Miami-Dade County

Parents sue over son’s hanging a day into his stay at center

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Miami-Dade circuit court, seeks damages in excess of $15,000 against Concept Health Systems, which runs Concept House at 162 NE 49th St. in Miami.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Miami-Dade circuit court, seeks damages in excess of $15,000 against Concept Health Systems, which runs Concept House at 162 NE 49th St. in Miami. Google Maps

The father of a 15-year-old boy dropped off their son at a Miami-Dade mental health facility, thinking he would get the help he needed to deal with his emotional demons.

The demons won out.

Less than one full day after checking in, the boy was found hanging by a strap from a ceiling pipe. He died the day after that.

Wednesday, the teen’s parents sued the operator of the center, which had admitted their child under suicide watch, according to the lawsuit.

Ira Leesfield, who is representing the parents of the teen, identified by his initials L.V., said Wednesday that someone at the facility “dropped the ball” by not keeping track of the boy.

“When you entrust someone to take care of your child, you expect that that is going to happen,” Leesfield said. “He was there one day.”

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Miami-Dade circuit court, seeks damages in excess of $15,000 against Concept Health Systems, which runs Concept House at 162 NE 49th St. in Miami.

The teen was dropped off for a five-month program by his father on Feb. 7 for treatment of substance abuse and mental illness, according to the lawsuit. On Feb. 8., he was found hanging.

Several calls to Concept House and to CEO Ed McGowan’s cellphone were not returned.

Concept House is licensed by the Department of Children & Families and has been operating for more than 30 years in Miami-Dade County, according to the facility’s website. It offers substance abuse and mental health services for adults and teens.

Leesfield said the teen’s parents, identified in the lawsuit as J.G.V. and J.L.V., took the boy, who lived in Monroe County, to Concept House after a recommendation from DCF.

“At 14, [L.V.] hit an emotional wall,” said Leesfield, adding the teen was depressed. “He had a lot of problems and just needed help.”

The boy had tried to kill himself several times before.

“They were aware of his history,” Leesfield said of the facility. “He should’ve never been left alone.”

On DCF’s new website that details child deaths, the incident is listed.

“15-year-old was pronounced dead two days after he was found hanging in his room at a substance abuse treatment facility. At the time of the incident, there was an open investigation involving the teen, who started a fire when his father refused to allow him to return to the mother’s home.”

A DCF spokeswoman said the department is investigating the death. It was not known Wednesday night whether Concept House had any similar problems before.

Leesfield said in the lawsuit that the facility “was negligent and breached its duties of care,” by “failing to adequately monitor L.V.,” among other concerns.

“This was a needless tragedy to our son and an incomprehensible loss to our family,” L.V.’s parents said in an e-mail. “A total lack of responsibility leaves us with heavy hearts.”

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