Arthur Brisbane Child Treatment Center
Though initially proposed to be a home for veterans recovering from illness, the state requested that the property become a psychiatric center for children. By 1947, the property officially opened as a state-run facility for the treatment and observation of children with mental illness. Initially, the hospital served children ages 5 to 12. This changed in the late 1980's when Trenton closed their adolescent unit and Brisbane increased their scope of care to 11 to 17 years old. At this time, Brisbane was housing severely mentally ill children as well as children who needed mental health services that were previously served in juvenile detention centers. The hospital's CEO at the time expressed concern about housing violent convicted criminal offenders with mentally handicapped patients but decided to do so anyway. In 1996, Brisbane opened the Phoebe's Place which operated as a one-year residential program for adolescent girls. This was a voluntary program for girls who have likely been rejected by all other state institutions.
After many strides through the 1980's, Brisbane soon became associated with a bad reputation. The original home (meant to be Arthur Brisbane's private residence) and Cottages A and B were meant to all house a total of 40 residents. In the very late 1980's the population was 80. The makeup of the buildings was awkward, especially that of the transformed private residence. This left patients unsupervised for the majority of their time. In 1998, the death of 17-year-old Kelly Young would change the fate of the hospital forever.
On Sunday, January 4th, 1998, 17-year-old Kelly Young was visibly upset after a phone call to her family. At this time there were four staff members assigned to accompany Kelly. These workers were Youth Worker Williams, Youth Worker Stoll, Head Nurse Simpson and a Human Services Assistant. While Kelly was on the phone, the head nurse had left the room to get her medication and Youth Worker Stroll had left for dinner. Youth Worker Williams and the Human Services Assistant were alone with Kelly. Kelly had requested permission to make another phone call to her family and was denied by Williams due to her being upset by the first call. Kelly became physically upset and began to kick a chair and nearby door. Williams responded not by attempting to calm her down, but immediately forcibly attempted to sit her down in a chair. A struggle ensued knocking Kelly to the floor and Williams putting her in a basket hold. Williams then dragged her approximately 12 feet to her chair. Kelly managed to break free and fall back to the floor. Stroll had returned from dinner at this point and helped Williams in restraining Kelly once again. Stroll held her legs down until Williams restrained her and held her face down on the ground until he felt her stop struggling. Stroll had already left to assist other patients as Williams held Kelly for several more minutes before noticing she was motionless. Once he realized she was unresponsive, he left without assessing her condition. When Nurse Simpson returned to the unit, she discovered Kelly was turning purple and had no pulse. She was placed on life support and pronounced dead the following day upon the removal of life support.
The State of New Jersey launched an investigation against Nelson Williams. They found Williams had failed to follow Brisbane's procedures resulting in the death of Kelly Young. He was never formally charged, only terminated from employment. This investigation leads to multiple findings of lack of responsiveness by staff, lack of action on abuse complaints, and various other issues with staff interaction with patients. Although Brisbane attempted to rectify these problems after them coming to light, the facility closed its doors for good in 2005.
It was a particularly hot and humid afternoon for being only mid-May. After a relatively uneventful morning spent having brunch with our families, my day took a rather unexpected turn. "It's right on the way home, see?", but he didn't even have to bother with the semantics as I knew the drill. Even early on I had begun to realize there was no point in arguing, and that it was easier to just go along with things for the sake of my sanity. I had begun to feel more like a frustrated single mother to an unruly child more than anything else.
So here we were, dressed in our Sunday's best, quite literally, trudging through the swamps of Allaire State Forest. Every few feet I'd have to call ahead for him to slow down as my flats had been suctioned off by the mud yet again. A handful of mosquito bites and sticker-bush injuries later, we've finally managed to navigate our way to the backside of Arthur Brisbane's former estate. While not a particularly impressive mansion, at least to me, it still piques my interest. We circle around it a few times to check things out, before wiggling in a window that was left slightly ajar.
One thing I was not really expecting of this place was the power to still be on. From the shape of the outside of the buildings, I had assumed this property was long forgotten. However, upon entering, I actually found myself a little bit concerned about tripping some sort of alarm. This nervousness was short-lived, as I decided after walking all that way through the woods, I wasn't leaving without checking this building out. We spent a grand total of many 15 or 20 minutes inside, and I had only come prepared with my iPhone to snap a few photos. Realizing the place was otherwise empty, I quickly lost interest and began pressing that we start heading back to the car before it gets too late.
The only thing that took longer than the walk to and from Arthur Brisbane was trying to get all of the stains out of our dress-clothes. Or perhaps realizing that I didn't have to subject myself to babysitting a man-child for the rest of my life.
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