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Thumbs Up for State-School Reforms

On the Lege

By Richard Whittaker, Fri., May 22, 2009

Four years after the U.S. Department of Justice started its probe into the Lubbock State School, legislators have passed new protections for the 10,800 individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities receiving services in the state's residential and intermediate care facilities. Conceding that the state has "done a poor job" of protecting residents from abuse and neglect, bill sponsor Rep. Patrick Rose, D-Dripping Springs, said the reforms in Senate Bill 643 allow the state to "investigate [abuse] thoroughly and proactively prevent it." While recent scandals about physical abuse of inmates in Corpus Christi have grabbed headlines, Rose said the bill's purpose is to address longstanding structural problems with inspection and oversight of public and private facilities. This includes introducing biennial staffing and training audits, staff background checks, and an independent ombudsman. The state's 13 residential facilities will also be renamed state-supported living centers to more accurately reflect their purpose. The bill now returns to the Senate for review of House amendments.

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