The Chicago Tribune and Pro Publica are reporting on alleged mistreatment of children at the private Millcreek Behavioral Health in Fordyce.
The center receives children from other states who need mental health treatment, often foster children. But it has children from Arkansas too.
But dozens of children from Arkansas also have cycled through Millcreek, and they, too, reported mistreatment and violence.
Millcreek and its parent company, the for-profit Acadia Healthcare, declined to comment on specific facilities or individuals but said the company delivers superior outcomes for troubled children. The company said its facilities had never been decertified by any government health program or lost a license.
In a statement provided to reporters, Acadia cautioned against drawing conclusions from “anecdotal, non-representative incidents.”
The anecdotes are unsettling. One girl described being physically abused by adults.
What disturbed the girl most about Millcreek, she said in an interview, was watching other girls suffer beatings. One incident started when volunteers brought blouses and two girls started to fight over them. One girl was beaten by the other while workers stood by, Hunter’s daughter said.
Afterward, a Millcreek worker urged the girl and her roommate to deny they’d seen anything, the girl said, adding: “She bribed me with McDonald’s and a pink hair wig.”
The article details other complaints of abusive treatment and lack of improvement.
Stefan Specht, now 24, was shuttled through various foster homes and institutions after both of his parents died when he was a child. He spent eight months at Millcreek in 2012 and 2013.
“Out of the various placements I was in, Millcreek was by far the worst, and to this day I would say Millcreek has been my worst life experience. That place beat out losing my family,” said Specht, now an Academic All-Star at the University of Arkansas Pulaski Technical College.
“The ‘cottages’ were a cozy name for a not-cozy setup. You were around constant chaos,” Specht said. “It was basically impossible to escape guys who would do anything to start a fight. Constant psychological warfare and assault.”
Said Specht: “We called it the misery mill.”
Millcreek has been in the news before. Last year, it was reported that the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement was sending unaccompanied minors there. Also last year, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of a seven-year-old who said she was raped by a roommate.
The state is responsible for overseeing private facilities that receive Medicaid dollars. Another Acadia-owned facility in Fayetteville, Piney Ridge, has also come under criticism in recent months.