The billion-dollar troubled teen industry has largely been unregulated. It leaves minors admitted to treatment centers vulnerable to mental and physical abuse with devastating consequences for survivors of this system. New legislation is seeking to change that and provide greater regulation of these facilities in their treatment of teens. Join Washington Post Live for a conversation with Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), troubled teen activists Paris Hilton and Caroline Cole about their experiences inside the system, the need for reform and the pending legislation.

Highlights

“I was physically, verbally, emotionally abused. My peers around me were being sexually abused. I was strangled, I was hit. I was cut off from the outside world, I couldn’t call my family because any time I tried to say anything on the phone they would hang up and I would get punished. It was the most traumatizing experience I’ve ever went through in my life and to this day I have severe PTSD because of it.” – Paris Hilton (Washington Post Live)
“That’s part of the package that they give to most families where children are taken in the middle of the night and kidnapped and, I still have traumatic memories and nightmares about it and, sorry I’m just getting nervous talking about this. My parents are horrified that it had to happen that way.” – Paris Hilton (Washington Post Live)
“Right now what we’re seeing in the industry is that there’s upwards of $50 billion dollars a year that we just here in America are funneling into these facilities to place youth in conditions where they are receiving substandard care at best.” – Caroline Cole (Washington Post Live)
“One of the things that’s happened especially since Paris has become more public is that I have had at least a dozen people who I know text me, email me saying ‘I’m so glad you and Paris and others are doing this, here is my experience… Now I’m convinced that this really is a widespread problem… Families are sending their kids to these institutions, they’re making tons of money… and they’re really scarring these kids.” - Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) (Washington Post Live)
“There are a lot of tax dollars that are going into this. In Alaska, $31 million dollars of Medicaid money was used to send 511 students to Utah and Nevada again, over $30 million dollars of Medicaid money was used to send over 700 students to these facilities." – Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) (Washington Post Live)

Paris Hilton

One of today’s most recognizable entrepreneurs and international influencers, Paris Hilton is a pioneer in reality television and an innovator in social media and celebrity branding. Since starring in “The Simple Life,” Hilton has built a global empire as an influencer, DJ, designer, recording artist, philanthropist, host, actress, model and New York Times best-selling author.

Hilton debuted “This Is Paris,” her critically acclaimed YouTube Originals documentary on her life, which has garnered nearly 25 million views to date. Hilton has used her voice and dedicated her platform and resources to supporting Breaking Code Silence, the organization created to affect change in the industry, and eradicate the abuse of children in systemically abusive institutions.

In 2021, Hilton partnered with iHeartRadio to launch her “This is Paris” podcast and will continue to expand podcast production through her company London Audio. In addition, Hilton launched her new production banner Slivington Manor Entertainment, which will develop long-form content for television, streaming services, and emerging platforms. She recently launched “Cooking With Paris” globally on Netflix and is currently in production on “Paris In Love” which will debut on Peacock later this year.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.)

Congressman Ro Khanna represents California’s 17th Congressional District, located in the heart of Silicon Valley, and is serving in his third term. Rep. Khanna sits on the House Agriculture, Armed Services, and Oversight and Reform committees, where he chairs the Environmental Subcommittee. Additionally, Rep. Khanna is the Deputy Whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; serves as an Assistant Whip for the Democratic Caucus and is the Democratic Vice Chair of the House Caucus on India and Indian Americans. Rep. Khanna is committed to representing the people and ideas rooted in Silicon Valley to the nation and throughout the world.

Caroline Cole

After experiencing 2 ½ years in a lockdown behavior modification facility in the back country of New York, Caroline Cole spent the next years of her life searching for a semblance of normalcy. Having experienced homelessness, poverty, addiction, and domestic abuse, a deep mission to help others became the central goal of Caroline’s life. She believes that under the tenets of trauma-informed policy and community-focused healing we can provide young people the resources and opportunity for equity, growth, and joy.

As the Director of Government Relations for the survivor-led non-profit organization, Breaking Code Silence, Caroline draws on her lived experience and former tenure with the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. In this role, she shapes organizational initiatives and projects, overseeing a team of 40+ volunteers, to drive policy change and reform across public sectors involving mental health, child welfare, juvenile justice, disability rights, and youth rights.

Caroline has channeled her passion into several podcasts and feels through the union of impact-driven media and policy change we can give voices to the silenced and drive societal change.

When she’s not entrenched in developing new projects, Caroline can be found testing new recipes in the kitchen with her 3 kiddos or petting puppies (or any animals!) at the local humane society shelter