Records: Psychologists question treatment at home

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Newly disclosed records show two psychologists at the Iowa Juvenile Home questioned the treatment residents have been receiving.

Summaries the psychologists made as part of an investigation at the Toledo center were obtained by The Des Moines Register (http://dmreg.co/1663Tsq ) through a records request.

The federally funded advocacy organization Disability Rights Iowa has been investigating allegations about the treatment of children with behavioral problems at the home, including the longtime use of isolation cells. Youths have been placed in the concrete-block cells for weeks and months.

In one comment, psychologist Thomas Potter told investigators “there is no coherent program” of treatment at the home.

Potter also told investigators the two psychologists are excluded from some staff meetings focused on treatment. Although they also aren’t invited to weekly staff meetings, he said they often show up as if they were invited.

Psychologist David Barche told investigators that treatment programs lack structure and follow-through.

Both psychologists said staffers work hard but thought they needed more training so they could succeed at a difficult job.

Barche declined to comment when asked about the statements. Potter couldn’t be reached to comment.

Rick Shults, a Department of Human Services administrator, said the agency has changed leadership at the Iowa Juvenile Home and is addressing issues, including the use of seclusion cells.

“We have significantly focused staff training on real-time, face-to-face demonstration of effective ways in working with youth,” Shults said. “As a result of these actions, we have seen an 81 percent drop in usage of seclusion between April and the end of June.”

Disability Rights Iowa Executive Director Jane Hudson said she worries that administrators and staffers at the home haven’t taken advantage of the psychologists’ expertise so the juvenile home could get a handle on issues such as seclusion cells.

“We also felt that the superintendent had failed to provide sufficient training to the psychologists and other IJH staff to ensure that they all had a clear understanding of the restraint-and-seclusion rules that applied to IJH,” Hudson said.

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com

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