CYFD issues cease and desist to Desert Hills group home for at-risk youth | KOB 4

CYFD issues cease and desist to Desert Hills group home for at-risk youth

Megan Abundis
December 06, 2018 10:21 AM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.  – New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department wants to shut down Albuquerque’s only group home serving at-risk youth.


Desert Hills has been around for more than two decades, it's meant to help kids ages 5 to 18.

However, if this place doesn't exist, the only other option is acute hospitalization.

According to CYFD, Desert Hills has been under investigation for the past two years, and there have been serious allegations against the facility regarding assault and battery.

Desert Hills was recently served a cease and desist and has 90 days to shut down or appeal.

"It's probably the most significant at-need kids in our communities," said Bryce Pittenger, CYFD Director of behavioral health services.

More than 100 kids are at the group home located in Albuquerque's west side.

They could struggle with emotional, behavioral or substance abuse problems.

However, last year KOB investigated and found there were dozens of assault and battery calls made at Desert Hills.

Police lapel video and reports revealed that the assaults were mainly provoked by the at-risk youth population housed at the facility and often staff members were the ones getting hurt.

There were also reports of teens smoking marijuana, getting into fights or having sex.

"For a residential treatment center to be therapeutic it has to be safe," Pittenger said.

In October 2017, CYFD wouldn't let any more kids into Desert Hills, and the facility had to come up with a corrective action plan.

But this past April, CYFD restricted the home, even more, issuing an emergency sanction.

However, Desert Hills still had a license to operate and treat kids.

"Our hope was that they would be able to make the necessary changes to keep kids safe and also treat them effectively," Pittenger said.

Apparently, that didn't happen, because now CYFD is pulling the facility's license and certification.

"Our review of what they provided us did not demonstrate that they were in compliance and therefore we issued the revocation of both their license and certification," Pittenger said.

CYFD told KOB that the Desert Hills staff was not reporting serious incidents, and the department couldn't ensure anyone inside the home was safe.

"My guess is that it will put stress on our communities and our families," she said.

Desert Hills officials disagree with CYFD findings.

They released this statement:

Desert Hills is fully accredited by the joint commission and licensed by CYFD.  We disagree with CYFD’s notification of its intent to revoke our license and are working with CYFD to address their concerns.  We continuously review our patient programs and have made multiple program enhancements over the last 6 months.  We are proud of our long history of providing exceptional care to our patients and their families and look forward to continuing our role as a critical resource for adolescents in need of our treatment service -Brock Wolff, Desert Hills Chief Executive Officer

“[There ways} failure to report incidents failure to report action on health and safety for the children in their care," Pittenger said.

CYFD said they are working to transfer those 100-plus kids into different programs.

Additionally, CYFD said about a fourth of the population are kids from out of state. Desert Hills would be responsible for transitioning those kids to appropriate facilities.

CYFD said that for the youth that are from in-state, a majority of them are Medicaid, there are about 10 private pay clients. CYFD said they will work with their managed care organizations to place them somewhere else that meets their needs.

CYFD said it could mean a lateral transfer for some youth to a different group home or others to forego treatment altogether after a review of their time at Desert Hills, meaning to take a step down to either: treatment foster care or be released back into the community with supportive services.

Additionally, CYFD said it will be a challenge for the community and that over the years there have been a lot of changes in behavioral health.

From the day of issuance, Monday, December 3rd, Desert Hills has the ability to have either informal resolution, where officials can negotiate solutions.

They also have the ability to appeal in a hearing which is generally 5 days after the issuance of the notice or they have the ability to accept the termination and completely shut down.

CYFD officials say there are 12 other residential group homes in New Mexico.


Megan Abundis

Copyright 2019 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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