TYC Failure of the Day: Rehab

Inmates who are cranked through the Texas Youth Commission’s one-size-fits-all drug treatment programs, its own staff now admit, are more likely to recidivate than addicted inmates who are not treated.

That startling fact comes from Phyllis Giambrone, who directs the TYC’s substance abuse services. Giambrone told the Dallas Morning News that she recognized the program’s failures when she was brought on board three years ago. Amazingly, she’s just now getting around to dealing with them. The paper reports that the TYC was pressuring its staff to present inflated numbers (read: Enron-style) to state legislators in order to ensure continued funding. Toby Goodman, a former House member who served as vice chairman of the state’s Juvenile Justice Committee until last year, told the paper that the reports coming from the TYC concerning its drug treatment program were all rosy. “The numbers that I recall were indicating that it was working,” he said. “Otherwise, we wouldn’t have funded it, or we would have restructured the program.”

In August Giambrone submitted a report to the Sunset Advisory Commission, a good governance committee that periodically reviews state programs, on the need to revamp the TYC’s chemical dependency services. “This is the first time I’ve put it down on paper,” she said. “But previous managers that I’ve had were aware of my concerns and need to change the program.” TYC is “in the early stages of developing a new approach to drug treatment along with a new rehabilitation program called CoNEXTions,” the paper reports.

The article explores in some detail the history and failures of the current program, as well as the many problems (staffing, primarily) that the new one will need to address. TYC watchers, understandably, are quite skeptical of CoNEXTions’s chances for success. I, for one, think the TYC will remain unable to provide effective treatment services of any kind until it undergoes some serious rehab of its own. And it might be too late for even that. Considering how long it took the TYC to admit it had a problem, I don’t think we can wait for the state to slog through its proverbial twelve steps. What’s needed is some serious detox.

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