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Licenses suspended at Anoka youth treatment facility

March 17, 2019 10:48 PM

Concerns over cleanliness inside a treatment facility in Anoka has displaced nearly two dozen children.

A Department of Corrections inspector gave an unexpected visit to the Bar None Residential Treatment Facility on Wednesday afternoon. The next day, according to a letter obtained by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, the DOC ordered to facility to relocate some children living there by 9 p.m. on Thursday.

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The DOC suspended the licenses for the Male Stabilization Unit, which supports young people in crisis and provides mental health evaluations, and the Evergreen Unit, which helps those with cognitive delays and behavioral problems.

In the letter, the DOC said it “cannot allow continued placement of residents under the current conditions and operations of the facility.”

A family member of one of the youth relocated told KSTP the children had no advanced notice and it “was very chaotic”. Her relative is now staying with her.

“My concerns are that it would have to have been something very major, very severe for a decision of that nature to be made in such a hasty manner,” she said. “What happens when the doors are open and it’s time to go back? We don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s been no explanation, it’s very confusing.”

Bar None administrators said the suspension affects 21 children, ages 10-18 years old.

“To uproot them like that is, well, you could really undo a whole lot of instability that was tough to come by to begin with,” said Dawn Hirsch, who worked at the facility for about 15 years.

She resigned from her position as a nursing supervisor a year-and-a-half ago, during a leadership transition.

“It was pretty heart-wrenching to leave, I loved it,” she said.

Hirsch told us she was surprised by the immediate action to suspend the licenses and explained her past experience.

“They would come up for a visit and they would have certain things that they would say, ‘this needs to be fixed before we leave’ or ‘we need to have what your plan is going to be, you've got a couple days or weeks to fix it,'” said Hirsch.

The DOC confirms these licenses have never been suspended before.

Volunteers of America appealed the decision and the DOC granted a stay until March 22.

Volunteers of America, which runs the facility, said in a statement, “[…] nothing in the history of this residential treatment operation has ever warranted such an unheard of and sudden action by the Department of Corrections […] VOA has always been committed to providing quality services under the DOC licenses as required by governing law. At this time, VOA has not received any information regarding the unidentified, alleged deficiencies referred to by the DOC. VOA has asked to receive this information prior to next week's meeting with the DOC. Our utmost concern is for the youth who were receiving treatment at the Bar None Campus. We hope they will be able to receive stabilization support at their new locations. We are not confident that the DOC realizes the consequences of this sudden decision and immediate removal of these high-needs and vulnerable youth.”

VOA administrators said they plan to meet in-person with the DOC this week.

A spokesperson for the DOC said, “Inspection staff and DOC administration are working with the program to resolve concerns regarding cleanliness. The facility has been directed to take immediate action.”

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