A CLOSER LOOK: Piney Ridge Treatment Center understaffed, sources say

A Closer Look

Fayetteville police reports from Sept. 19, 2020.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Piney Ridge Treatment Center (PRTC) is being investigated by at least one agency that protects civil and legal rights for people with disabilities.

The Fayetteville-based psychiatric residential facility helps girls and boys who reportedly have sexual behavior disorders.

Over the past few weeks, there appears to be an increase in residents trying to escape, according to Fayetteville Police and Fire Dispatch Log data. In the last four months, more than 63 emergency calls have been placed from PRTC.

“Part of the problem is the shortage of staff,” according to a former PRTC employee, who asked for her name to be withheld.

“This is a frequent complaint, but we are looking at staffing ratios,” said Disability Rights Arkansas (DRA) Staff Attorney Reagan Stanford.

Piney Ridge Treatment Center dining hall. 9/2020. Photo used with permission.

Staffing ratios are required to be one employee per six residents during the day, and one employee per eight residents at night, according to Stanford.

In the last two to three weeks, there have been clashes between the residents and personnel at PRTC.

“We did a lot of investigating with them [PRTC] last fall and it improved for a period of time. But, right now it seems we’ve had lingering issues,” said Stanford.

Currently, DRA is investigating a number of complaints. This means DRA representatives do monitoring interviews and take calls from guardians or other people who are associated with PRTC.

Below is an Access Authority letter that allows the non-profit to monitor and investigate on behalf of people with disabilities in Arkansas.

FAYETTEVILLE POLICE INCIDENT REPORTS

September 18 and 19 PRTC had at least five visits by law enforcement. Concerns included missing persons, a found person, and disturbance. The reports were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

  • 9/18/20. 9:28a. Harassment. The caller advised subject following him and wants the officer to meet him at Vantage Point (4200 block N Crossover Rd.). 9:29a. The caller sounds possible 10-35M (confidential information) and that if he stops there is going to be a fight. 9:30a. The subjects just hit his vehicle. Caller now out of the vehicle yelling. 9:33a. Caller is still going to Vantage Point first. The subjects are no longer following him. 9:36a. Caller pulled into Vantage Point. 10:14a. Narrative: Caller advised he and the driver of the other vehicle had some sort of a previous altercation due to a stolen vehicle and this incident is based on that.
  • 9/18/20 6:59p. Assist Agency, Fayetteville. Request police assistance with compliant subjects. Asking for an emergency response. The original call is for a fire alarm. Subjects possibly attempted to burn something causing the alarm to go off. Fire Marshal has been advised. 19:05p. Subjects in question are detained. 19:06p. Juveniles running everywhere and having issues containing them. Sixteen staff to deal with approximately 100 subjects at the facility. 19:08p. Breach of the facility and subjects have fled on foot. 19:09p. Piney Ridge now stating juvenile fled. 19:10p. Left on foot northbound toward Zion. W/M approx. 15-16 years old, sandy brown hair. T-shirt and jeans. 19:12p. Have several subjects causing riots, attempting to break down doors. Officer safety. 19:17p. Open line with male cursing, upset about a K9, screaming, plotting. 19:18p. Can hear police sirens, cursing about the police. 19:19p. Close to 2800 block of Zion. 19:20p. Staff member reporting a juvenile who eloped (female). [Officer] Have stepped back off the premises at this time. 19:21p. Have staff members questioning why units are on the scene. A 10-19 [officer en route] to location. 19:22p. Waiting for the CEO to arrive. Made contact with the original staff member who called on both incidents. Two juveniles ran off. 19:25p. They do not want units inside with weapons. They will attempt to solve everything inside, without assistance. We will hold a perimeter and attempt to locate the missing subjects. 20:00p. The juvenile has been located at the Kum & Go on Thompson in Springdale. 20:26p. WM, 15 years old. Report 20-71442. BOLO (be on the lookout) issued. 20:56p. The juvenile is entered as missing. Records notified.
  • 9/18/20. 9:54p. Recovery Report. 22:06p. Juvenile recovered, will include in original report 20-71442.
  • 9/19/20. 9:22p. Disturbance. 21:22p. Advised that four to five inmates have escaped and are assaulting staff members. 21:23p. Physical. Denying medical. One subject left on foot toward Zion. 21:24. W/M, brown hair, 6 feet, 180, wearing a T-shirt, jeans, no shoes. Four subjects still on the scene fighting with the staff, verbal only at this time. 21:25. Main aggressor, unknown what caused them to start fighting with staff. No illness concerns. 21:40p. One juvenile running in the woods calling for help. All other juveniles have been recovered. 21:42p. Last juvenile recovered. 21:45. Two more juveniles missing. 21:56p. Two confirmed missing. 23:04p. Missing W/M. Blue eyes, dirty blond hair. Left on foot, only family is in Wyoming. 23:12p. Entered subject as missing. 23:17p. Subject is approx. 5-8, 143.
  • 9/19/2020. 10p. Missing Person. 22:01p. Incident for missing person. 22:27. W/M, age 17, 6 feet, 192 pounds, blue eyes, brown hair. Last seen wearing a black hat and jacket, jeans, and white shoes.

Between June to September, law enforcement dispatch logs show eight missing person calls from PRTC. Below are portions of two reports.

  • 8/20/20 11:45a. Missing Person. A juvenile, 13-year-old male, climbed over the fence. Two staff are possibly chasing after him. Unknown what he was wearing. He has not escaped before. No other juveniles left with him. 11:51a. Last seen southbound on Crossover. His group usually talk about eloping. 11:54a. This is not unusual. They try to plan an escape all the time. 11:57a. [PRTC employee] has him in her vehicle now. 11:58a. Walking in the building now with him.
  • 8/22/20. 20:59p. Missing Person. Unknown date of birth of 15-16 year old. Hopped the fence. Last seen westbound toward the apartment complexes. W/M, approx. 5’8″, 140, sandy blond short hair. Shirt, shorts, tennis shoes. 21:02p. Concerned about the wooded area southwest of the location. 21:05p. Unknown where he may be going. There were others trying to leave with him. 21:26p. BOLO issued. Last seen running west from PRTC 25 minutes ago. 21:52p. Searched the area did not locate the juvenile. 8/25/20. 14:53p. Required to remove juvenile as missing ___ notified.

Fayetteville Fire and Dispatch logs indicate, on average, calls were made every other day for four months from June 1, 2020, to September 22, 2020. Many calls were to the fire department for an alarm going off, or a sprinkler. Other calls involved missing children, assault/battery, disturbance, mental person.

Fire Marshal/Public Information Officer for Fayetteville Fire Chief Jeremy Ashley said the center is working on an approved plan for the sprinklers at N. Crossover Road.

“We were called out there two weeks ago because some patients had knocked off a sprinkler head,” Ashley said. When this happens it triggers an automatic 9-1-1 call to the fire department.

On September 23, PRTC submitted a fire code question to see if cages could be placed over the sprinkler heads and the request has been approved by Ashley.

PRTC shut down the water, as protocol when there is no fire or emergency at the time. The tenants will then provide a fire watch person, someone who is designated as an emergency contact. “The fire watch person’s job stays active until the system is repaired.”

PRTC is due for a fire inspection, at which time the sprinkler work will be reviewed, according to Ashley.

The other two facilities at the location have been inspected by the fire marshal.

Fayetteville Fire Marshal and Public Information Officer for Fayetteville Fire Chief Jeremy Ashley

ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH SURVEY DETAILS

There are annual reports from ADH’s division of Health Services Permit Agency that are supposed to gather data from all PRTFs and publish a mandatory report, but, in 2019, only four facilities responded to the survey. Other facilities have skipped reporting altogether.

Two for profits (FP) and two non-profits (NP) responded in 2019 for data that represented 2018. There were 257 licensed beds and 134 resident rooms, with about two residents per room.

In 2018, there were 90,540 resident days and 480 admissions for the four PRTFs. Arkansas Medicaid paid for 70,284 (78%) of those days. The Medicaid cap is $350 per child per day ($10,500 per month) — the potential cost to Arkansas Medicaid was $24.6 million. The difference was covered by Medicaid from other states, private insurance, and CHAMPUS.

Arkansas has six PRTF regions. More males than females live at the centers. Overall, 258 boys and 222 girls between the ages of six. to 20. The average stay was six months, according to the 2019 report.

Calls made by KNWA/FOX24 to PRTC were not returned.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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