Bazelon Center has issued an alert about a bill in the USA congress to do something about human rights abuses rampant in residential programs for teens diagnosed with psychiatric disabilities. Bazelon Center is a Sponsor Group in MindFreedom International.

Rep. George Miller (D-CA) is one of the sponsors of a bill to challenge psychiatric abuse of teens in residential programs.


May 13, 2008

This May, the Bazelon Center asks advocates to take advantage of the designation to work for protections and support needed by children and adults with mental disabilities. Your support for a bill in the House can help Congress hold private residential treatment facilities accountable for protecting the teens sent there by their parents.

Calls to your lawmakers will also encourage them to reject catastrophic cuts the Administration wants to make in essential mental health services-cuts that would eliminate the transformation grants for states to reduce fragmentation of services, the consumer technical assistance programs and the seniors’ mental health program. Lawmakers also need pressure to increase congressional support for criminal justice-mental health collaboration grants, under-funded at a shameful 11 percent of applications, and to put a one-year hold on the Administration’s harmful Medicaid rules.


The House Education and Labor Committee is about to mark up “The Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act of 2008” (H.R. 5876 <http://www.bazelon.org/pdf/HR5876-5-08.pdf> ). The bill is sponsored by committee chairman George Miller (D-CA) and Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY). It is a welcomed response to thousands of allegations of child abuse and neglect at private residential programs (therapeutic boarding schools, wilderness camps, boot camps and behavior modification facilities) for teens with emotional, behavioral and mental health needs, reported by the Governmental Accountability Office <http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d08146t.pdf> (GAO).

H.R. 5976 would:

  • * Keep teens safe with new national standards for private residential programs. 
  • * Prevent deceptive marketing by residential programs for teens by requiring disclosure to parents of qualifications, roles and responsibilities of current staff and of substantiated reports of child abuse or violations of health and safety laws. Programs would also have to provide a link to or web address for information on all private residential programs kept by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). 
  • * Hold teen residential programs accountable for violating the law by requiring HHS to conduct unannounced site inspections at least every two years. Civil penalties up to $50,000 would be levied for every violation of the law and parents would have a federal right to sue program operators that violate the national standards.
  • * Ask states to step in to protect teens in residential programs by providing grants to states that develop their own standards that are at least as strong as the national standards and inspect the programs in their state at least every two years.

Under Chairman Miller’s leadership, this issue has garnered much-needed attention. The Committee’s website <http://edlabor.house.gov/issues/residentialprograms.shtml> has links to testimony from an April 24 hearing where the GAO and other experts testified and presented a follow-up GAO report <http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d08696t.pdf> .

What You Can Do

Urge your Representative to co-sponsor and support H.R. 5876 today to end abuse and neglect in private residential programs that are intended to help teens with behavioral, emotional and mental health problems.

Other Bazelon youth news:

* Campus Mental Health: Know Your Rights!

A new guide offers assistance to college and university students who want to seek help for mental illness or emotional distress. Campus Mental Health: Know Your Rights! <http://www.bazelon.org/l21/rightsguide.htm> , written by Leadership21 <http://www.bazelon.org/l-21/index.htm> , an advisory committee for the Bazelon Center, is now available online in both HTML and PDF versions. The guide offers information to help students find and use mental health resources on campus and safeguard their rights. The 20-page booklet will be published in print form later in the year.

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