Legislators Question Director of Northeast Arkansas Youth Ranch

JULY 19, 2006 - Posted at 7:33 a.m. CDT, updated at 12:14 p.m.

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Concerns about how a Christian-based youth ranch treats its residents have prompted questions from legislators.  The Lord's Ranch at Warm Springs, near the Missouri state line in Randolph County, has received $8.5 million from the state under a contract to treat youngsters with mental-health problems.

At a legislative panel hearing yesterday, Lord's Ranch director Ted Suhl, plus an attorney, defended the ranch's work and said legislators need to look at a general fix to the state's mental health program.

State Representative Buddy Blair, chairman of the House interim committee on aging and legislative affairs, questioned whether the ranch was properly training its staff.  He cited an e-mail he had received from a former resident of the facility.  In the e-mail, the former resident said the ranch punished residents by forcing them onto the floor and having a staff member sit on them.  The resident also accused the facility of making residents stand all day as punishment.

Suhl denied any allegations of abuse and said the facility properly trains its workers.

K8 News' Lauren Payne is visiting The Lord's Ranch today, and will file a report tomorrow (Thursday) night on K8 News at Six.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)