FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The owner of Piney Ridge operates multiple facilities in Arkansas.
With nowhere to turn, Jason needed a helping hand. KNWA changed his name to protect his identity.
“I was raped whenever I was little by different people and because I was in foster care, they thought I was going to do it to other people, so they put me in Piney Ridge for a couple days and they were like, ‘Oh. We have a group home you can go to,’” Jason said.
That place was Ridgeview Group Home for boys.
“It’s the worst place a child in DHS can go,” Jason said.
It is one of more than 200 facilities owned by the same company as Piney Ridge Treatment Center; Acadia Healthcare.
“At Ridgeview, you weren’t treated like a kid trying to get treatment. You were treated like a prisoner,” Jason said.
He lived at Ridgeview and checked in with staff at Piney Ridge every six months. Jason says Ridgeview’s facilities were disgusting.
“There was black mold in the showers. There’s urine in the sinks,” he described.
And he said the staff needed work too.
“Staff members literally turned a blind eye whenever they went outside and smoked weed. 14, 15-year-olds going outside, making a bong and smoking weed. They weren’t there to help. They were just there to get paid,” Jason said.
Former Piney Ridge employee turned advocate, Barbara Barnard, has heard complaints about facilities all over the country.
“You could take the name off of that facility and it could’ve been Piney Ridge. All the stories are the same. It doesn’t matter which facility it is,” she said.
According to its website, Acadia Healthcare has 229 behavioral healthcare facilities in 40 different states. It is responsible for 70,000 patients in the U.S. The publicly traded company recently posted its quarterly earnings, revealing a net profit of $44.5 million for the three-month period.
Acadia Healthcare Quarterly Earnings
“They’re looking at a bottom line and so I think our stance now is that the current facility is not set up. It cannot be a therapeutic environment the way it is set up,” staff attorney for Disability Rights Arkansas Reagan Stanford said.
Stanford helps investigate 13 residential treatment facilities in the state.
“Staffing issues are a big thing everywhere and that leads to some of the other things,” she said.
According to state records, Arkansas pays Piney Ridge $350 a day to take in a foster kid like Jason. And if it does not work out at one facility, that kid could get passed to another.
Through a Freedom of Information Act request, KNWA found a foster kid who spent more than 1,000 days between four different residential facilities. Two of those facilities are owned by Acadia.
Another foster child lived in three different facilities from 2015-2019. Two of those were also owned by Acadia.
The third facility operated by a different company was also found out of compliance with licensing standards earlier this year.
KNWA asked Acadia Healthcare Group CEO Matt Wiltshire why a patient might end up at multiple facilities.
“When a patient is admitted to Piney Ridge – or any Acadia Facility – the goal is always to complete the prescribed treatment and move the patient successfully back into society,” Wiltshire said. “In my 11 years working at Acadia, I have never seen a patient moved for any reason other than what was best for the patient and their plane of treatment.
“It messes you up. It messes a lot of people up and it takes a toll on everybody,” Jason said.
He has since moved on, living with a sponsor family, working, and he still stays in touch with other people he met at Ridgeview.
“Some of them are just depressed and suicidal all the time due to the fact of the way they were treated in Ridgeview and Piney,” he said.
Others, like Jason, have found some success.
“Some of them were doing good but not because of Ridgeview or Piney but because they have contacts with their family,” he said.
Or they have formed a new one, providing each other the help they need.
“We contact each other if somebody is down or somebody needs help, they’ll text us and we’ll be like alright, we’re here to help,” Jason said.