Ending Fight Clubs for the Mentally Disabled in Texas

For the past few years, the Texas Observer has been tracking the under-funded and inadequate Texas state institutions for the mentally disabled.  Workers at one such institution made international headlines when footage of resident “fight-clubs,” organized by guards, found its way to CNN. The September-October 2008 issue of Utne Readerhighlighted one of the Observer‘s findings: “The culprit behind some 1,266 incidents of abuse in the past three fiscal years…is a systemic failure to fund enough qualified workers to provide decent care.”

The U.S. Department of Justice, after conducting its own investigation, threatened to sue the state of Texas if it didn’t clean up its act, and quickly. The state did not act quickly, but it did act.

In June, the Observer delivered some good news.  The Texas legislature finally voted to add $279 million in state and federal funds to the state school budget throughout the next five years. 1,160 more doctors, dentists, nurses, and direct care workers will be hired. 

But one problem lingers: You get what you pay for and workers will still be paid “fast-food wages.” Direct care workers are, on average, the lowest-paid state employees in Texas. If the state doesn’t move to fix this lingering issue, it faces the threat of another Justice Department lawsuit. “The hard work of bettering these sprawling institutions,” writes the Observer, “has only just begun.”

Source: The Texas Observer

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