AMARGOSA VALLEY (FOX5) -- Authorities are investigating allegations of physical and sexual abuse at a youth center in Amargosa Valley.
The Nye County Sheriff's Office said in a Wednesday video release that a search warrant was served Dec. 2 on the Never Give Up facility at 3020 South Nevada Highway 373 following abuse allegations.
"Several reports of allegations involving physical abuse and sexual abuse were reported to the sheriff's office that had been occurring at the facility," NCSO Lt. Adam Tippetts said in a video release. "The reports also indicated staff members were failing to report these allegations within the 24-hour mandatory requirements."
Never Give Up Youth Healing Center is described as "a psychiatric residential treatment facility" on its website. The site said it served kids ages 8-17 years old.
"The Never Give Up Youth Healing Center (NGUYHC) serves clients with behavioral, emotional, psychiatric, and psychological disorders or conditions whose needs can no longer be met in acute or less restrictive care," the website reads. "Many of our clients experience moderate to severe emotional challenges. These include youth with bipolar disorders, depression, psychosis, self-harm, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit, and attachment disorders."
"I went there because I had some anger issues, suicidal thoughts," said 16-year-old Ryker. He lived at the school since April. On Tuesday, his mom D Witte drove from Las Vegas to Amargosa Valley to pick him up. She immediately brought him to a doctors office.
"Because of the arsenic in the water I want to make sure he is healthy," said Witte.
Ryker said staff members body slammed him to the ground several times.
"[A staff member] decided to say that I threw a chair onto a couch, even though what really happened was I pushed it away from me because I was angry. And he decided to put my arms behind my back and swept my legs out from under me and go down with me and my head hit the ground, and I got a concussion and I passed out," said Ryker.
He said he asked to go to the doctor, but staff wouldn't let him. He said they also wouldn't let him go when he hurt his knee on the treadmill.
"I couldn't put any pressure on it and everybody was downplaying it saying I was fake it ... With the staff it's been up and down ... I do feel that they would overuse their strengths, especially on the little kids," said Ryker.
He complained to his mom about the staffers. He told her about the rash he and other students got from bathing and washing their clothes in arsenic-contaminated water.
"I believed the staff and not him. And I should have believed him," said Witte.
But Ryker said he couldn't tell her everything during their weekly calls.
"[Staff] would sit there, right in front of you and listen to the whole call and if you got talking about something they would jump in and end the call," said Ryker.
"Inevitably, those allegations will occur," said 'Never Give Up' Co-Owner Daniel Cox.
Cox owns the school with his brothers, Matthew Cox.
He said he expects allegations because of what they do and who they deal with.
"Working through through service is going to be an emotional, perspective-based relationship mixed with facts and realities of what occurs during that treatment process," said Cox.
Raymond Lomeli, 21, from Henderson was arrested for obstructing a police officer, according to Tippetts. Cox said he was a staff member who worked with the kids at school. He said he wouldn't hand over his phone to deputies during their search.
"Additional arrests may be forthcoming," Tippetts said.
"I hope the entire place gets shut down and their licenses are revoked," said Witte.
A statement from Argentum Partners Nevada, a public relations firm based out of Reno representing the facility, claimed that the search warrant execution by NCSO was done improperly.
The statement claimed the search lasted 12 hours and that officers prevented staff from providing care to residents.
The statement reads:
We are deeply concerned and frustrated with events that took place at Never Give Up Youth Healing Center as the result of the Nye County Sheriff’s Office’s execution of a search warrant on December 2, 2019. While our highest priority is the safety and well-being of our residents, we are not immune to allegations of wrongdoing as are made against any other youth psychiatric facility. As required by law, we investigate all allegations and report as necessary to the appropriate local and state agencies. Never Give Up has always complied with its reporting requirements, and has gone to great lengths to ensure transparency and cooperation with local and state authorities.
Unfortunately, the manner in which the Nye County Sheriff’s Office carried out its investigation unacceptably endangered the safety of our residents. We believe our presence in the former location of a facility notorious for its quality of care issues lends instant credibility to any allegation against us, even before an investigation has begun. As a result, deputies took unnecessarily restrictive measures and caused great upheaval within our facility and distress to our residents. Although this appeared to be due to a miscommunication within the Sheriff’s Office, Never Give Up staff were threatened and physically prevented from providing necessary treatment, medication, security, and comfort to our residents during the nearly 12-hour long search. We have cooperated with authorities and will continue to do so, but we object to the Sheriff’s Office’s characterization on social media of this open and possibly flawed investigation as proof of culpability.
Since taking over operations earlier this year, Never Give Up has provided desperately needed behavioral and mental health services to hundreds of Nevada’s most complex and fragile youth. We have had some amazing success stories and we are proud of the passion and dedication that each of our team members shows to the young people and families who come to us in their time of need.
Anyone with information was urged to contact NCSO at 775-751-7000 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.