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Martin County Sheriff's Office meets with SandyPines CEO following incidents at treatment facility

The facility has made hundreds of 911 calls in nearly 2 years, sheriff's office says
Posted at 7:13 PM, Jan 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-25 19:13:00-05

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — The Martin County Sheriff's Office met with the CEO of the SandyPines treatment facility in Tequesta, after yet another juvenile was able to escape the facility this week.

"I'm sure they're understaffed and they need help,” a resident said.

Nestled among residential neighborhoods in Tequesta is the SandyPines treatment facility.

"That's what I'm leery of when I'm riding by myself,” another resident said.

But despite its quiet surroundings, Sandy Pines seems to be anything but according to 911 call that was released from an incident that occurred at the facility.

"They're hurting staff. I got hit in the head. It’s really bad. There's a riot and we do not have enough staff,” said the caller.

That call is one of hundreds in the last year and a half, according to the Martin County Sheriff's Office.

“Frequently these young people are escaping the facility into Dickinson State Park,” Martin County Sheriff William Snyder said. “In order for us to find them in there we need canines, we need helicopters."

Those searches are costing taxpayers thousands of dollars.

“It’s not fair to the taxpayers of Martin County to have to subsidize a private for-profit enterprise here in this county who do not serve the people of Martin County,” Snyder said.

On Wednesday, Martin County Chief Deputy John Budensiek met with the facility’s CEO and other administration. He told WPTV the facility agrees, changes need to be made with staffing issues at the top of the list.

“Right now, the quickest thing they can do is cut back on the amount of kids in the facility as they are trying to hire and retain these employees,” Budensiek said.

Fencing would be the next investment.

“A tightly meshed fence that’s 12 feet in height but at the top instead of these juveniles running and catapulting themselves over the top there’s like a breakaway system that leans over,” Budensiek said.

In addition to an agreed upon dollar figure for reimbursements to the sheriff’s office.

“We’re right around $6,000, we’re going to charge them,” he said.

However, Budensiek said their timeline for going through with it all is unclear.

“Time will tell how far we get but we think we made progress talking to them today,” he said.

WPTV reached out the SandyPines treatment facility, and the owners of the facility, Universal Health Services, but have not heard back.

WPTV also called and emailed a request to speak with the CEO at the facility regarding the two incidents.