Teen’s death prompts ‘safety concerns’; kids pulled from W. MI program

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — State authorities plan to remove dozens of young people from a residential facility in Kalamazoo following the death of a teenager who was being restrained by staff.

“MDHHS has 47 youth who are temporary state wards placed at Lakeside (Academy),” wrote Bob Wheaton of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

On April 29, a 16-year-old boy became unresponsive as employees at Lakeside Academy restrained him.

Emergency crews were able to revive him, but he died later at a hospital.

“There are safety concerns, and we are taking whatever action is necessary to protect youth the department has placed at this facility … We will re-place every youth as soon as there is a safe transfer plan that provides a placement that will meet each youth’s needs,” the state said.

Lakeside Academy, located on Oakland Drive north of West Kilgore Road in Kalamazoo, houses and educates young people with behavioral challenges, including youth in foster care and juvenile justice programs.

On Friday, Target 8 discovered state regulators have cited Lakeside for multiple violations in recent months and years, including a citation for improper restraint of a resident in late 2019.

As of Friday, Wheaton said there were a total of 125 young people residing at Lakeside, a private program, which also houses kids from other states.

Kalamazoo police confirmed some of the youths at Lakeside left the campus on their own following the teen’s death.

“KDPS is dealing with some issues occurring at the Lakeside Academy including some of the youth that have left the campus. We are working with staff and the DHHS to resolve ongoing issues,” wrote Captain Matt Huber of Kalamazoo Public Safety in an email exchange with News 8.

Wheaton of MDHHS said that as of Tuesday morning, there was one young person who remained “truant” from the facility — a 15-year-old who was in foster care due to abuse and neglect.

“There have been a number of youth who have been truant over the last several days, but the others have either returned or been accounted for,” wrote Wheaton in an email to News 8.

The Michigan Attorney General’s office is monitoring MDHHS’s investigation into the teen’s death.

“We are working closely with DHHS on this issue,” said Kelly Rossman-McKinney, spokeswoman for the Michigan Attorney General’s Office.

Kalamazoo County prosecutor Jeff Getting said he’s awaiting the results of the police investigation into the young man’s death.

“Local police agencies have responded to complaints allegedly involving persons placed at Lakeside Academy. Investigations into those incidents are ongoing. Once the investigations are completed the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney will consider if any charges are appropriate,” wrote Getting Tuesday morning.

Wheaton of MDHHS said some of the 47 state wards at Lakeside “may return home or be placed with relatives, if that’s safe. Others may be transferred to foster homes or to another child caring facility if that’s the most appropriate setting.”