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story.lead_photo.caption A map showing the location of the Lewisville Juvenile Treatment Center.

The company that operates four of the state’s youth lockups won’t continue its contract past June 30, according to a letter state officials received Wednesday.

The Department of Human Service contract with Youth Opportunity Investments LLC handed over the day-to-day operations of facilities at Harrisburg, Lewisville, Dermott and Mansfield to the company for over $15 million. It began in July.

The letter cites financial concerns created by infrastructure improvements and vacant facility beds.

“We came in, saw this need, we provided what we think was needed,” said Gary Sallee, a spokesman for Youth Opportunity. “… We just can’t continue to pay for it.”

Keesa Smith, the department’s deputy director for children, youth and families, said the state had hoped to renew the one-year contract for the next six years.

State officials are still discussing next steps and hope to find another company to run the facilities, Smith said.

In late 2018, the state started working on a juvenile justice overhaul which included efforts to decrease the length of kids’ stays in lockup and to keep children in their homes if possible.

“That work has been a significant factor in the decline in the number of youths at our residential treatment centers,” a news release from the state said. “We understand that having centers that are not at capacity has a financial impact on YOI. However, DHS has prioritized having youth treated in their communities when it is safe to do so because it is the right thing to do.”

Read Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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