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Controversial drug treatment center was cited for exploiting clients

By John Hollenhorst | Posted - Apr. 9, 2012 at 11:19 p.m.



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SANDY — New allegations have surfaced against The Ark of Little Cottonwood, an addiction treatment center in Sandy. State regulators put their license in jeopardy months ago, saying clients were exploited for personal gain and were embarrassed, humiliated and even frightened as part of their treatment.

The Ark's director, Gloria Boberg, and her supporters say the whole controversy is driven by angry ex-clients who are lying.

Earlier coverage focused on salaries, far above non-profit averages, for director Gloria Boberg and her two sons. Now, KSL has learned that the state formally notified the Ark in January of numerous violations in the way they treat clients. Boberg disputes it all.


A violation notice issued in January by the Department of Human Services specifically cites Boberg, in at least one instance, for "improper use of clients for manual labor for personal gain to Boberg Family, (moving family members' residences.)"

The Ark residential addiction treatment facility is on a four-acre estate in Sandy. Clients pay $13,000 to $15,000 each month, depending on insurance. They're often put to work maintaining the place.

"We were made to shovel the manure out of the stalls," said one former client who wished to remain anonymous. "Yeah, and shovel the snow. And do whatever yard work needed to be done, yeah."

Boberg defends the work as a legitimate part of therapy, helping clients learn responsibility. But an anonymous ex- client said he believes there was a selfish motive for Boberg's family.

"Free labor, you know. Get your stalls cleaned, they don't have to pay to have that done or do it themselves," said the client.

A violation notice issued in January by the Department of Human Services specifically cites Boberg, in at least one instance, for "improper use of clients for manual labor for personal gain to Boberg Family, (moving family members' residences.)"

Boberg said that was a one-time occurrence to help a widowed relative. She said clients volunteered to help and she's never made a dime off client labor. The document also says, "There are many ethical violations by staff at The Ark."

Related:

"Clients shamed, embarrassed and verbally abused due to actions of Gloria Boberg," the violation notice stated.

It also said that staff members used methods "designed to humiliate or frighten a consumer," according to information gathered by the state.

"I wouldn't be able to share that. But we do have evidence that that was the case," said Ken Stettler, Director of the Office of Licensing for the Utah Department of Human Services.

Although she never formally contested the violations, Boberg insists they are all false, stirred up by angry ex- clients. That view is shared by an ex-addict who volunteers at The Ark and loves the program. He told KSL, "There are clients who are upset because Gloria asked them to step up and get their stuff done," and they could not stick to the program.

The state documents list other violations though, including improper dispensing of medication and interference with client rights to interact with their families.

"It's not a life threatening type of thing," said Stettler. "But, yeah, they're serious in how people are treated."

State regulators placed The Ark's license on conditional status in January and ordered a number of reforms they must implement to keep their license, including ethics training for the entire staff. The deadline for compliance is next month.

Update: April 10, 2012

In an email to KSL, Tamaea Parko, the state licensing specialist who worked closest with the Ark, said that the program has been cooperative in dealing with the violation notice, and she expects the license to be renewed.

"The Ark of Little Cottonwood is indeed involved with a sanction on their license and that license is currently on a conditional status. In light of that sanction, I thought it appropriate that you be aware, and possibly report, that the Ark of Little Cottonwood HAS responded to their sanction and has been extremely proactive and compliant. Within a very short time of receiving the sanction, the program made the required policy and procedure changes, done required training and stayed in close contact with me," she said in the email.

"I believe that it is important that if the public is made aware of the program's shortcomings, that they also be made aware of the efforts made to rectify the situation. There is no doubt that this agency has made some poor choices and used poor judgment in some regards. It should also be noted that the Ark of Little Cottonwood has been extremely cooperative and compliant throughout this process."

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John Hollenhorst

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