The Arkansas Division of Youth Services is planning to stop using its Arkansas-based providers in all but one of the state's juvenile treatment centers and correctional facilities, in favor of a single company from Indiana.
At a meeting of the Children and Youth Committee on Monday, Interim Director Betty Guhman said the state will also boost its per-bed, per-day rate for juvenile offenders by 58 percent – from $147 a day to $232. State Senator Linda Chesterfield said she wants to know from where the additional funds come.
“We have asked for increases in that funding for years. They swore there was not a dime there. All of the sudden, out of the blue of the western sky we’ve got enough money for a room at the Waldorf-Astoria,” said Chesterfield. “The folks from out of town get all the money that was going to invest in Arkansas.”
State officials told the Democrat from Little Rock that internal cuts to other Youth Services programs will fund the higher rate, but couldn’t specify what is being cut. Chesterfield was referred to the Department of Human Services Chief Fiscal Officer Mark Storey.
In response to an inquiry from KUAR, DHS Deputy Chief of Communications Brandi Hinkle said, "DHS is evaluating existing contracts throughout the agency to find more efficiencies, and additional costs for the services will come from there. We do not have specifics about dollar amounts."
The department announced its intent to award the bid for operating 7 juvenile centers to Youth Opportunities of Indiana on August 12. Competing vendors have a 14 day protest period and the contract still has to face legislative review. A request for proposal for the seven residential centers was issued April 20th.
The switch to Youth Opportunities would impact Colt Juvenile Treatment Center, Harrisburg Juvenile Treatment Center, Mansfield Juvenile Treatment Center, Mansfield Juvenile Treatment Center for Girls, Dermott Juvenile Treatment Center, Dermott Juvenile Correctionaly Facility, and Lewisville Juvenile Treatment Center.
The Arkansas Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center near Alexander would continue to be operated by Rite of Passage, Inc. operating out of Nevada. Jonesboro-based Consolidated Youth Services is the provider at Colt and Harrisburg, Magnolia's South Arkansas Youth Services is in Lewisville, both operations at Mansfield, and both facilities in Dermott.