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Activists call for answers as Arizona officials meet with Southwest Key


PHOENIX — After multiple reports of sexual and other abuse of children inside Southwest Key facilities surfaced, the Arizona Department of Health Services sat down on Tuesday with program officials about the alleged abuse.

As the officials met behind closed doors, activists with the grassroots organization Uncage and Reunite Families Coalition demanded that state officials review Southwest Key’s operating licenses for all its Arizona facilities.

Myron Scott, an attorney and a member of the coalition, spoke outside the state Department of Health Services, saying the group is “deeply concerned” that state officials will “fall short of ensuring that the past pattern of sexual and physical abuse does not repeat.”

Ofelia Canez, a member of the coalition, said the group wants to bring awareness and elevate the knowledge of the abuse.

“We want to bring awareness and elevate it and allow the community to know there is more than what is being discussed at this hearing,” she told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

“We want the sexual abuse and maltreatment to be investigated.”

The human rights group sent a letter of demands to Gov. Doug Ducey’s office and the Department of Health Services regarding the allegations of physical and sexual abuse in September.

They called for investigations into the abuse and reimbursement of funds for families who had to pay their own way back home. The activists said they have yet to hear back.

Melissa Blasius-Nuanez, a spokeswoman with the Arizona Department of Health Services, told KTAR News 92.3 FM that it was holding a “settlement conference” with Southwest Key officials, but did not “expect a final agreement.”

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