Employees at the Mansfield Juvenile Treatment Center had not gotten the official word before the news broke statewide. Youth Opportunity Investments announced, and the Department of Youth Services confirmed, that they will no longer provide services after June 30, 2020.
Since July of 2019, YOI has managed the four facilities across Arkansas. The takeover had a rocky start after a competitive bidder, Rite of Passage, filed a lawsuit against state officials. ROP was initially awarded the $15 million contract, but was disqualified after YOI protested the award.
The Department of Human Services Chief Communications and Community Engagement Officer, Amy Webb, stated that “DHS appreciates that YOI gave the state a four-month notice because that will help us ensure an orderly transition to a new vendor for both employees of the centers and youth and their families. Since learning of YOI’s decision, we have begun discussing options for the transition. DHS expects to have more details about our path forward to a new vendor next week. YOI and DHS continue to work together, and YOI will continue to run the centers and pay staff as they have done since taking over July 1, 2019.”
The company signaled fiscal concerns early on when they cut teacher salaries in August. Security concerns and the severance of long-time employees proved problematic for the facility.
“We understand that having centers that are not at capacity has a financial impact on YOI,” Webb added. “However, DHS has prioritized having youth treated in their communities when it is safe to do so because it is the right thing to do.”
Webb also stated that DHS will continue to work with stakeholders and community partners to make improvements to the juvenile justice system in Arkansas. That work includes “…finding ways to safely reduce lengths of stay and work with judges to ensure only youth who need residential treatment go to these centers. That work has been a significant factor in the decline in the number of youths at our residential treatment centers,” concluded Webb.
We will have more on the response from YOI following the announcement made on Wednesday afternoon, February 12.