Last Thursday, Governor Rick Perry signed emergency legislation that would invest $48 million dollars over two years into improving oversight and safety at state facilities and community homes that service Texans with varying degrees of mental disabilities.
"Whether these folks live in our state facilities or in therapeutic community settings, we're all obligated to show that basic human decency for those individuals so that they can live and learn and grow," said Perry prior to signing the bill. "Our current system had some serious shortcomings."
The bill calls for independent monitors and enhanced services to meet the medical and psychological needs of state school residents. It also establishes an Office of Independent Ombudsman; requires video surveillance cameras in all common areas to prevent, deter and detect abuse and neglect; requires FBI fingerprint background checks and random drug testing on employees; and increases penalties for employees who abuse or neglect residents, or fail to report abuse or neglect.
Late last month the State of Texas reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to spend $112 million over the next five years to improve the state schools after a December 2008 DOJ report noted widespread mistreatment of the mentally disabled residents in the Texas State school system.