Monday, July 15, 2024

Troubled Kids Kept in Federally Funded ‘Warehouses of Neglect,’ Senate Probe Finds

'It’s clear that the operating model for these facilities is to warehouse as many kids as possible while keeping costs low...'

(Ken Silva, Headline USA) The Senate Finance Committee released on Wednesday a report revealing systemic taxpayer-funded child abuse and neglect in youth residential treatment facilities, which are intended to provide temporary care for children with acute behavioral health needs.

The Senate committee also held a hearing over the matter on Wednesday.

The Committee said its investigation into four major RTF operators revealed that children in these facilities are regularly subjected to physical, sexual, and verbal abuse; inappropriate restraints and seclusions; unsafe and unsanitary conditions; and lack of necessary behavioral health care.

For instance, the report cited 13 separate instances involving nine separate children for whom staff employed both seclusion and chemical restraint concurrently. According to the report, chemical restraint describes the use of a medication, such as an antipsychotic or benzodiazepine, to sedate a person, while physical restraint refers to a manual hold which restricts a person’s normal movement.

The report also described grotesque child rape, such as when a staffer molested a girl.

The report, which examined conditions at RTFs run by Universal Health Services, Acadia Healthcare, Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health, and Vivant Behavioral Healthcare, found that these harms are not isolated exceptions—but rather inherent to a Medicaid- and child welfare-funded model.

“It’s clear that the operating model for these facilities is to warehouse as many kids as possible while keeping costs low in order to maximize profits. Too often, abuse and neglect is the norm at these facilities, and they’re set up to let this happen,” Committee Chairman Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

Meanwhile, Wyden has promised legislation to address the issue.

 “These findings demand bold action. In addition to recommendations in the report that facilities, states, and federal agencies can implement now, I’ll be introducing legislation in this Committee’s jurisdiction in the coming months to raise health and safety standards, require real oversight and enforcement, and invest in the community-based services that are proven to actually help kids.”

Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.

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