DRC: Restraint, Seclusion in Residential Facilities Continues to Place Children at Risk

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Sununu Youth Services Center campus in Manchester,

By Disability Rights Center-NH

The practices relating to restraint described in the report issued Thursday by the Office of Child Advocate (OCA) result in real physical and psychological harm to children.

The failure of some facilities, including the Sununu Youth Services Center, to end the use of prone restraint and reduce the use of all restraint has significant long-term consequences for our children.

DRC-NH applauds the OCA for its comprehensive look at the use of restraint and seclusion in residential treatment facilities throughout the Granite State. Now it is time for the state to take action on these issues.

DRC-NH strongly supports the Child Advocate’s recommendations that the Department of Health and Human Services:

  • Utilize all means at its disposal to minimize the use of restraint and seclusion and to eliminate the use of dangerous practices like prone restraint.
  • Fully comply with RSA 126-U, including its mandate to carefully monitor restraint practices and provide a robust complaint and investigation process to address complaints of improper restraint and seclusion.
  • Promptly implement the improvements to the children’s behavioral health system which were mandated by the NH legislature in 2019.

The Department must reduce the overall use of restraint and eliminate the use of prone restraint and other dangerous practices in all treatment facilities.

This will require that the Department align its statements, policies, contracts, and informal communications with the law and with best practices for children who are in crisis. 

The Department has recognized the dangers of prone restraint and must hold facilities accountable for any instances of its continued use, including in its own Sununu Center. The Department must also provide the Child Advocate with the information it needs to effectively monitor facilities like the Sununu Center that are known to engage in dangerous and prohibited practices.

“For the last 10 years, we have advocated to reduce the use of restraints in facilities and to protect the safety of the children living in them. I hope this report is the impetus the state needs to give these issues immediate attention,” said Stephanie Patrick, DRC-NH Executive Director.

As New Hampshire’s designated Protection and Advocacy agency, DRC-NH is authorized by federal law to access facilities where people with disabilities live or receive services. We will continue to use our independent access authority to investigate allegations of abuse and neglect, to monitor the rights and safety of children with disabilities, and to protect children with disabilities from dangerous conditions in educational and treatment settings.  We look forward to working with the Department and the Office of Child Advocate to improve conditions in facilities and keep children safe

DRC-NH is New Hampshire’s designated Protection and Advocacy system and is dedicated to eliminating barriers existing in New Hampshire to the full and equal enjoyment of civil and other legal rights by people with disabilities. More information about DRC-NH can be found at http://www.drcnh.org.

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