KIDS gets tough with youngsters
KIDS of El Paso is stopping kids from destroying themselves, say program advocates. Some people disagree. They suggest KIDS of El Paso itself is destructive. KIDS of El Paso County Inc. opened in February 1986. Since then, it's been diagnosing and treating adolescents ages 12 to 21 with drug or alcohol problems, anorexia, bulimia (an abnormal hunger problem), obesity and behavioral problems. The program's success rate ranges between 78 percent and 87 percent, according to the program's staff. Prominent El Pasoans, including physicians, community leaders, and businessmen serve on it’s community advisory board. Methods used to turn around teens are "tough," said the program director, ***. The program follows some techniques used by Alcoholics Anonymous. Some are tougher. ***, a local attorney, is critical of the program. And other top-ranking public officials, who did not want their names published, said they have mixed feelings about the program. Clients are stripped of all rights and privileges in the first phases of treatment and gradually regain them, *** said. For example, they are not allowed to speak the first 14 days they are in the program and are not allowed to go anywhere without being led by another youth in the program. They aren't even allowed to go to the bathroom by themselves. The five-phase treatment generally takes between six months to two years to complete. *** is not bothered by complaints about his program’s methods. Complaints, he said “are expected because of the nature of the beast. It is built-in controversy.” In the 18 months, KIDS of El Paso has been operating at 6500 Boeing Drive, 15 adolescents have graduated from the program he said. “I wouldn’t sacrifice 60 hours a week away from my family if I didn't believe this works” said ***. “This is an act of love.” Kids of El Paso subjects youths to a form of imprisonment. "I question their techniques. Nobody wants kids to have drug problems, but there are limits that must be met in trying to change behavior. And there is a question in my mind whether those limits have been exceeded," he said. In March, *** filed a complaint with the El Paso Police Department against the center alleging false imprisonment. In his complaint, he alleged that ***, an 18-year-old client of the center, was being held against his will. *** was released from the center after police obtained a search warrant and escorted him out, according to a report. “They subjected him to physical force. They abused him and forced him to the floor,” said ***. “He also told police that he witnessed them mistreating other kids.” *** allegations were investigated by the police department’s Crimes Against Persons and Intelligence divisions. The matter was dismissed by County Attorney ***. *** said he did not find any basis for prosecution. *** however insists the center is violating people’s rights. *** said he could not comment on the case because he did not have *** permission. *** could not be reached for comment. Parents such as Dr. *** and *** credit KIDS of El Paso with saving their children's lives. “My son had a long history of drug use and a criminal record when he came here,” said *** "this was the last resort for me”. *** said her son started doing drugs at age 9 and has been in the program for months. He was the first El Paso youth to enter Kids of El Paso. *** is certain Kids turned her son around. “I would have buried my son by now,” said ***. “I fear for his life, but now I have a place to turn for help.” On the road to recovery: ‘Sometimes I feel weak but I remember where drugs took me’*** is 20. He started doing drugs when he was 15. He has been with KIDS of El Paso for 15 months. Here he tells how the program changed his life. I started doing drugs when I was 15 and continued until I was 18. I did pot, alcohol, speed, inhalants, like rush and Liquid Paper, ... painkillers, mushrooms, and cocaine. I wanted to do something exciting. I had gone out one time and gotten drunk. I liked the buzz it gave me and wanted to do more. When I first came into the program I didn't like being told what to do. I felt really discouraged. I didn't want to be here. Most of the kids resent losing their freedom. For about three weeks I thought about suicide. I wasn't talking. I was just complying with rules and sharing my past. I used to live in an apartment and I had all the freedom I wanted. When I moved back home, it was the same thing. My parents said I had to pay rent and for food, but I didn't. If it was that way here, the kids would take advantage of everything. They would not respect or appreciate anything. They may not like it at first, but eventually, they feel good about themselves. It may take awhile, but when they start looking at their past and how screwed up it was, they start appreciating. Sometimes I feel weak, but I remember where drugs took me. I hate my past. I wouldn't be going to college had it not been for the program. I didn't want to go to college. I've also gotten close to my mom, and especially my sister. We did drugs together. I used her (my sister) for her money. We have a good relationship now appreciate everything I have now. I've become much more confident. I am a totally different person.