Bellwether Behavioral Health Is Controversial Group Home Operator AdvoServ — With a New Name

A for-profit company that runs group homes for the developmentally and intellectually disabled has changed its name from AdvoServ to Bellwether Behavioral Health, following ProPublica articles on three teenagers’ deaths and staff’s frequent use of physical holds and mechanical restraint devices.

In response to questions from ProPublica, the company said that the name was not the only facet of the company to change.

“Over the past year, a completely new leadership team, with a different management philosophy, initiated a series of transformational changes designed to fundamentally alter the trajectory of the company,” company executives said March 17 in an emailed statement from a spokesman, Brian Burgess. “The new name — Bellwether Behavioral Health — is just an outward reflection of the fundamental changes designed to deliver better outcomes for the individuals in our care.”

Burgess said that the company would not elaborate on the changes in the company’s operations or management philosophy. Reflecting the shift in leadership, all but one of the six top executives listed on its website were hired last year. A New York private equity firm, Wellspring Capital Management, owns the company.

It’s not clear when the company made the name change, which surfaced on its website earlier this year. No press release was circulated. The top hits for a simple Google search for Bellwether Behavioral Health are basic company information and job postings, and don’t include any media coverage about AdvoServ.

The company runs homes for disabled adults and youth with behavioral issues in Delaware, Florida, Virginia and New Jersey. In decades past, people with similar disabilities were often confined in state-run asylums. States eventually shuttered most of those institutions because of deplorable conditions, but some community-based providers like AdvoServ that filled the gap have quietly amassed their own track records of mistreatment. In September 2015, AdvoServ provided care for about 700…

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