Protecting and Advocating for Youth with Disabilities in Residential Facilities

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How the disAbility Law Center of Virginia monitors and investigates Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities throughout the Commonwealth

Richmond, VA – A recent disturbing report by the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) exposed the extensive abuse faced by youth in for-profit residential treatment facilities. This report compiles investigations from 18 different states and focuses on issues of physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual assault, restraint and seclusion, overuse and misuse of medication, and improper facility conditions.

Although the original report did not include residential facilities in the state of Virginia, the disAbility Law Center of Virginia (dLCV) has investigated many of these same issues in the Commonwealth. dLCV provides oversight to all Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities (PRTFs) in Virginia through monitoring, training, and outreach to protect children and youth from harm and to assist in education and program-building.

Additionally, dLCV works with other regulatory agencies to ensure protection from abuse and neglect. This is particularly important now, as dLCV monitors Covid-19 outbreaks in these facilities and offers them assistance by sharing best practices and obtaining medical supplies and vaccinations for those eligible.

“The conditions described in this national report are similar to conditions we find all across Virginia,” responded Colleen Miller, Executive Director of dLCV. “These are some of the most vulnerable young people in the state, made even more vulnerable when their treatment is driven by profit and not by care.”

Recently, the disAbility Law Center of Virginia investigated a local Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility after receiving a report that a resident ingested batteries in front of facility staff, with no intervention by staff. This ingestion resulted in emergency surgery. dLCV filed complaints with regulatory agencies and demanded corrective action to protect all youth from harm in the future.

The disAbility Law Center of Virginia is committed to advocating for youth with disabilities by ensuring they are not placed in dangerous and neglectful residential facilities; and, assisting them in accessing adequate community services and placements when discharged from residential facilities.