DJJ terminated contract due to failure to correct "deficiencies"

CRESTVIEW — The Okaloosa Youth Development Center, a state juvenile residential commitment facility south of town, has been shut down and all 39 detainees have been relocated, according to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. 

In the statement emailed to the Daily News, DJJ Secretary Christina K. Daly said the department had warned the facility May 31 that it would terminate its contract with the Okaloosa Youth Development Center BDD/DD program if it did not correct "serious deficiencies that potentially could threaten the health and safety of the youth placed at the program." 

Daly said the center ultimately did not resolve the issues and the DJJ will terminate its contract. 

"Due to a failure to correct deficiencies and sustain those corrective actions, the agency determined that the placement of youth at this program is no longer acceptable, and all youth have been safely transferred to alternative sites," Daly said. 

She added that the department will reassign the contract to "another provider that is in good standing and able to meet the service needs of these youth." 

A DJJ spokesperson did not elaborate on what the "deficiencies" were. 

The facility made headlines twice in recent months for fights among the detainees. In one incident in early May, a three-on-one fight broke out in which a victim was struck with a rod-like object. The video was briefly uploaded to YouTube by another detainee.

In a March incident, a riot involving more than 50 juveniles broke out. Okaloosa County sheriff's deputies, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers and Florida Highway Patrol troopers responded. The DJJ said it would investigate the incident. 

The Okaloosa Youth Development Center was operated by Gulf Coast Youth Academy, a private company. On its website, the Youth Academy says it is a "high risk program that offers Mental Health Overlay Services (MHOS) to youth ages 13-18 with moderate-to-serious mental health disorders and who may have a co-occurring substance-related disorder."