Youth treatment center strengthens security after 13 runaways | KOB 4

Youth treatment center strengthens security after 13 runaways

Joshua Panas
June 06, 2018 10:39 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (Jen French) — A youth behavioral and drug treatment center promises to help kids, but police have been there more than a dozen times so far this year responding to runaways. Parents want to know how their kids seem to be slipping out.


Desert Hills on Sequoia Road is a residential treatment center meant to help kids with behavioral or substance abuse problems. So far this year, police have responded to 13 runaway attempts. Jim Wisniewski’s 12-year-old stepson is one of them.

"He somehow made it up to a second floor and almost tried to commit suicide before and they stopped him,” Wisniewski said. "They're just a number in there. They're not really being treated."   

CYFD Director of Behavioral Health Services Bryce Pittenger said admission is voluntary. Parents can take their youth out if they choose to.

"It is concerning,” Pittenger said. “One child or youth running away is too many. The youth and children at Desert Hills are some of the most high-risk, high need, have these in their histories. Running away is a trauma response."   

Pittenger said that CYFD is still charged with licensing and certifying Desert Hills. Pittenger said the state is giving it a chance to improve its security after it hired more staff and reduced its youth population from approximately 120 to 70 youth over the last few months.

Pittenger said the current student to staff ratio is four-to-one.

“The whole purpose is creating a little more containment for the facility to be able to dig in and work on issues as their census declines and to be able to train staff to be able to do reprogramming,” Pittenger said. “Shutting them down was not something that needed to happen." 

In response to the runaways, Desert Hills interim CEO Ron Mays said the facility has invested half a million on security upgrades, which include kick-proof doors and wire mesh on top of the courtyards as well as fences.


Joshua Panas

Copyright 2018 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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