By Signal Staff
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is hosting a media tour and a tour for stakeholders this Sunday at the Geneva Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center (YRTC). The event will take place over the lunch hour and feature the YRTC system redesign, including a tour of the newly-renovated LaFlesche Cottage on the Geneva campus. DHHS CEO Dannette Smith will also be in attendance and will field questions.
In a DHHS press release last week it was reported — Some female youth who are close to transitioning back into their communities relocated to the newly renovated LaFlesche Cottage at YRTC-Geneva. YRTC-Geneva is a re-entry program in a less restrictive environment with a more home-like setting.
A source close to the situation indicated that three girls returned to Geneva last Tuesday or Wednesday for a 60-day commitment. No further information was available.
32nd Legislative District State Sen. Tom Brandt introduced LB 1150 earlier this month. This bill would require that YRTC-Kearney would only be used for boys who are committed to a YRTC setting and YRTC-Geneva would only be used for girls who are committed to a YRTC setting.
All girls were removed from the Geneva YRTC in August of 2019.
Several other state senators have commented about a current list of problems at the YRTC-Kearney facility with housing both a female and male population.
In her response to LB 1150, Smith offered a written opposition to the bill. She stated that LB 1150 would limit the department’s ability to treat youth committed to its care through the YRTC system by requiring it to revert back to the former model of serving the YRTC population. She further testified that the department has transitioned to a multi-campus system that allows for population-specific programming, intensive behavioral interventions when needed, and physical structure for youth safety and security.
Smith also noted past testimony where she stated an inability to properly staff the Geneva facility did not allow the department to successfully serve female youth under the former model. She went on to say that staffing difficulties preclude DHHS from operating a full range of treatment and programming for YRTC female youth on that campus.
Smith also wrote that DHHS has met with Geneva stakeholders several times over the past few months, most recently on January 6. She said the difficulty in recruiting and retaining qualified personnel in Geneva—particularly for security and clinical staff—has been discussed in depth. She said that 13 dedicated staff will be on hand to support that small group of females assigned to Geneva for the re-entry program. She also wrote that DHHS has opened 25 Medicaid eligibility support positions at the administration building on the Geneva campus, and has been successful in recruiting and hiring staff for those roles.