Legislative YRTC oversight bill approved

A bill that provides greater legislative oversight for the state’s youth rehabilitation centers passed July 31.

Sen. Sara Howard
Sen. Sara Howard

The Office of Inspector General of Nebraska Child Welfare is housed within the Office of Public Counsel, a division of the Legislature. Currently, the office investigates allegations of misconduct by employees of the state Department of Health and Human Services, the juvenile services division, contractors and juvenile detention facilities.

LB1144, introduced by the Health and Human Services Committee, expands legislative oversight of the state’s YRTCs. The bill requires the juvenile services division to report to the inspector general any instance of assault, escape, attempted suicide and other acts that occur at a YRTC.

In addition, the department is required to submit quarterly reports of grievances filed at YRTCs and to notify the inspector general of any leadership changes within the juvenile services division or the YRTCs. The inspector general is required to conduct an annual review and physical inspection of six state institutions and report to the Legislature.

The bill includes provisions of LR298, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Sara Howard, that create the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center Special Oversight Committee of the Legislature.

The oversight committee is required to issue a report with any findings and recommendations to the Legislature by Dec. 15, 2020, and will terminate on Dec. 31, 2020.

Also included are provisions of Howard’s LB1085, which make gender neutral several references to the Office of Public Counsel in state law.

LB1144 passed on a vote of 48-0 and takes effect immediately.

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