Desert Hills youth home shutting down April 1 | KOB 4
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Desert Hills youth home shutting down April 1

Megan Abundis
February 19, 2019 10:10 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Desert Hills was granted a temporary certification just last month, with the promise that they would make significant changes to keep kids safe. Now, Desert Hills will officially shut down April 1. 

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Acadia Healthcare, Desert Hills, CYFD and the managed care organizations all agree that Desert Hills could no longer keep children safe or provide the level of treatment necessary for the children. 

The youth home has treated extreme at-risk kids ages 5 through 18 for years, even amid serious allegations of abuse and neglect. 

"Everyone agrees this is no longer the safe, appropriate place for kids," said Kate Girard, chief general counsel for CYFD. 

One concerned mother is aware of the issues that Desert Hills faces, and her kid has been in their care for a year. She doesn't feel like he's getting enough. 

"I had gone through many options in Albuquerque and outside of Albuquerque to try and get help, and all fingers pointed to Desert Hills," she said. "I'm frustrated." 

CYFD says there are other residential treatment centers in the state and they'll place the kids somewhere safe. CYFD also acknowledges that there are some waitlists. 

"We want to make sure everyone gets close to home, the best treatment they can," Girard said. 

Those involved say there are about 60 kids at Desert Hills, and it's time to start making plans. In the meantime, CYFD has brought in extra support staff to Desert Hills for supervision. 

Desert Hills is a 120-bed facility. They had been on an admission hold, not accepting any new kids.

CYFD tells KOB that within the past few weeks, Desert Hills tried to make changes like adding fences and fixing the air duct system. The changes weren't enough.

More than 100 Desert Hills employees will lose their jobs.

CYFD says it has 400 job openings and there is a CYFD job fair on March 2 to help fill that gap. 

It is unclear what will happen with the old building.

Brock Wolff, Desert Hills CEO, released the following statement: 

"Desert Hills is working closely with the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) to implement a seamless transition plan. Effective April 1, 2019, the facility will no longer be providing services to at-risk youth with complex behavioral healthcare needs. Desert Hills’ top priority is the safety and well-being of its patients. We will work diligently with CYFD and the independent monitor to transition the youth in our care to other clinically appropriate programs. In the interim, the management and staff of the facility will continue to provide the necessary services to ensure youth have access to the care and treatment they need."  

Tripp Stelnicki, director of communications from the office of Gov. Lujan Grisham, released the following statement: 

"CYFD, after new leadership was informed of alarming numbers of incident reports under the temporary certification, moved very quickly to convene MCOs and other stakeholders to identify a safe and better landing place for the children in the facility as a wind-down initiated. That is happening as expeditiously as possible. Additional CYFD personnel were installed in the facility to ensure safety and care and to minimize the disruption for the kids in the facility. A highly qualified third-party manager will oversee that process and Acadia/Desert Hills will see their certification expire April 1."

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Megan Abundis

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

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