Appointment of juvenile facility oversight committee proposed

The Executive Board heard testimony Feb. 25 on a bill that would reauthorize an oversight committee for the state’s troubled youth rehabilitation and treatment centers.

Sen. John Arch
Sen. John Arch

In 2020, lawmakers created the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center Special Oversight Committee of the Legislature in response to a crisis situation at YRTC Geneva the year before. The nine-member committee issued a report of its findings and recommendations to the Legislature and terminated Dec. 31, 2020.

La Vista Sen. John Arch introduced LR25 on behalf of the Health and Human Services Committee. The measure would reauthorize the oversight committee with a termination date of Dec. 31, 2021.

Because the 2020 legislative session was interrupted by the pandemic, Arch said, the bill establishing the original oversight committee was not signed into law until August of that year. This left the committee only a brief window of time to carry out its duties, he said.

“Nebraska has made some significant strides toward improving our YRTC system in the last couple of years,” Arch said. “However, we know … that a lack of oversight can undo a lot of progress in a short amount of time.”

The committee’s continuation was among the recommendations outlined in its report to the Legislature, Arch said, because members believed state senators could bring valuable expertise to the reorganization of the YRTC structure currently being undertaken by the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Jason Hayes of the Nebraska State Education Association testified in support of the measure. In written testimony, he said continued oversight is necessary to ensure that the YRTC system is meeting its goals.

“Educators and staff at these facilities are among the key stakeholders in providing gender-appropriate programming and age-appropriate curriculum,” Hayes said.

No one testified in opposition and the committee took no immediate action on LR25.

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