Tuesday, October 21, 2008

DCF blasted on oversight at teen treatment facility

Sunday, October 19, 2008 5:46 AM EDT

Associated Press

NORTH STONINGTON — Two state officials are blaming the Department of Children and Families for not properly overseeing a facility where teens being treated for drug abuse and mental illness were involuntarily injected with medications.

Staff at Stonington Institute in North Stonington used the medications this spring to restrain at least five boys, about 16-years-old, who were considered to be out of control.

Child Advocate Jeanne Milstein and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal wrote to the commissioner of the child protection agency that DCF should have discovered the involuntary injections of “intramuscular medication” sooner so fewer children would have been “assaulted with needles.”

The practice of involuntary injections has been stopped and no lasting harm to the teens has been reported. But Milstein and Blumenthal wrote how, “once again we see evidence of DCF’s inability to demand and oversee the delivery of effective, safe services for children.”

A DCF spokesman said the agency handled the situation promptly and effectively.

“DCF quality improvement staff discovered the use of involuntary administration of medication, and our medical staff responded by going to Stonington to instruct them to immediately discontinue this practice, which involved a few instances,” agency spokesman Gary Kleeblatt told the Hartford Courant.

He said DCF called the executive director of Stonington Institute’s corporate parent and the institute’s chief executive officer to emphasize that such injections were unacceptable and to make sure the practice had stopped.

The facility houses fewer than 20 children, about half sent by DCF, according to Milstein’s office.

The criticism of DCF from Milstein and Blumenthal comes shortly before two legislative committees will hold an investigative hearing today to discuss the agency’s operations.

Lawmakers convened the hearing after negative news about DCF over the summer, including the death of an infant who was a foster child under a DCF worker’s care.

In their letter, Milstein and Blumenthal told DCF Commissioner Susan Hamilton they are in the preliminary stages of an investigation into Stonington Institute, but they are already “gravely concerned about the safety and care of the children who remain in residence there, despite chronic program deficiencies that have long been identified by DCF.”

The facility houses fewer than 20 children, about half sent by DCF, according to Milstein’s office.

URL: http://www.nhregister.com/articles/2008/10/19/news/a2--teensinjected.prt

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