MDHHS speaks on changes following Lakeside Academy death

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — For the first time, News 8 is learning more about the state’s response and continued accountability after Cornelius Fredericks’ death at Lakeside Academy. 

News 8 spoke to JooYeun Chang, the senior deputy director for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Services Agency, Tuesday afternoon after Geoffrey Fieger released video of the April 29 restraint that led to a medical examiner ruling his death a homicide.

“It was horrifying to watch that happen to a child, especially under those circumstances and it’s the reason why we immediately took action to investigate what happened,” Chang said about also viewing the video. 

She said she watched it the day after multiple staff member wrongfully restrained the 16-year-old. Three of the 10 people ultimately fired have since been criminally charged. 

Last month, MDHHS moved to revoke Lakeside’s license. 

Online records show 26 violations associated with Lakeside since Aug. 2017. The violations stem from 17 investigative reports available online that resulted from complaints being investigated by the state. 

Each time a violation is found during an investigation, a corrective action plan is required.

Those plans are not available online, but Target 8 has a pending Freedom of Information Act request with MDHHS. 

Chang acknowledged the state needs to and is currently reviewing oversight on residential facilities for youth. Currently, there’s no specific threshold for violations triggering automatic action on the license.

“We’ve got to totally overhaul how we monitor and provide oversight over facilities. Right now, we have a very antiquated way of tracking those incidents,” Chang admitted. “What’s important is we look at the totality of what’s happening, how these institutions are being used and how we monitor and provide oversight and training.”

She added that in the year she’s been with the agency, she has focused on transforming the system.

You can watch the entire interview in the video below.

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