders), Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Mood Disorders, (Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Dysthymia), Impulse Control Disorder, mild Psychotic Disorders, Aspergers, Learning Disorders, Identity Disorder, Cognitive Disorder (functional) Attachment Disorder, Relational Disorders, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and Substance-Related and Use Disorders. Heritage has a maximum enrollment of 115 (used to be 153) teenagers between its three programs. The average length of stay is reportedly between 12 and 14 months, but may be much longer if the teenager is deemed resistant. The program’s tuition is reported to be over $11,000 per month.
Heritage Schools used to operate four programs, called Heritage for Boys, Heritage for Girls, Elevate Academy, and Peers Academy. It has since consolidated into three programs called Spark Academy, Elevate Academy, which are for teens with specialized needs, and Launch Academy, with is a transition program. All three programs are located on a 19-acre compound at 5600 Heritage School Drive, Provo, UT 84604. Each of these are divided into Boys’ and Girls’ programs.
Interestingly, one of the addresses given in the program’s business license is 246 E Fiddlers Canyon Rd, Cedar City, UT 84721, which is the address of The HOPE Group and is also associated with Havenwood Academy.
Founders and Notable Staff
Many staff members at Heritage have previously worked at a wide variety of notoriously abusive behavior-modification programs, including Provo Canyon School, Utah Boys Ranch, and the Cross Creek Programs (which was a confirmedly-abusive WWASP program).
Jerry Spanos is the Founder and CEO of the Heritage Community. He began his career in behavior-modification by working as the Director of Social Services at the confirmedly abusive Utah Boys Ranch from 1974-1976. He then went on to work as a Supervising Therapist at the notorious and confirmedly abusive Provo Canyon School from 1976-1984. He then left to create the Heritage Community, where he remains the CEO.
Spark Academy Staff
Neil Wallace is the Executive Director of Spark Academy. He previously worked as the Program Director of Daniels Academy. He began working at Spark Academy in 2017 as the Director Of Business Development before being promoted to Program Director in 2019. He has been the Executive Director since February 2020.
George Ballew is the current Clinical Director of Spark Academy. He initially began working at Heritage as a Unit Counsellor from 2006-2007. He then left to work as a teaching assistant at BYU, before returning to Heritage to work as a Team Lead from 2008-2009. He then left to work as a Clinical Team Intern at the Utah State DHS. He then worked in a variety of out-patient settings before returning to Heritage in 2014. He has working in a variety of roles at Heritage since his return, including Clinical Specialist, Residential Care Director, Training Director, and currently, Clinical Director.
Rachel Steinberg works as a Therapist and the Assistant Clinical Director of Spark Academy. She began working as a Youth Counselor at Heritage from April to August of 2015. She then left to work in several positions at BYU, Wasatch Behavioral Health, and Veritas Mental Health from 2015 until 2017. She then went on to work as a Clinician at the confirmedly abusive Provo Canyon School from 2017 until 2019, when she returned to the Heritage Schools.
Elicia Schwendiman works as the Girls Program Manager at Spark Academy. She began her career in behavior-modification as a Trail Walker at the reportedly abusive Anasazi Foundation wilderness program. She then went on to work as a Youth Mentor at the reportedly abusive New Haven RTC from 2013-2014. She then went on to work as the Ropes Course Instructor at the confirmedly abusive Discovery Ranch from 2013-2014, before joining Heritage.
Lynetta Martindale works as a Therapist at Spark Academy. She began her career in the behavior-modification industry as a Youth Counsellor at the confirmedly abusive Cross Creek, which was a WWASP program that is now well-known to have been extremely abusive. She worked at Cross Creek from 2004 until 2009. She left Cross Creek to work as a Unit Shift Manager at Copper Hills Youth Center from 2009 until 2014. She then went on to work as a Therapist at the confirmedly abusive Provo Canyon School from 2014 until 2015, when she began working at Heritage.
Rachel Thornton worked as a Therapist at Spark Academy from February 2019 until August 2020. She began her career in behavior-modification as a Recreation Therapist at the confirmedly abusive Provo Canyon School from 2012 until 2015. She then worked in a variety of mental health organizations, before returning to Provo Canyon School as a Therapist in 2018, before joining Heritage.
Lars Swenson works as the Boys Program Manager at Spark Academy. He has worked at Heritage since 2013. He originally worked as a Campus Aide, before becoming a Home Lead, and then a Home Director, before taking the position of Residential Manager of the Peers Academy in May 2017. His prior employment is unknown.
Steve Sommers works/worked as a Therapist at Spark Academy. He previously worked as a Therapist at the reportedly abusive New Haven RTC from 2014-2015. Heritage’s website still shows that he is a Therapist at Spark Academy, but his LinkedIn Profile states that he stopped working at Heritage in July of 2020. He currently appears to work as a Therapist at Bristol Health in Orem, UT.
Elevate Academy Staff
McKaye Treanor is the Executive Director of Elevate Academy. She has worked at Heritage since 2007. She has reportedly worked in the behavior-modification industry since 2005, but her prior places of employment are unknown.
Kristi Naumann is the Clinical Director of Elevate Academy. She has worked at Heritage since 2011.
Blake Trythall is the Girls Residential Care Manager of Elevate Academy.
Annie Fagnant is the Boys Residential Care Manager of Elevate Academy. She has worked at Heritage since 2006.
Juliann Ogivile has worked as a Therapist at Elevate Academy since 2018. She also has worked as a Therapist at the confirmedly abusive Provo Canyon School since 2015.
Donny Smith works as a Therapist at Elevate Academy. He has worked in the behavior-modification industry since 2001 in several unnamed facilities.
Francisco Ampuero currently works as a Therapist at Elevate Academy. He has worked at Heritage since 1999. In 2010, he helped create the Abundant Life Institute, where he continues to work as the Clinical Director.
John Nielsen works as a Therapist at Elevate Academy. He has worked at Heritage since 1991.
Marc McLain worked as a staff member at Heritage. It has been reported by survivors that he was fired in 2020 after he broke a resident’s arm during a violent restraint.
Launch Academy Staff
McKay Livingston is the Clinical Director of Launch Academy. He previously worked at the reportedly abusive Telos RTC from 2011 until 2019 as an Advocate and later as the Program Director.
Spark Academy is designed teenagers (12-18) for “neurodiverse students with deficits in emotional regulation, executive functioning, and adaptive life skills. This academy focuses on skill-development, promoting growth of neuro processes to help compensate for these deficits.”
Elevate Academy enrolls teenagers (12-18) who “suffer from depression, anxiety, or mood disorders. They might be self-medicating or self-harming as a result of a higher-than-average number of adverse childhood experiences. In the Elevate Academy, students learn skills to help manage their moods and emotions and to understand and appreciate their own intrinsic value.”
Launch Academy is a short-term transition program for teenagers (16-17) who are “ready to begin the transition home or to independent living. As part of this academy, students can attend public high school, obtain jobs in the community, and spend individual time off campus.”
Like other behavior-modification programs, Heritage uses a level-system consisting of 5 levels. The levels are reported to be:
- Level 1: On this level, residents are given no privileges.
- Level 2:On this level, residents can have a radio in your room and go off-campus with their unit for recreational activities.
- Level 3: On this level, residents can “check out” to the porch, have a radio and head phones, and a radio in their room. They can also go off-campus with their unit or other units, can also attend co-ed dances, and join the heritage sports teams. They can also get on-campus jobs.
- Level 4: On this level, the resident has all of the privileges of Level 3, plus they can “check out” to the circle with other level 4’s and 5’s and go on Level 4 & 5 activities that were co-ed. They can also
- Level 5 (Keystone): On this level, the resident has all of the privileges of Level 4, and they can also get an “NSAS” with which they go off campus by themself for a certain amount of time. They can also get an off-campus job. The resident can also “check out” to the pool or horses on this level, provided there are other residents there.
- S.S/Crisis/ISU: This level is used as punishment for residents who have committed serious rule infractions. It has changed names throughout the years, including S.S. and Crisis, but it is currently called Granite South/ISU (Intense Support Unit). On this level, the resident is given no privileges. They are kept isolated from the other residents of the program in a form of solitary confinement. They are reported to be kept in tiny isolation rooms. Residents have reported spending as long as 8 months straight in isolation at Heritage.
In addition to isolation, common punishments at Heritage involve residents having their levels dropped, and subsequently losing their privileges. It is reported that students are also punished with violent restraints, which have been reported to result in broken bones. Survivors have reported that residents are Heritage may be restrained for so much as having an anxiety attack.
Survivors have reported that the staff and administration at the school is heavily Mormon, and the LDS religion has a heavy influence on the school. Survivors have reported that being LGBTQ+ is not accepted at Heritage, and the program is suspected of using methods of conversion therapy.
Abuse Allegations and Lawsuits
The Heritage Schools have been reported by many survivors to be abusive programs. Allegations of abuse and neglect that have been reported by survivors include excessive and violent restraints, physical and sexual abuse, homophobia/transphobia, blatant racism, solitary confinement/isolation, verbal/emotional abuse, and forced manual labor. Other reports of abuse and neglect include medical neglect, staff/therapists ignoring residents’ problems, and staff stealing residents’ personal belongings. Many survivors report developing PTSD as a result of their time at Heritage.
In May of 2011, several Food Violations were found at the Heritage School. Among the violations are that there was improper hand washing, food was not being refrigerated at safe temperatures, and staff member eating and drinking in the vicinity of preparing food.
1/25/2021: (SURVIVOR) “i was sent there 4 days after my birthday and was constantly struggling in there. i was placed in the spark academy program for autism/social skills. I DO NOT RECOMMEND SENDING ANYONE THERE AT ALL FOR THESE REASONS: transphobia: would call people by their dead name unless given permission by parents. racism: people that weren’t of african american heritage said the n word with no consequences, or would bypass it. invasive of privacy: would always check the letters you would be sending to people and what you get in the mail from someone. there is a protocol (suicide watch) that would monitor your shower with the door cracked (as well as using the bathroom). ignorant: would ignore someone struggling with a lot (especially the spark/peers academy program) and would say their problems were not as bad as they think they were. terrible therapists: the therapist i had was ignorant of my issues. i brought up that i think that i have bipolar or bpd and had said that the doctors would think i’m crazy for having it.” – u/youonkazooie (Reddit)
10/9/2020: (PARENT) “We experienced several residential treatment centers over the course of many years for one of our children. Heritage was horrible. When I checked our child out of that school, she was covered with bruises. She had become very depressed and suicidal. She was mistreated and abused. At the time, I thought we were doing the right thing by having her be placed with “professionals”. Not so. Parents, make the necessary adjustments in your lives to keep your children home and give them the necessary guidance and attention they need during these critical years.” – Good (Yelp)
7/10/2020: (EX-STAFF) “I worked at Heritage RTC in Provo, UT from March 2018-September 2018 and again from April 2019-July 2019. I quit the first time because of a concussion I suffered on the job. I originally took the job because I was promised the opportunity to “help” troubled youth. This is something I sympathize with, as my parents considered sending me and my sister to a TTI when we were kids, and I also did a stint in juvenile detention. I was hopeful that I would be able to impress on struggling youth and share my experiences with them to help them through a time in their lives I also struggled with. The experience I actually had was not at all the utopia I was promised. I was less of a role model or mentor and more of a supervisor or dictator. My main job was to enforce rules, some of them being absolutely ridiculous and excessive. Heritage tried to boast that it wasn’t a locked down campus, but the boundaries were very strict for the whole campus as well as between individual homes. 99% of my time was spent enforcing these rules and boundaries, and it was emotionally draining. I grew to fear that instead of helping, I was only hurting these children who needed help. These feelings were verified when I was reached out to by a former student. He purposefully reached out to me, saying that I was the only staff member he felt comfortable around, because I was the only one that would at least attempt to explain why I was doing what I did. He told me flat out that absolutely nothing he learned or did at Heritage helped him in the slightest. I just wanted everyone here to know that I 100% stand with you guys, and against all that goes on at these facilities. I don’t fully understand the student perspective as I never experienced it, but I saw and heard enough to let me know that these institutions are not okay.” – u/WaveBlueArrow (Reddit)
1/13/2020: (SURVIVOR) “I was a student at heritage for 2 years. Yes 2 full years i was at heritage. heritage did not help me with my Real problems I was struggling with, I needed help with my drug abuse problem and I never got it I was helped emotional at times but they never really dug deep with my drug issues and therefore when released i fell right back into drug abused I tried so hard but fell back to my old habits only 2 weeks in I fell 100 times harder than I ever did with my drug addiction and became even worse than from the start. as a adopted kid going into a facility like heritage with a level system 14 right next to Juvy coming home was scary and intense from full on structure to real life which kinda feel like no structure. at heritage you can’t be by yourself at all times someone is watching you, even when your sleeping no joke and coming home no ones watching me when I’m sleeping and watching my ever breath to see if I’m alive and breathing parents don’t expect your kid to come back “fixed” and ready to listen to everything you say or want because most likely there so exited to be home and make discussions like normal people for example what they want to eat drink be in their room alone walk to places even maybe drive hang out with friends it wasn’t a good thing for me to be at heritage and then go home it was like 0 to 100 yes you can save your child’s life but it will only last so long when they come home they will probably mess up I am better now 4/5 years later I’m an adult who only overcame drug addiction because of myself my wanting to better myself I left home right away when becoming 18 and after that life got a whole lot better because of Me my time to change when I wanted and was ready being forced to go to heritage wasn’t my time I rebelled and rebelled if they said no I said yes the more they said no the more I said yes and when that stopped and I became an adult and found out for myself that I really didn’t want that life I changed not because of a treatment center i changed because of me and all I ever wanted was not to feel brushed aside being sent to heritage made me feel unwanted only contacting my parents 2 times a week wasn’t enough I already came from being unwanted (being adopted of course) and then sent to heritage as a lost cause I felt basically forgotten as not seeing my mom who couldn’t afford plane tickets to see me and my dad seeing him maybe 4 or 5 times in the whole 2 years of being there just wasn’t enough for me kids need love and support from their parents not this” – Alondra (Yelp)
8/10/2019: (PARENT) “If your child has an EATING DISORDER go elsewhere. If you do not want your child to be in a facility that ALLOWS BULLYING go elsewhere. Our daughter arrived at Heritage after completing 2 months at a hospital to restore weight. During the tour we were told that meals would be observed and Boost would be provided if meals were not finished. After being at Heritage for 6 days our daughter collapsed. Staff knew our daughter was only eating fruit and did not provide the supplements. She lost 9lb in 6 days and was immediately readmitted back into hospital. I have not heard anything to make me think they will fix this. AVOID THIS PLACE. In addition, we found out that bullying takes places at Heritage in front of staff and they say nothing to intervene. Disgusting behavior by staff to condone bullying thru inaction, with no repercussions for the bullies. This instills the behavior in bullies and causes mental stress on children that are already vulnerable.” – Brit (Yelp)
12/29/2018: (SURVIVOR) “I spent almost 3 months (11 weeks) at Heritage. Without a doubt, that was the worst three months of my life. I am not exaggerating in the slightest. Luckily, my parents pulled me out of the program because it was a toxic, and unsafe environment and they could see that. But I wanted to write this review to warn people about the dangers of sending your child to this prison like campus. First of all, if you’re mormon, you are going to receive special treatment in comparison to kids who are not LDS. I was not, and I was treated lower than some of my peers on the home who were mormon. The staff is mormon, the founder of Heritage is mormon, my therapist was mormon, and some of the kids attending Heritage were mormon as well. I would just be cautionary, and remember that. The girl on my home who was mormon could get a snack anytime she requested. While the rest of us had to wait until a definite snack time, or the next meal. If you have not done drugs, have not attempted suicide, self harmed, been put in juvenile hall, are extremely aggressive and violent (gets into fist fights with others), I would highly disregard this program for any individual who does not fit into that criteria. If you are like me, who hadn’t done any of those things, and came to Heritage for anxiety, then I would recommend researching other programs, therapy, or schooling options to better fit your child. You will most likely be exposed to drug users, and live, sleep, go to school, and eat with them every single day. People cut at Heritage, using whatever they can available to them (i.e pencils, pens, scissors, etc) and talk about explicit topics openly (sex, cocaine, severe drinking, sexual activity, etc). I was exposed to many things that I didn’t even knew existed, like how to cut my wrists, and where to get drugs. You will also witness fist fights, cussing, people threatening to hurt you. Many of the kids that attend Heritage right now in fact have been in juvenile hall or were almost sent there. Most of the time, I feared for my safety and whether I was going to make it through the night. If you don’t want your son or daughter to be exposed to this, do not send your child there. If you are a parent and reading this, and depending on the relationship you have with your child, you will only be able to talk to your son/daughter twice a week at most. You get family therapy, which is supervised by your therapist and you go over modules and skills in the SPARK notebook (the program they have there) and – like I said prior, if you have a good relationship and progress enough in your program, you will be able to receive 30 minutes maximum supervised or unsupervised to talk to your child per week. That’s 120 minutes per month. You are not allowed, AT ALL, to communicate to your parents what you dislike about the program, and wanting to go home. If you do, they will end the phone call, revoke your phone call privileges, and a visit will be pushed further into the future. What I don’t understand exactly is how “healing” that really is for a child to be isolated from practically any communication with their parents. Some kids had been there for almost half a year, and had only talked to their parents a couple times over family therapy. And don’t get me started about the staff there. There’s an actual law that states that there needs to be one staff to four kids. And our home was so severely understaffed that sometimes we would only have 1 staff, and there would be nine girls on the home! And the staff that we did get were Mormon, college students who had no prior experience working at a treatment center. Some of them, that was their first job! And not that some of the staff did not have good intentions, but they mistreated a lot of us. They would belittle me constantly, and there was nothing I could do about it. To mention schooling, it is absolutely pitiful. The teachers are nice, but that’s as far as it goes. The curriculum was the worst I’ve ever seen, they didn’t give us lessons, the teachers just handed out paper and expected us to ace it. If you didn’t, you would be put on academic probation and lose all your privileges. I only got in a hold once, but grown men are allowed to hold you down and pin you to the floor. They can restrain you and do whatever they want, and I was bruised for about two weeks after. You don’t have any right, or say in anything. And I only read this later, but my parents told me they only said that they”held my wrists”, and they did way more than that. My parents would’ve pulled me instantly if they knew what was actually going on! And depending on the therapist you are assigned, you progress in your program slower or faster. Like some therapists, would give visits sooner than others, while others would take months to approve just one. I warn you NOT to send your child there. While I was sent there for my anxiety, it got so much worse I would throw up over it. Whatever you do, don’t send your kids there!” – Anonymous (Yelp)
3/7/2018: (SURVIVOR) “Heritage is an awful school, and I never should have been sent there. I had experienced constant bullying from peers that staff refused to do anything about, and I was even punished for speaking out about it. My needs were ignored in favor of the strict rules, especially when I was having sensory issues. I almost killed myself in their care, I was so miserable. High ranking staff often do not care about you, and the few staff that were kind and actually cared were not there for long. I have received a diagnosis of PTSD from the experience. DO NOT SEND YOUR CHILDREN HERE IF YOU LOVE THEM. I could not escape because my abusive father, despite me no longer seeing him, would not give me permission to leave.” – Emily (Yelp)
2/28/2018: (SURVIVOR) “I was 12 years old I was sexually abused on multiple occasions by 3 different staff members (MARK TODD AND DAVE) Every attempt to report it to other staff was just ignored and joked about and other victim shaming as such. Any attempt to defend myself against being MOLESTED was met with brutal force. Heritage liked to employee WASHED UP PRO AND COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYERS AND OTHER ATHLETES. So grown men weighing 250 to 300 or more pounds vs a 90 pound child had always the same outcome. many of the staff also being “amature body builders” so steroid abuse was obvious. none of the staff had any actual schooling or real qualification’s to be staff there pizza delivery boys would be more qualified. When I first arrived they took my bags and all my belongings claiming they need to search my things and because they “never got around to it” I spent the first week and a half wearing the same clothes. When I finally did get my belongings they “lost” one of my bags and I qoute “We need to find out the value of the belongings and then restitution me for it” In other words I have to pay for my things that they lost!!!! I was there for 2 months before they finally let me use the “laundry room” and then never let me go back to get my clothes until a week later “AGAIN SPENT A WEEK IN THE SAME CLOTHES WHICH WAS A MCDONALDS TSHIRT PROMOTING THE FLINTSTONES AND A PAIR SHORTS!” and by the time i could get my clothes most of them were stolen after 3 months there NONE of the clothes i was wearing were the clothes i brought there and what clothes i did have were tattered holy would have been thrown away by other students and given to me! I was forced to take medication that i was allergic to which caused me to be sleepy of course if i fell asleep during there joke of a school classes i was punished for something that i couldn’t control EVEN THOUGH I HAD THE RIGHT TO REFUSE THE MEDICATION THEY WOULD LOCK ME IN A ROOM NOT MUCH BIGGER THAN A CLOSET AND RATION MY FOOD STARVING ME UNTIL I COMPLIED. Being 12 years old when I arrived I would have been going into 7th grade. The education that I received was closer to what you would expect in 3rd or 4th grade and was no use whatsoever when going back to a regular public school the “teachers” (and I use that term very loosely) were just regular staff that almost zero credentials for teaching or even tutoring and would just follow a nonsense curriculum from outdated textbooks that were donated. Since heritage kept some delusion of being a school they used semesters and periods but because they didn’t use ieps or kept track or pay actual attention classes were assigned almost with the randomness of picking names out of a hat. So having the same “teacher” and class over and over is garenteed unless the teacher decides to change from a different textbook. And since I was only 12 being put in classes with 16 17 year old. I can only surmise school wasn’t for education but to just keep us busy since I took the same class 3 times read the same book took the same test. Another example of this being “I WAS 12 YEARS OLD AND WAS MAINLY SENT THERE DUE TO BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS IN SCHOOL AND NEVER UPTO THAT POINT HAD NEVER TOUCHED AN ILLEGAL SUBSTANCE OR SMOKED A CIGARETTE TOUCHED A DROP OF ALCOHOL DID ANY DRUG BESIDES WHAT WAS PRESCRIBED TO ME AND OBVIOUSLY THE DRUG SCREEN BY URINE AND BLOOD TEST WOULD CONFIRM THAT” I still was placed in “drug and alcohol class” it wasn’t for any type of prevention this class for the students with a actual drug and alcohol problem some of them being drug dealers and they were also confused why I was in that class and the so called staff/teacher couldn’t care less and didn’t do anything to correct such an obvious big mistake BUT INSTEAD FAILED ME THE FIRST WEEK IN FOR NOT PARTICIPATING. And this after school “hours” On a Friday when heritage did a rare (once in 3 months maybe) study hall where they forced students that were failing one class to “study” in the cafeteria for 2 hours AGAIN I want to point out the point of this place was to “TREAT TROUBLED KIDS MANY OF WHICH HAVE LEARNING DISABILITIES” and Punish them for not learning!!!! because the teachers are not even qualified to work at a daycare And homework for a drug class would be what exactly? I could go into more detail of how insanely idiotic this is ! When I went back into public school I was behind even for special education standards! The “legal child abuse” they claim to hide behind in the state of Utah is an outright lie and its mostly just covered up by other staff members and ignored entirely since 6-7 staff members word against one child BUT THE REALITY IS what they are doing is CHILD ABUSE its outright Brutal assault on children as young as 12. The staff try to SUGARCOAT this to parents and CLAIM that are preventing students from being a harm to themselves and others BUT THE TRUTH IS 99% of all psychical altercations are started by the staff. Many of the staff seem to think they are professional wrestlers on tv. Grown adults threatening kids of what they can get away with. And when the staff DO HAVE A PSYCHICAL ALTERCATION WITH A STUDENT THEY HAVE AS MANY AS 10 OTHER STAFF JUMP OF THE CHILD TO HOLD THEM DOWN! Many of the staff if not all of them seem to ONLY LIVE FOR THAT MOMENT TO TACKLE A CHILD TO THE GROUND SO THEY CAN GET HANDSY WITH THEM AND GO UN-NOTICED. In fact some of the staff act “DISAPPOINTED” that didn’t get there in time and got to miss out on the abuse and assault! Because of the over zealous staff, students will have injuries like BROKEN BONES and don’t get medical attention for days sometimes weeks. I personally have permanent spinal injuries from when i was BODY SLAMMED into a flight of stairs and the only medical attention I saw WAS A FROM A NURSE THAT WASN’T EVEN A NURSE since the “nurses” at heritage are just staff members that give out medication and have no medical training past a CPR class. And to add insult to injury literally students are taken to the CRISIS UNIT which is just a basement under the nurses station. with 6 couches facing the same direction YOUR NOT ALLOWED TO TALK AT ALL and the staff spend all day INSULTING YOU calling students names making stuff up just an outright verbal and emotional assault AND IF YOU “TALK BACK” and try to defend yourself in anyway they punish you further. And students are sent to the crisis unit for very trivial reasons. Staff are supposed to be train professionals but are just spoiled brats that send students to crisis “JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE IN A BAD MOOD”!!! Some students are in crisis for a minimum of a few days others can be down in that hole for weeks and months. I personally was down there for over 4 months after I escaped from one the staff that was MOLESTING ME to add insult to injury the wife of my molester worked in the crisis unit and refused to acknowledge that her husband HAD A THING FOR LITTLE BOYS! And even though there was 3 other staff members all of them would turn a blind eye and let this woman do whatever she pleased and attack me DAILY FOR MONTHS! Not to mention another staff member TODD who is the sickest of these molesters “WOULDN’T LET ME USE THE BATHROOM UNLESS HE GOT TO WATCH!!!” and there is no excuse or explanation of “for the child’s safety” for him to do this since he was the only one THAT WANTED TO WATCH KIDS USE THE BATHROOM. OH the food there was nothing wrong with the food it wasnd bad but it wasnt 5 star dining BUT the cafiteria staff didnt exactly follow any health codes so finding hairs and getting sick from the food was very common And you wasn’t exactly allowed to be sick at this place they still force to you to comply AND ONE THE MANY COST CUTTING CRAP THEY LIKED TO PULL is only having two meals on weekends! by calling breakfast “BRUNCH” they figured they can get away from serving lunch and very small portion for dinner also on the weekends is when staff had the bigger power trips and forcing students to spend all day saturday and sunday “MAJOR CLEANING”. All that was is another “TACTIC” to keep kids busy and not treating and ignoring why kids are even in this place! AND what ever “Story” or biography on Jerry Spanos is a complete lie and total bull. Jerry spanos was never there! There was a better chance of bigfoot showing up and handing out ice cream than there was seeing Jerry spanos at heritage. He never walked through he never talked or had ANY interactions with the students! All the pictures and videos showing him are likley STAGED he probably avoided the place and the students to have “Plausable deniability” of the abuse of done by his staff! This is not even a fraction of what I had to endure at this living hell. When I was finally free from this place I was so far behind in school it was impossible to catch up and because of the abuse I endured at heritage and the mental health problems I had before going to Heritage were far from being treated and only made worst from this place I spent years decades now Absolutely terrified of trying to get any professional help. Because I never wanted to ever end up back in this hell or anyplace like it. AND THIS IS WHAT IAN PETERSON Business Development Director at Heritage HAD TO SAY Hi Jim. These are serious allegations that need to be explored. Please call 801-226-4600 at your earliest convenience and ask for Keven Downs, the Chief Clinical Officer. We take the safety of our students very seriously and are surprised by these accusations but need to understand and learn of your experience. This would be the most appropriate way to target the issue. Because of the few other negative reviews Heritage has received from disgruntled students on social media that are unfounded, malicious and not true (this being the most severe), we will block posts so as to not detract parents and students who might be deterred from receiving the help they need by a claim that is a very unfortunate outlier case or untrue.” – u/thejim9866 (Reddit)
1/26/2018: (SURVIVOR) “I left with more psychological problems than when I arrived the staff are not trained and paid low wages. I laugh at the stop bullying since the staff were the ones bullying children. Name calling brutal psychical assaults all staff did. they are lying about being non profit since they seem to have plenty of money for construction. not to mention forced child labor sexual abuse to both male and female students DO NOT SEND YOUR CHILD HERE THEY WILL SPEND THE REST OF THEIR LIFE TRYING TO FORGET THE HORRORS DONE TO THEM HERE” *Photos attached to review.* – Jim (Yelp)
9/20/2017: (SURVIVOR) “I was a student here in the late 80’s. I have to say that we were sold a bill of goods and were completely unsatisfied. They showed us the “bright side” of the school: the girl’s campus. Pools, horses, actual houses with kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms, etc. What did I get as a boy sent there? A goddamn warehouse. Yeah. You read that right. A warehouse. Once, the hot water heater went out. Cold showers for 2 weeks. The school was so cheap they got us donated washers and driers. The driers went bad one after another and your clothes came out smelling like natural gas. Took months before they replaced them. The education received was subpar. They teach to the lowest common denominator, usually the younger kids. The answer to your teen’s problems isn’t sending them away but working with them AT HOME with professions. I still have nightmares of Heritage…. 30 years later.” – Jim (Yelp)
2/13/2017: (SURVIVOR) “I wish I wish that I could give this place no stars. I write this only in the hopes that some parents will read it, believe it, not just shake it off as an angry teen raving against a place she disliked. So, I was sent here two months after wilderness therapy-also a horrible experience, in different ways. Horrible isn’t a good word for this. What’s a word for something that breaks the spirit and takes away most if not all of what makes someone themselves? I am not exaggerating. I wish I was. It’s been almost eleven months since I refused to return from a visit, knowing that to go back would be a form of suicide, if not literal suicide. Almost every night, my dreams are filled with being trapped in that facility, the primal feel of no escape-the Franz Kafka short story Letter To An Academy was incredibly poignant to me both during that time and after-the absolute misery and hopelessness and being alone 24/7, yet never having a moment not monitored, not in the shower, not in the bathroom, not at bedtime. I’ll never forget that old man in blue jeans who came down now and then, stared at me through the wide open door with the light blaring as I tried to sleep, and said, “One in there.” Yes. One in there. Wilderness therapy was hell in a different sense. Therapeutically, the staff were well-trained and emotionally healthy. They liked their jobs, they didn’t talk endlessly to us about how much they hated working with us. It was traumatic and I still suffer from PTSD, however. Being so sick that I slept in my own vomit and diarrhea, feeling a sadness so intense that I am jealous-and wary-of every person who hasn’t felt it. Watching a 14 year old girl try to strangle herself to death on a muddy slope in the Colorado cold. I think I would take that physical torture over Heritage, though. If you want your child to lose her or his or their sense of self even further than they already have, if you want them to look up to people who disrespect them constantly, who punish them with authoritarian swiftness, who make up rules every which way in order to get their daily fix of power and control over mentally ill children, then by all means. Take the gamble. I feel physically nauseous to think about those trapped there now. In a literal basement, not allowed to open the curtains let alone the windows, the trash music blaring from morning to night (ass ass pop that ass, you know, that kind of great music), to see only a small, revolving list of staff for months to years on edge. To literally be punished and put on high-security watch for eating salads at mealtimes instead of the food-desert type meals (uncrustables, packaged cookies, capri suns, for lunch) that they serve us troubled kids. I can’t forget what the experienced did to me, and to other sensitive kids who needed the polar opposite of what they got, what they were trapped in with no way out besides learning to shut down, play the game, suck up but not too much, lose any self-worth or pride and grovel when need be, and be perfect Mormon children, attend church on Sundays (optionable but, as our lead staff said about us, “they’re all going to hell”, since they didn’t go to church.). Screw you, Heritage. Screw you, incompetent staff, screw you superiority complex that every staff there seemed to be heavily afflicted with. I’m trying so hard to recover from what was done to me there-I developed bulimia a few months in from the misery around me, after always being a very healthy, yoga loving, food loving girl. Now, the longest I’ve gone in a year without throwing up is seven days, which happened once. I’m trying so hard to help my body and mind recover from what Heritage did to it. The scars on my wrists, which I never thought I’d look down and see. Never understood self harm, before being sent there. The suicide attempt by overdose a month after getting out, unable to handle the trauma anymore. Finally, with the support of my mom who also hates Heritage for it’s incompetence, I’m starting to be functional again. If you took the time to read this, I am grateful. I hope you take it seriously and consider your options. If you think you have no options…well, I can’t tell you what to do.” – Alia (Yelp)
11/27/2014: (SURVIVOR) “I attended heritage for 6 months before I was pulled, and the conditions there are something prisoners shouldn’t have to endure. There is no freedom of speech, because a curse word or just any statement that isn’t approved by the Mormon staff can get you sent to Granite, the punishment house. There is rampant abuse, and of course nothing is ever done about it because who’s going to believe the treatment kid? They actually showed anti Darwinism creationist movies in biology class. Every day includes the staff threatening to extend your stay, and on Tuesdays and Thursday’s you can enjoy sharing stories about the good times you’ve had on drugs in the CD class. The food is worse than what I buy for my dog for 99¢ in a can. You get good food though if you attend the Sunday young men’s or young women’s Mormon classes at the chapel, which is of course run by Mormons. The therapists are very under qualified, which I could tell during my weekly 15 minute session. I’ve never had an easier time getting drugs than during those 6 months. And whenever you come back from a visit you get to strip butt naked infront of two staff who get to make you jump around and do a 360. Needless to say on two occasions the staff searching me was inappropriately interested in my body. These aren’t even exaggerations, I am so far the only of 6 kids in my home who left this summer to have stayed sober, a few of them have actually turned to harder drugs and one was shot. Sending your child there is asking to have them never trust you or love you the same again. Knowing your parents would do something like ship them off to Utah to be abused and have nothing but a weekly phone call is neglect. There is other treatment, don’t scar your child please. I’ve been out for 6 months and still have nightmares.” – David (Yelp)
3/12/2014: (SURVIVOR) “I was sent here when I was 15 in 2005. The way they treated the students was terrible. I had three roommates, all of which committed suicide shortly after their release. As you know, bullying is a big problem in this country. Imagine having to live and be stuck with your tormentors and not being able to leave if you feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Also, the ISU is the place where they send the kids when they are “misbehaving.” It is a basement with steel doors on the bedrooms with no windows. This place is atrocious. Also consider what happens when you send your child to a non coed school when they have recently gone through puberty and their hormones are rampant. I saw some terrible things. Think twice before you consider causing a huge rift in your trust and relationship with your child, and maybe consider a month long wilderness program instead with the threat of heritage if they don’t get their acts together afterwards. Most of all, the responsibility of your child’s development lies with you, the parent. A little discipline can go a long way. Be careful and realize that betraying your child’s trust and sending them away might be the thing that pushes your child over the edge. Lastly, if you are thinking about medicating your child, never do it. The drugs they prescribe children are strong and can cause long term damage and dependency issues. Giving drugs to children is a cop out on the parents part. Raising a kid is a full time job, don’t spend your money or the states money to do that job for you.” – Scott (Yelp)
11/1/2011: (SURVIVOR) “I was surprised to finally find someone who went through the same thing as me and to actually find it online. I was never there for any mental illness’s, anger, nor drugs. But was just sent there cause of my bad school grades and ditching school, and had the same experience. I was 12 years old, My first day, I arrived in the waiting room at the admin office with my mom, suddenly a woman walked in and said “ready?” I looked at my mom like, “oh are you ready mom, Are we doing a tour or something?”. Then the lady says, “nope, Time to go”. And I tried to give my mom a hug, and she grabbed me around the neck and pulled me back, then 3 other people walked in and grabbed my arms a legs and carried me out, dragged me across the campus and underground into the ISU unit. It literally just happened like that, Just arrived, hadn’t even got my suitcase out of the car, and this bitch walks in and doesn’t even let me hug my mom, ask me my name, introduce herself, or nothing. I was locked in the ISU unit in a rubber walled empty room all day long my entire stay. Because I didn’t want to be there so I refused to do a blood test as part of their medical exam cause I hate needles, I’ve always passed out from them. So they kept me down there, and then when they threatened to bring in people to restrain me and put me to sleep to take my blood, I finally did it. But then after that I was supposed to have my freedom, and go to the main normal units with other kids but instead they said I had to start take depression meds for who knows why, and I refused, so they locked me in ISU again, and then right when they were going to begin to restrain me to give me the meds starting the next week, my parents took me out of the place and moved me to a bordering school. The entire stay there they refused me any phone calls and illegally were not sending out my letters in the mail that I wrote… Also one of the weirdest parts is, they came up with this theory that I was trying to lose weight because I was doing push ups in the ISU cell room during the day, which was only because there was nothing to do, so I would work out. As if me being a skinny little 12 year old was trying to lose weight, it was ridiculous… So because of that they had put me on a time limit to use the bathroom because they thought I would do push ups in the bathroom (I know how crazy does that sound). So I had 45 seconds to use the bathroom, therefore I was always constipated cause I never had enough time to go, as embarrassing as it is to say…. Just a brief summary but yeah…It was all very fucked up.” – Anonymous (Reddit)
5/31/2011: (SURVIVOR) “I was placed in Heritage School at the age of fourteen from UCLA because I had horrible verbal Tourette’s. It was a choice my father made, who still does not believe my story, so we have very little contact. I was put onto ISU (Intense Support Unit), there I was repeatedly kept in complete isolation for up to 8 months at a time, and near-isolation until I was 17. I hadn’t responded to any meds, or should I say, all the meds they tried. I just got worse from isolation, I couldn’t even ask why anymore. I created friends, imaginary friends, to stay alive; that is how to survive long-term isolation. Their names were Corey (a girl), Andy and Jenifer. It’s so weird, sometimes I miss them, I think they would never hurt me. I did all their voices, it must have looked so strange. After I turned 17, like most Tourette’s cases, I lost my Tourette’s. I had spent two birthdays in the dark and hadn’t seen my reflection in years. Then I was in the ‘mainstream’ program at Heritage until I turned 18 and legally able to leave, except my last two months were spent in ISU again. You see, they can’t have Tourette’s on a unit; not with precious Mormon staff’s ears and the disruption it caused on the units. When I arrived, my Tourette’s caused a stir instantly. I spent my first full day in a chair facing the corner, writing 5 words per line, front to back, on why I shouldn’t swear. It was like they knew nothing about ticks or me. On the second day, I was introduced to ISU. It was the place they put kids short-term, usually when they misbehaved, got into fights or needed to be restrained. Club fucking Med. I never was violent, I saw what that got you, and I was terrified. The unit consisted of 5 PSR’s (Personal Safety Rooms) and three rooms with beds; so at 8:00 if the unit wasn’t full, I’d be moved from a PSR to a bunk. Sometimes a mattress would be brought into the PSR, sometimes I had to sleep on the floor. Now, what you have to understand is that the PSR’s were right next to each other, so I heard everything. I heard the sounds of the other kids. What the fuck was I hearing all night? It sounded so bad. Sometimes I was isolated all night for 8 months straight, after that would frequently visit Club Med, maybe 2-3 times a week. If you do not follow the program, that is where you go, and so I never really left–it wasn’t continuous isolation, but it was constant. Like most Tourette’s cases, I lost my Tourette’s at age 17. I then learned that manipulation and faking your way through the program is the only answer, not actually working on your issues. Lying and sneaking. They have a very tough level program (or reward and punishment system) that promotes lying your way through it. Do you think if I told my therapist or staff what I was actually thinking, I would have gotten anywhere? No. I learned nothing of real life, maybe Wall Street lying. But when I went home two days before my age-out, I wasn’t told that I’d be affected for this long–11 years later. I just wonder sometimes who the fuck I am and if I have a personality at all. The level system is very important to understand. It is a 1-5 system; at Level 1 you have zero privileges. That means you don’t get to watch a movie or tv if that’s what the unit is doing. You don’t get to go of campus on the unit’s weekly trip. You get nothing. Level 2 gets a little better, but not by much. Each week, there is a treatment team meeting with your therapist, the unit manager, and two of the staff. It is completely secret and nothing is discussed with the patient. At the end of that day, on the board, next to your name, is your fate and life for the week that it was written. I never made it past Level 2 until I got better, because going to ISU is an instant level drop to Level 1, no matter how perfect you have been. Even if you’re a five and you have been immaculate for months. How I got my level 4 was hilarious–I convinced all the staff that on a visit with my dad I became a Mormon. It was a fat lie, but instantly made me more popular among staff, and changed a lot in terms of small favors and getting away with shit. They claim to be a multi-religious campus, but everyone who worked there was LDS, so that is a flying bag of shit. I lost my level and privileges and favors two months before I left, when I was caught masturbating. They called a resource team, which is a group of staff that come pull you from bed, and explain how damaging it is to your roommates and the unit if you touch yourself. In absolute frustration, I let it slip that I wasn’t Mormon and that masturbation was normal and natural. So, at 11:40 pm, I went back to ISU. This resource team caught people daily; soooooo humiliating for all of us. When I was released, I came home to a surprise celebration. The banner read ‘Welcome Home [my name]’. I sat in silence as people tried to talk to me, after an hour my mom told everyone to leave–it just wasn’t happening. The first few weeks I spent curled up in the corner. Where were the level 5’s to tell me what to do? Where were the staff to ask to go to the bathroom? I was totally dependent on the program, they were right, I was nothing; without it I was a mess. Interestingly enough, all of the kids from only three places: Alaska, Chicago or Cali. All of the Chicago kids were first-time felons or sent by court and it was the same two judges. I can’t remember their names, wish to god I could. Anyone who sends their son to Heritage is only sending him to a place where he will be schooled in all the ways the others misbehaved. He’ll learn about drugs, sex and gangs. He will not come back pure and fixed; he be polluted and confused. I had to choose whether I wanted to hate or love people. It took awhile, but my girlfriend introduced me to the Beatles and John Lennon; that helped. The answer is love, I am love and forgiveness. I don’t want Heritage to burn, or for certain staff to die; I’d rather they change their program. I don’t want to live a life of hate.” – Anonymous (Reddit)
Unknown Date: (SURVIVOR) “I spent 2 years at Heritage RTC in provo, utah from 2004 – 2006. Now this is one of the better of the schools, but still has some flaws. Originally my mom was going to place me at Provo Canyon but after hearing horror stories about it through friends parents as well as local support group families she decided against it and canceled the bed they had on hold for me. A little back history, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 11. Didn’t really dabble too much into drugs, but started to closer towards the few months before I was sent there. I mainly had a lot of lows from the bipolar, and dealt with self harm and several suicide attempts. Now Heritage had the double standard.. boys were allowed to have CD players, girls couldn’t. Boys were allowed to listen to radio stations the girls were allowed to listen to. Just random small stuff like this is what I experienced from Heritage. The only thing that made my 2 year experience slightly uncomfortable while being boarded up there was the fact that we would frequently visit the church to hold meetings with our unit/dorm. I’m Christian, so I didn’t really have too big of a problem about being in there, but out of common courtesy they are supposed to put the blinds down over all the paintings and crosses. This actually caused a lot of drama with the other girls who were atheist. I stand by them, it may be something most individuals can overlook, but its just something that should be done anyway. I developed a great friendship with 2 of my counselors and we would always sit and talk about life and my issues and just general stuff.. sometimes they would bring up the whole religious thing off topic. I personally have things against the ideas and beliefs of mormonism, and the fact that sometimes they would try to bring it up in a therapuetic matter just didn’t work out. My experience overall was very beneficial. I had been in and out of psych wards since I was 11, and medicated heavily for 7 years. I feel that my personal experience actually benefited me. I don’t use coping skills, or any of the cliche terms and activities they used. But the general ideas gave me a great insight behind basic techniques and survival skills to being a “norm” in society. I left Heritage graduating a year early from high school, and went off my meds the minute I got home. It was a bit rocky at first of course, especially being on Serequol for almost 7 years at that point, and being on the trileptol for a little over 1 year. I have been off my medication now for 6 years and have been doing great. I saw a therapist for the first few months out of heritage, and just started up again because I had been feeling a bit off for quite sometime now. It is very unfortunate that you had to deal with this, and I feel that the word should get out there that some schools do stuff like this. But just to put it out there, not all of them are like this. I feel that being placed at Heritage made me very fortunate. A lot of girls at Heritage came there as a step down program from other schools (provo canyon, wilderness, cross creek, island view, etc.). Provo was the worst I heard about, where staff were blatantly having “relationships” with the clients. Dating them, giving them special privileges for sexual acts, and more. TL;DR I spent 2 years at Heritage with little to no issues. Not every school is like what the OP is saying, but a majority of them are and need to be closed. EDIT Was also going to add about the restraints. I had been sent to ISU (intensive support unit) several times for the smallest of things. Even for having a disagreement with a staff member because I felt that what they were saying was wrong. I had one experience where I was crying really hard and they wanted to send me down there for the night. And they had the staff guys come to get me and they just kind of dragged me, didn’t even give me the oppurtunity to walk myself or ask me if I was going to cooperate. I was crying so hard I told them that I had to throw up, and they still kept walking and I ended up throwing up all over them and myself because they wouldn’t stop. That was pretty much the worst I had ever experienced at Heritage.” – Anonymous (Fornits)
Heritage Schools Website Homepage
Heritage Schools Website Homepage (archived, 2001)
HEAL Program Information – Heritage House
The Heritage Community (Part 1) – V2V Survivor Series (YouTube, 12/5/2018)