Recent reports about the level of treatment and care of residents at Aurora Plains Academy are raising questions about the facility’s overall management practices along with calls for more oversight from the state.

As president of Clinicare Corp., which owns Aurora Plains Academy, I want to provide assurance that our entire leadership team takes any allegations of mistreatment of residents by staff members very seriously, and address all such allegations as required by state statutes and our own corporate policy.

We also welcome the actions of Governor Kristi Noem and the state legislature to review and change, as needed, licensing and inspection processes related to facilities like ours. We have a strong working relationship with the state Department of Social Services and we will continue to comply with all regulatory requirements.

As with any treatment facility like Aurora Plains Academy we are prohibited by law from publicly disclosing information about the activities, treatment and actions of residents because of their rights to confidentiality. Residents at Aurora Plains Academy, and any treatment facility, are entitled to and deserving of those protections so they can hopefully return to leading productive lives within their Communities.

That’s why allegations made against Aurora Plains Academy staff in recent reports are concerning as we believe they misrepresent the scope of the alleged incidents with incomplete accounts that paint an inaccurate response by staff members.

We have always complied with South Dakota state statutes and maintain an open-door policy in regards to working with state regulators, providing full access to the facility and any information that they may request.

In fact, we are required to report to the state Department of Social Services any incident in which a resident is injured – whether it is a matter involving a restraint hold or a simple injury suffered while taking part in an athletic or any other routine activity on campus.

That is an important fact to consider in light of recent reports referencing “400 complaints of child abuse or neglect” filed with the state over the past 10 years. This number covers a very broad array of incidents, including those that a resident experienced before becoming a resident at Aurora Plains Academy.

Having reviewed all incident reports filed by Aurora Plains Academy over the past decade, we identified about 250 that were initiated by our staff under reporting requirements we’re obligated to follow.

About 100 of those reports were related to incidents that residents experienced before admission to our facility. As a state-recognized “mandated reporter,” we are required to report any abuse that we are made aware of and that took place prior to an individual becoming a resident.

Similarly, third-party sources – a resident/former resident, their families, or social workers – also file reports with the state. Included in such reports are those filed for innocuous reasons such as complaints about food quality or entertainment options on campus.

All of these factors are not completely explained in the recent reporting about Aurora Plains Academy. Additionally, it is up to the state to determine whether to investigate any complaint or incident report that is submitted from Aurora Plains Academy or from an outside Party.

In more than 10 years of operation, Aurora Plains Academy has experienced a high success rate with treatment and rehabilitation of residents, many of whom are some of the most traumatized youth in the state. More than 80 percent of our residents are successfully placed in less intensive, outpatient treatment programs.

We are always looking for innovative ways for a facility like ours to provide constructive activities that help build self esteem, positive behavior traits, and overall confidence in one’s talents and abilities. These include having a student council, a readers’ theater, a culinary training program, and a resident-led program that initiates community service projects and on-campus activities. We host an annual prom event and students are also allowed to participate in athletic programs with the local high school.

To be sure, we do face significant and complex behavioral challenges with some residents that sometimes call for the implementation of physical restraint to protect themselves and others. And it is possible for an individual to be injured even when a restraint hold is properly implemented. However, it is always our goal to minimize such interactions and ensure the safety of both residents and staff members.

As an organization, we will stay committed to providing attentive, quality care at Aurora Plains Academy in compliance with state regulations and industry best practices with the goal of providing positive outcomes for our residents.

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