Youth rehab program violates civil rights, state panel says
The KIDS of El Paso rehabilitation program will have its license revoked in April unless it treats its clients better, a state commission warned this week. The Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse found physical abuse, neglect, and civil rights violations at KIDS of El Paso County Inc., commission officials said. "In our opinion, it's not anything that can't be cured," the commission's executive director, ***, said from Austin Friday. KIDS, 6500 Boeing, treats people between 13 and 21 years old who have eating disorders, problems with alcohol or drugs, or other behavioral problems. Most of KIDS' clients are from El Paso County and southern New Mexico. KIDS Director *** did not return phone calls Friday. In a prepared statement provided by a secretary, *** declined to comment, saying KIDS officials must study the commission's allegations. ***, a member of KIDS board of directors, said "There are two sides to every story. You need to talk to *** or someone." ***, another member of the board, declined comment. The specific allegations against KIDS were not available Friday. Commission lawyer *** said most deal with, abuse and neglect, but some violations are the KIDS program's "failure to follow their own policies." *** said people in the program have their civil rights violated in that they are not allowed to refuse medication, or to withdraw from the program or to contact the commission or a lawyer to lodge a complaint. The investigation began after the commission received several complaints, *** said. The first came in March from an 18-year-old El Paso man who said she was held against his will at the center for two months before he was allowed to leave under police escort. ***, now 19, was out of town and unavailable for comment Friday. His parents also could not be reached. In March, *** said he had been thrown against walls, was not allowed to shower or use the bathroom in private, and was not allowed to move around the building unless a staff member went with him, with a finger looped through *** back belt loop. Program coordinator *** said last March that clients are supervised closely during the first phase of the program because many of them have suicidal tendencies She denied *** allegations that clients were thrown against walls Some parents interviewed in March defended the rehabilitation program, saying Its rules, are strict but necessary in turning around rebelliously lives. Commission investigators will make two surprise visits KIDS before April to determine if the program has corrected the violations, *** said. If the license is revoked, KIDS can appeal that decision to the Board of Commissioners and could fight the decision in court. ***,*** lawyer, said his client received a letter dated Feb. 1 from the commissioner warning the license of KID of El Paso County Inc. will be revoked on April 12, 1988, unless the cited licensure violations are cured and the program comes into compliance with all standards by that date." *** said the investigation resulted in 56 findings, "but not all of them are tied specifically to licensure violations." She said some of the violations are of state or federal laws and that investigators who visited the program found adult clients -who were being kept against their wills. *** said he was glad the commission responded to *** complaint, but that "*** case is just the tip of the iceberg. " There was kid after kid that corroborated what *** was saying, and those kids didn't even know each other. "*** was released from KIDS March 13 after police obtained a search warrant and went to the center at *** request. ***, who also represents the El Paso Municipal Police Officers Association, was Present when police went to KIDS, prompting a police investigation to determine whether the officers were sent by a police dispatcher or were there only as a favor to ***. Police spokesman Lt. *** declined to release the results of the investigation Friday, but said no disciplinary action was taken against the officers. Mayor ***, a KIDS contributor, said Friday, "I believe that they are doing an excellent job, any time you can revitalize five kids' lives, whom I know from five friends, I think they're doing an excellent job," *** said.