US Attorney to Probe Rhode Island's Alleged Civil Rights Violations Against Children

US Attorney Zachary Cunha will hold a press conference to discuss a federal investigation into Rhode Island's alleged civil rights violations of children with behavioral health disabilities in state care. The investigation focuses on the state's reliance on psychiatric hospital settings, leading to inadequate services and sex discrimination.

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Aqsa Younas Rana
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US Attorney to Probe Rhode Island's Alleged Civil Rights Violations Against Children

US Attorney to Probe Rhode Island's Alleged Civil Rights Violations Against Children

US Attorney Zachary Cunha is set to hold a press conference on Monday afternoon to discuss a federal investigation into Rhode Island's alleged civil rights violations of children with behavioral health disabilities in state care. The investigation focuses on the state's practice of relying on psychiatric hospital settings for services rather than residential or out-patient treatment centers, which has led to inadequate psychiatric services and sex discrimination.

Why this matters: This investigation sheds light on the systemic failures in providing adequate care to vulnerable populations, particularly children with behavioral health disabilities. The findings and consequences of this investigation may have far-reaching implications for the state's healthcare system and its approach to addressing the needs of marginalized groups.

Childcare advocates have condemned the state's practice for several years, citing the lack of proper educational and care services for children in psychiatric hospital settings. The problem is particularly acute for adolescent girls, who have been sent out of state for services or held in hospitals for long periods due to the shortage of in-state treatment options.

In 2021, Family Court Chief Judge Michael B. Forte warned lawmakers that Rhode Island faced a potential sex discrimination lawsuit due to its inadequate psychiatric services for girls. "I believe DCYF is guilty of systematic sex discrimination in failing to provide comparable services and placements for girls as it does for boys," Judge Forte stated.

The state had contracted with St. Mary's Home for Children in North Providence to provide psychiatric residential treatment for girls since 2019. However, the state stopped placing children in St. Mary's in November 2022 due to an investigation by the state Child Advocate's Office, which uncovered incidents of improper childcare, assaults, and mismanagement. St. Mary's is now under new management, and the state has approved $11 million for a 12-bed addition.

The press conference, scheduled for 2 p.m. on Monday, will feature US Attorney Zachary Cunha and Susan Rhodes, regional director of the U.S. Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights. The conference will likely provide more information on the federal investigation and its findings.

The federal investigation into Rhode Island's alleged civil rights violations of children with behavioral health disabilities in state care sheds light on the state's long-standing issues with providing adequate psychiatric services and addressing sex discrimination. As the press conference unfolds, the public can expect to learn more about the findings and potential consequences for the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth, and Families.

Key Takeaways

  • US Attorney to hold press conference on federal investigation into RI's alleged civil rights violations of children with behavioral health disabilities.
  • Investigation focuses on state's reliance on psychiatric hospitals, leading to inadequate services and sex discrimination.
  • Childcare advocates have condemned the practice, citing lack of proper educational and care services for children in psychiatric hospitals.
  • Adolescent girls particularly affected, with many sent out of state or held in hospitals due to lack of in-state treatment options.
  • Press conference to provide more information on investigation findings and potential consequences for RI's Department of Children, Youth, and Families.