New Youth Services scandal | Arkansas Blog

Friday, November 3, 2006

New Youth Services scandal

Posted By on Fri, Nov 3, 2006 at 2:50 PM

A new scandal is breaking over treatment at the state Youth Services Center at Alexander. It concerns overuse of psychotropic drugs to control behavior of children held there, one reportedly as young as six. The drugs were used to discipline unruly children, according to an internal report, in defiance of medical protocols and without proper physician approval or review.

The state apparently was tipped to a problem because of an increase in medical doses and began a surveillance program. Cornell Companies, the private contractor managing the program, will lose the contract to manage the facility. A State Police investigation is in the works.  The governor's office has promised an unceasing effort to get to the bottom of it.

It is the second high-profile calamity at the center, following the death of a patient, and comes under management of a company brought in to cure mismanagement by the state's own employees. Houston-based Cornell is paid $9.5 million a year under a contract that was supposed to run until 2008.

It is, unavoidably, another entry for the governor's  resume as an administrator as he prepares to run for president.

More details of today's news on the jump:

 

EXCERPTS FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES RELEASE:

 

DHHS has terminated its contract with Cornell Companies to manage the 143-bed Alexander Youth Services Center for juvenile offenders.

 

REASONS: “staff may have inappropriately administered psychotropic drugs, failed to follow policy and failed to properly document medical care."

 

ACTIONS: Cornell was instructed, during its transition out of management, to “stop using psychotropic drugs as medical restraints," 2) the state reported suspected maltreatment to the Child Abuse Hotline, and 3) the state placed Sid Thompson, deputy director of the Division of Youth Services on the Alexander campus.

 

This is a “second major breakdown in the facility’s medical system.” (The death of 17-year-old LaKeisha Brown from an undiagnosed blood clot has been in the news recently.)

 

John Selig, director of DHHS, said he was “no longer confident” in Cornell’s management. Gov. Huckabee ordered a review and asked for State Police assistance.

 

An internal affairs unit report studied “forced psychotropic medications/chemical restraints” over a 45-day period beginning Sept. 1. Video surveillance of injection procedures was part of the investigation.

 

A log showed 22 juveniles had been given 52 injections of Thorazine and Benadryl as chemical restraints. But a separate incident report showed 16 injections were not recorded on the log and a total of 25 juveniles received injections. There were signed physician orders for injections in only 11 of the 25 cases.

 

Though policy says clients may refuse injections except in emergencies, video surveillance and interviews indicated  some injections were given “against the will of the juveniles.” In no case was a second physician’s opinion obtained as required when medication was forced, nor were the injections reviewed by an independent psychiatrist.

 

Though not allowed as discipline, the report concluded that medication was used as a disciplinary tool.

 

The report further found:

 

*Evidence that orders were falsified

*Nurses weren’t adequately briefed on medication protocols.


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