WELLSVILLE, Cache County — An estimated 50 agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration raided a northern Utah drug and alcohol treatment center Wednesday, seizing potential evidence.
The raid was part of a multi-jurisdictional investigation headed by the Utah Department of Human Services, which issued an order to the Sherwood Hills Recovery Resort to cease operations in 10 days.
But Richard Knapp, the executive director of Sherwood Hills, called the raid an "abuse of power" and said it was over nothing more than a simple clerical error.
"The state has had to dig deep for technical violations of things that could be resolved with a phone call. Instead, they call in an army of DEA agents to make a case for a shutdown that wasn't there before," he said Thursday, adding that his facility has been under heavy state scrutiny for months.
Three years ago, Knapp converted his Sherwood Hills Resort into an addiction treatment center. But since September, he feels he has been harassed by the state. Knapp believes the state is trying to harshly penalize his facility for items such as forgetting a signature on a form or leaving off a number.
"The state of Utah has been trying to find an excuse to take our license for nearly nine months but has not been able to make a case," he said. “The state action shows a complete disregard for the people we are trying to help. It’s not right, or fair. It’s an abuse of power by those who will use the law to their economic advantage.”
A notice was delivered to Sherwood Hills that all the licenses issued by the Department of Human Services Office of Licensing were being revoked. Since 2013, Sherwood Hills has been sanctioned for violating "statutory rules of basic health and safety," department spokesman Jeff Marrott said in a statement. He said inspections uncovered potential federal law violations and licensing rule violations.
"We do not take this uncommon decision to revoke a license lightly and believe it is necessary to protect the health and safety of residents and employees," Marrott said, adding that the notice was delivered Wednesday at the same time DEA agents "issued a warrant on-site to investigate allegations of federal violations at the facility and with medical staff."
Marrott said there were about 50 patients and 88 employees at Sherwood Hills and the state plans to provide them with information and support "as they transition their care or employment."
"Many of the residents are from out of state and are presumably at various stages of their treatment, which may be medically sensitive," he said.
The notice to Sherwood Hills alleges multiple drug violations, including:
• Doctors prescribing controlled substances even though they weren't registered with the DEA to do so at Sherwood Hills.
• Dispensing controlled substances from an unregulated internal pharmacy at the resort.
• Clients receiving controlled substances before meeting a doctor in person.
• A doctor sending "delayed prescriptions" to the pharmacy after the clients had already received the medications from the internal pharmacy.
• Not disposing controlled substances and medications properly.
• Medications were observed unlocked and within reach of staff and clients.
If there was a problem with the way things are being run, Knapp says the state should have simply called him and notified him.
"Let me know, tell me what's wrong and we'll get it fixed. Rather than do that, they've been keeping this secret stash of notes to dump on me in one big letter when they're going to take my license," he said. "I'm disappointed, to say the least, that the state has been there to make that difficult for those of us who really want to make a difference."
Knapp has been given 10 days to notify all of the center's patients that their license has been revoked and their doors are closing.
Marrott said Sherwood Hills can appeal the revocation in the next 10 days but may not accept new clients.
The DEA did not return calls Thursday for comment about the raid.
When asked why he believes the state has it out for him, Knapp said he doesn't know.
"I don't know what the real issue is because it certainly is not what they're claiming," he said. "The state has been disingenuous from the beginning. I am just beyond exasperated."
Knapp said he is planning a legal appeal of the decision and is considering filing for a temporary restraining order against the state.
The founder and co-owner of Sherwood Hills Recovery Resort, Ronald D. Jensen, who also served as its clinical director, surrendered his social worker's license to the state in 2015. According to documents filed by the Department of Commerce, Jensen engaged in several improper relationships with female staff members and at least one client, and between May 2013 and March 2015, engaged in "numerous other boundary violations with multiple female clients."
The Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing filing does not name the facility where the violations took place.