Program now fights to keep state license
AUSTIN - An Austin judge ruled Tuesday that KIDS of El Paso County Inc. can remain open. However, the embattled drug and compulsive behavior rehabilitation program still faces a fight to keep its state license to stay in operation. Austin District Judge *** ruled in favor of KIDS after hearing more than 20 hours of testimony. "I do not believe the evidence here justifies the injunction," *** said at the hearing's conclusion. ***, dean of business at the University of Texas at El Paso, was among the parents who testified on behalf of KIDS and who applauded the ruling. "The judge understood the program is good and refused to take the word of druggies on the street that it's not. Now, we're going to try to repair the damage caused by the interference," *** said. But *** and ***, mothers of two former KIDS patients, said they would testify against KIDS in a future hearing to determine whether the center should keep its license to stay in operation. No date has been set for that hearing. "I came here to get these parents (who support KIDS) to wake up and to see what's happening. I'm sorry they just didn't understand," *** said. State attorneys sought a court order to close the center after the Texas Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse recommended revoking KIDS' license. The commission investigated the center and alleged that KIDS physically abused patients, held them against their will and violated their civil rights. Two weeks ago, Austin Judge *** ordered the center closed. It was closed for one day, and then another Austin judge modified *** order to allow KIDS to remain open pending the outcome of Tuesday's hearing. KIDS now will appeal a Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse recommendation to revoke its license and shut the center down. ***, chairman of the KIDS board of trustees, testified in Tuesday’s court hearing that negative publicity has hurt the El Paso program financially. "Due to the negative publicity, we've got no new (patients since April). It was a lot, easier to raise money before. Right now, we are running a deficit of a proximately $28,000 a month," *** said. He said 75 percent of KIDS' finances are raised from client fees for a stay of between one and two years'-- about $700 per month per patient - and the rest, comes from grants and donations. ***, a KIDS trustee, said he was pleased by Tuesday's decision. "The Texas Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse was trying to deprive us of due process by short-circuiting the system." And ***, a KIDS program adviser, said, "The program may be tougher than some people would like, but in some cases, such treatment may be required." The Austin court hearing, which lasted 2 1/2 days, included testimony by four former patients and two parents of former patients that KIDS abused patients and held patients against their will. Parents who support KIDS gave vivid accounts of bizarre and violent behavior by children who abused drugs and alcohol before entering the KIDS program. *** and ***, parents of two disgruntled ex-KIDS patients who testified against KIDS, disputed what their children said. ***, who said he donated more than $530,000 to KIDS of El Paso County Inc., had two daughters in the program, *** and ***. *** ran away from KIDS after she turned 18. Her sister completed 'the program about two weeks ago. *** testified Monday she was abused, had participated in the abuse of others, and was held against her will. Concerning ***, *** testified "She' has never been able to tell the truth." "*** has cost me well over $400,000 cash, of my money” in attempts to help her overcome her drug compulsion. KIDS officials addressed every complaint of abuse and unusual restraint, saying most such incidents were attempts at controlling violent patients.