P.O. Box 12068, State Capitol
Austin, Texas 78711
Tel. (512) 463-0112
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 21, 2009
AUSTIN — State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, today filed SCR 77, a concurrent resolution providing legislative approval for the settlement with the federal Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding abuse and neglect in our state schools for Texans with developmental disabilities.
"This settlement gives us a fresh start in our effort to protect and care for residents in our state schools. The new benchmarks established under this agreement are things we should be doing already. I welcome the idea of having outside monitors inspect our facilities to ensure that residents are being treated compassionately," Senator Nelson said. "I have invited all members of the Senate to attend our joint briefing tomorrow because it is vital that we all understand the terms of this settlement. Ideally, we would have more time to digest the information, but because we have such a compressed timeline, we need to move quickly."
The Senate Committee on Health & Human Services and the House Committee on Human Services will hold a joint public hearing at 8 am Friday, May 22, 2009 in the House Appropriations Hearing Room (E1.030). The hearing will include testimony about the settlement terms from the Office of the Attorney General, the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) and the Department of Family and Protective Services. SCR 77 will be considered, along with an HCR by Representative Patrick Rose, Chair of the House Committee on Human Services.
The agreement, which brings resolution to the DOJ investigation of state schools that began in 2005, includes independent monitors to inspect our state schools. It sets new standards for the level of medical and psychological care residents should receive, enhanced oversight to detect and deter exploitation and clear guidelines for employees designed to reduce the residents' risk of harm. The settlement will be filed in a U.S. District Court in Travis County to ensure compliance.
Senator Nelson also authored SB 643, the emergency state school reform bill, which has passed both chambers of the Legislature. SB 643 establishes an Office of Independent Ombudsman to audit state schools biannually and serve as a confidential intermediary for parents, clients and guardians. It creates a toll-free hotline to report abuse; requires video camera surveillance in common areas; and requires DADS to perform FBI and DPS fingerprint background checks of employees.