LifeLine for Youth, LifeLine Behavioral Health, and Life-Line, Inc. which operate out of Utah, have misled the public about what they are. LifeLine tells parents that they are a therapeutic and safe treatment program, that they can fix virtually any behavioral problem an adolescent may have.
When I attended Life-Line, Inc from 1999-2000 they deprived me of even basic human rights. The right to communicate, with the outside world, or other people in the program. They deprived me of the right to move under my own volition, to use the restroom, or even what I was allowed to look at. I was not allowed to listen to the radio, watch television, or even read. I was once disciplined for reading a cereal box. I was given multiple strip searches a day. Later I had to perform the strip searches on others.
They controlled me completely. They gaslighted, accused, yelled, threatened, degraded, and humiliated me over and over again. Forced me to treat other people that way as a condition of progressing in the program. I was told constantly that without them I would be “Dead, Insane, or in Jail.” I was in a state of constant sleep deprivation. Most of the children in there with me were heavily medicated. I observed children being forced to exercise until they passed out. I witnessed children being put in an isolation room for solitary confinement. I witnessed children try to kill themselves in an effort to escape the abuse.
These practices are known as forced behavior modification. People have also described it as torture and abuse. According to a congressional report this is the same methods and practices that North Korea used on American POWs, and is what is used in so called re-education camps.
LifeLine was based upon the shuttered and discredited program founded by Virgil Miller Newton, KIDS Centers of America. LifeLine was in fact founded as KIDS of Salt Lake City    (Direct links to BES entities no longer work, but you can also visit Utah BES and search for the business name LIFE-LINE, INC or BES number 945126-0140). You can see their filing paperwork here. At the time they openly bragged about their ties to KIDS.
KIDS suffered so many lawsuits and abuse allegations, including a 4.5 Million dollar judgement against it, that it eventually shutdown. KIDS itself was a copy of the notoriously abusive Straight Inc, where Miller Newton worked before founding KIDS. KIDS used a near exact copy of the program that Straight Inc used. Straight was also shutdown due to many abuse allegations, investigations, and lawsuits.
In 1990, amid all the controversy over the KIDS program, the Utah location simply renamed themselves to Life-Line, inc , and continued to operate the same model. They eventually made another name change, to LifeLine for Youth. Somehow this simple trick of renaming themselves has allowed them to continue operating to this day.
Lifeline now claims that they moved on completely from the KIDS program when they moved to the Life-Line name in 1990. They claim they have had nothing to do with KIDS since then, that it was a clean break. But at the time they claimed “Treatment is still based on the Kids model”.
When I attended the program in 1999-2000 they were, in practice, if not in name, still running that same KIDS model, with a few minor adjustments. At that time the core of the KIDS program remained. They tried to make you “hit bottom” as they called it, but most would call it breaking a human being. They performed “Tough Love”, which in practice was mental, emotional, and psychological abuse. At that time the majority of staff were untrained, their only qualification for being there was having graduated the program.
I have had discussions with multiple former clients of Lifeline, that were there over a wide range of years, some as recently as 2022. They have relayed similar stories and experiences. Many of them told me that they felt like they were abused. I have also had multiple people tell me of even worse experiences.
I have also had discussions with multiple former staff members, that were staff over a wide range of years, some as recently as 2019. They have also confirmed a lot of the things I have described. That they felt like the way Lifeline operates harmed many of the children. Many have also told me they themselves were manipulated and abused. Some said that when they were hired, they were immediately expected to start caring for the children, and operating “group sessions” with no training.
If you are a Parent looking to place your child in a Residential Treatment Center, Wilderness Program, Boot Camp, Therapeutic Boarding School, Emotional Growth Facility, Residential Drug Treatment, Behavioral Modification Program, or any kind of Congregate Care Facility, I plead with you to reconsider. These “tough love” treatments do not work according to National Institutes of Health State-of-the-Science (pdf).
The mental, emotional, psychological, and sometimes physical, or even sexual abuse they may experience could leave them with lifelong trauma. Many survivors of these programs report PTSD, C-PTSD, anxiety, agoraphobia, lifelong physical disorders and more. These so called tough love programs have been shown to produce less favorable outcomes, and commonly leave the person worse off than they were before. That same NIH study referenced before also concluded:
“Such evidence as there is indicates that group detention centers, boot camps, and other “get tough” programs can provide an opportunity for delinquent youth to amplify negative effects on each other.”
LifeLine Behavioral Health, LLC is a separate entity (BES search that name, or BES Number 9095955-0160), but the address is the same as LifeLine for Youth (1130 W Center St, North Salt Lake, Utah, 84054), the registered agent Shane Petersen is the current CEO / Executive Director of LifeLine for Youth.
I encourage you to follow the links and information provided, and to do your own research. If you are aware of changes that LifeLine has made to their program, and are willing to share specifics about those changes, please email me at: [email protected]
You may be interested in listening to fellow former LifeLine participants talk about their experiences:
Episode 12 of the Surviving Straight Inc Podcast is with another LifeLine survivor. As with the previous episodes, names and dates withheld because LifeLine uses the legal system to threaten survivors.
If you are a survivor of LifeLine, know that you are not alone. I understand, and I believe you. Contrary to what they tried to convince you, you did not deserve the trauma and suffering you went through. Please feel free to share your stories on the testimonials page or in the comments below. You are also welcome to email me at [email protected] if you are more comfortable reaching out privately.