Lawsuit Alleges Abuse At Teen Treatment Center

Parents Accuse Facility Of Fraud, Negligence

Four teenagers and their parents have filed suit against the Adolescent and Family Institute of Colorado, accusing the residential treatment center of abuse, negligence and fraud.

When her 16-year-old son had his first psychotic episode, a mother who did not want to be identified to protect her son’s identity said she turned to the Adolescent and Family Institute of Colorado in Wheat Ridge.

But a lawsuit alleges that instead of getting the professional treatment he needed, he was isolated, taken off his medications and given a sexual exam.

"We had no idea this was going on, and it's not right," said his mother.

The lawsuit claims her son was not the only one abused.

Three other parents had similar stories and accused the founder and president, Alexander Panio, Jr., of performing the duties of a physician, even though he has no medical degree.

"Mr. Panio is not a licensed mental health professional. He is not a psychologist. He is not a psychiatrist. However, he represented himself as such to our insurance company and to my husband and me," said the mother.

State records show Panio’s psychotherapy license lapsed in 1998 and the facility has faced a number of lawsuits in recent years.

7NEWS attempted to contact Panio and his attorney, but our calls were not returned.

Attempts to reach the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, the group that regulates the facility, were unsuccessful.

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