Law­maker to re­tire from As­cent child care

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - BRIAN FANNEY AND KEN­NETH HEARD

The state rep­re­sen­ta­tive who runs As­cent Chil­dren’s Health Ser­vices plans to re­tire at the end of the year, he an­nounced to em­ploy­ees Thurs­day.

The com­pany’s West Mem­phis day care is un­der a oneyear pro­ba­tion af­ter a child’s death in a hot van. A com­pany fa­cil­ity in

North Lit­tle Rock also is un­der a one-year pro­ba­tion af­ter chil­dren were left unat­tended in two in­stances.

Rep. Dan Sul­li­van, R-Jonesboro, is chief ex­ec­u­tive of As­cent. He told em­ploy­ees in an in­ter­nal memo that he plans to re­tire but is wait­ing un­til the end of the year so the com­pany has time to find a suit­able re­place­ment.

Burt Sam­ples, di­rec­tor of in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy for the com­pany, con­firmed that Sul­li­van had said he planned to re­tire, but re­fused to an­swer ad­di­tional ques­tions Fri­day at the Jonesboro of­fice.

Sul­li­van did not re­spond to mul­ti­ple phone calls and text mes­sages on Thurs­day and Fri­day.

He has been with As­cent since 2004. He be­came chief ex­ec­u­tive in June 2013,

hav­ing pre­vi­ously served as a re­gional chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer and vice pres­i­dent, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany’s web­site.

Ten­nessee-based Aca­dia Health­care, which lists As­cent in its health care ser­vices net­work, did not re­ply to mul­ti­ple re­quests for com­ment Fri­day.

As­cent op­er­ates 10 fa­cil­i­ties across Arkansas. The com­pany’s web­site says it is “a lead­ing treat­ment pro­gram for phys­i­cal and be­hav­ioral de­vel­op­men­tal is­sues.”

“We pro­vide day and out­pa­tient ther­apy for ado­les­cent boys and girls and teens through­out Arkansas,” the web­site says.

Ear­lier this month, a Crit­ten­den County cir­cuit judge set a Novem­ber trial for four women charged in the death of Christo­pher Gard­ner, who was left in a hot van on June 12.

Ken­dra Washington, 40; Feli­cia Ann Phillips, 42; Wanda Taylor, 43; and Pamela Lavette Robin­son, 43, have pleaded in­no­cent to charges of felony man­slaugh­ter. As­cent fired the four women in June.

Po­lice say they left Christo­pher in­side a day care trans­port van for eight hours while tem­per­a­tures in­side the ve­hi­cle climbed to 141 de­grees. Au­thor­i­ties found Christo­pher in the back seat of the 15-pas­sen­ger van.

West Mem­phis Po­lice Capt. Joe Baker said the young­ster had freed him­self from a child seat and taken off his shirt and one shoe. Au­thor­i­ties found his body sit­ting up­right in a seat across the aisle from where he first sat.

Ash­ley Smith, Christo­pher’s mother, filed a civil law­suit July 20 against As­cent, its pres­i­dent and the four for­mer em­ploy­ees.

Ear­lier this month, a child was left unat­tended at an As­cent Chil­dren’s Health Ser­vices fa­cil­ity in North Lit­tle Rock, and two staff mem­bers were fired.

It was the sec­ond such in­ci­dent in five weeks at that cen­ter, ac­cord­ing to a state De­part­ment of Human Ser­vices doc­u­ment.

Dur­ing the reg­u­lar leg­isla­tive ses­sion this year, Sul­li­van spon­sored Act 576, which stripped a state com­mis­sion of its au­thor­ity to reg­u­late child care cen­ters.

As of Aug. 1, the De­part­ment of Human Ser­vices will not need the ap­proval of the Arkansas Early Child­hood Com­mis­sion to es­tab­lish rules.

Af­ter a Fe­bru­ary meet­ing, Sul­li­van said com­mis­sion-ap­proved rules have been costly for child care cen­ters, fam­i­lies and tax­pay­ers, who sub­si­dize some types of child care.

Jody Veit-Edring­ton, the com­mis­sion’s chair­man, said at the time that the bill ap­peared to be a re­sponse to the com­mis­sion’s re­fusal last year to change a re­quire­ment for at least 50 per­cent of child care cen­ter em­ploy­ees to be cer­ti­fied in first aid and car­diopul­monary re­sus­ci­ta­tion.

Ear­lier this month, a Crit­ten­den County cir­cuit judge set a Novem­ber trial for four women charged in the death of Christo­pher Gard­ner, who was left in a hot van on June 12.

Sul­li­van

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