Hearing resumes to decide center fate
Civic and business leaders who oversee or contribute to KIDS of El Paso County Inc. say their support hasn't been shaken by state efforts to permanently close the controversial rehabilitation program. "It's the only drug and alcohol rehabilitation program that works," said Mayor ***, who has contributed financially to the program. "It's a tough program for tough cases," said *** Publisher ***, a member of KIDS' voluntary community advisory board. "I don't think there's any doubt that some in the program would otherwise be dead or in jail. It's not for everyone" About 90 young people are enrolled in the program that treats drug and alcohol addiction and behavioral disorders. The program relies on strong peer pressure to help adolescents overcome their addiction. El Paso KIDS supporters include a number of prominent residents who serve as community advisers or members of the board of trustees. The program is on trial for its life in an Austin courtroom, where a hearing before District Judge *** resumes today to determine whether KIDS should remain open. Before the hearing recessed after a day long session Thursday, Assistant Attorney General *** called witnesses who alleged KIDS abused and held them against their will. The Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse investigated the program and recommended closing it. *** said many people have called or written to ask his help in saving the program. ***, a KIDS trustee who is active in civic organizations, said KIDS is the only program in the country that keeps accurate records of patient progress. For some, it's the last resort, she said. "It's a strict but loving program," *** said. "Given our permissive society, it needs to be strict." KIDS teaches kids to take responsibility for themselves. Parents work just as hard as the kids in the program do. I've seen kids who complete the program turn out to be strong and high achievers." ***, an insurance investment consultant, said he believes KIDS is a good program because he knows of teen-agers whose lives were dramatically improved by it. KIDS is licensed by the state as a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. After the outpatient center closes at night, host families provide supervision and a home atmosphere for clients. *** cited the case of a 17-year-old New Mexico teen who had run away, fallen in with drug users and was supporting herself by prostitution until she went into KIDS. "She said she had no drugs since entering the program and seemed optimistic about putting her life back together," *** said. ***, a real estate developer and KIDS trustee, said his teen-age daughter, a former drug user, probably would be dead if not for KIDS. "I believe the program saved her life," *** said. ***, chairman of the KIDS trustees, said he is single and has no children in the program. "I came on board as a trustee because I wanted to help people. KIDS is doing just that," *** said. Other community leaders who serve as KIDS trustees or advisers include County Court at-Law Judge ***, advertising executive ***, lawyer *** and businessman ***. ***, founder of a rehabilitation program that KIDS of El Paso County Inc. is modeled after, defended KIDS' treatment methods in an Austin court Monday. He also testified that problems with the El Paso program have been corrected. "I believe (KIDS of El Paso County Inc.) is operating within our guidelines," *** said. The hearing in District Judge *** court is to determine whether the state should close KIDS. About 70 El Pasoans, mostly parents of KIDS patients, attended Monday's session of hearings that began Thursday, then were recessed. *** said testimony for and against KIDS will conclude today. The Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse recommended revoking KIDS' operating license for allegedly holding patients against their will, physically abusing patients and violating their civil rights. *** is founder of KIDS of America Inc. of which KIDS of El Paso County Inc. is an affiliate. There are two other KIDS rehabilitation centers in the United States. He said he agreed that some of the complaints needed correcting, including incidents of verbal abuse, which some patients referred to as "mocking out." He also said he disagreed with the use of restraint used once that involved several patients holding down a fellow patient for 12 consecutive hours. Two people had testified that at least two males were enrolled in KIDS to treat their homosexual tendencies. *** defended that treatment. "I don't believe sexual identity is fully formed before age 23. Most (adolescents) who think they are gay originally were seduced by older adults and are confused. It's correctable." During cross-examination by a state attorney, *** said he could not confirm whether a report submitted by KIDS of El Paso Inc. to the Texas Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse accurately reflected the number of successful program graduates. According to the KIDS report, 22 out of 200 patients, or 11 percent, who enrolled in the El Paso center in the past two years had completed the program. ***, clinical director of KIDS of El Paso Inc., testified Thursday that KIDS had a 70 percent success rate. ***, an attorney for the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, said during a break in the hearing that the report *** was asked to identify was the only indication the commission had of how well KIDS worked. ***, an El Paso mother who took her son out of KIDS, said she and other parents were made to be were made to be fearful about removing their children from the program. KIDS officials told parents their children would die if they left the program. "We were asked (once) to write an obituary on our child. I refused to write one. The purpose was so (parents) would understand that if our child was not here in the program, our child would be out in the streets and would die," *** said. *** said her son is diabetic and uses insulin, but that during his stay with KIDS, he was denied orange juice to prevent his blood sugar from reaching an unsafe level. *** had enrolled her son in KIDS, she said, because KIDS officials told her that her son "was a pathetic child who did not want to admit he was diabetic; that he accepted his drug compulsion and that we had to treat his diabetes the same way we treat his drug compulsion." *** said she removed her son from KIDS after finding he was not eating properly, had lost weight, and was not getting enough sleep. She also said she knew of other adolescents who did not receive prompt medical attention and who experienced violent confrontations with peers. ***, 18, testified that she and her sister, ***, physically restrained a patient who was being uncooperative. "I'd been punched and kicked a lot of times" and helped to physically restrain other patients. She said she was held in the program against her will when she was 18 until she ran away. *** said she retained El Paso lawyer *** to help her gain control of a $1 million trust her father had her sign over to him until she reached the age of 40. My father (***) set up an illegal trust for me," *** said. According to court documents filed with the El Paso district clerk, *** contested trust includes a will giving $200,000 to KIDS of El Paso County Inc. should she die. Her father and sister are expected to testify today in favor of KIDS. ***, a KIDS patient who criticized the program, said she and other patients were physically abused. "I had bruises all over my chest and neck," she said concerning one such incident. But her mother, ***, took the stand for the KIDS's defense and said her daughter was not being truthful about the KIDS program."