Police to look into facility's suspected abuse of autistic boy

Details about the alleged abuse in Hämeenlinna were published in an investigative report by Yle on Monday.

Exterior of the Onnikoti Omenapuu (roughly Apple Tree Happy Home) facility. Image: Terhi Liimu / Yle

Police in Hämeenlinna are examining whether to open a preliminary investigation regarding allegations of years-long abuse of a young resident at a privately-run mental health facility, Onnikoti Omenapuu (roughly translated as Apple Tree Happy Home), in the city.

Detective Inspector Riku Vihtilä told Yle on Monday that a criminal report had not yet been filed, but that the Hämeenlinna police department was looking into the matter on its own initiative.

Local newspaper Hämeen Sanomat first reported (siirryt toiseen palveluun) about the development.

Yle's investigative report reviewed more than 60 cases of shortcomings at facilities across the country. One of the cases allegedly took place at the Hämeenlinna facility operated by private healthcare provider Mehiläinen, where a young male resident was continually restrained by being tied to a chair with duct tape. The boy, who has severe autism, was also tied to his bed at night, according to the report. The alleged abuse occurred over the course of several years.

Employees of the unit reported grievances to local authorities, bypassing Mehiläinen's senior management after repeated failures on their part to act.

The City of Hämeenlinna and the Regional State Administrative Agency of Southern Finland (Avi) are responsible for supervising the residential facility in question.

"Shocking"

Hämeenlinna's director of customer guidance and purchasing services, Leena Harjula, characterised the Yle investigative report as shocking.

"According to the story that was published, extremely unpleasant events have taken place in the unit. The city has not known about all of this," Harjula said.

Haruala added that regular monitoring visits are made to such facilities, including the one in question, saying that if any deficiencies are identified that they are addressed and remedied. She further said that Avi had been informed about incidents at the facility, but not any regarding the alleged abuse.

The city has a unit for monitoring purchase service agreements. Harjula said that the aim is to carry out such monitoring visits once a year to examine the unit's overall situation. Other inspections may also be made in cases of suspected violations or misconduct.

Several such visits were made at the facility in question, she added.

"Of course, in retrospect, it may be that even more monitoring visits should have been carried out. But I understand that there have been a lot of visits, so it is difficult to say what could have been done differently," Harjula said.