Bumping up the volume 

State regulators lifted a ban on new admissions at Kids Behavioral Health (KBH) earlier this month, but an advocacy group for patients with disabilities says allowing the treatment center for troubled youth to add more patients is a mistake.

The state ordered the treatment facility near Butte to cease new admissions in September after the Montana Advocacy Program (MAP) uncovered a high incidence of injuries to patients and staff. State regulators concluded there was not enough staff to safely monitor the troubled youth there, so a moratorium on admissions went into effect Sept. 2.

According to the Nov. 17 order lifting the admissions ban, KBH has “come into compliance by taking effective corrective action.”

Bernadette Franks-Ongoy, MAP’s executive director, acknowledges that KBH has improved staffing and procedures, but says it’s too soon to let the facility begin admitting new patients.

“We’re convinced that some of those positive improvements have come by way of the fact that they have a much more manageable case load,” Franks-Ongoy says.

According to her, the facility was never designed to house the number of patients the state licensed it for, and so maintaining a lower head-count is good practice. She’s concerned that increasing the number of patients could reverse the positive changes that the ban on admissions has achieved.

KBH can now admit 10 children per week until it reaches its maximum capacity of 85, but Bill Vickers, KBH’s CEO, says that’s not going to happen.

“We’ve never admitted 10 kids in a week,” Vickers told the Independent from his Nevada office last week. “We’ll bring children in as we’re able to and get them in and get them on a treatment plan.”

Vickers acknowledged that some improvements needed to be made, but said he didn’t agree with all of the state’s charges.

“We operated the facility that way for many years without any problems,” he said.

Franks-Ongoy says MAP will continue to monitor the facility.

“We believe we have to do constant, continual monitoring and feed whatever information we have back to the state,” she says. “We’re not going to ease up on it.”

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