Local officials call on state to close JCCA Westchester campus in Pleasantville, citing dangerous conditions
Local officials are calling on the state to close the Pleasantville campus of a cottage-style residential treatment for youth with emotional and behavioral issues, citing concerns about dangerous conditions.
Mount Pleasant Town Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi says the community has supported JCCA Westchester's mission since it was first founded as an orphanage more than 100 years ago, but that things have changed in recent years.
"For over eight years since I have assumed the office of supervisor, there has been no issue more challenging to me then the situation at JCCA," he says. "Officials have decided to place children with serious psychological and emotional conditions, which the campus is not staffed or equipped to handle."
Despite various inquiries, officials say the campus has failed to increase the security and supervision of its residents - causing a drain on the town's police and ambulance services who are tasked with responding to emergency calls on the campus multiple times a day.
"Based on the current trajectory, the Mount Pleasant Police Department will have well over 1,000 calls for service related to incidents on and off campus by year's end," says Mount Pleasant Police Chief Paul Oliva.
One of those incidents was in late June and involved an attack on a 15-year-old student named Destiny, who has been attending the school since the beginning of the year.
Destiny's adoptive mother, Michele Jovanella, says she found out about the beating too late.
"Actually, she called me from the hospital that morning. They didn't even call me," she says. "I was like 'What happened? How come nobody called me?'"
Her daughter says a staff member was present when the attack happened.
"They just watched because she was the only staff, so she just watched it," says Destiny.
Jovanella is now calling for immediate changes, suggesting the campus operate like a just-before-jail facility.
"I would love to see social workers come in, psychiatrists come in, teachers, academic teachers, other tech teachers come into the facility every day and help these children find another path," she says.
In a statement provided to News 12, JCCA's CEO says they need more long-term solutions to support children with complex needs, adding that they have been advocating for an intensive services model that bolsters both the safety of the campus and the community.