Acadia facility closes amid abuse allegations

A youth treatment center in New Mexico owned by Franklin-based behavioral health company Acadia Healthcare has been shut down amid egregious abuse allegations, multiple lawsuits and losing its certification from state regulators.

Seven lawsuits have been filed against the Desert Hills of New Mexico facility in Albuquerque and its parent company in the past month alleging the company failed to protect its clients from physical and sexual abuse from its workers and other patients. The suits cite internal fight clubs instigated by facility staff members, sex between staff and young patients, the unchecked spread of HIV among patients and excessive use of restraints on children — more than 30 times in 60 days, according to filings.

About 11 more lawsuits are expected to be filed in the next couple weeks, according to attorney Joshua Conway, who is representing plaintiffs in the seven cases already filed. 

Acadia Healthcare officials did not respond to messages seeking comment for this story.

The Desert Hills facility had been struggling to stay open since late 2018, when the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department threatened to take away its license. The department worked with clinic leaders on options to rehabilitate the facility but ultimately decided not to extend its certification past April 1, according to notification sent to Desert Hills employees in late February.

"We don't feel like this was a treatment center anymore," CYFD Chief General Counsel Kate Girard told KOB 4. "It felt more like an institute."

The state's notice did not indicate whether Acadia would provide severance or assistance to the almost 300 employees who have lost their job. Desert Hills patients have been transferred to other facilities in the region.

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