There’s trouble in Texas’s so-called state schools, live-in institutions that provide campus-based long-term care for people with mental disabilities.
State investigators uncovered more than 500 cases of abuse and neglect in the schools between September 2007 and August 2008, and a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation found systemic abuses of the civil rights of the school’s roughly 4,700 residents. The DOJ’s report said many of the problems are due to high turnover rates, staff vacancies, and inadequate staff training and supervision. Late last month, the state reached an agreement with the DOJ intended to improve conditions in the schools. Among other things, the schools will get 1,160 more staff, most of them direct-care workers.
Here’s what CNA/CHPNA Renee Tillman, the founding president of the Texas Association of Nurse Assistants, has to say about this unfortunate situation and the proposed solution.
Hiring more workers should help. Direct care workers employed in mental health also need better initial and ongoing training. We have to have yearly in-services on Alzheimer’s and dementia care, but the kinds of mental health issues these kids have are completely different
I think Governor Perry feels he needs medical professionals monitoring the care in these schools. Two very close friends of mine were working in one of the schools that was shut down, and from what I’ve heard, some of the people who worked there were acting more like guards than caregivers or teachers, treating the kids almost like felons. They were also trying to impose discipline without much training, and there wasn’t much of a monitoring system in place to oversee what they were doing.
The kids who are in these institutions often come from pretty tough circumstances. If we’re not careful, they can easily be neglected inside the schools. We need to make sure the people who work there get the training they need. There should also be a special committee to oversee the program, to prevent the physical and sexual abuse that has been happening to these kids.