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Ranch For Kids Appeals License Suspension

Ranch For Kids' main facility in Rexford, MT.
Aaron Bolton
Montana Public Radio
Ranch For Kids' main facility in the small, remote town of Rexford, MT.

Two weeks after the state health department removed 27 children from Ranch for Kids in Rexford due to allegations of physical and psychological abuse, the private therapeutic facility has officially appealed the suspension of its license. 

Staff and Ranch For Kids Executive Director Bill Sutley face allegations that kids at that facility in the small remote town of Rexford were spit on, body slammed and forced to take walks on remote roads for miles as punishment.

Sutley told Montana Public Radio in a previous interview that kids would go on quote “therapy walks,” which could be up to 16 miles, in the middle of the night as punishment for running away. He maintains that the practice wasn’t abusive and says the children’s basic needs were met.

Sutley refutes other allegations that kids were physically or psychologically abused. The day after kids were removed from the facility, he said the ranch would appeal state health officials’ decision to suspend its license.

Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) spokesperson Jon Ebelt says the department officially received that appeal Tuesday. “The hearing date has not yet been set. That would be the next step, to respond to this written request and then move forward with a hearing date. So, that’s really where we’re at.”

The hearing and all documents related to the case are confidential. Ebelt was unable to say Tuesday whether the hearing date will be made public.

Aaron graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2015 after interning at Minnesota Public Radio. He landed his first reporting gig in Wrangell, Alaska where he enjoyed the remote Alaskan lifestyle and eventually moved back to the road system as the KBBI News Director in Homer, Alaska. He joined the MTPR team in 2019. Aaron now reports on all things in northwest Montana and statewide health care.
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