Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Mental health spending, TYC 'regionalization' highlight juvie corrections budgets for 2010-11

Let's point out a few highlights in recently issued agency proposals for state juvie corrections budgets that will surely frame legislative discussions in 2009. (For readers who may be interested in this level of detail, see the Texas Youth Commission's legislative appropriation request [LAR] for 2010-2011, and this LAR for the Juvenile Probation Commission.)

Right off the bat, in TYC's exceptional items (pdf) the agency proposes reducing staff size by 172 positions compared to the current budget, most of which can likely be accomplished through attrition. TYC also proposed pay raises for JCOs in its LAR, but not of sufficient magnitude to match what's been proposed in the adult system which currently has identical pay scales.

I was also glad to see the agency intends to continue requesting more funds for mental health services. According to the base budget request (pdf), after receiving a more than 200% increase in mental health services in 2009, from $1,143,556 to $3,513,862, TYC has requested another 20% bump to $4,536,707.

Indeed, IMO it would behoove the state to expand mental health spending across the board much earlier in the process. According to the Juvenile Probation Commission's LAR (p. 6 of the pdf), "According to TJPC data, approximately 26.5% of youth under supervision (19,567 youth) have a diagnosable mental health disorder These juveniles recidivate at a rate almost 50% higher than juveniles that are not mentally ill."

Juvenile probation budgets for mental health services are much smaller, though probation serves perhaps 97+% of juvenile offenders, not TYC. TJPC asked for a modest "increase of $6.5 million (over two years) to conduct mental health assessments, provide mental health services to youth referred to juvenile probation departments or placed in secure facilities." I'm glad to see it, but for my money even that figure should be increased - TYC's mental health services need and deserve the funding boost they've requested, but a truly coherent public policy would invest more heavily in juvie probation departments on the front end to keep kids out of a youth prisons in the first place. The same could be said for so-called alternative disciplinary systems in schools.

The biggest decision over the Youth Commission's next biennial budget will inevitably be what the Lege decides to do with the conservator's "regionalization plan." See the various options laid out here. The conservator and TYC administration favor Option 2, described as follows:
Construct 8 non-secure 24-bed Community Transitional Centers at $1.7 million per site:
  • Houston area (3 sites)
  • Dallas area (1 site)
  • Amarillo area (1 site)
  • San Antonio area (1 site)
  • Austin area (1 site)
  • Tyler area(1 site)
Acquire and renovate a secure 48-bed facility in Kerr County at an estimated cost of $6 million.

Acquire and renovate a 48-bed facility in Terry County at an estimated cost of $4-6 million.
Inevitably this strategy will mean downsizing or shutting down some existing TYC facilities, but the use of smaller halfway house style units and the shift to smaller settings closer to the students families in and of itself is a good idea.

In addition to that proposed new capacity, TYC just approved a 2-year contract with a Florida based company, Youth Services International (YSI), for just over $17 million to lease 132 beds in Colorado County at an old TYC unit at Eagle Lake 65 miles from Houston. The recently re-opened unit was shut down after its own bout with sex abuse scandals several years ago after Colorado County DA "Ken Sparks got a 2005 conviction against a female worker for improper sexual conduct with an inmate at a contract boot camp in Eagle Lake. He said the woman, who performed oral sex on the youth, received a sentence of three years of deferred adjudication, meaning she served no prison time," the Houston Chronicle reported last year. The same company that received the contract to run Eagle Lake, YSI, operated the boot camp at the time.

The regionalization plan has already become a source of contentious debate. In order to implement anything besides option one, TYC would need permission from the Legislature to go outside the scope of its bond authority, which authorized only construction of one 150 bed unit in Harris County, not several new, smaller units. Of the four options proposed, I agree with the conservator number two makes the most sense. But because so much funding is involved, the choice is a political decision, not one the conservator can make on the way out the door and expect it to stick.

Those interested in these agency budgets should look through their LARs for yourself and let us know in the comments if you find any interesting tidbits.

54 comments:

Anonymous said...

Grits, when I click the link for the LAR, I get a story about the governor.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Thanks, I fixed the link.

Anonymous said...

I note that Exceptional Item No. 15is to add three employees to the Ombudsman. That staffing level is slightly only more of a joke than that the fact that it is the fifteenth item requested.(Exceptional items are prioritized) The understaffing provided by this request(even with the exceptional item) only institutionalizes the Ombudsman's inability to do much about the continuing problems created by the "reform" and severely limits the independence of that office. The original TYC budget analysis for that office stated 20 people were needed. The six in this budget request does not come close to accomplishing the stated intent of the legislation.

Howard A. Hickman

Anonymous said...

Does this mental health budget increase include raises for psychologist? Let's look at it.......a PS or even a JCO VI makes more money than an Assoc. Psy. Plus, for a psych position, it requires a Master's Degree and a license. Not a GED like at JCO VI! Any raise in salary?????

Whitsfoe said...

Grits, it looks like they're taking to heart that Missouri Model, or at least the leadership is heading in that direction. Many of these kids could move into transitional placements as opposed to high restriction prior to the MLOS expiring, as opposed to remaining in a high restriction TYC facility with absolutely no other option but to remain there despite progress early on. I really think this will help the cultures at the higher restriction facilities IF the right kids are assessed as appropriate for a "step-down" facility where more transition can occur. I like this idea. It may sack some of those big institutions, and that may be heartbreaking, but we have to move on at some point.

Counting on the counties to do this in Whitmires plan has one huge fundemental problem: there's no trust there from what I'm hearing. I'd bet some district judges will sound off eventually.

Anonymous said...

Good Job TYC.....We finally see some truthfullness. Damm Good Request

Anonymous said...

Why does a top TYC official need an attractive assistant to travel with him or her on every site visit he or she takes? This was the question I asked yesterday while in Beaumont and was informed it happens on every trip. At one time when legislators were looking for a reason to place this agency under conservatorship, I believe the term they used was gross fiscal negligence.
Is there a purpose or reason for this person to travel and make site visits, what data is being collected by them. Some of us get tired of reading the headlines and seeing TYC plastered on the front page.

dirty harry said...

8/20/2008 06:38:00 AM said:
"Why does a top TYC official need an attractive assistant to travel with him or her on every site visit he or she takes?"

It must be based upon who you know. The new TYC head of education, Venita Farr, is in charge of all of TYC education, curriculum, special ed, and RTI implimentation statewide. Yet, she only has one assistant. She could probably put at least a dozen people to work accomplishing these tasks. If it weren't for a handful of diagnosticians from the units that are volunteering to help her, she would get very little accomplished. Of course, these overburdened volunteers are neglecting their own local duties when they do this.

Anonymous said...

Why does one assume that because one is attractive they might not legitmately be good at their job...

Who care what one's assistant looks like...sound like a red herring to me and not relevant to the discussion.

Anonymous said...

Officials almost never do anything alone. There is just too much risk of being falsely accused when there is no witness.

I agree that the "looks" of the assistant don't count. What does count is their ability to remember everything that goes on accurately.

This is a litigeous society, mostly because there are so many lawyers and their families to support.

As for the mental health budget at TYC, the Psychologists definately need higher pay. There needs to be far more research into mental health practices and outcomes in this country. Using some of the drug research money for mental health research would go a long way toward improving social problems being addressed by TYC.

A little mental health care would help the legislators do a better job also. They are crazy if they think TYC staff can do a good job without proper funding.

dirty harry said...

8/20/2008 11:30:00 AM said:
"This is a litigeous society, mostly because there are so many lawyers and their families to support."

I disagree. I would have disposed of all of the lawsuits I have ever filed if the judge would have just let me have five minutes alone in the alley behind the courthouse with the jerk I was suing. But, the law doesn't allow me to do that, so I had to sue them to get my well-deserved pound of flesh.

Sorry for the interruption. Back to the subject at hand.

Anonymous said...

You crack me up Dirty Harry...

Anonymous said...

The fact that TYC does not offer transition to a less restrictive environment prior to expiration of the minimum lengths of stay or periods of confinement has always surprised me. This is an optimal way to promote positive behavior. Particularly for those with longer sentences.

diogenes said...

Most TYC youths can qualify for transfer to a halfway house (lower restriction setting) if they meet certain requirements for progress and time served in a high restriction facility.

At the moment, we're under pressure to move everyone as soon as they qualify, even if the youth does not want to go. We've also been told to stop requesting specific halfway houses and allow central placement to assign youths based on the need to maintain population counts. We've had to get crafty to try to help a youth get to a halfway house that will better serve them instead of the failing ones.

That said, more options would be welcome and beneficial. I just hope the lege is willing to pony up the money to make these changes happen (this and other items in the proposal). The 10% reduction plan has me worried because that is part of how TYC ended up the way we are now. I understand the concept of the need for it in the proposal, but so far that I can tell that has lead to is admins pinching pennies at the expense of their employees and the youths (pennywise and pound foolish) so they can get a bonus check for saving the agency money while the lege and guv keep using that clause to repeatedly slash the budget to look go to the voters.

Anonymous said...

"The baseline budget requests would retain the funding for these positions. A related exceptional item requests new funding to continue the JCO career ladder cost increases; however, if TDCJ requests an additional increase, TYC would request a commensurate adjustment of this exceptional item."

Grits, I found this in the Summary portion. Evidentally, TYC is prepared to request the same increase as TDCJ. That sure would be nice for the JCO's since some facilities are going to 12 hour shifts and the cost of gas, groceries and utilities are at an all-time high. Hope they get this one accomplished!

Anonymous said...

I guess they didn't ask for a supt salary at Crockett in the budget. Since Davis left who's in charge?
CO must be asleep at the wheel....

Anonymous said...

Someone from Maryland or Georgia should be on the way to Crockett, soon.

Anonymous said...

Rumor has it that Debra Harris is heading toward Crockett?

Anonymous said...

Great, Crockett was in better hands when Freeman and Nicholson ran the place. Looks like another wannabe Supt. coming to replace a line of pitiful managers. Is it too late to get Freeman and Nicholson back?

Anonymous said...

well you better be happy that someone is coming to run it, bad or not. Wait till you get the letter that your probably not going to have a job next year. CRTC is on the chopping block.

Anonymous said...

How do you talk to the legistlature telling them you want to improve mental health services and then get rid of the residential treatment center?

Anonymous said...

you improve it by contract care or put them back into regular populations at other facilities. Thats how? Its in the report. boy that a good plan to improve mental health. Get rid of what you can , then hide the rest. kind like that ice cream commercial for blue bell. Sell all you can and eat the rest!

Anonymous said...

Just think...The 09' ledge is coming up and that process could change everything as we know it right now...including SB109. We could turn back into to what we were before the shit hit the fan last year. Who the hell knows what is in store for TYC? Nothing surprises me anymore.

Oh how the buearocratic fires burn!

It's all politics and money. Nothing more, nothing less.

Anonymous said...

It's an absolute shame that the Lege and TYC Central Office is looking to close CRTC. It has such a long history in the community and probably more community support than most of the TYC facilities. They should really rethink this move.

Anonymous said...

Hell yeah, 12:11, its never too late to bring them back, if TYC had any balls, they would bring both of those cutting edge Administrators back. Both of them know how to run a campus and keep the staff and kids in check with policy.

Anonymous said...

Hell yeah, 12:11, its never too late to bring them back, if TYC had any balls, they would bring both of those cutting edge Administrators back. Both of them know how to run a campus and keep the staff and kids in check with policy.

Anonymous said...

9:06

You are deluded...

Anonymous said...

9:35,

You must be another hater they kicked square in the ass.

Anonymous said...

CRTC--Crockett or Corsicana?

Anonymous said...

9:06/1:11

Nope, never had my "ass" kicked. Just an objective observer who would never call "their" methods "cutting edge" or "within policy."

If anything their methods were "neanderthal" and the only time they utilized policy was when it suited them.

So again, you are deluded. It also shows how sad a state TYC is in when anyone would consider those two cutting edge or within policy. It was administrators like them that abused their positions following policy only when they suited them that got TYC into its present predicament to begin with. One only had to review and look at TYC's hx with Morales vs Turman and subsequent sunset reviews to have known better. Freeman, a long time TYC should have known better.

Anonymous said...

enalsngWhat's the news at Ron Jackson?

"Mr. Thomas Adamski is now assigned as the Assistant Superintendent at Ron Jackson Unit I, moving from Ron Jackson Unit II." TS is covering RJ II.

Does that mean they have finally noticed the train wreck at Ron Jackson? If they have finally admitted the problem, they will make sure the truth is supressed. It will be up to someone reading this to let us know the facts behind this change.

If it is finally being dealt with, this is a big story. It's funny how TYC is still good at keeping these big stories covered up for so long. Contrary to what almost everyone at TYC believes, it actually is good to get the truth out.

Anonymous said...

That should have been What's the news at Ron Jackson?
Without the enalsng.

Anonymous said...

5:16 - perhaps you should do a little checking of facts before you start talking about the "facts."

Anonymous said...

12:48,

Most of the procedures that Freeman and Nicholson put in place at Crockett were adopted by the Agency and are still in use today. Get your facts straight, both got railroaded, and if TYC was smart, they would bring them back to help fix this mess.

Anonymous said...

You make my case... look at where the agency is today... Freeman and Nicholson's style and others like them got the agency into the situation it is in currently. They micromanaged the agency, covered up for loyalists, and burned others at the stake who bucked them, and would anonymous slander anyone who tried to hold them accountable...

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a disgruntled ex-employee. I am with you 6:38, we need more like them. They were fearless.

Anonymous said...

In the end Freeman turned on Nicholson and tried to throw him under the bus, blaming him for everything that went wrong. So much for loyalty. Yeah, Freeman was a wonderful leader. Yes sir, we need more like him!

Anonymous said...

I don't think you have to worry about either one of them coming back, although, I do believe Nicholson was screwed over and could have made a positive impact on the "reformed" TYC. He was never "loyal" to Freeman, and simply tried to do a good job for an Agency that eventually judged him based on his boss and that cost him his job.

Anonymous said...

Take the spilt milk blogging somewhere else. geez This is just a MAJOR political swing back to the left.

Anonymous said...

4:12,
Go to bed, you are staying up too late and rambling like a fool.

Anonymous said...

Still no action? Please contact Carlos Ibañez. There was all this talk in the press and what has actually come of it? I guess the most basic way to look at it is: Is the TYC cover-up OK or is it not OK? Is this how it's going to end? See below.


Sent: 8/26/2008 5:36:31 P.M. Central Daylight Time
Subj: Re: Sex and physical abuse cover-up by TYC officials


Dear Mr. Chance:

Thank you for your recent message. We appreciate your contacting the Office of the Attorney General.

Your letter has been forwarded for criminal justice review. Please
understand that we cannot comment on possible investigations.

Again, thank you for writing.

Carlos Ibañez
Public Information & Assistance
Office of the Attorney General of Texas

>>> > 8/21/2008 3:12 PM >>>
Hello. I was contacted by the governors office and updated that your office was now handling the cases about the top TYC officials that covered-up the sex and physical abuse of youth at the West Texas State School. The
governor publicly stated that those involved in the cover-up would be prosecuted. Since
this first case was almost allowed to expire from lack of prosecution, will the same happen to these cases? There were three in particular at the top of
the chain that denied any knowledge but it was revealed that they did know and they had the reports altered by the TYC inspector general.

The Texas Monthly Magazine is also interested in why nothing has been
done about this. Much of the public would also like to know the full truth.

Thanks

Randal Chance

Anonymous said...

I bet you that they NEVER get prosecuted. It's not a TYC coverup, its a STATE OF TEXAS COVERUP!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Hey yall, Sheri Townsed has been named executive director. She was with TYC 18 years before we went Bush and got heavy in corrections. She has a residential comunity service philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Hey folks, the chief of the cover-up claimed that she is the cousin of the governor. She was one of the last ones fired. When she was finally fired, it was for transporting alcohol in a state vehicle, not for covering up the for Brookins. Do you really think Guv Goodhair wasnt this to all come out in court? Do you really think Whitmire wants it to come out that he knew two years before it became a public issue? Be real!

Anonymous said...

Yes. We consistently wonder how it is the heads of government remain so teflon regarding TYC

Anonymous said...

Hey 9:32 - Why the heck do you think Goodhair sent Alphonso over there to be the Chief of Staff? Duh! Keep the lid on. Keep the focus on the employees.

Anonymous said...

I agree, 9:45. I have always viewed Royal's appointment to the central office with a great deal of cynicism. I still am amazed at the temerity of the Governor when he did that.

Has Royal apologized to TYC yet? Someone let us know when he does.

Anonymous said...

No-one is going to apologize to TYC. Whitmire and the Guv cut TYC funding to the bone, and Whitmire needed a scandal to justify further cuts. That's why he waited two years before "investigating" the Brookins case. The Guv had to scramble to cover his own tracks.

There is a fundamental issue here that everybody needs to understand - these pols are only interested in themselves. They do not care one bit about TYC kids or TYC staff. Unfortunately, this attitude is a reflection of the constituencies that elected them. The people of Texas would just as soon turn all the kids into TDCJ inmates to "punish them as they deserve." People drive down the road and see workers leaning on shovels while one guy digs, and those workers become for them a symbol of all government workers. We are all lazy, incompetent and at least somewhat crooked in the eyes of most voters. The kids we serve are just criminals in their eyes as well. These pols know that and play on it. That is why Texas, one of the wealthiest states in the nation is 47th in the pay for correctional officers and 48th in the pay for juvenile correction officers.

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone waited to investigate. There was no conspiracy in the beginning. It's just that they weren't interested or paying attention until the media broke the story in 2007. Then, they (the legislators, the Governor, Alfonso, the Attorney General, the Rangers, the DAs) pointed fingers so other people -- innocent people -- had to pay the penalty for their shortcoming. That's the true underlying story of TYC over the last 18 months.

Anonymous said...

"innocent people" That's the old TYC spin. "Nobody did nothing; nobody knew nothing - and, if we stick together they can't prove a thing."

Who at TYC doesn't stick together?

Anonymous said...

5:06, did you just start reading the blogs today? For 18 months, TYC people have been back-biting, back-stabbing, and slandering each other right and left. Some have been anonymous and some otherwise. Some can't point the finger fast enough -- apparently thinking that if they point first, they'll be protecting themselves. I can't imagine what could possibly have been left untouched after all these months.

I didn't say "nobody did nothin'." I have said that most of what is reported is not true. That's not spin, it's just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Whitmire may be judging some of these facilities by the comments of some of the idiots who post here: people with for and against personal agendas, who conduct anonymous battles with each other ad nauseum. Perhaps he should make some personal, unannounced visits to the places he is so eager to close, like VFC, Corsicana and Crockett. He might be surprized at what he finds.

He might also want to make similar unannounced visits to places he does not want to close, such as Al Price and Evins. I know he held hearings in the Valley, but I don't think he has actually visited Evins. Again, he may be surprized with what he finds.

Anonymous said...

Regionalization at work... why is it that there are at least 3 different "sets" of regions in TYC?

Anonymous said...

My friends and I like to buy Anarchy credits, because the Anarchy Online credits is very useful to upgrade equipment. Only your equipment becomes better, then you can win this game. In Anarchy gold, you can buy everything you want in this game. Tomorrow will be my birthday, so my friends promise to buy AO credits as gifts. I am so happy. They understand me so well, Anarchy online gold is my favorite.