State officials plan to repurpose a former youth lockup at Lewisville into a substance abuse treatment facility for teens, which judges and advocates say will fill a long unmet need in Arkansas.
The 24-bed center is tentatively scheduled to open in January, said Keesa Smith, the Arkansas Department of Human Services’ deputy director for Youth and Families.
Youths at Lewisville will undergo a 90-day residential program and receive up to six months of follow-up from support workers, said Michael Cantrell, Rite of Passage Inc.’s executive director. Rite of Passage is the Nevada-based company that manages Arkansas’ four youth lockups in Alexander, Dermott, Harrisburg and Mansfield. The firm also will manage the treatment center at Lewisville.
“This goes back to what ROP [Rite of Passage] wanted to do when we first came into Arkansas, is to develop these different levels of care for kids,” Cantrell said.
Tenth Judicial Circuit Judge Teresa French said options for youths with substance abuse issues have been scant for the past two years. She oversees a drug court in Ashley County and, after the closure of two residential treatment programs to youths, her staff has been trying to find placements for kids out of state or at inpatient behavioral health facilities.
“It’s very needed,” French said of the planned Lewisville facility. “It’s very much needed in the state to be able to get the clinical treatment for kids that have those substance abuse issues.”
Juvenile court judges will refer youths who they believe will be good fits for the program. The Division of Youth Services will screen the juveniles for risk factors. If screening shows a youth is eligible, then a clinical assessment will determine if the juvenile has a substance abuse disorder.