Utah rehab facility where fatal attack occurred had no prior violations

Posted at 5:45 PM, Dec 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-07 20:45:55-05

GARFIELD COUNTY, Utah -- State data shows a good track record for Turn-About Ranch, the youth behavioral treatment center in Escalante where 61-year-old staff worker James Woolsey was beaten to death, allegedly at the hands of a 17 year old client.

"As far as I'm aware, we have never had to issue any kind of sanction or action against them. They have been compliant with rule, and they have been licensed for quite awhile,” said Diane Moore, the licensing director for the Utah State Department of Human Services.

The DHS has oversight of all licensed behavioral treatment facilities in the state.

"In an outdoor youth program, you would always have at least two staff on at all times, and you would have a staff ratio of one to four,” said Moore, explaining some of the requirements for Turn-About Ranch to maintain its license.

Turn-About Ranch did have at least two staff members working at the time of the attack, the man who was killed and a woman who tried to intervene and was injured.

The state is conducting a parallel investigation to law enforcement, ensuring no rule violations contributed to the deadly attack.

Behavioral treatment facilities are big business in Utah. A study published by the Ken C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah in May of 2016 totaled up the financial impact and found the facilities maintain 6,400 jobs, produce $260 million in earnings, and contribute $22 million in state and local taxes.

The facilities are also a big engine for bringing money to the state. The study found 90 percent of the clients in state licensed facilities are from out of state. The bill for most is paid out-of-pocket, likely by parents, totaling $423 million in state domestic gross product.