KIDS of El Paso County Inc. an intensely controversial drug and behavioral rehabilitation center - closed last week after nearly four years in El Paso. Critics of its tough tactics say its hallmark was physical and verbal abuse. But others, including KIDS board Chairman *** and other prominent El Pasoans, said it was a tough program for tough problems and that the loss of KIDS leaves a desperate need for such a long-term treatment center in the community. "All we have is short-term programs of about 30 days. How we're going to get another long-term program I don't know," *** said after announcing Oct. 9 that KIDS, on Boeing in Central El Paso, would file for bankruptcy. "We have people who don't understand and who are critical of the program. That hurts community support. "It's a shame, because the program is relatively cheap, about $600 a month compared to $350 a day" in short-term programs. *** said the cost of defending the center's license and the negative publicity from that and other legal matters caused the financial failure. Mothers of two children who were in the program said it is a shame the program was ended. "I know my youngest daughter wouldn't be alive today without the program," said ***, who teaches high school in Socorro. "It was a last resort and I believe in it. " She even stayed on staff when she graduated from the program in October 1987, and she has been on staff since then." *** said her daughter, who is 25, is nearly finished with college now, but went to the national KIDS-affiliated program in Hackensack, N.J., to continue her commitment to the organization after the El Paso program folded last week. She said other, shorter and less strict programs can't meet the needs of people who have children who ignore curfews, do drugs, and become physically violent. "What do you do with a 15-year-old who (does those things)? You're still responsible for them. I say, absolutely, we needed (the KIDS program)." ***, who teaches seventh grade in Socorro, said her youngest son left the program without completing it, "but my other three children feel like their lives were saved by the program, by seeing what it offered." "My son was controlling the family, and we saw how he was manipulating it, and how the whole family needs treatment" when one family member abuses drugs, *** said. She said her other three children "have avoided alcohol and drugs and they say it's because of what we learned about in the program." *** said she isn't saying the program is perfect. "Mistakes have been made, but they have been corrected. I'd like to know where people are going to go for help now." Some of the clients of the program alleged KIDS used physically painful methods that went well beyond what the law allows. ***, 18, of El Paso said restraint was common. He said other clients and junior staff members - recent graduates of the program - pinned him spread-eagle on the floor for hours, long after he quit struggling. "They took turns, shifts," he said. "I couldn't feel anything in my legs after a while. I was numb. They don't stop just because you quit struggling or ask them to stop.' ***, who said he never had a drug problem, eventually got out of the program. *** said he resents the public and news media taking the word of young addicts whom attacked the program, instead of "the word of upstanding members of the community." But it wasn't only the media that listened to disenchanted clients of KIDS. A state district judge in Austin ordered the El Paso program closed in June 1988 because of charges of abuse. Another judge later modified that order. In January 1989, a state hearing examiner from Austin recommended two years probation for the center. But the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse agreed in June to renew KIDS' license for another year. The January hearing covered only incidents that were raised officially in 1988, state investigators said. "What we finally determined is there were a couple of incidents that would be not good, practices, to say the least," *** said. "In' the court hearings, they found nothing! that they said should not have happened, and the staff, took steps to see they wouldn't happen again." ***, director of the program compliance division of' the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, said Friday he had found KIDS in compliance with ordered' changes. "I visited three times since (January) and KIDS was complying," *** said. Included were abolishing: "the quiet room," where clients complained of verbal abuse and, painful restraint, increasing the number of clinical staff members and including trained staff, members in group sessions. Parents of the remaining 36, patients were given the option last week of sending their children to KIDS-affiliated centers in Salt Lake City and: Hackensack, N.J. One of the program's most dogged critics, private detective ***, said. he is a spokesman for 25 former El Paso patients whose cases against KIDS he has investigated. He vows to see KIDS driven from existence and threatens that a federal lawsuit against the program will be filed through a lawyer he won't identify.