State Investigates Teen Treatment Center

Five Families File Suits Against Wheat Ridge Center

The state Department of Regulatory Agencies, or DORA, is now investigating a teen adolescent center in Wheat Ridge accused of sexual and physical abuse.

Nichole Hall, 25, knows this Adolescent and Family Institute of Colorado well.

"I had a drug problem," said Hall. "A really nasty one."

Hall spent one month at AFIC when she was 17.

"As far as I'm concerned it was $80,000 down the drain for absolutely nothing," she said.

The institute is now at the center of a lawsuit brought against by attorney Jay Reinan and the five families he now represents.

Reinan said the allegations against the center border on egregious. He said the center tries to drive a wedge between parents and teens.

"AFIC staff had told the son (of one of my clients) to stay away from his mother because his mother wanted to have sex with him. Which is just ludicrous."

Reinan said the center also conducted sexual examinations of teens without their parents consent.

We tried to contact the institute Monday. A woman who answered the door said in order to protect the confidentiality of the patients, they were just not at liberty to say anything right now.

The lawsuits accuse the founder and president, Alexander Panio, Jr., of performing the duties of a physician, even though he has no medical degree.

"He's not a physician, he's not a psychiatrist, he's not a psychologist, but he insists on being called doctor," said Reinan.

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

"I am so surprised about the whole doctor thing. I had no idea he really doesn't have a Ph.D. or anything," said Hall.

"He uses f-bombs, he uses the c word, he calls people all kinds of just foul names, and blames the parents for their children's psychiatric disorders many of which are biologic," said Reinan.

Reinan claims if the state had intervened earlier, much of this wouldn't have happened.

"I understand they're investigating now, but it almost took an act of congress," he said.

Hall has now kicked her drug problem, seven years clean and sober.

"I did it on my own," she said. "Don't go to AFIC. Don't waste your money because they're not going to help you."

DORA said it is statutorily prohibited from discussing the complaints at this point.

Print this article Back to Top