The politicians in charge of Texas government for the past decade or so have effectively starved the beast to the point there’s no money available for many essential services. One of the services many of us consider essential is proper care for disabled Texas residents. A recent article in the Dallas Morning News detailed the findings of a study by the U.S. Department of Justice. The Justice Department report severely criticized the treatment that the disabled receive in Texas state schools. Here are excerpts from the article.
Residents of Texas’ state schools for the disabled are in so much danger of neglect and mistreatment that their constitutional rights have been violated, the U.S. Department of Justice charges in a scathing report sent to the state this week.
The institutions fail to protect those in their care from harm, don’t provide adequate health care, and restrict residents more than is necessary, a violation of federal law, acting Assistant Attorney General Grace Chung Becker wrote in a 60-page letter to Gov. Rick Perry released Tuesday.
She threatened legal action if Texas doesn’t resolve the problems – which include an excessive number of residents dying of “preventable conditions,” and hundreds of state school employees who have been fired for abuse, neglect or exploitation of residents.
“Facility residents experience needlessly high rates of injurious behaviors; they are subjected to medications that have harmful side effects and that restrain, not correct,” the letter notes.
Laura Albrecht, a spokeswoman for the Department of Aging and Disability Services, which oversees the state schools, said her agency is reviewing the letter and will do everything in its power to comply.
“It is clear that staffing shortages have greatly compromised care,” the letter notes.”…The frequency and severity of critical incidents at the facilities are disturbingly high and often directly related to insufficient staffing.”
Among the findings of a U.S. Justice Department report on Texas’ state schools for the disabled:
- In a recent 12-month period, at least 114 facility residents died – 53 of them from pneumonia, respiratory failure or other conditions that could be prevented with timely medical intervention. In the first nine months of 2008, residents were hospitalized on more than 1,400 occasions, many of them for preventable conditions.
- In the first nine months of this year, school staff applied restraints 10,143 times, affecting 751 residents. In January 2007, a teenage resident died while being held in “six-point restraints” at one school. Four months later, a staffer at another facility reportedly broke a resident’s shin bone while slamming the resident down during a restraint.
- At least 200 staff members were fired for abuse or neglect of residents in each of two recent years, and in fiscal 2007, there were 450 confirmed incidents. Between July and September of this year, schools opened at least 501 abuse and neglect investigations.
- More than 70 percent of state school residents engaged in “maladaptive” behavior, including punching, slapping, scratching, destroying property or ingesting nonfood items – including Swiss Army knives, latex gloves and plastic wrap. And state school facilities reported 52 incidents of resident-on-resident violence every day.
- Facilities failed to monitor psychotropic drug prescriptions, leading one resident to take 10 different drugs at a time. Another who needed them was given none and later hanged herself with a shoestring.
- Of the more than 4,500 state school residents, only 164 were moved into community-based care in a recent 12-month period, a number the Justice Department called “troublesome.” By law, residents who are able to live in noninstitutional, less restrictive settings should be given the opportunity.