The head of counseling and recovery centers in Orrington had his license to practice as a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor suspended by a state regulatory board last month amid accusations of discrimination by former residents.
Two men who participated in Devin Colavecchio’s Northwoods Ranch and Retreat program alleged that Colavecchio made racist and homophobic comments to them, and threatened to send one to a homeless shelter as punishment during treatment, according to the interim consent agreement with the State of Maine Board of Counseling and Professional Licensure.
Colavecchio signed the interim consent document that suspended his counseling license, without admitting to the allegations, and will participate in a second hearing with the board later this year. He is no longer allowed to provide counseling services, though the Northwoods Ranch and Retreat website still advertised him as licensed as of Tuesday morning.
Northwoods Ranch and Retreat, a residential boarding environment, advertises itself as a program for troubled boys and young adults that uses a “nontraditional approach” to teach life and wilderness skills to help them get on the right path, according to its website. The facility is not accepting new students until Colavecchio revamps the program, he said. He hopes to begin taking new clients next summer.
During his stay from August 2020 through June 2021, a 15-year-old autistic Black teen contended he was “subjected to racial slurs from other participants,” according to the interim consent agreement. When he was subjected to slurs for a second time, an employee described overhearing Colavecchio say “there is no consequence for being called a (racial slur) today.”
Colavecchio told The Maine Monitor that he denied the statement “100 percent.”
“The statement I made to the young Black gentleman was that unfortunately, we live in a society where there are no great laws, there’s nothing that stops somebody from using the n-word,” Colavecchio said in a phone interview. “That’s the discussion we had, but that turned into me being racist.”
In the interim consent agreement, the student’s mother told investigators that Colavecchio suggested her son sleep at a local homeless shelter to “give him a dose of reality,” when discharging him. In response to the complaints filed with the board, Colavecchio agreed with the statement that “it was not uncommon for Northwoods Ranch to refer program participants to the local homeless shelter.”
Shaw House, the nearest homeless shelter to Northwoods Ranch and Retreat that accepts children, told the Monitor due to privacy reasons they could not confirm if they received residents from the program. Colavecchio said that he wanted to use Shaw House “as an interim until the family could pick [the student] up.”
The second complaint received by the state board was from a young gay man suffering from chronic post-traumatic stress disorder who stayed at the program from September 2020 through August 2021. The man contends he was “subjected to jokes and slurs related to homosexuality,” which included Colavecchio responding to an issue the man raised by telling him, “if you have feelings put a tampon in it.”
In an interview with the Monitor, Colavecchio also denied making that statement. “As far as his gay comments, those kinds of things were absolutely foolish,” Colavecchio said, denying the conversation. “He doesn’t like my political beliefs. I don’t really even talk about them or push them on anybody, but he knows my beliefs, and I think that’s what started that.”
According to the consent agreement, the man told regulators that if he violated the program’s rules, he would be given alternative meals that consisted of cold rice and forced to sleep on the floor without a mattress. Colavecchio told the state board that “a consequence of violating Northwoods Ranch’s program rules are “alternative meals” and sleeping on the floor,’’ according to the consent agreement.
Both former residents said they received therapy or counseling from Colavecchio through his company, Northwoods Counseling, though Colavecchio denies ever providing counseling. They also allege that Colavecchio destroyed records related to the provision of their counseling.
“I haven’t used my license in, I don’t know, three or four years,” Colavecchio said, in direct contradiction to the interim consent agreement.
Colavecchio said he fired a therapist working at Northwoods Counseling during the period in the consent agreement and the former employee led to the complaints. He said that before the firing, both of the men, referred to in the complaint as Client A and Client B, were happy with the program.
“I unfortunately had to fire [the therapist] because he was actually using substances during work,” Colavecchio said. “That’s the same gentleman who filed a bunch of complaints … he reeled in two other families … Client A and Client B frankly, loved us, all the way up until I fired this therapist.”
Colavecchio originally earned his license on April 5, 2016, state records show. Before that he was licensed in Maine as a Conditional Clinical Professional Counselor from Feb. 19, 2013, to April 4, 2016. Northwoods Ranch and Retreat has operated since September 2012 and served more than 200 residents, often working with about six to 12 at a time, Colavecchio said. Orrington is about six miles south of Bangor.
The consent agreement identifies Colavecchio as the president and board member of Northwoods Counseling, and the owner and CEO of Northwoods Ranch and Retreat. According to the document, a portion of the tuition for Northwoods Ranch and Retreat pays for counseling at Northwoods Counseling. The counseling is not mandatory, Colavecchio said, though if a student does not attend counseling, their tuition, which starts at $8,500 a month and decreases as residents complete steps in the program, is not reduced. Northwoods Counseling is now closed, according to Colavecchio.
The Northwoods Ranch and Retreat website advertised counseling as a direct part of its program, though Colavecchio said he did not know it advertised counseling. He maintains that Northwoods Ranch and Retreat did not offer counseling.
“I had a therapist that I had hired, I had his wife helping with social media and our website. She put a bunch of stuff on our website that was not accurate,” he said.
In an interview with the Monitor, Colavecchio seemed frustrated with the state board.
“The board was not ready and had not reviewed all of the relevant info prior to reviewing the complaints,” he said, adding, “they had very little understanding of what and how the process should even work.”
Kristin Racine, an attorney for the state’s office of professional and occupational regulation, told the Monitor that last year the state board saw and resolved 44 complaints involving counseling and behavioral services.
Colavecchio also owns Maine Sober Living, which provides a sober living lifestyle for those looking to quit alcohol or drug dependency, located at the Northwoods Ranch and Retreat facility.
Story by Ellie Wolfe.
This story was originally published by The Maine Monitor. The Maine Monitor is a local journalism product published by The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, a nonpartisan and nonprofit civic news organization.