High state official cites ‘serious abuses’ in troubled El Paso youth program
AUSTIN - The assistant attorney general of Texas said Friday that there are serious abuses at KIDS of El Paso. *** the official, said that some of the harsh techniques used by KIDS staff to treat young adults with drug, behavior and eating disorders are not even acceptable with criminal felons in prisons. "Our impression is that there are serious abuses at the facility," *** said. "Medical care is withheld by lay people, and kids are restrained by other kids for minor infractions of the rules." *** made the remark after an eight-hour hearing that will determine whether the controversial drug rehabilitation center can remain open while it continues to fight to keep its license. However, the attorney for about 60 clients of KIDS of El Paso County, Inc., says he intends to prove the program is working. State Sen. ***, D-El Paso, was hired last Friday by parents whose children are enrolled in the controversial program. About 60 parents were in Austin Thursday for the hearing. "It's regrettable that we are all here to defend something that doesn't need defending," *** said. The hearing is scheduled to resume Monday in 200th District Court in the Travis County Courthouse. Many parents said they planned to return to hear the outcome of the hearing, which is expected to conclude Tuesday. The Texas Commission of Alcohol and Drug Abuse revoked the center's license June 2, based on allegations that the program was violating client rights. There was the occasional outburst of laughter and some parents smirked while two former clients and a parent of one of the witnesses recounted cases of abuse and neglect in the program. On one occasion, Dr. ***, founder of KIDS Center of America, motioned with his hand for parents to be quiet. ***, who was seated in a bench directly behind the KIDS attorneys, was next to *** and ***, program directors, and staff members of KIDS of El Paso. After the hearing, the assistant attorney general also observed that testimony has revealed that there is a lack of communication between the parents and children in KIDS. "I am convinced all the parents mean well, but they are not always fully informed about the program," *** said. However, many of the parents with children in the program believe in the program. *** and ***, parents of an 18-year-old man, credit KIDS with taking their son off the streets and off drugs and alcohol. "He now leads a productive life," said the man's mother. "The child had no goals and no future."