Tuesday, May 4, 2010

TX: State Abuse - Despite reforms, abuse in state institutions remains high.

Excerpt from The Texas Observer:

April 19, 2010
By Dave Mann

Despite reforms by state lawmakers, abuse and neglect of Texans with mental retardation in state-run institutions has increased the past three years, according to anObserver analysis of state data. Reforms enacted in response to a high-profile abuse scandal have left the facilities with fewer residents and more staff, yet confirmed allegations of abuse rose 57 percent between 2007 and 2009. However, the number of abuse cases has dropped slightly so far in 2010, indicating that perhaps the latest reforms are having some effect.

For the past four years, Texas’ 13 sprawling, state-run institutions for the mentally retarded—formerly known as State Schools and which the Legislature recently renamed State Supported Living Centers—have been the source of horrific tales of abuse. Since 2005, investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice and numerous media outlets, including the Observer (see “Systemic Neglect,” May 1, 2008), have documented hundreds of instances in which Texans with mental retardation were beaten, neglected and, in some instances, killed by the staff charged with caring for them. In the most famous incident, workers at the Corpus Christi State School recorded a “fight club” video in which mentally disabled residents were forced to beat each other.

The abuse scandal was rooted in years of under-funding by the Legislature. Low pay and astronomical staff turnover, which ran as high as 70 percent in some facilities, led the institutions to hire low-grade employees—and in a few instances convicted felons—who never should have been caring for vulnerable, and often volatile, residents.

Despite reforms passed in the past two legislative sessions—including a 12-percent funding increase and nearly 3,000 additional caregivers—the number of abuse and neglect cases remains high.

Confirmed cases of abuse in State Supported Living Centers rose 57 percent between 2007 and 2009, according to an Observer analysis of state data, from 458 incidents in 2007 to 719 last year.

In the first six months of fiscal year 2010, which began in September, confirmed cases of abuse and neglect have dipped by 19 percent. State Supported Living Centers are on pace to report 580 cases of abuse in 2010, which while lower than 2007’s peak, is still historically high.

For the full article, please click on the following link: http://www.texasobserver.org/cover-story/state-abuse#txlege

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