Parents say West Memphis preschool’s closing will leave kids without treatment

WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. — An Arkansas preschool is closing its doors on special needs children in the middle of the school year, but the decision leaves a lot of parents in West Memphis with mixed feelings.

Ascent Children’s Health Services announced this week that it would close for good Oct. 17, more than a year after a child died in the pre-school’s care, after being left alone in a hot van.

Lisa Bodnar has sent six children through Ascent. Most recently her daughter Maddie got treatment for anxiety and other issues she was born with.

“Ascent was the only one that treated both developmental delays for her, as well as the psychological part,” Bodnar said.

She’s not alone. Hannah Jewell started sending her son Brody to Ascent when he was three. He has autism and attention deficit disorder.

“They took the time and slowed down and got him to where he needed to be,” Jewell said.

But these success stories are tainted by tragedy — the death of a 5-year-old boy.

West Memphis police charged four employees last summer with leaving Christopher Gardner on a van that reached 140 degrees.

But parents say they can’t applaud the news that the facility is closing.

“I’m in no way advocating for Ascent, but they were the only facility that treated behavioral health issues,” Bodnar said.

The Arkansas Department of Human Services says nearly 200 children go to Ascent, many of them on Medicaid.

“I think it’s going to leave a huge gap because it does serve a big purpose in this community.”

The state sent out a list of alternatives, but only two at the bottom offer full-time instruction.

And parents say not all of them offer the same services as Ascent, leaving a lot of questions about the future for these children after Ascent closes.

Arkansas DHS says the closure should not impact anyone’s Medicaid eligibility. You should requests your child`s medical records as soon as possible.

If you need more assistance, call the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care at 1-833-402-0672.