Archive for Saturday, December 19, 2009

Topeka juvenile center announces closing as ‘business decision’

December 19, 2009

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— Forbes Juvenile Attention Center in Topeka is closing immediately, its parent company said Thursday, citing state reimbursement reductions, a decline in youth referrals and Kansas’ recent changes to the juvenile system.

“This is a business decision based entirely on the state’s current budgetary problems and future plans for youth residential centers within Kansas,” the company’s statement read.

State regulatory agencies are working to transfer the center’s 28 youths to other facilities.

FJAC — a privately run, state-contracted center — had faced criticism after an area newspaper published a story about the facility’s operations. Central to that story was a lawsuit by a former 12-year-old resident claiming insufficient staffing and inadequate room checks allowed the boy to be repeatedly raped by his 15-year-old roommate. That lawsuit recently was settled out of court.

On Oct. 29, the Kansas Juvenile Justice Authority announced three major changes to its system.

JJA commissioner Russ Jennings said his agency would subject juvenile group homes and detention centers to twice-a-year outside reviews; reclassify its facilities to be rated as low, medium and high risk; and implement a statewide test to assess juveniles’ risk of reoffending and the services best suited for their problems.

Kelley Juvenile Justice Resources, FJAC’s parent company, said those changes and other budget constraints had forced its decision on Thursday.

Changing how youth centers like FJAC are classified further reduced an already declining need for placement of youths, KJJR said earlier this month. Because of that, it had reduced its capacity from 56 beds to 28 beds.

But Gov. Mark Parkinson’s recent state agency budget cuts seemed to spell the end of the facility. The cuts called for reducing provider reimbursement rates by 10 percent. For FJAC, that meant the state would now pay $113 daily per youth placed at the center, down from $126.

In a Dec. 10 memo to the state’s youth residential centers, JJA said facilities needed to agree to the new rates or the agency would consider the contracts terminated. It appears KJJR chose the latter for one of its two Topeka facilities. KJJR said it would continue to operate its other Topeka center, the Kelley Youth Center.

“It is more feasible and financially realistic to operate one facility close to capacity rather than two at 50 to 60 percent occupancy,” the statement read.

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