PCI, 1114 Brandt Drive, Tallahassee FL 32308

Palm Beach County Juvenile Detention Center
West Palm Beach, Florida

September 22, 2006 Palm Beach Post
It is now obvious why the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice spent months trying to block a court-ordered review of the Palm Beach Regional Juvenile Detention Center. The review, released Monday, shows what DJJ already knew: The state is warehousing children and failing to provide requested substance-abuse and mental-health treatment, despite a law that the state provide such treatment. As reported in The Post Tuesday, children at the 93-bed center in West Palm Beach get limited, sporadic therapy, if at all. PsychSolutions, the private company with a $360,339.20-a-year, two-year contract to provide mental-health and substance-abuse services, is understaffed. As a result, the Juvenile Advocacy Project of the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County found that "the unit primarily acts to stabilize crises, in effect placing a 'Band-Aid' on a child's problems." Instead of constant or 5-minute checks of children at risk of suicide, the children are observed every 30 minutes. Children interviewed in March and again in August reported the same problems: Therapy was denied when requested; prescription drugs were not available or monitored. Screening tests, treatment plans and service transition plans were missing from most files. The report, prompted by accusations of "cruel and unusual" treatment of four children at the center, underscores DJJ's flawed philosophy that the detention center is merely a place of transition. In fact, with children being detained for months, treatment for addiction, sexual abuse and mental illness is crucial. DJJ must enforce its contract with PsychSolutions or cancel it. "DJJ is passing the buck to its commitment programs rather than starting rehabilitation at the Detention Center," the report said. "There is no effective rehabilitative treatment despite the legal directive for it and despite providers in place to deliver it." As the Juvenile Advocacy Project prepares reports on the center's food services, living areas, education services and staffing problems, a company with no experience running a program for teen offenders is set to bid on taking over the center, a result of the Legislature's ill-conceived plan to privatize it. Juvenile Judge Peter Blanc, who ordered the review, can adopt the recommendations by the Juvenile Advocacy Project, particularly court oversight of psychiatric evaluations and referrals for mental-health services, to ensure follow-through. The report also notes the ultimate option of suing the state through the U.S. Department of Justice for violating the children's civil rights. The better option? The state can stop treating these children as someone else's crisis.

September 19, 2006 Palm Beach Post
A girl locked in Palm Beach County's juvenile detention center asked to see a therapist on the anniversary of her mother's death, but said she never heard back. A boy at the center was recommended for substance abuse treatment, but nine months later, reviewers could find no evidence he ever got it. And other teens did not get medication they were supposed to be taking for mental health problems because workers failed to follow up with their parents or doctors, according to a report from attorneys at the Legal Aid Society's Juvenile Advocacy Project. Mental health treatment for teens at the center on 45th Street in West Palm Beach is sporadic and limited, the attorneys said, in part because a private company has not met the terms of its contract. Palm Beach County Juvenile Court Judge Peter Blanc ordered the review in response to attorneys' concerns that teens were being locked up for months without meaningful treatment. The 93-bed facility, managed by the Department of Juvenile Justice, holds juveniles charged with serious or repeat crimes until space opens for them in a longer-term residential programs. This year some teens have been forced to wait several months in detention. The time they spend there does not count against their sentences, which can vary depending on behavior. The state pays PsychSolutions, Inc. of Coral Gables up to $180,170 a year to provide a therapist and two mental health workers at the facility, and $28,665 for a part-time psychiatrist. Teens can get 45 minutes of individual counseling once a week, the report said, but PsychSolutions does not provide the group counseling or drug treatment promised in its contract.