[Little Rock, AR]: Disability Rights Arkansas (DRA) released an updated database highlighting the incidents in all thirteen Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities (PRTF) here in Arkansas. DRA created the database with the goal of increased transparency and accountability. The database is a collection of licensing violations, abuse, neglect, and maltreatment reports, and police responses in a single, accessible location. The public deserves to know what happens behind the closed doors of these institutions.
“Children live in these places. They eat there, they sleep there, they go to school there. We must ensure they are safe there and we are all failing them if they are not safe. It is unfortunate that our small organization must stand alone in documenting the abuses that occur in these facilities through the database while the state and Child Welfare Agency Review Board (CWARB) are doing so little,” says Tom Masseau, Executive Director of Disability Rights Arkansas. “Additionally, some of these are not-for-profit organizations that raise money from the community, presumably on the premise that they are keeping children safe, providing intensive and supportive care in a therapeutic environment. When will the board members, the state, and our community finally demand change?”
Over the past two years, DRA has spent hours monitoring the PRTFs in Arkansas, meeting with Department of Human Services officials, attending CWARB meetings, and providing detailed information related to our findings. There were 204 calls to the police about PRTFs, and 293 serious occurrences were reported to DRA in 2021 alone! Despite all the work, the state has yet to propose new licensing standards and the CWARB members continue to take little action beyond attending their meetings. They should be constantly horrified by the reports.
“These institutions were developed to provide treatment and therapy to youth who needed intense treatment. Instead, we have seen too many instances of overmedication, sexual assault, physical restraints, chemical injections, and neglect by staff,” says Masseau. “Information has been provided to DHS Secretary Cindy Gillespie, DHS Deputy Director of Youth and Families Keesa Smith, DCCECE Director Tonya Williams, and the Child Welfare Agency Review Board, but we have seen no change.”
“Children deserve quality services in safe environments. That is not what the majority of the residential treatment facilities in Arkansas are providing. The Child Welfare Agency Review Board needs to revise the Minimum Licensing Standards, create a standardized progressive discipline scheme, and hold providers accountable. The board’s inaction is hurting our children and standing in the way of safer and more therapeutic programs,” says Reagan Stanford, Abuse and Neglect Managing Attorney at Disability Rights Arkansas.
It should not take two years of active campaigns to end abuse and neglect against Arkansas children. DRA hopes this database and social media campaign will get Secretary Mark White, CWARB Chair Andy Altom, Incoming Gov-Elect Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, and policy makers to take notice of the abuse happening under their watch. It is time to protect Arkansas children.
Disability Rights Arkansas maintains a comprehensive database of documents related to the state’s psychiatric residential treatment facilities (PRTFs). The documents contained in the database are all publicly available and were obtained by DRA by legal request through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This information is made available to the public in one location at http://disabilityrightsar.org/PRTF.