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State proposes new rules for troubled teen treatment

August 25, 2019

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana health department is proposing new rules for licensing private residential treatment programs for troubled teens now that the agency has oversight of such programs.

The proposed rules include licensing requirements, unannounced inspections and protocols for reporting abuse and neglect. Programs would not be allowed to punish residents’ behavior through seclusion, physical discipline, excessive physical exercise or by withholding food or water, or denying family visits, the rules state.

Programs would have to develop admission policies to define the types of issues they treat and staff must pass background checks, according to the proposed rules .

Public comment on the proposed rules will be taken at a hearing on Sept. 12 at the DPHHS auditorium in Helena, the Missoulian reports . Written comment is also being accepted by mail or email.

Prior to July 1, state law allowed a board made up mostly of administrators of private treatment programs to oversee private residential treatment programs.

The state Department of Public Health and Human Services removed 27 children from The Ranch for Kid in northwestern Montana just weeks after gaining oversight of the 15 licensed programs citing escalating reports of physical and psychological abuse at the ranch.

The Private Alternative Adolescent Residential and Outdoor Treatment Program board had received 10 complaints about the Ranch for Kids, but it continued to operate. It wasn’t until after the 2019 Legislature passed a bill to move oversight to the health department that the board wrote to ranch administrators saying it found some of its practices abusive and unprofessional.

The ranch provided treatment for children who hadn’t bonded with their adoptive families and those who suffered from the effects of their mother’s alcohol use while she was pregnant.

The program’s executive director, Bill Sutley, has said he plans to challenge the state’s suspension of his program’s license.

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Information from: Missoulian, http://www.missoulian.com

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