News Clips— Changes due at Echo Glen?

AS THE STATE continues its probe into the recent suicide of a teenage inmate at Echo Glen Children’s Center, the parents of an earlier suicide victim are hoping that the new investigation will finally lead to changes at the juvenile facility near Snoqualmie.

“Geoff never once received any kind of professional counseling while at Echo Glen,” says Ric Vorhies of his son Geoffrey Alan Vorhies, who was barely 13 when he hanged himself in 1992.

Vorhies and his wife, Georgia, are offering to help the family of Angela Miller, a 17-year-old Okanogan County resident who committed suicide at Echo Glen. The Miller family is suing the state in an effort to obtain answers about their daughter’s March 1 death at the 200-unit facility.

The Vorhies family knows the territory: They won a legal settlement from the state in 1995.

Ric Vorhies says his son didn’t receive the help he needed. “The staff they entitle as counselors are merely baby-sitters, with no qualifications to provide counseling of any type,” says Vorhies. “The judge sent Geoff to Echo Glen because he believed he would receive intense psychological counseling there.” But that never happened, he says.

Instead, “He was in a cottage with a boy whose brother had committed suicide, and who frequently threatened suicide himself.” Says Vorhies. “On the night of his suicide, Geoff had an emotional outburst and was sent to his room, later to be found hanging by another resident who was sent to get him.”

There are parallels with the Miller case. Though she had long been suicidal, Miller was not on suicide watch. At least one former resident has told Seattle Weekly it would be “impossible” for Miller to have worked a braided necklace through a small ceiling vent to hang herself, as the state says.

“These kids have no life when they’re in there,” the former resident adds. “While there, I witnessed many a person threaten suicide and just get sent to their room, no suicide watch or counseling.”

Rick Anderson