SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A Northwest Arkansas residential treatment facility faces probation for continued licensing complaints.
Perimeter Healthcare operates three of these facilities in Arkansas including one in Forrest City and one in the Ozarks.
The Forrest City location was issued a letter of reprimand in May 2022 by the Arkansas Child Welfare Agency Review Board. There were complaints of one child attacking another, some patients running away and an incident of non-consensual sexual activity. As part of the complaint review, the board found issues of low staffing and unprofessional conduct.
Now, Perimeter Behavioral of the Ozarks could face probation for similar issues. A hearing is scheduled for January 25th.
Weeks ago, Tiffany Baker says her son ended up in Perimeter Behavioral of Forrest City.
“It’s just been a mess one thing after another,” she said.
She says her son is in foster care but she says she stays in touch and what she has heard has terrified her. The Forrest City letter highlights complaints of damage to the building and staff and residents being harmed.
“We work with a population here of children and adolescents that have been through extreme trauma and it so their reaction to things and what’s happening to them is very real and very raw,” Tanya Williams, Director of the Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education (DCCECE), said.
While KNWA/FOX 24 News has not been able to independently verify Baker’s story regarding her son, the DCCECE issued a Letter of Reprimand to the Forrest City facility earlier this year. The letter cites multiple complaints of staff engaging in behavior that was or could be physically harmful to residents including when a staff member allegedly “body slammed the resident to the pavement and began to physically fight the resident.” The letter also cites a lack of supervision allowing kids to run away, get in fights or engage in non-consensual sexual activity.
“It’s been crazy like and I’m terrified for my son and my son’s terrified,” Baker said.
Now, a facility in Northwest Arkansas owned by the same company, Perimeter Behavioral of the Ozarks in Springdale, could be put on probation for similar issues based on recent complaints. Visits in August and October of 2022 to the facility by the DCCECE found staff behavior that could be harmful to residents, including staffing ratio issues, failure to report potential abuse, not using minimal force or time necessary during the course of a restraint hold, and failure to develop treatment plans for residents within 30 days of admission. The DCCECE tells KNWA/FOX 24 News a review board is scheduled to vote on whether or not to issue the Ozarks facility a probationary license this month.
“We are not here to close down the work of people who are trying to help young people have a better opportunity in life. But we are here to make sure that there are opportunities for those children exist and are not disrupted by even further chaos,” Williams said.
KNWA/FOX 24 News has obtained a publicly available investigative report prepared by Disability Rights Arkansas, a statewide non-profit organization, and shared with the DCCECE and Office of Long-term Care highlights two incidents at Perimeter Behavioral of the Ozarks, one in June 2022 and one in November 2022. The report shows the challenges the staff faces. But it also shows what Disability Rights Arkansas claims to be “inappropriate staff touching” and “incidents of restraint or seclusion.”
If the probation recommendation is approved, the Ozarks facility must show improvement or risk further corrective action which may include losing its license.
“We would expect, you know, six to 12 months of compliance in order for that probationary provisional to be lifted,” Williams said.
That includes everything from the treatment of patients to repairs of the building. Ms. Williams says problems have popped up across the industry in the past few years when the pandemic caused major disruptions to the workforce. Treatment facilities have struggled to find enough workers to meet state requirements. And when people do apply, facilities must ensure employees are qualified.
“Making sure that people are skilled and have knowledge about working with someone with trauma is really important. And I think when you have workforce issues and you’re trying to get people in to meet the staff-child ratios, you can you know, you can have some shortfalls there,” Williams said.
“Anybody that works with kids, there’s usually training involved. So anyone that does any kind of, you know, working with, say, these type of kids that have behavioral problems, you know, that you can’t just put your hands on the kids,” Baker said.
Ms. Baker wonders what this will do to her son.
“I don’t think no good can come from this facility. As far as my son’s behavior, I think it’s to make things worse and it’s going to make him be a violent person,” Baker said.
Fights, complaints of sexual assault, riots: all of this also creates a lot of work for the police. According to data KNWA/FOX 24 News obtained from the Springdale Police Department, officers have been called to Perimeter Behavioral of the Ozarks at least 27 times in 2022. Eight arrests or citations have been made as a result of those calls. The report written by Disability Rights Arkansas claims five of those arrests were during the June 2022 event. It also claimed two residents went to the emergency room that night.
KNWA/FOX 24 News reached out to Perimeter Healthcare through their general information number and via its corporate and online inquiry forms. We got back this statement:
“In response to your inquiries, Perimeter Healthcare works closely and proactively with the State of Arkansas to ensure the health and safety of all our patients. We will continue to work with the state to assure the highest standards of care are met.”