Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mental health and school finance implicated in TYC policies

Two otherwise unrelated stories about the Texas Youth Commission show how interconnected the agency and its facilities are at a fundamental level both with other social service agencies and the communities they serve.

First, the Texas Observer blog wonders if the Texas Youth Commission can ever be fixed as long as it remains a dumping ground for the failures of schools and the indigent mental health system.

Perhaps the agency has been so hard to rehabilitate because its problems extend beyond a handful of troubled facilities or a flawed approach to juvenile justice. Mental health advocates blame public officials’ failure to recognize the importance of early intervention programs within the mental health system statewide as a key culprit.

“If we addressed these problems early on, with community and school-based programs, these kids wouldn’t end up at TYC,” says Jodie Smith, public policy director of Texans Care for Children.

But, in Texas, a state ranked 49th in the nation for mental health funding, kids in need often don’t get any psychiatric help until they are already deeply entrenched in the criminal justice system. ...

The fact remains, however, 38 percent of its youth have serious mental health problems, and another 72 percent come from “chronically chaotic households” (a condition often linked to later development of PTSD, depression and addiction)—shifting the culture and practices of the agency to meet such a large need takes money, resources and time.

Meanwhile in a bizarre TYC-related development, a tiny West Texas school district struggling to make up lost revenue when TYC closed the Sheffield unit has contracted to provide educational services in Galveston for the "Seaborne ChalleNGe Corps, a military-style program for troubled teens based in Galveston" operated by the Texas National Guard.

The Iraan-Sheffield school district pursued the arrangements because of revenue lost when the Sheffield unit closed earlier this year, hoping to generate revenue entrepreneurially to make up for TYC's past subsidies to local programming.

Though there's nothing wrong with it per se, this strikes me as an unusual arrangement. I don't know of any other school district providing contract correctional education services outside their own jurisdiction, nor was I previously aware the National Guard ran youth camps. Live and learn.

31 comments:

diogenes said...

Iraan-Sheffield managed to contract for education services out here at WTSS as well. Problem is that the teachers here will lose all of their accumulated sick leave without compensation. Many of them have thousands of hours stacked up, with the intent of using them to purchase service time towards retirement, but those plans are no longer viable. It is a testament to their dedication that they haven't decided to be out "sick" for the next few months.

rericson said...

Couple of points...
1. anytime a youth is "placed", like through juvenile justice/probation, the home school district is still responsible for the daily cost of education for the youngster.....so, if a district has a number of kids being sent away, the district may feel it is cost effective to create a contractual arrangment with an outside entity.....
Now I'm not saying this is a good idea....I happen to think it stinks....but I've seen it happen many times....

Any para-military program, or bootcamp kind of program for kids with behavioral challenges is BAD!!!!!.....period......except when you have a youngster with mental health issues, or dual diagnosis issues (mental health and drug or alcohol abuse), then it is WORSE!!!!!!!!

Because so many kids fall through the proverbial cracks until they get themselves arrested, there should be in place an automatic screening for mental health issues...if any flags come up then there should be follow up with appropriate evaluations and services.......
It ain't ideal, but no matter what door a child or family come through, once in, there should be no excuses for not finally getting good. evidenced based services in.....
And NOT bootcamp/National Guard.....
Someone needs to show up at a school board meeting with the data showing that type of program not only doesn't work, it makes matters worse.....

rericson said...

The MacArthur Foundation is doing some excellent, long term research and model program monitoring on juvenile justice, and particularly juvenile justice and kids with serious emotional disturbances....
I'm not sure if this will work....I'm notoriously bad at posting links...but I'll give it a try....otherwise, google MacArthur Foundation and go to their Juvenile Justice page(s)
http://www.macfound.org/site/c.lkLXJ8MQKrH/b.943477/k.9538/Domestic_Grantmaking__Juvenile_Justice.htm

Anonymous said...

I agree there exist a lot of youth whose problems are in a large part created by local school district's failures as well as a lack of local mental health/addiction/etc. programs. TYC's problem has not been in identifying the problems youth have but in rather not being able to provide the treatmant as a result of financial constraints or the lack of mental health specialists. TYC is in a better position to provide such services as opposed to the localities but that is kind of like having a glass of water in the desert.

Howard A. Hickman

rericson said...

Mr. Hickman,
It is not the "fault" of any one entity. We as a society have failed our children. And our "Children's System" is in complete disarray. It is most often ineffective, expensive, and does nothing more than provide a base for our enormous prison systems.....
In fact, good, appropriate treatment is cheaper to provide than the current structure of juvie jails and residential facilities....
The greatest barrier is not money but creating a parydigm shift in thinking...
We need to move from a medical model, pathology based system of care to one that has as its base a wellness and resilliancy belief...
we need to challenge our society, its families, and their children to rise to their potential and stop degrading ourselves and our families with our current costly, ineffective way of doing business....
Sorry if I sound preachy. It's just that I feel passionately that we can do a better job if we simply stop the bullshit......

Anonymous said...

The fallacy in using bootcamps as a rehabilitative model in corrections lies in the purpose of the real bootcamps, as opposed to the failed correctional bootcamps.

When a person enlists in one of the Armed Forces, bootcamp serves to enculturate the individual into the culture of the military team. At the conclusion of the bootcamp, the person is a member of the "club", e.g. Army, Navy, USMC, etc. Graduation from bootcamp is a rite of passage. In the Corps, for example, upon completion of bootcamp, the young recruit is presented with the Eagle,Globe and Anchor and is addressed as "Marine," for the first time. He then gets to put on a dress uniform and march with his peers in a graduation parade.

There is no such equivalent in the correctional bootcamp. When the kid graduates he sheds his uniform, and is returned to the community. He has not become a member of anything.

Getting "jumped in" to a gang is a closer analogue to military bootcamp. The kid who has passed the test, now has membership in the gang, knows the secret "gang knowledge" and gets to wear the gang colors. Old Salty

Anonymous said...

I should have added that none of the above accomplishes anything positive in the way of treatment fo a youth with mental health problems. Old Salty

Anonymous said...

rericson: Been placing kids out of county for three decades and have never known of a home isd paying an out of county isd for the education of their kid. Far as I know, the state funding for the individual student goes to the isd where the kid resides in his placement. not saying i don't believe or trust you, just saying i can't watch you all the time.

rericson said...

generally, the "per diem" pays for room, board, and ancillary services...that's billed directly to the county.....where IV E dollars, and, or county dollars kick in....howere', residential facillities bill home districts a per diem for education...unless the kid goes to a community school in the community of placement, then it is a district to district billing......
now if the kid is in a residential treatment facility, then instead of IV E dollars it is usually medicaid, or private insurance...and the kid is officially on "home bound" instruction because it is a medical necessity...so then no monies paid to the facility......but where you have pendancy, you usually have home districts picking up the ed tab.....
there may be some special carve out for state run juvenile facilities....that I'm not sure about....

rericson said...

hmmmm....my appologies....just looked it up....Texas is one of the only states where the State Dept. of Ed controls the flow of dollars even though the responsibility, particularly for "identified" youngsters remains with the home district....
apparently Tennessee, and Wyoming also do a direct state dollar reconcilliation per pupil.....
sorry.....

Anonymous said...

Iraan ISD has been the only school district (contracted) for the Texas Youth Commission and this was set up by the original lease agreement back in 1993 ( not sure of the exact date) when TYC opened it's 1st bootcamp in Sheffield Texas. The building was an old abandoned school owned by Iraan ISD and State Representative Gallegos wanted to have another TYC facility in his district.

In 1995 TYC poured millions into a state of the art facility from land they purchased behind the old school. They also built 12 brand new 3 bedroom 2 bath duplexes for administrative housing, not to mention the 12 houses they leased in the city of Iraan for staff.

Once the new construction was complete they had a brand new 120 bed facility all at the urging of Gallegos. Not to mention the trailer park for 20 mobile homes they built back in 2004 that cost the taxpayers another $300,000.

I state all this to say that Iraan ISD has ran one of the better educational systems in TYC and they are the richest school district in the state of Texas. They really did not need the facility in Pyote but when the bootcamp shut down they had an over abundance of teachers that needs jobs.

The real travesty to all of this is the brand new facility that sits out in Sheffield that the state will virtually give away based upon ignorance and greed by our very own elected officals.

Anonymous said...

We just keep going round and round grits. The mental health issue was blogged about a year ago. Texas is best at locking up and throwing away the key and worst at helping those who need it most.

Prevention is important, but supporting programs for those who are unsuccessful in community based programs is also critical. Caseworkers are both underqualified and underpaid.

With the new CoNextions program, bachelor's level caseworkers are being asked to provide individual counseling. In addition to underqualified add underpaid. This is not right and will come to bite TYC in the ass.

Telepsychiatry is alive and well in TYC. The psychiatry clinic is held one day a week per institution if you are lucky. They think bringing in UTMB psychologists will help. That is likely to be a disaster. They don't pay psychologists in TYC enough to keep many veteran qualified staff. Talk about lack of continuity of care. What a mental health disaster. It is in part TYC's fault. Fiscal management practices are likely unethical.

Anonymous said...

"bachelor's level caseworkers are being asked to provide individual counseling".

What facility are you working at? Most Case Managers at TYC are ex-JCO staff that have High School diploma's.

Anonymous said...

9:49
Not sure what facility you work at but according to TYC policy, Caseworkers are required to provide individual counseling and that is nothing new.

Anonymous said...

The original vision for TYC in the late 1940s would have integrated local preventive services, including MH, recreation, and counseling, with smaller, regional facilities. TYC initially had "field counselors" on staff to work with local nonprofit, private, and public service agencies, and local governments, to devise coordinated prevention, diversion, and rehab programs. Also to work with local juvenile courts and probation depts to develop best practices.

It never happened in part b/c the lege refused to appropriate the needed funds, and b/c the kids themselves were too often viewed as criminals in need of secure punishment rather than juveniles in need of treatment.

This became especially true as the juvenile inmate population by the early 1960s was majority-minority, although poor and working-class white kids were hardly viewed much more sympathetically.

In other words, most of the shortcomings discussed here have been around for a long time, and the solutions have been known for equally as long. This is particularly true for children's mental health services. It was a favorite saying of Miss Ima Hogg, the driving force behind the development of pretty much the entire MH structure in Texas in the 20th century, that we already know far more than we put into practice.

The problem is one of political will, not of finding technically correct solutions. It is and long has been a moral problem, not a knowledge problem.

Bill B.

Anonymous said...

Can someone tell me if Joy Cave was the principal at the TYC Sheffield facility when it closed?

Anonymous said...

rericson,
I am absolutly in favor of trying to help a kid as soon as possible.
I wish no kid ever had to go to TYC, but some fail to get or refuse to accept help.
It is sad to say, but one purpose that Juvenile Institutions serve is to keep these kids off the street.
They are not there for stealing bikes or acting up in school, most of them are dangerous and if left alone would hurt or kill someone.

rericson said...

anon...
Oh, believe me, I'm not wearing rose colored glasses about some of the little darlings that find their way into the JJ system.....I am well aware of how horrific some of their crmes are....and how disturbed some of these kids have become...
On the other hand, when you look at interdictions like Multi-Systemic Therapy, which was specifically designed for use with repeat, violent juvenile offenders....and the extraordinary efficacy rate it has.....and we have over ten years of hard data on MST, now....
And when you look at the difference in facilities that have eliminated the use of restraints, physical, mechanical, and chemical....and added a trauma informed care element, compared to those that haven't...and when you look at facilities and programs that focus on holistic, family involved treatment, compared to those that don't....
Well, makes you wonder why we keep throwing good money after bad when we have solid evidence on what is effective.....
When you look at the kids who had good discharge planning starting on the day of their arrival, and good community follow-up, compared to others....
Well, you get the idea...we're doing a piss poor job, we know we are....and we stay committed to a self sustaining failed system.....
But we sure do manage to find the money to power wash public buildings and plant flowers along highways.....

Anonymous said...

The Grits article asserts:

The fact remains, however, 38 percent of its youth have serious mental health problems, and another 72 percent come from “chronically chaotic households.”

Another opinion: ...many of them have never been ‘habilitated’ in the first place,” said Jim Hurley, TYC spokesman. “They never received adequate education or care.”

In the Brave New World of the Texas Monthly, as society is doing everything it possibly can to become increasingly malignant an army of early interventionists steps in to spread tons of taxpayer cash on the problem. Somebody has to do something to deal with that "72 percent (that) come from “chronically chaotic households.”

It takes a village to raise a child, doesn't it? Could that be because nowadays dear ole dad is certaintly not going to lift a finger? That "Village" can do all that so I can do my thing, he says. We are unwilling to admit that "his thing" is malignant for his child and the mother of his child (now known in the Brave New language as baby momma). Ain't that what the term "chronically chaotic households" really refers to? His thing is also malignant to society.

Do any of you pay taxes? How much tax payer's money are we willing to spend because these days we would not dare ask for personal responsibility from people who choose to have children? As more members of society become more and more malignant in their personal habits where are we going to find that Brave New Village and that army of early interventionist?

I guess we can always find some responsible people to squeeze more tax money from. Some argue that all that funding comes from the government - could it be that in this generalized chronic chaos we have failed to educate this generation? Please look up where the government gets it's funding - you might be shocked.

Anonymous said...

rericson,

Your belief on funding has some problems. School districts are not re-imbursed by other local governments for educational services. Statutes require school districts where a juvenile facilty (public or private) to provide educational services without any re-imbursement by the youth's home school district. Before talking about funding sources you need to understand how it is done in Texas and how little IVe monies provide in the overall scheme. You also need to become familiar with Special Education funding, etc. etc.

Howard A. Hickman

Anonymous said...

That should have been "Texas Observer". My apologies to the Texas Monthly.

rericson said...

Mr. Hickman, you should read my entry above.
And, yes, Title IV E monies do account for a substantial percentage of money spent on out of home plavcements. Special education costs are a combination of State, Federal, and local dollars, paid per identified child. In addition, local districts can draw down medicaid dollars for medically necessary services to identified youngsters.

Further, I never said "other local governments"....what I originally posited was that a child's home district paid the cost of education services for a child in placement. Later I found that in Texas, the state sends the education allotment for any given child to the district in which the child resides.
Which makes it quite lucrative for some school districts to have residential facilities within their boundaries.....
All of which has very little to do with my fundamental belief that we are way, way over reliant on residential placements for delinquent youngsters...or other youngsters with pendancy issues....
But that takes a real committment to change and not just lip service.....whether one is in Texas or Idaho or Pennsylvania.....we have to start doing a better job!!!

Anonymous said...

rericson,

You need to reread what I said. Having dealt with juvenile justice funding at TYC as the agency's business attorney, I am very familiar with where the money comes from and how it is spent. It is clear to me that you have many misunderstandings of how Texas operates its funding as well as the differences between school districts and juvenile corrections facilities. Regardless of what should be done in the juvenile field, money makes the world go around and some of the people who decide how and what to spend do not have a clue.

Howard A. Hickman

Anonymous said...

Howard,

I happen to think you are very knowlegeable on the subject of TYC and what's going on with the agency, so I would like to ask you something. How is it that TYC expects to regionalize and specialize at the same time? Is this possible and/or feasible? According to SB103, TYC will mix MHMR with capital and violent offenders in their efforts to place all youth closer to their homes. How can this possibly work?

I am an 11 year veteran of TYC and an avid reader of your comments on GFB.

Respectfully,
D. Gibson

Anonymous said...

7:04,

Anything is possible with enough money; however, the Texas legislature is never going to provide enough money so such a scheme is doomed to failure.

Howard A. Hickman

Anonymous said...

That's about what I suspected Howard. It's always about the money isn't it?.

Anonymous said...

It is always is and always has been about the money. The legislature and governor called for an exploding TYC population in the 90s and 00s, reducing funds all the while. This is what doomed the agency. Squeezing as much out of people who are underpaid as possible.

The budget supposedly increased this legislative session, however none of those expenditures have anything to do with the daily treatment and management of youth.

You cannot regionalize and specialize and incorporate UTMB. The UTMB contract is amazingly stupid. Only the legislature would have dreamed this up.

Anonymous said...

Open your eyes people. This agency isn't trying to be fixed. They (the good experts in Austin) have taken every tool we've had to try to actually help these youth. There is absolutely no accountability in effect for the youth. Where I work, there can be NO 225's written in education unless the student is being sent to security. Let me tell you, even if he is sent to security which is extremely rare these days, he'll be right back. Here's what has to be done at the school. The student decides to disrupt the class (this could be anything from talking to sitting there cursing the teacher terribly)and he has to have 3 interventions before he can be sent out of that class. The teacher then has to fill out a form and get it turned in. In most cases, the student is back before the teacher can finish. The student then gets to do this whole situation 3 times before he is sent to security and that is only if someone is keeping good track of the number of times the student has shown up. If he's smart enough to get his 3rd one just before school is out, they'll let him sit in the room and not send him to security anyway. Now multiply that by a number up to 15-16 in a class and imagine how much the teacher is getting to teach. How much is this actually happening you ask? Well, imagine that there are really no consequences for these disruptions. If the student decides to, he'll just get up and walk out of class and down the hallway. The student need not attain an academic phase and since the behavior phase is determined by the number of 225's the youth gets, and the student gets to go home at the end of his MLOS no matter what his phase is and well, you get the idea. Many and I mean many of these youth are just disrupting for the fun of it. I feel sorry for the teachers. They have to just sit and take the abuse all the while wanting to help them succeed.

It really is like a zoo. Then when the student is finally sent out like he actually wanted to anyway, he generally waits until myself or another JCO comes and begs him for a while (now we can't put our hands on them or spray them, you know so what else are we to do). Then, they go down the hallway cursing as loudly as they can yell so their homeboys can hear and decide that they want to do the same. Don't forget that if they don't make their mandated score on the TABE, the teacher is as fault. If they don't get their GED, the teacher is at fault. If they aren't reading at the appropriate grade level for their age, the teacher is at fault. Do the JCO's help out with the disruptions? Only a few of us dare. If we do, then we're basically in trouble because we're instructed no to even though the teachers have been told that we're supposed to. Many times I can't help myself and I just have to intervene. Now, things must be going better mind you because the number of 225's has dropped dramatically. I guess that would make sense since they can't be written but, of course, that's not advertised. Just the fact that the numbers of 225's are way down. This would be a little like Texas raising (on the sly mind you) the speed limit to 100mph and then bragging that we don't have the numbers of speeders that the rest of the states have. Yes, it's the same old TYC and I believe they (those good folks in Austin) are making sure that we're sending these youth right back into the communities so that they can victimize others just so the public will finally get fed up and we can go to something other than TYC. I don't know what it is that they know and are working toward, but believe me, I think it's going to work. The people who haven't quit already have about had it and are looking hard. TYC will be looking for many more staff real soon. And I'm talking veteran staff who know how to help these youth and this agency. When a crime occurs in your community, do a little checking and see if the criminals aren't our alumni. The two guys murdered the other day for a couple of bucks and some change. Yep, some of our finest "children" sent back out on the street. Did you see the interview. How'd you like that remorse? Did you catch what was said. That's the way we're spoken to all day long and there is nothing we can do. If we happen to slip up and say something back, then WE get the discipline. Go figure.

Mr. Neddlekoff, I've watched long enough. You aren't part of the solution, that is clear. You are slick though. I believe you are here to put the finishing touches on TYC and if you're too nieve to know it (I sincerely doubt that), you're dumber than Demetria looked. At least I know that we've been dupped by the best. Nothing much has really changed otherwise. Retaliation? Alive and well thank you very much. Sexual harrassment....going strong still. Good ole boys....just a different bunch. Incompetent people in control....from the top down to the facility level.

Goodbye TYC. It's been a pretty good ride for some of the 9 years I've worked for you. I only wonder when they change things up if I'll still have a job or not and if I'll still have my accummulated leaves or lose them and have to start over. Sometimes I think that the people at the top are better at deceiving than the youth I work with. Either way, it's a crime the way the staff is treated. We've begged for help forever now and it's clear that it isn't coming. I wonder each day I walk in that gate now if I'm next to be attacked but I have a family and mouths to feed and too much time invested to just walk back out. I need to figure it out like a whole lot of the rest and just not see or hear anything that is going on that is wrong, but I just can't seem to be able to do it. In my eyes, those people are cowards and I refuse to give in. Of course, they will still be employed when I'm long gone. How do they sleep at night, I wonder?

Anonymous said...

6:58
You speak the entire truth as hard as it would be for most to hear.
Higher ups, specialty groups are all living in a perfect world syndrome.
In a perfect world all these changes would work and work immediately. The only problem is that we all live in the Real World and a perfect world does not exist. What looks so good on paper never really works in the real world.
We are in a big mess and its getting worse, but the perfect world thinking people can not see this. I give them credit for trying and hoping they have the solution. I pray they do. The problem lies in the personalities that they hire to lead us and the staff they hire to work in the trenches. By Staff I am not just referring to JCO's. I mean all tyc employee's.

Anonymous said...

And one only look South to the RGV to see what a mess we are in with the staff at Evins. No matter waht is said, writtem or done, these dogs just won't hunt.

Anonymous said...

Outsourcing education services at WTSS will be the best thing for the kids - I have witnessed their "classes" and crosswords and coloring are not going to help these youth succeed. TYC education staff should have done thier job when they had the chance - but they didn't.