Uinta Academy (2003-present) Wellsville, UT
Residential Treatment Center
History and Background Information
Uinta Academy (also called Uinta RTC) is a Family Help & Wellness behavior-modification program which opened in 2003. It is marketed as a Residential Treatment Center for teenage girls between the ages of 12 and 17. Uinta Academy claims to treat girls dealing with depression, anxiety, adoption issues, peer, child and/or parent conflicts, low self-esteem, manipulation, school failure, attention deficit, physical or sexual abuse, reactive attachment, borderline personality traits, post-traumatic stress or intermittent explosive disorder, and substance abuse. The program has a maximum enrollment of 60 girls, and the average length of stay is reported to be between 11 and 18 months (typically around 16 months).
Uinta Academy operates out of a number of houses near the area of Wellsville, UT. The original campus was located at 1981 S Main St, Lewiston, UT 84320, which is currently used as the program’s “transition” campus for young adults aged 18-21. The main campus is located nearby at 3746 S 4800 W, Wellsville, UT 84339. In addition, Uinta Academy also operates two other homes located nearby to the first two campuses, but their locations are unknown. One may be located in Logan, UT.
Uinta Academy “partnered” with Family Help & Wellness in 2018. Prior to this, it was independently owned.
Founders and Notable Staff
- Jeffrey Simpson is one of the Founders of Uinta Academy. He is married to Becky Simpson. He later went on to help co-found Waypoint Academy with Jared Balmer and Mike Bulloch of the confirmedly abusive Aspen Education Group.
Becky Simpson is one of the Founders of Uinta Academy. She is married to R. Jeffrey Simpson. She also previously worked at Utah Youth Village and was responsible for staff training and evaluation there.
Russ Pryor is the current Executive Director of Uinta Academy. He has worked at Uinta Academy since March of 2011. He previously worked as a Therapist and as the Director of Admissions at the Aspen Institute for Behavioral Assessment, an Aspen Education Group program which is now also owned by Family Help & Wellness and operating under the name Viewpoint Center.
Adaleen Krambule currently works as the Associate Executive Director of Uinta Academy. She has worked at Uinta Academy since 2006 in various positions, including as a Therapist and as the Clinical Director. She has reportedly worked in a variety on unnamed treatment centers.
Melissa Keller Adamson works as a Therapist and as the Clinical Director of Uinta Academy. She previously worked at the Aspen Institute for Behavioral Assessment, an Aspen Education Group program which is now owned by Family Help & Wellness and operating under the name Viewpoint Center.
Bryan Shores works as a Therapist at Uinta Academy. He previously worked as a Therapist at Outback Therapeutic Expeditions, a reportedly abusive Aspen Education Group program.
Kristi Ragsdale taught parenting classes at Uinta Academy. She previously worked as a Family Specialist at Families First. She then went on to work in Admissions at Solstice RTC, another Family Help & Wellness program in Layton, Utah. She then left to create the reportedly-abusive Eva Carlston Academy in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Sue Johansen-Hoffman worked as a Therapist at Uinta Academy. She reportedly helped Kristi Ragsdale open Eva Carlston Academy.
Hollie Archibald worked as a Therapist at Uinta Academy. She previously worked as a Therapist at Avalon Hills Residential Eating Disorder Program.
Like other behavior-modification programs, Uinta Academy uses a level system consisting of four levels. The levels are reported to be:
- Contemplation: When a resident arrives at Uinta Academy, they are put onto Contemplation. On this level, the resident is deemed resistant and not “ready” to change. They are given very minimal “privileges”.
- Preparation: A resident can move up to Preparation once they have shown that they are beginning to be compliant and submit to the program.
- Action: This level is earned by a resident when they have begun to show “change” (i.e. submission to the program)
- Achievement: This is the final level, and the focus is typically on transitioning home.
It is reported that in order to progress through the levels, the girls must earn a certain number of “points” on their daily point cards. These points are awarded for good behavior, and can be taken away from negative behaviors/rule infractions. In order to be able earn privileges and do things besides writing assigned essays, they have to earn 10,000 points per day. If they do not behave “correctly” or “accordingly” they are punished with negative points or as the staff call it, consequences. The whole “point card” idea comes straight from positive and negative reinforcement theory and punishment that is taught through operant conditioning. This appears to be a very “textbook” way to treat a human.
Uinta Academy also use horses in their treatment of the teens; including lots of outside work that appears to have little to do with therapeutic issues. The work that the girls do is reportedly constant and hard. They haul hay, pick weeds for hours at a time and are expected to keep the house spotless.
The girls are on a point card where, in order to be able to do anything else besides writing assigned essays, they have to earn their privileges of ten-thousand points per day. If they do not behave “correctly” or “accordingly” they are punished with negative points or as the staff call it, consequences. The girls hardly get any freetime because they are on a schedule everyday and any freetime they get is monitored and permission is necessary to use it. Also, every girl is expected to have the same relationship with every other girl in the house (not very realistic if you’re trying to teach real life skills) this means no favoring of anyone and again ALL socializing is monitored. Everything these girls do from going to the bathroom to sleeping is monitored. Yet, they expect these unrealistic situations and way of doing things to help and consider it part of the “treatment”.
It is known that there are weekly calls between staff and the parents. There are also a monthly meeting in order to discuss the progress of the girl in the program. The girl has hardly any contact with parents besides one weekly phone call. The girls cannot have any communication with anyone else besides parents, until she earns her way up to the fourth level, at which point she may talk to her therapist about calling an approved and appropriate friend.
Parent visits are usually every three months (if the girl is behaved and has “earned” the visit. There are weekly letters that the girls are required to send to their parents on Sundays, however they may not always receive a letter from their parents.
Rules and Punishments
Uinta Academy uses a point system, and it is reported that staff members (many of whom have no formal qualifications) are able to take away points for virtually anything. One survivor reports, “I remember one time I asked “are you able to move your bag so I can sit there?” To a girl and got a “consequence” (negative points) because the staff member decided that was rude and I should have said “can you move your bag” not “are you able”. When a consequence was given, we had to do something to correct the situation and the staff decided that so for that I had to go through the scenario again but say “can you move your bag?'”
According to survivors, the number one rule at Uinta Academy is that you must submit to the program. Reportedly, “just say Okay” is the most important rule. Residents are not allowed to “argue”, which can be defined as a resident just explaining or having thoughts/opinions. The residents are not allowed to have any personal conversations, and are not allowed to talk about their past, who they are, etc. The residents are not allowed to have alone time, and they reportedly “have to be friends with everyone” but they cannot be “closer” to some than others.
It is reported that the girls usually aren’t allowed to show emotion or cry, and if they did cry and didn’t stop when told, they are designated as “Out of Instructional Control” (or OIC) and receive -50,000 points. This means they lose all of their privileges.
If a resident doesn’t earn a certain number of points in a day, they lose their privileges. So girls who were punished with OIC and received -50,000 points have no privileges for a long time. This means they are allowed no free time, and are forced to do only chores. They are also not allowed to socialize or even talk to other residents, and have an earlier bedtime.
Girls were also punished with being demoted a level or multiple levels. This means losing their privileges, including eating certain foods, talking to other residents, having free time, etc. If a girl is dropped to the lowest level, they are also forced to do chores all day, are forbidden from leaving the house, and are not allowed to participate in activities with everyone else. This practice appears to be a form of solitary confinement/social isolation used to punish children at Uinta Academy.
Uinta Academy is reported by many survivors to be an abusive program. Allegations of abuse and neglect that have been reported by survivors include emotional abuse, isolation, forced manual labor, and residents being treated as sub-human. Survivors have also reported experiencing verbal and mental abuse at Uinta Academy. Many survivors state that they have developed PTSD and other trauma-related conditions due to their time at Uinta Academy.
According to one survivor, “The behavioral program model used was emotionally abusive as it used shame and guilt to mold behaviors into what they desired. They had the “girls” (transkids had to use dead name) earn massive amounts of daily points for subjective positive or negative behaviors. This made the individuals feel responsible for every single thing that happened — even if the horse kicked you; consequence. It led to cognitive changes that obsessed and focused on every small detail of what we did right/wrong. It led to various maladaptive coping mechanism due to these brainwashing techniques. It was based off the Boystown model of behavioral modification.”
1/13/2021: (SURVIVOR) “I am now 29 years old with a child and in graduate school. It has been thirteen years since my parents read my diaries. I smoked weed. I was anxious. I was angry. And I was a teenager, go figure. Regardless, they hired people who pulled me from my bed. They had enough money to pay for a lot of things like special schools that diagnosed me with “learning disabilities” when disassociating from trauma was not taken into consideration. My childhood was test after test with no conclusion to my “problems”. In my household, I felt incredibly scrutinized. I did not feel as if my parents heard me, or wanted to guide me. It felt as if they wanted to solve my problems for me. These treatment centers are sold as a magical solution from bipolar to self esteem issues. The truth is, these centers deeply programmed me to need external validation. My father and mother took control of my “needs” at what expense? It made me struggle to help myself. I felt control was stripped from me — i felt powerless in these programs. And I guess that’s what they want; their goal is to psychologically mold you into the perfect child. One that obeys and says “okay”. And the success rates are dismal. I struggled for years with new therapist trying to uncover the beliefs Uinta Academy implanted inside of me. The truth is — I just wanted my parents to hear me. I just wanted my parents to support MY goals in life rather than perpetuate their narrative. I desired for them to focus on my good attribute rather than all these things wrong with me. Parents, if you are reading this — know that it will damage your relationship with your child if they do not choose it. It implants a belief of isolation, and abandonment. This place is a game at the end of the day — you earn points for being good and they get taken away for being bad. And then one day you wake up and your nearly 30 and you still do this mentally. Picking oneself apart was taught to me here. I didn’t know how bad I was until I became dependent on external validation for rewards/punishment. In the real world, internal validation wins. I guess my parents and I all had to learn the hard way. I wish I could go through the past review I made and tell you all the lies. Jeff Simpson refused to let me switch therapists at my parents request when I had been there for six months — not doing any work. The parent calls were chit chats and no deep work was being done. I was called manipulative for this event. It stuck with me for years. I owned that negative self image when I was told that I was being manipulative for agreeing with my parents that a new therapist was needed. He’s not there any longer, I hear Uinta was bought out by another corporation and certain changes have been made. And frankly, if the point card still exists — what is the long term implication of having a teenager get constant validation like a dog? It’s humiliating and it broke me. I survived and I am now owning my truth. It’s why I am editing this post to the correct number of stars it actually deserves. I may have acted like sunshine and roses on the outside. And I was miserable on the inside. I guess that’s what this program taught me though — just say okay and do what your told. I wanted to love treatment to win over my parents approval — at what cost? This was not my genuine self. I hope you make the decision your daughter thinks is best. Caging a child “for their own good” is a short term solution to a long term problem.” – Laura (Yelp)
1/3/2021: (SURVIVOR) “Uinta Academy’s picturesque appeal, in my opinion, is nothing more than a façade, carefully constructed to conceal the program’s failure to deliver on nearly every promise they make and all facets of care they claim to provide. I believe my parents were lied to and misled by the staff about the qualifications and amount of training of the family teachers who would provide the majority of my care. My parents were deceived about the amount of time I would actually spend with a therapist, as groups were not always led by therapists. I rarely saw my therapist more than once a week and was never provided with the two hours of individual therapy promised. I wasn’t allowed to see my parents until I had been there for 4 months. When I saw them, I was too scared to say anything that contradicted the staff narrative out of fear of punishment. The symptoms of my Anxiety and OCD, that the program was meant to treat, were worsened by this punitively focused program. The standards they set were unattainable and the rules varied by day and staff member on duty. During the 8 months I spent at Uinta, I lived in a constant state of fear and anxiety over what mistake I would make that would lead to consequences. Now, almost 12 years later, I am still suffering from the effects of C-PTSD as a result of my 8 months at Uinta Academy. During my stay I was forced to lie to my parents and visitors touring the facility to conceal the realities of the program and avoid punishment. Punishment included receiving negative points, no talking to peers, essay writing for hours, shoveling snow, extra cleaning, pulling weeds, removing mold from hay and losing additional contact with my parents. I felt forced to support the dishonest narrative that the program was portraying to my parents to continue progressing through the program. It was impossible to feel safe when everything could potentially get me in trouble. The education I received there was substandard I spent the school day independently working from a binder. There was only 1 tutor provided for 17 students, so I rarely got the help I needed. The rest of the time I was left with the family teachers – glorified babysitters who were unqualified and under-supervised. They were responsible for my care and execution of my therapeutic treatment even though they weren’t therapists. The only requirement for hiring these individuals seemed to be that they were over the age of 21 and were enrolled in or had obtained a degree in a field of social science. These staff members would stand right beside me during every phone call home to ensure I didn’t say anything negative. I was told that if I said something negative, the phone would be hung up and I would lose phone calls with my parents. If letters home weren’t positive enough, I was forced to rewrite them. Life at Uinta was a psychological minefield, what was right one day was wrong the next. I never truly felt safe to open up about my feelings out of fear of punishment – the only constant throughout my stay. At Uinta my word didn’t matter and neither did the truth. The only “truth” that anyone cared about there was the one that fit their narrative of how we were supposed to be and behave. Improvement as an individual didn’t matter if it didn’t adhere to the stepford-like standards set forth. Showing emotion or reacting to punishment led to more punishment. The program was designed to pit us against each other. Group punishments were given for an individual’s mistake. We were told if the culprit came forward, no one else would be punished. This bred resentment, distrust and motivated us to tell on our peers. I withstood isolation, lies, manipulation, unattainable standards, punishment and control at Uinta Academy. Today I am still suffering, trying to unlearn the tenets of a toxic environment and to feel safe again. I wish I had never attended Uinta Academy.” – Danielle (Yelp)
12/15/2020: (SURVIVOR) ” Uinta Academy. I don’t know where to start. To no fault of her own, my therapist from Uinta was leaving for a long vacation as I was starting the program. This meant that I would meet her in passing and then not see her again for weeks, but instead see another therapist who “volunteered” to see me for a few weeks while she was gone. This was my introduction to the program. I had the most wonderful mentor, who shall remain nameless, who was another “student” at this program. She is the only person I have seen post graduation. Not that that’s relevant. There were 4 houses, each ranging from housing 5 to 18 girls. There were amazing staff, and then there were staff who were clearly just there because it was another job and they didn’t care. If you know me, you know I am a particularly sensitive person, so I needed to be around staff who cared and were concerned. I remember one staff member who when she left she had nice things to say to half the house and nothing to say to the other half of the house. Imagine your only connection to the outside world caring so little that she couldn’t even fake a heartfelt goodbye to you. Moving past that. Arms length. That was this programs version of safety watch, in the aforementioned program. You had to be within arms length of a staff member at all times. If someone walked between you and that staff member, they earned a negative consequence. This was to ensure safety. I completely understand this measure taken. I was on arms length for about 3 months or more at one point. I was depressed and suicidal. The solution? Have me sleep on the floor next to strangers with the hall lights on. We didn’t know the night staff. We didn’t interact with them. We weren’t allowed to talk to them as far as I know. But they were who monitored me every night. I was on 15 minute logs, so staff had to record what I did every 15 minutes, even while sleeping, so my therapist could look over it. Before bedtime, two day staff members would take me into the laundry room and have me strip down to my underwear or roll up my clothes all the way so they could check me for self harm marks. To this day, I am not comfortable with my body. This was a traumatizing experience. I understand why it was done, but I think there are ways it should have been done differently. I got a 15 minute phone call with my family once a week and a mandatory letter that I had to write every week. I was lucky enough to get emails from my dad every day. Some girls weren’t so lucky. Let me tell you about my 15th birthday. Two girls went out of instructional control (further will be referred to as OIC), meaning they weren’t following staff instructions anymore and were either being violent, or simply not responding. The receptionist was out sick so I couldn’t get mail, a cake, or any form of celebration. My therapist heard about this a was very upset and called the director and the situation was remedied. At 8pm when the OIC girls were finally back to following instruction, we had dinner, cake and ice cream, did our chores, and went to bed. Speaking of OIC, let me tell you about the 3 months we spent on fives. First let me explain fives to you. Fives in the five second rule. You have five seconds to drop everything you’re doing and get to a safe space because there is a danger. This could be broken glass from a dropped plate, or it could be an uncontrollable peer. We had a peer, let’s call her Mary, who did not agree with the system. Which is fair on her part. It was a tough system and she was a new “student.” My two most traumatic memories of this experience were when my best friend, let’s call her Joan, got into a fight with her because the peer had been threatening a staff member we loved and Mary tried to attack Joan. I had to drag Joan down to the basement where I sat with the other students, petrified of what was happening upstairs. The second time, Mary wanted to use the phone. Another peer, we’ll call her Sarah, had just gotten off her weekly family phone call. Sarah and I were tallying up our point cards (I will explain the point system if asked. Yet another traumatic experience from this place). Mary was enraged that she could not use the phone and ripped a 2 foot across clock off the wall and threw it at me and Sarah. We jumped out of the way in time. Fives. Basement. Sarah and I spoke out about our fears and our experience and were pulled aside by staff and told to lie about it and say it didn’t happen the way it did. We refused to lie to our peers and as a result we earned a large negative consequence (again, point system. Will explain if asked). After 3 months of actions and behaviors like this, Mary was removed from the program for our safety, the staff’s safety, and her own safety. It just wasn’t working out for her. I have nothing but respect and appreciation for the staff and therapists who spent time with us and dedicated their lives to us daily for so long. But I will not remain silent about my experience of Uinta Academy any longer.” – u/zoedemi (Reddit)
October 2020: (SURVIVOR) “Don’t send your child to this horrific institution. I suffered severe anxiety and depression due to my stay at uinta. It’s been 14 years since I left and it’s so infuriating that this place is still going strong and hasn’t been shut down for abuse. I am hopeful that these residential “treatment” facilities will be a thing of the past soon. They are harmful and cause very serious damage. Please don’t send your child here at all costs. I went to two other programs that were much better than uinta and didn’t cause the trauma this facility has. I find it interesting how many girls have ended up dying since attending this “school”. I’m not saying that uinta has anything to do with it but I feel like though there is a correlation that needs to be considered. Not to mention their education program is not even accredited I lost nearly 2 years of schooling I has to make up just to get a high school diploma. Some people may insist that these places are good but we also thought years ago that lobotomy was an appropriate treatment for mental health issues as well.” – Savannah (Google Reviews)
9/29/2020: (PARENT) “Do not send your child to this organization. I sent my daughter there and believed they had the best intentions in helping her turn around her life. Instead, they made her trauma worse. They lie to parents and heavily monitor what your child expresses. They are not allowed to say a bad word about the organization or else they are severely punished – taking away meals, taking away the “privilege” of speaking, doing manual labor for hours, being socially isolated. The children are not allowed to have any relationships with any other person in the facility. They are not allowed to express their emotions or they would be punished. My daughter was berated, humiliated and taunted by staff. They took away her ability to speak up when things are wrong, to share her feelings, to call the people she loved, to build healthy relationships, to trust other people. They would restrain children, 3-4 grown adults sitting on a 100lbs girl, for walking away from interactions, such as being punished for a wrinkle in their bed or dirt on the floor. They put her on a variety of medication that she never wanted to be on and has never needed before or after. I deeply regret sending my child here.” – Bekah (Yelp)
September 2020: (SURVIVOR) “I went to uinta when I was thirteen and suffered severe emotional trauma because of it. I have been diagnosed with chronic migraines since leaving uinta, but while I was there since it wasn’t officially diagnosed I was refused medicine multiple times, to the point where i would often vomit and feel near faint due to the pain I was in. Also, one time I got Bronchitis and Pneumonia and was on “sick day’ for a solid two weeks, in which I was prohibited from any social interaction. This lack of socialization led up to me hallucinating an entire conversation with someone. (I am not schizophrenic, my social brain was just trying to cope with complete isolation. Not only was I not allowed to talk to my peers and staff, but I was unable to speak to my parents as well until I fully recovered, and was threatened with “negative points” if i told them how serious the sikness was. My parents were lied to and told it was just a “cold.” Please, DO NOT send your children here. It is a horrific place, and it turned me from a social butterfly to an insecure antisocial introvert. I have an extreme lack of trust in my parents to this day, as I am constantly worried they will somehow send me back.” – Tessa (Google Reviews)
8/28/2018: (SURVIVOR) “I graduated Uinta in 2012, so I’ve had a few years to sit with my thoughts and deal with the permanent trauma that the program caused. Before the program, I was a bright, intelligent and thriving 17 year old girl. I was having problems with my home life and was finding who I wanted to be while staying with a friend’s family, which my parents did not agree with. I was forming healthy relationships, though they were outside of the circle that my parents felt comfortable with me being in. I was experimenting with pot and drinking on occasions such as holidays, normal 16 year old stuff. I was happy and out of an abusive, abrasive home life. After a year of treatment, I was a shell of myself. Uinta beat into me (not literally) the notions of not arguing, not expressing true feelings, not attaching to anyone, and valuing vapid appearances and junk food. We were removed from current events, allowed to only watch Fox News one hour once a week, and only if everyone agreed on it. We couldn’t make friends there- cronyism they called it. Couldn’t talk to any of our old ones. This place is run by Mormons so despite “God” not being part of the curriculum, they push their values in real ways. Reminiscent of the asylums of the past, many of the girls are on a certain mood stabilizer drug to discourage outbursts (and free thought). It is for bipolar disorder, which I do not have. On this medication I had zero motivation, truly zombie-like, experiencing the lowest lows I ever have. A real doctor prescribed me Xanax, but because the program didn’t agree with it, my medication was withheld. There were seriously mentally ill and drug addicted children there, and I was not one of them. There were two types of kids there. One, the latter, and us, the kids from (mostly) rich families whos parents didn’t approve of our friends or our life choices, who thought smoking weed once was as bad as being addicted to heroin, just biding our time, playing the game and staying under the radar until we graduated or turned 18. Uinta was wrong for me and I was miserable. No matter who I told, or how many times I told my parents, it didn’t matter. I cried myself to sleep every night for a year. I literally forgot how to make friends. The parents got counseling too, and I believe they benefited greatly from the program, albeit at my expense. Oh, and speaking of expense, there went my ENTIRE college fund! My parents were sold this program as a means to get their daughter back healthy and safe. Years ago I asked my mother why she sent me there. Her response was “they have cats! It can’t be that bad, right?” Nevermind we were punished for touching the cats. Day-to-day was formulaic, punishment driven, complete with manual labor, isolated from outside. I dreaded going out in public- a group of obviously done-up, troubled children, not allowed to talk to outside people, shuffled to and fro in tight groups and two white vans, drawing attention and weird stares. In short, if you are thinking of sending your daughter here, either let her be and ASK her to undergo family therapy, rather than desperately exercising parental authority and ripping her out of her life. And if you feel you MUST, and she is already independent but exceeds in school, send her to a REAL college prep boarding school so she still has an opportunity to go to a good college after, while finding for herself what she wants her life to be like. After a year of playing the game, I couldn’t wait to get out. None of the reprogramming stuck, aside from the social retardation. To this day, five years later, I still have trouble making and keeping friends, and extreme PTSD and Anxiety, memory loss from extreme depression. I didn’t have money for college so I worked and tried to do school part time for three years. I have no degree, I work a part time retail job and don’t know how to get back to the driven, artistic, beautiful young woman I used to be. Please don’t do to your child what my parents did to me. You may feel like you’ve lost control, but that is what has to happen for a young girl to find herself. Don’t take herself away from her: she will be miserable and mentally scarred for the rest of her life.” – Kelsey (Yelp)
8/14/2020: (SURVIVOR) “I was stuck at Uinta for 2 years and 2 months. They said I would be there for a year. My therapist continually told my parents not to let me go home even when I was doing everything asked and there was no reason at all to keep me there. If we ever tried to tell our parents on the phone or in a letter all that was happening, they censored us and punished us. They listened to every word. They even read our journals and listened to our conversations with other girls so we didn’t have a single place to express any negative feelings about the place. No one there cared about us. The “family teachers” were so cold and sometimes seemed borderline sociopathic. One girl overheard a staff talking about “setting girls up” that they didn’t like to receive more consequences. The staff were just out of college or still in college and received almost no training. I will give an example of a time I felt so hurt and like I wasn’t treated with the least bit of human decency. One day I was extremely sick. I could barely move without pain and nausea. I told the staff and they took my temperature. It was 99.8 which to them was not a fever, so they would not give me ibuprofen or let me rest. It was Saturday which is “majors” day where we have to move all of the furniture and deep clean every inch. If they find any dust, we get consequences on our point card. When I wouldn’t get up and start on majors, I was told I was OIC – out of instructional control. For the next 8 hours, staff read me over and over the steps for the skill “Following Instructions,” from the skills book. Over and over they repeated those same words. I wasn’t allowed to read, turn the lights off, eat, sleep, or do anything at all. They pulled my blankets off when I pulled them on, they pulled out my pillow, etc. I told a staff I had a headache and to please pause reading the steps and she started banging her hairbrush against the railing. I begged to have my temperature taken again but they refused. They told me I was terrible for trying to skip out on chores. They told me I was making other girls have to do more to make up for me refusing to get up for no reason. They told me I was awful for making a staff stay with me all day long when they could be doing other work. Around 6pm I was starving and asked to eat. They made me do PC (positive correction) before I was allowed to eat. I had to do 8 hours total (since I was OIC that long), but only 1 hour that day before I could eat. I trudged through sweeping the floors and carrying things in so much pain and exhaustion. When I asked for soup or something easy, they refused and gave me more consequences. I had to eat some korean beef that was spicy and made me vomit. I then got in trouble for throwing up. I couldn’t sleep all night because of the pain and being denied meds. The next morning, they finally let me take my temperature again and I prayed for a fever. I actually prayed for a high number. “Luckily”, it was 101 and they had to let me rest. No one ever apologized. They said I likely made myself sick by being “so difficult” the day before. When I finally got better, I had to make up the rest of my 7 hours of PC doing chores. This was one TINY example of how they treated us and how we lived in fear each day of receiving consequences for things like forgetting to screw the peanut butter lid on all the way, accidentally mentioning anything personal (we couldn’t talk about why we were there), giving high fives without permission, etc. My therapist barely ever met with me. She was supposed to meet with me twice a week but I saw her more like once a month. She was pretty awful. She told me I only thought I was a lesbian because of my trauma and that when I was better I would realize I was straight. I deal with the internalized homophobia that’s lasted since then up until now. All in all, please send your daughter elsewhere. Save your whole family the pain and trauma this place causes. I was sent there for help and instead I was abused and constantly criticized and living in fear. I was socially stunted and I did not eat healthy or get enough exercise. There are so many other places that will help your family, but this is not it.” – Lila (Yelp)
June 2020: (SURVIVOR) “I went there, please find somewhere else for your daughter to go. I do not like to talk negative about anything but feel I have to speak up about Uinta. The program might have changed since I was there but it was awful, neglectful, and so much more that I do not want to even think about because it was tramatic. Read other negative reviews and see for your self that it just isn’t worth sending someone you love off to a place that monitors and controls, misleads and overworked physically these girls. All we did was chores and we earned points through good behavior target skills and chores. With these points we could buy basic freedoms like snacks and time on the phone and thats how we progressed through the levels to transition out this may have changed and I really hope it has. We all went into a apartment to get our prescriptions not an office just crowded in there waiting and the doctor probably saw 20 or more of us in a row all sitting in their apartment. I had braces there and they were not maintained at all, and i was never sent to the doctor for a physical and later learned i had health issues that needed resolving (thyroid which needs monitoring and effects mental health should have been checked before any medication given but was not)School we just read out of a massive binder to yourself one teacher for many different levels of education I can’t even say it was a real education we just went into the side house upstairs in a small room and read our binder for a few hours then she reads out loud Harry potter, not complaining about that part but was that what I needed as a 17 yr old.. no.. I’m sorry for anyone offended. But this place is not what they make it to seem.” – Hannah (Google Reviews)
May 2020: (SURVIVOR) “I was at Uinta for 2 years. The program is horrible to say the least. They treat relapse as a punishment. They have this thing called a point card, where they micromanage everything u do during the day. They give u instructions. Make eye contact, say okay, do the task and then check back. It’s robotic, and dehumanizing. They have us in 100 degree weather for hours. weeding the garden, cleaning the vans, picking up hay, etc. While the staff r just sitting there watching us. It’s exhausting, and they don’t give breaks. Also when it’s freezing, they make us go shovel the driveway, and spend excessive time outside. We either do exactly what they say, or get consequences. On the point card, there is certain amount of points u need to make in a day. If u don’t, the next day u r a “no-privilege”. Which means u cannot talk to anyone, u get no snacks, they make u do extra chores, etc. It’s horrible. And sometimes, we just need a break from the stress, and exhaustion, and frustration but they don’t let us. there are no breaks. I relapsed several time, and they never ask “r u okay?” . They punish u for it. They keep u at arms length w the staff at all times, U can not communicate w others, and they make u do extra work. I scrubbed the floors w a toothbrush and a bucket of water for hours and hours. And then did it again the next day even tho the floors were already clean. It’s in humane. I spent my 14th and 15th birthday in there. It was horrible. They let u get an extra call w ur family on ur birthday, but I was crying so much, they didn’t let me , because I wasn’t “emotionally regulated”. And then I had to vacuum the van for getting upset. I have no idea how I got thru 2 years. There was an easy and west house. I was in the West house. For a year until i moved to the transition house. The transition house in where u go when you’ve been good for a while, to help u transition back to a normal home life. I left Uinta in early 2019. I just couldn’t stand it there. So i purposely got myself kicked out of there. ( Which is pretty hard to do). I left in the middle on the night to got to the hospital and get surgery. I stayed there for a week. Then they took me back to Uinta . They placed me back to the West house on extreme supervision. But I did the same action again, and theb the owners Jeff and Becky decided I was too high risk for their program. So I left, option. No treatment facilities in Utah would accept me. So I went back home to California. Anyways, I hope as discharged from a treatment center in Arkansas in March 2019. Since then, I e been clean and home for over a year. Uinta was a nightmare. If ur gonna send ur kid somewhere, don’t sent them to Uinta. It looks all perfect on the website, and walkthroughs, but it’s not. If I could shut the place down, I 100% would. Do not ever send anyone there if u care about them.” – Kim (Google Reviews)
2018: (SURVIVOR) “If I could give this place zero stars i would. I went here for 2 years. Ill never get back those 2 years. The worst 2 years of my life. This place brain washes you into believing that it helps you. The only part I liked was that I had a horse. Besides that I don’t really think that this place helped me. I left this place because I was not making any progress and some of the staff should not have been allowed to work here. I was also here during the water problems. We were not allowed to go the the young adult house to shower. We had to use the bathroom in plastic bags. They made us clean up fecal matter and yelled at us if we said that it was illegal (it is. It’s in the book under things we are not supposed to do. I checked). Then when. I got old enough to move to the young adult home, that place was worse the the other house. Most of the staff was really great but others weren’t. One staff told me to pick up a mouse that she thought was dead because it was in her way. I picked it up and turns out it was alive. I got but and I got in trouble because she lied to the supervisor and said that I picked it up all on my own. Also, they treat you like a 5 year old at the young adult homes. Um like they should be treating you like an 18 year old but noooo, that’s apparently too hard. I hardly got to see my horse (he had horrible feet so I should of picked them out every day) but they planned the day to full and made us miss out on the opportunity to groom your horse. When they did it was only for like 10 minutes. When grooming a horse. You need at minimum of 40 minutes. So needless to say I got the hell out of there during a home visit. I never went back but they decided to keep all my stuff and never sent anything back. I don’t reccomend this place to anyone who loves their child.” – Daniella (Google Reviews)
2018: (SURVIVOR) “I attended Uinta academy for two years, beginning in 2016 until mid 2018. Not a good treatment center!!!!!! Two staff, KIRSTEN WOODBURY and JESSICA (no longer working there, they left on their own accord) decided that instead of just using a regular restraint, they were going to flip me into a table in an attempt to break my leg (per say Jessica’s instruction TO Kirsten) so that I would no longer be able to fight with the staff. Shortly after, they refused to take me to the hospital despite my inability to walk, until my parents forced them to take me….. THREE DAYS LATER. Another incident involving staff currently employed (KORI RENAE CARTER AND KARALEE MURPHY) occurred when Karalee instructed Kori to walk in on me in the shower and refuse to leave until I walked out in front of my entire peer group with only a towel on and shampoo in my hair. The treatment team there is a hierarchy. Newer, or less “aggressive” therapist’s clients get left behind and ignored, while girls with the more prominent and higher titled therapists are given excuses and allowed to advance. I was put onto no contact and arms length (two punishment methods used there) and the treatment team decided that I could not be taken off of these corrective measures without the owners of the place (Jeff and Becky Simpson) giving the OK to take me off. Conveniently, they took a two month vacation and left me stranded like that for the entire time. The staff are generally just starting college. Many of the staff use drugs and are not effectively background checked. (this was told to me by a staff previously employed) Many staff deal with untreated mental illness as well, such as staff DARCIE WATA, who intentionally fed bleach to our horses and forced a friend of mine to eat cheese sauce like soup, and openly talked about her sex life with clients. The point system there is ridiculous, if a staff perceives something from you they may consequate you to the point of not being able to talk to any peers for two weeks, and continual manual labor. When giving tours to parents, we are even told not to tell parents about the point card as it may “confuse them.” Uinta refuses to pay for cleaning people, or maintenance needs. At one point in my stay, the house I lived at went four days with no water, meaning we could not clean our dishes effectively, our clothing, use the restroom or shower, without walking a quarter mile to the young adult home when the staff thought it would be convenient. We also went two weeks without air conditioning in June, temperatures in the house ranging in the 90’s and above 100 degrees. Many of my friends clothing was destroyed from being trapped in the washing machines they would not pay someone to come look at. The house was cleaned entirely by the residents and we spent an average 2 hours a day doing chores, 5 or more hours on the weekends. Uinta generally would refuse to pay for outings for us and would make us clean in the allotted outings time. They did not follow health code, when the health inspector came the night before we would have to reorganize the whole fridge and re wash all the dishes to pass. At one point, we had a family of mice living in our fridge for over two weeks. The food was underfunded, and there was generally not enough to go around. We were given a budget between $85 and $135 to pay for three meals and two snacks for 24 people. As for the therapists, JAN WIMMER was the only sane one there. Thank god for having her around, or I would not have made it quite as long. The academics there are not bad, I graduated early, but the curriculum is designed for girls with severe learning disorders. It is extremely easy to sneak drugs into their facility, and I have done it and seen it done at least 10 times in the past two years. Their home visit policy is not effective. The program takes forever to complete, and once restricted my communication with my parents COMPLETELY for 7 months straight.” – Shaindel (Google Reviews)
8/20/2017: (PARENT) “I sent my daughter here about a year ago and it was the worst decision I have ever made in my life. They mentally and verbally abused my child and refused her therapy and medication when she asked for it. She was there for one month and met with her therapist twice: once to welcome her and another to let her know her father and I were pulling her from the program. They never let the girls leave the house, not even for their recreational therapy time on fridays, which they tell you include activities outside of the house. They are very good at selling themselves to people, but they do not go through with more than half of the promises they give. From my daughters group, every one of them have graduated and there is not a single one that has stayed sober or clean. The stay is over extended and the treatment team does not look at you child individually. Please please please whatever you do, do not send your kid here!!!! This program is absolutely horrible!!!!!!!” – Valeria (Yelp)
7/26/2016: (SURVIVOR) “I’m going to be honest and open about this review, it might be lengthy, but I have a lot of feelings about this place. My mom spent about three days straight coming through the internet for anything she could find on Uinta, and I hope a prospective parent sees this. Uinta was… in a word, challenging. I might be a unique case. I went to Uinta for borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, and depression. Before Uinta, I had expressed feelings to my mom that I was in fact a transmale and begged her to just let me pass as male. Most of my outbursts of self-harm were following these events. Uinta’s therapists chalked that up to the borderline personality disorder and me needing attention. Since I have gotten back from Uinta, my mom finally did allow me to male pass and my current therapists agree I didn’t actually have those personality disorders, those actions were all a direct result of me not being allowed to be who I really am on the inside. Everyday at Uinta I got told I had to put on makeup to impress boys, it was constantly shoved into my face that I was a girl, and they made me think I was some monster who was doing all this just to hurt my mother. Uinta didn’t save my life. I’ve been out of there for eleven months since writing this and I still have nightmares. The suffocating feeling that drowned me while there still haunts me when I’m alone with my thoughts. At Uinta, I didn’t learn to change or be a better person. I learned to shut up, to suck-up to people, and how to be a better actor. At Uinta I developed severe panic disorder (I now frequently have panic attacks) and I also developed a worse form of PTSD than I had previously had. A lot of the other girls that I’ve spoken to since Uinta talk about the nightmares we still have, the bruises they’ve got from staff members, one girl was even talking to me about how a staff member called her a “dirty Jew” on more than one occasion. Not to be cheesey, but I can sort of some up Uinta in this one quote from a western movie (seems fitting because it’s out in Utah, don’t you agree?) which is, “If you’re gonna shoot, shoot to kill. These people have all been shot at before, bullet-holes don’t impress ’em.” Uinta certainly aimed to kill me, and certainly impressed me with how pernicious it was. I didn’t preserve because I wanted to find happiness or find myself, I preserved because I wanted to talk to my mom again, see my little brother who was born while I was there, and get back to what really makes me happy. I didn’t form friendships there, I formed alliances, everyday of my life for a year I felt like I was in a warzone. I got through it like someone who’s been shot before, someone who looks into the barrel of a gun fearlessly because they’ve conquered the pain that follows. I know Uinta was the worst thing to happen to me in my entire life. I hated it, and I truly believe Jeff and Becky are milking the parents for all they’ve got. But, now that it’s behind me I know nothing can rival the pain and trauma it’s caused me. Overall, I really REALLY advise listening to your child. Try moving, if you can, let them experience new things, see new people. Tell them you love them so very much. I am no expert, and I don’t know you, but I know you are in a very, very tough spot. I believe you and your child can get through this, but maybe Uinta isn’t the answer. For me, the answer was moving to an accepting place where I finally had friends and being able to know my mom loves me and will always support me. That might not be the answer for everyone. Just remember, even though I have never met you and most likely never will, I believe in you and I believe in your love for your child. You’ll get through this. I know you will. Godspeed and the best of luck.” – Maxwell (Yelp)
5/3/2015: (SURVIVOR) “I went to Uinta for a year and two months. It is a horrible program. They force you to do everything. If you don’t comply they will take things away from you. It’s very punishment based. The staff get two week training and most of them are straight out of college and aren’t capable of dealing with us. I came in there with minor substance abuse problems. When I left I started doing hard drugs. Then I went to a program called Red Oak Recovery and within a month I had found god, a sponser, and a will to live. I didn’t find that within a whole year and two months of being there. When parents would come to visit they would tell us to be on our “best” behavior. In a way we were masking how things really were so Uinta could deceive parents into thinking we were all doing well. The owners of this program are selfish people and they are not compassionate. Don’t make the mistake my parents made by sending me there. They have told me they regret sending me there and apologize to me way more than they should. Look at other programs.” – Naomi (Yelp)
9/11/2014: (SURVIVOR) “I was sent to Uinta back in early 2007. There are many many problems with this facility and the first being you are medicated for anything and everything. There is not a girl who isn’t medicated by her first appointment with the psychiatrist. Staff members are very unprofessional, you are criticized for everything and rarely receive genuine positive feedback. Your daughter has little to no contact with the outside world, friends or family members. The place is run by Mormons who are unaccepting of other religions and do not even let you speak the word “God” or you are punished. I was a vegetarian prior to my admittance to Uinta, but it wasn’t mentioned in the paperwork. For months I was forced to eat meat until it was verified that I was a vegetarian. My privacy was taken away from me. I was forced to leave the door open while I went to the bathroom. I had to have someone in the bathroom with me while I showered. I had to do ‘body checks’ where I had to remove almost all my clothing and show a staff member every inch of my body. I had an eating disorder which staff members said was just ‘attention seeking behavior’ and treated it as such instead of a young girl with body image issues. The only positive is that I kept up with my academics, although that was with little help from the two or three teachers that came in every other day. I was definitely not the easiest girl to go through this program, and probably will not be the last. But with the way I was treated and humiliated I would never want a young teenager girl to go through what I did. I went into this program as a young teenage girl with a few insecurity issues and academia problems. I left Uinta Academy completely broken with no sense of self and a whole new array of baggage. Uinta sounds like a great place on paper and looks like a beautiful place in photos but it is toxic, depressing, and caused more damage to me personally than it fixed. I am currently in my twenties, many years out of Uinta, and still struggle with issues I developed as a result of Uinta Academy. This place can cause irrevocable damage to your daughter. My advice is to read the article Savannah M. attached in her review below and think very hard before you send your daughter to Uinta. If you are desperate enough to send your daughter away and put her in the hands of strangers, please make sure you are choosing a safe and accepting environment for her.” – Elizabeth (Yelp)
Uinta Academy Website Homepage
HEAL Program Information – Uinta Academy
‘Shut Down Uinta Academy’ – Petition