Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Lafayette County Asks Chancery Court to Close Stonewater Due to Runaways

By Alyssa Schnugg

News editor

alyssa.schnugg@hottytoddy.com

The Lafayette County Board of Supervisors is asking the Chancery Court to shut down the Stonewater Adolescent Recovery Center due to the number of runaway teens and not having a proper license to operate.

On Nov. 28, the county filed a Complaint for Injunction and Declaratory Relief in the Lafayette County Chancery Court against Stonewater on the grounds that the residential drug and alcohol treatment facility for minors between the ages of 12 and 18, constitutes a “public nuisance” due to the frequency of runaway minors from the facility.

According to the complaint, there have been 14 incidents of teens running away from the facility since September. The complaint alleges “neglect and abandonment” due to the facility allowing minor residents to leave without adult supervision or restraint and without requiring prior arrangements for transportation.

The center opened in March 2017 and, according to court documents, nearby residents began experiencing a regular pattern of runaways from the facility, putting stress on local law enforcement.

Stonewater attempted to gain approval for expansions a handful of times since opening, which were denied by the Lafayette County Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors due to the ongoing runaway issues.

Stonewater attempted to have those decisions overturned in the Lafayette County Circuit Court; however, the court ruled in favor of the county.

In the complaint, the county alleges that Stonewater has consistently refused to adopt and enforce management policies and physical infrastructure designed to minimize or eliminate the risk of runaways. The county also claims Stonewater is in violation of the Lafayette County Land Use Regulations. The complaint also claims that Stonewater has failed to obtain a license from the Mississippi Department of Human Services to operate a residential childcare facility.

Lafayette County is asking the Chancery Court to issue a declaratory judgment that Stonewater’s existing policies and practices have caused a public nuisance due to the runaway incidents, are not in conformance with the representations made to the Lafayette County Planning Commission and Board of Superiors and constitutes abuse and neglect of the children in Stonewater’s custody.

“Lafayette County is entitled to temporary, preliminary and permanent injunctive relief enjoining Stonewater from any and all further operations,” states the complaint.

On Dec. 1, the county also filed a Motion for Temporary Restraining Order or an Alternative Preliminary Injunction against Stonewater also seeking a temporary or preliminary injunction relief disallowing Stonewater to cease its operations claiming Lafayette County community will suffer irreparable injury if Stonewater is not closed until some time as the facility amends its existing policies and practices.

A hearing has not yet been set on the motion. Stonewater has 30 days to reply to the complaint.


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