The Montreal Impact’s inability to hold individual workouts at their training facility has proved to be costly.
The MLS club reported Wednesday that midfielder Steeven Saba will be sidelined eight to 12 weeks after breaking his left foot “on a routine jog” near his home in Montreal.
The Impact are one of six MLS clubs still waiting for the green light from local health authorities to start the individual voluntary sessions outdoor at their training facility. Toronto and Montreal have already started such workouts.
Saba, a 27-year-old Haitian international, joined Montreal after attending the 2020 training camp as a trialist. He did not see any regular-season action.
MLS suspended play March 12, two weeks into the season, due to the pandemic.
The Vancouver Whitecaps got back to training Tuesday, albeit via voluntary individual workouts at the club’s practice facility.
Still it was a welcome return for 16 players, who each had a quarter of a field to work in during their hour-long outdoor sessions. Another nine are slated to go Wednesday at the team’s training centre at the University of British Columbia.
The players had been on their own since March 12 when MLS suspended play two weeks into the 2020 season due to the global pandemic.
“”It was special… especially on the mental side,” said Whitecaps head coach Marc Dos Santos. “Just to have the players being together and slowly seeing each other, even if it’s on another side of the field.”
“I think it’s a very important step,” he added. “It’s Step 1, cleats going on the grass, touching the ball, seeing their teammates around, seeing coaches back around. It’s a beginning.”
Toronto FC started individual workouts Monday. The Montreal Impact are looking to join them after having their initial request rejected by Montreal Public Health.
While players take baby steps, the league is examining its options for resuming play. One scenario reportedly would see all 26 teams travel to the Orlando area this summer to train and play matches without fans at the sprawling ESPN Wide World of Sports property.
TFC has trained and played pre-season matches at the complex in the past.
UFC president Dana White, who held his first fight card in two months on the weekend in Jacksonville, praised Florida and Gov. Ron DeSantis in his post-fight news conference Saturday, saying he would urge any league to choose the state as a starting point.
Much has to be done to facilitate such a plan, including opening borders and easing travel restrictions.
“MLS is looking at a lot of different options,” said Vancouver sporting director Axel Schuster, who says only 13 of the league’s 26 clubs have got to Stage 1 so far.
“Everything is still in the air,” said Dos Santos.
WATCH | Toronto teams begin to reopen facilities:
Toronto FC and the Raptors are allowing players to have voluntary individual workouts at their facilities but there’s no definite timetable for the return of MLS or NBA action. 2:17
If the plan is to eventually move the league to one location for a block of games, the coach said he would look at it like going to a World Cup — a month of training in advance of four to six weeks of competition.
“For sure, it has its challenges,” he said.
MLS teams have had to get their individual workout protocol approved by local authorities and the league.
“This is new not only for the Whitecaps or MLS, it’s new in the world,” said Dos Santos.
Schuster stressed that the team’s move to individual workouts should not be seen by the general public as a sign to ease up on physical distancing or ignore other COVID-19 guidelines.
The Whitecaps’ workout protocol prohibits access to other club facilities. Gyms and training rooms may still only be accessed by players receiving post-operative and rehabilitation treatment, as directed by the club’s chief medical officer.
Screening before workout
Players have to complete a screening assessment survey prior to arrival at the training site and undergo temperature checks upon arrival.
They have to wear personal protective equipment from the parking lot to the field, and on the way back to their cars. Staff have to be at least 10 feet from players at all times.
The workouts will have to wait for Whitecaps forward Yordy Reyna and defender Jasser Khmiri, who were fined last week for breaking physical distancing protocols.
Reyna, a Peruvian international, and Khmiri, a Tunisia international, were seen taking part briefly in a pickup soccer game in a Vancouver park while doing a personal workout.
Both have entered 14-day self-quarantine.
The club had previously allowed 18-year-old Gianfranco Facchineri and 20-year-old Thomas Hasal to be with their families in Ontario and Saskatchewan, respectively.
Dos Santos said he had been working on his cooking skills during the pandemic but ceded the kitchen back to his wife upon her return from Montreal.
Lack of soccer aside, he said he has enjoyed time with his family who were not with him during coaching stints in Kansas City, San Francisco or Los Angeles.
Toronto FC says it will begin voluntary individual player workouts outdoors at its north Toronto training facility starting Monday.
That mirrors the Toronto Raptors, who are opening up the OVO Athletic Centre for similar workouts as of Monday.
The news comes in the wake of Friday’s announcement by the Ontario government easing restrictions on pro sports teams. Players are allowed limited access to their training facilities providing they follow their league’s “established health and safety protocols” in response to COVID-19.
MLS and NBA have established strict guidelines for these workouts.
While the NBA now allows four players at a time in practice facilities, the Raptors will only have one player at a time in the building. Players will have to wear masks at all times except when on court. Staff members will wear gloves and masks at all times when in the building.
As for MLS, the field can be divided into a maximum of four quadrants per field. Only one player per quadrant is allowed, with no equipment sharing or playing (passing, shooting) between players.
TFC players and staff will have to arrive and leave at staggered times, with designated parking spaces to maintain maximum distance between vehicles.
Players will have to wear personal protective equipment from the parking lot to the training field and back. Staff will also have to wear “appropriate personal protective equipment” during training while maintaining a minimum distance of 10 feet (3.1 metres) from players at all times.
Head coach Greg Vanney says he and his coaching staff won’t be directly involved in the workouts, whose details will likely be texted to players the night before. Trainers will oversee the sessions and ensure the rules are followed.
The individual player workout protocol does not allow access to all club facilities, with locker-rooms and certain other areas still off-limits. Team gyms and training rooms may still only be accessed by players receiving post-operative and rehabilitation treatment, as directed by the club’s chief medical officer.
The MLS guidelines call for restricting access to essential staff only, as well as sanitization and disinfection plans (including balls, cones, goals).
“By utilizing the training ground for individual workouts, TFC will be able to provide a controlled environment that ensures adherence to safety protocols and social distancing measures for players and staff,” the club said in a statement Sunday.
ICYMI | TFC becomes first Canadian club to hoist MLS Cup:
After losing last year’s MLS Cup final to Seattle 5-4 in penalties, Toronto avenged their defeat with a 2-0 victory over Seattle in the championship rematch 1:56
The NBA suspended its season on March 11 after Utah Jazz all-star centre Rudy Gobert tested positive for the novel coronavirus. It ordered teams to close their facilities eight days later.
MLS suspended play on March 12 and put a halt to team training sessions.
Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries, sad Friday she is working with Major League Baseball’s Blue Jays, the NHL’s Maple Leafs and Senators and the CFL’s Argonauts, Tiger-Cats and Redblacks as well as others “on what a safe return would look like for them.”
The NHL has yet to allow training to resume.
The NHL has said that it is working towards having players returning to small group activities at club training facilities. In the meantime, a ban on NHL players using training facilities other than rehab remains in place.
Judy Trask can barely sleep at night — curled up in a tent hidden in the bushes of a Victoria, B.C., park, worried that rats will attack, or worse, that she’ll be raped.
The 65-year-old ended up homeless, she says, after she was given two hours to pack what she could carry and get out of an apartment operated by a government-run mental health program.
In March, according to Trask, staff sent her onto the street to fend for herself, handing her only a “street survival guide” to get by: a brochure that lists the locations of soup kitchens, 24-hour washrooms and homeless shelters.
According to the eviction letter, Trask was kicked out of the mental health treatment facility after staff decided the program wasn’t working for her, saying the senior was verbally aggressive and threatening toward staff.
“I mean my God, they think you’re just human cattle,” said Trask, who says she suffers from suicidal depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and a severe anxiety disorder.
Trask had been in the live-in treatment program for a year. She was sent there from another facility in the Comox Valley, more than 200 kilometres northwest of Victoria, after that program underwent cutbacks, she said.
The senior has no ID — it was stolen —and no family that can help. She often doesn’t take the mood-stabilizing medications she needs.
She’s been sleeping in homeless shelters and tents hidden in Victoria public parks since being evicted from the live-in treatment program last spring.
She said involuntary discharges are rare but that there is no database tracking exact numbers.
Bloxham wouldn’t comment on Trask’s case, citing confidentiality rules, but said Island Health ensures those who are discharged and willing to participate in treatment programs continue to have access to mental health and substance-use services.
Trask says she was willing to participate, even begged to stay.
Trask is part of a broken system lacking housing and treatment facilities that can result in people with mental illness being put out onto the street, where their condition deteriorates, according to Jino Distasio, a researcher who has studied how to house people with mental health challenges.
“Dumping people onto the streets or into the shelter networks [is] everything we’ve been trying to undo over the last decade,” he said.
That adds pressure on overburdened emergency services across the country.
Rats ‘running all over her body’
Trask found an advocate in Carolina Tudela — a volunteer for a homeless drop-in centre — after she called in, asking for help dealing with rats that had entered her tent.
“It was overrun for sure. They were running all over her body when I found her,” said Tudela.
Tudela picked Trask up and drove her around that June night, offering to pay for a hotel, but she couldn’t get her a room because Trask had no identification.
Trask ended up going back to her tent that night.
“What outrages me is the indifference and callousness,” Tudela told Go Public. “That somebody can just be kicked out of a program like that … with nowhere to go. Just ‘Good luck.'”
In September, police confiscated Trask’s tent after finding it in a public park, leaving her to sleep on mats on the floors of homeless shelters or outdoors on church steps.
She says she was surrounded by violence. Now, she’s back at a park in another tent belonging to another homeless person, hoping this one is hidden far enough from public view that it won’t be confiscated.
Tudela wrote to the provincial health authority and the B.C. government in August, asking them to help Trask.
She says no one responded.
Housing key to improving mental health: study
Although the eviction letter said Trask had been verbally aggressive and threatening, her advocate says Trask is “a very frail woman.”
“She’s all about 110 pounds,” Tudela said. “She lives in constant fear she’ll be kicked out of the tent she’s got or that she’s going to be raped at night. She lives in constant fear of harm.”
“There’s just no way in a country like Canada that we should have this many people on any given night struggling with shelter,” said Distasio, director of the Institute of Urban Studies at the University of Winnipeg.
He says the reasons given for Trask’s eviction are common challenges when treating people with certain mental health issues.
He worked on one of the largest mental health services trials ever conducted in Canada, called At Home/Chez Soi (AHCS), and says leaving patients with no place to live and no access to treatment goes against the study’s findings.
The AHCS study he co-authored followed more than 2,000 participants for two years with test sites in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and Moncton, N.B.
It found that the most important requirement for improving the lives of people with mental health issues is stable housing.
The study, published Oct. 7, is considered the longest-running of its kind using the Housing First model, which is believed to significantly reduce homelessness over the long term.
WATCH | Judy Trask shows housing advocate Carolina Tudela her tent in a Victoria park:
This is Judy’s second tent since her March eviction; the first was taken away by police 0:16
Without stable housing, Distasio says, patients’ mental health deteriorates, putting more pressure on the emergency services everyone uses and pays for.
“Overuse of ERs, emergency services, police, fire, ambulance. It’s a cascade of services and supports to address these individuals,” Distasio told Go Public.
“For years, many people in B.C. have been struggling to navigate a fragmented and unco-ordinated mental health and addictions system of care,” Darcy said in an email to Go Public. “Our government is working to change this.”
Darcy says the B.C. government plans to build 2,200 affordable housing units and expand access to mental health and addictions programs. Advocates say other provinces need to follow suit.
As for Trask, she remains homeless. Tudela regularly checks on her friend and says she’s worried about what might happen to her living on the street.
“You know the program is not working when you throw people out on the street. I mean, this is a senior citizen. Judy has mental health problems,” says Tudela. “The system is broken … I don’t understand the coldness of it all.”
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Regulators wanted to remove developmentally disabled patients from a Phoenix long-term care facility years before a woman in a vegetative state gave birth, Arizona's largest newspaper reported Sunday.
The Arizona Republic reported Hacienda HealthCare faced a 2016 criminal investigation for allegedly billing the state more than $ 4 million US for bogus 2014 charges for wages, transportation, housekeeping, maintenance and supplies.
The criminal case was dropped in 2017 and no charges were filed, the Republic said, but a court battle is continuing in an effort to force Hacienda to hand over financial records.
Hacienda HealthCare was back in the news last month, after Phoenix police said a 29-year-old woman incapacitated since age three was sexually assaulted and gave birth.
Investigators are collecting DNA from Hacienda's male employees and others who may have had contact with the woman in an effort to identify a suspect.
The woman's family has said in a statement through their attorney that they will care for the infant boy and have asked for privacy.
The revelation that a woman in a vegetative state was raped inside a care facility has horrified advocates for people with disabilities and the community at large.
Hacienda HealthCare's CEO William Timmons resigned on Dec. 31 as the provider announced new safety measures, including more than one staff member being present during patient interactions and more scrutiny of visitors.
Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, said his office is considering bringing in a third party to assume responsibility for the ongoing management of Hacienda.
Investigators claim they were fired over probe
The nonprofit facility gets more than $ 20 million US annually in taxpayer funds for taking care of extremely ill people, many of whom are incapacitated and on ventilators, the Republic reported.
Hacienda's annual average cost of care was $ 386,000 per client in 2012 compared with $ 134,000 per client in similar U.S. facilities, Arizona Department of Economic Security auditors said.
The Republic said former economic security director Timothy Jeffries and the agency's chief law enforcement officer, Charles Loftus, have both filed lawsuits against the state, claiming they were forced out of their jobs over their probe of Hacienda.
Jeffries was forced to resign in 2016 after a series of controversies, including a finding by the Arizona Department of Public Safety that the department had shoddy record-keeping, had insecure storage of guns and ammunition and that it had violated state procurement policies in buying some 60,000 rounds of ammunition.
Jeffries filed suit against the state in 2017 over what he claims is libel in a police report that detailed a stash of weapons and ammunition kept in the agency offices. He claims statements in the DPS audit were false and that there were malicious motives involved in the report.
The Republic quoted Jeffries as saying Timmons was obstinate during the investigation of Hacienda and bragged of tight ties to Ducey.
Ducey spokesperson Elizabeth Berry said the governor was horrified by accounts of the rape and denied that the state failed to act on concerns raised by the economic security department.
She also said Hacienda played no part in the forced resignations of Jeffries and Loftus after their two-year tenure.
A state review into the treatment of immigrant teens at a Virginia detention centre has confirmed the facility uses restraint techniques that can include strapping children to chairs and placing mesh bags over their heads, but concluded these actions don't amount to abuse or neglect.
Investigators looked at the treatment of detainees at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center, based on the state's legal threshold of abuse or neglect. A copy of the findings was issued Monday by the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice and obtained by The Associated Press.
But a top state regulator conceded in an interview that investigators did not attempt to determine whether serious allegations of past abuse at the locally run facility are true.
Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam ordered the review in June, hours after the AP published first-person accounts by children as young as 14 who said they were handcuffed, shackled and beaten at the facility. They also described being stripped of their clothes and locked in solitary confinement, sometimes strapped to chairs with bags over their heads.
The incidents are described in sworn statements from six Latino teens included in a class-action lawsuit filed in November and are alleged to have occurred from 2015 to 2018, under both the Obama and Trump administrations. The teens who made those initial complaints were subsequently transferred by federal authorities to other facilities or deported to their home countries.
Angela C. Valentine, chief deputy director of the state juvenile justice agency, said Monday that investigators interviewed only the 22 who were being held at the facility in late June, following the AP report. She said the investigators were not permitted to review the case files or medical records of past detainees who alleged abuse.
"The only youth the Department of Juvenile Justice interviewed at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center in response to Gov. Northam's direction to conduct an inquiry were the juveniles currently at the facility," Valentine said. "[We] did not interview or inspect any records of any … youth making the allegations in the federal lawsuit."
The legal advocacy group representing the Latino teens suing the facility called the state's review "deeply flawed" and said the investigators never contacted them or asked to speak to their clients.
Virginia investigators say they've found no evidence of abuse at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center in Staunton after immigrant teens described being strapped to chairs with their heads covered with bags. (Zachary Wajsgras/Associated Press)
"The children in this facility are denied necessary mental health care and subjected to abusive conditions," said Jonathan Smith, executive director of the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. "We look forward to proving our case in court."
Though incarcerated in a facility similar to a prison, the children detained on administrative immigration charges have not been convicted of any crime. The U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement oversees the care of immigrant children held in federal custody.
The regulators did make several recommendations to improve current conditions inside the facility, including hiring more bilingual staff, expanding "culturally relevant programming" and improving screening to provide care for detainees who suffer from mental health issues. The state also said administrators should consider new furniture and fresh paint to make the jail-like facility "more developmentally appropriate."
Northam issued a statement applauding his administration's "quick and comprehensive examination."
"I take these allegations very seriously, and directed members of my administration to immediately look into these claims of abuse and mistreatment. The safety of every child being held there is of the utmost importance."
The Shenandoah lockup is one of three juvenile detention facilities in the United States with federal contracts to provide "secure placement" for immigrant children who had problems at less-restrictive housing.
On average, 92 immigrant children annually cycle through the facility nestled in the mountains outside Staunton, most of them from Mexico and Central America. The local government commission that runs the centre received $ 4.2 million US in federal funds last year to house children ages 12 to 17 who face deportation proceedings or are awaiting rulings on asylum claims.
Of the 22 federal detainees at Shenandoah in June, three told investigators they had experienced abusive behaviour by staff. According to the state report, local child protective services investigators reviewed those complaints and determined they "did not meet the legal definition of abuse or neglect."
The state investigators were only allowed to interview the federal detainees while a member of the facility's staff was in the room. They also reviewed case files, medical records and other documents related to the current detainees, but were barred from making copies or keeping handwritten notes.
Shenandoah deputy director Timothy Showalter issued a statement Monday that promoted the state's findings as an exoneration.
"The report confirms our longstanding dedication to being a well-run facility that treats our residents with respect and dignity," the statement said.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which includes the federal refugee resettlement responsible for housing detained immigrant children, said the agency treats any allegation of abuse "with the utmost seriousness."
"The Office of Refugee Resettlement has strong policies in place to combat incidents of abuse at every shelter under its purview," said Caitlin Oakley, the HHS spokesperson. "Any assertion to the contrary is misguided and inaccurate."
A separate class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of immigrant children housed at a non-profit facility in Texas alleged the residents were routinely administered psychotropic drugs without their parents' consent, keeping them in a sedated "chemical straitjacket." Last month, a federal judge found staff at the Shiloh Treatment Center outside Houston had violated federal law by drugging the children.
Jose, a migrant father from Guatemala, waits to be reunited with his 16-year-old daughter in El Paso, Texas, on June 26. (Matt York/Associated Press)
While the Virginia investigators said they found no evidence of the beatings and other severe abuse described in the 2017 lawsuit, their report does confirm that staff are trained in the use of restraint chairs and "mesh spit guards" for "out-of-control residents who cannot be safely restrained by less intrusive methods."
Such restraint devices are legal in juvenile detention facilities in Virginia, though regulations say they can never be used as punishment, and are only appropriate "to ensure the safety and security of residents, staff and the facility."
In two of the instances reviewed by investigators, the report says staff members were disciplined for using restraint techniques that didn't follow state guidelines. However, those incidents, which were not detailed in the report, did not involve restraint chairs.
While some teens cited in the lawsuit reported being left in the restraint chair overnight or isolated in their cells for days at a time, the investigators said the documents they reviewed showed no record of that. According to the facility's records, there was only one documented example of a child kept locked in isolation for 23 consecutive hours.
As part of their findings, the state investigators recommended that facility staff receive additional instruction in techniques for de-escalating conflicts and retraining in how to safely strap down unruly teens.