ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Dozens of families are desperate to find help for their children after an Albuquerque facility announced its closing. Parents say it’s one of the only facilities of its kind left in the state and they’re left wondering what to do next.
Story continues below
- Entertainment: Concerts coming to New Mexico in 2022
- New Mexico: Tribal community receives millions for wastewater infrastructure
- Crime: Prosecutors say son of man charged in Muslim murders connected to shootings
- Rankings: Cities with the fastest-growing home prices in New Mexico
- Always On: Props from Better Call Saul to be auctioned off
While some children in Bernalillo Academy are in the care of the state, others are there because they need professional help that their parents can’t provide. When he was around 4 years old, Allen Brown’s son started showing signs of non-verbal autism. When the child’s mom died a couple of years later, the question of specialized care came into the picture.
“There was both of us,” said Brown. “She could take care of him while I worked, but when she passed, it wasn’t about a year and a half later or less, I realized he needs help.”
The dad realized his then-9-year-old son would need a specialized education with professionals, leading him to Bernalillo Academy in Albuquerque. The facility provides 24/7 education and cares for children with severe cases of autism, as well as at-risk kids who may have behavioral disorders.
Brown says, for his son, it’s working. “First month, I seen stuff happening that I never could’ve got done,” said Brown. “I have been very pleased with them up here until this nonsense.”
Brown says it came as a huge blow when the academy suddenly called parents last month to say it’s shutting down. He says there was no clear reason as to why.
“They gave me a call, saying they were closing and gave us all about just a hair over two months,” said Brown. “All the kids have to be somewhere by the 22nd of December. That’s only three days before Christmas.”
A former teacher at the facility who wished to remain anonymous says there’s more than 50 kids that were receiving care there. He says some of them — ranging from elementary age to 20 years old — have been there up to eight years. Some are being transferred to facilities out of state, while others don’t know where they’ll end up.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” said Brown. “We’re talking about that place in Texas but I’d rather have him in here in the state.”
Brown says it’s frustrating because his son, now 14, still needs this specialized care and education but after the closure of Desert Hills two years ago, there aren’t really other facilities like this one in the state. If his son has to be transferred to the facility located near Austin, Texas, he says the 600-mile one-way trip would be difficult to make as often as his current once-a-week trips to the metro from southeast New Mexico.
“We’re going to have autistic kids, we’re going to have kids that have other mental problems or things like that, you’re going to have kids come from broken homes that needs a little bit of help,” said Brown. “In the future, what are we going to do?”
KRQE News 13 has made multiple attempts to get in touch with Bernalillo Academy about the closing plans. They directed us to their parent company, who also did not get back to KRQE. News 13 also reached out to CYFD who says they’re “working with each child’s providers, treatment teams and their families to find appropriate placements and resources for each child where their health and safety is our primary focus.”