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By BOB WHITE
RADCLIFF — An employee of a Radcliff mental health center accused of sexually abusing seven young female patients there may have fled to Canada to evade an arrest warrant issued late last week.
Two months have passed since young female patients at Lincoln Trail Behavioral Health’s Willows program came forth with allegations of sexual abuse by a staff member there.
The patients, receiving inpatient treatment at the innovative Willows program after being subjected to sexual contact, assaults and other sex-related issues, told Radcliff police after Mother’s Day that the staff member touched them inappropriately during searches and during one-on-one talks.
After an investigation by Radcliff’s Crimes Against Women and Children Unit, Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services, and a separate investigation by the Hardin County Attorney’s office, a warrant for the arrest of JoAnn Brackett was issued late last week.
Radcliff Detective Jody Ennis said she waited to file charges against Brackett until prosecutors agreed that a case could be made.
Neither the Cabinet for Health and Family Services nor the Hardin County Attorney’s Office has made any comment on the investigation.
Radcliff police would not release a copy of the warrant Monday. No other police agency, jail or court clerk’s office has a copy of the warrant.
“We are actively seeking her, but we have information that leads us to believe she may have gone to Canada,” Radcliff police spokesman Bryce Shumate said.
With two months passed from the time of the initial allegations, family members of one alleged victim say the system failed.
“They were real late getting on this,” said Mark Christie, the father of one girl who was in the Willows program.
Christie said his wife is equally upset.
“It took them two months to file anything. The system has really let us down,” Christie said. “I’ve seen teachers here, later found not guilty, jailed the day after allegations are made. We’re talking about six girls, along with my daughter, making claims of sexual abuse.”
The third-degree sexual abuse charge filed against Brackett is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by less than 12 months in jail. A person is guilty of third-degree sexual abuse when a victim younger than 16, but older than 12, is subjected to sexual contact by an adult less than five years older, according to Kentucky law.
It is unclear if Radcliff police will attempt to extradite Brackett, but extradition seldom occurs on misdemeanor charges.
This is not the first time a charge of sexual abuse in the Willows program has been brought by investigators. In 2004, a mental health tech was convicted of sexual abuse of a patient there and subsequently fired. Brackett is currently on leave.
Lincoln Trail Behavioral Health Systems CEO Chuck Webb only would say that every precaution is taken to ensure the safety of all patients at Willows and the entire hospital.
An open records request regarding other complaints and incidents at Lincoln Trail Behavioral Hospital and the Willows program is pending. It was filed with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services by The News-Enterprise.
Bob White can be reached at (270) 505-1750.