Mother worries for son as child therapy center closes

WAVY/Walter Hildebrand

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A center that treated more than 100 children with mental health issues closed its doors Friday, ahead of the results of a financial fraud investigation.

Linda Colon’s mentally ill son is one of those children. She contacted 10 On Your Side about what she sees as the city’s failure to keep providing Pendleton’s vital services.

“He had been seeing psychiatrists and psychologists for several years,” Colon said of her son. “No one was able to make any progress with him until we brought him here.”

Since her son started participating in Pendleton’s outpatient program back in August, Colon said her 11-year-old son’s struggles with anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, ADD, ADHD, and autism have improved.

Pendleton became the target of a financial fraud investigation in January, and because of that, Dannette Smith, director of the city’s Human Services department, said she started an internal review of the center.

“Best practices have moved away from residential settings into more supportive, community-based services that are provided in the least restrictive settings,” Smith wrote in an email. “It was during out internal review that we recognized we could provide the same services in other program areas and in a less restrictive setting.”

Smith went on to point some of the blame for the center’s closing on the fraud investigation: “The internal review and the recent improprieties discovered by the Office of the City Auditor [are] what prompted the ultimate decision to close down Pendleton,” she wrote.

Colon disputes the notion that services Pendleton provided are no longer best practices.

“Spend a day with my son, spend a week with my son, and then tell me it’s not a necessary service,” she said. “I would have loved to be able to bring him here every day, but there was no room. And now I can’t.”

The city will continue to provide services for kids who went to Pendleton, according to Smith. For many, she said it’s only a matter of changing departments and locations.

That’s not a simple matter for Colon, who said her son isn’t responding well to a new therapist assigned to him during Pendleton’s closing.

“These kids are going to be on the news because of crimes they’ve committed,” she said. “They’re going to be blamed, their parents are going to be blamed, and it’s not their fault.”

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