A lawsuit filed Monday by the group Disability Rights Iowa claims state officials are knowingly employing unconstitutional and illegal practices at the Boys State Training School in Eldora, causing “lasting harm to youth with significant mental illnesses.”
Staff attorney Nathan Kirstein says the lawsuit alleges the DHS director, the administrator of Division of Mental Health and Disability Services and the school’s superintendent are not providing the proper mental health care.
“If a youth in a facility such as the Boy’s State Training School has mental health needs — and those needs are know to the facility — then they cannot ignore them and they must provide them treatment,” Kirstein says. Kirstein says the suit makes other allegations about the way the boys are treated.
He says their second point is a lack of oversight of psychotropic medications as he says there is not an appropriate procedure for the oversight and there needs to be informed consent from the parents for use of those medications. “Three, use of solitary confinement for punishment and overuse of solitary confinement,” Kirstein says. He says there is also the used of full-body mechanical restraint to control youth who typically have not been convicted of any crime.
Kirstein says the lawsuit seeks to have the state follow the law. “What does that mean for the Boys State Training School, well they are going to have to build their capacity number one,” according to Kirstein. “What they have right now in terms of licensed professionals working with youth is way understaffed. And they have been told as much by their own consultant back in 2015 who wrote a report as much.”
He says they filed the lawsuit after failing to get the state to make changes and hope to get it certified as a class-action lawsuit. Kirstein says the state has time to file an answer to the lawsuit, and they have to file a motion with the information that shows the case meets the criteria to be a class-action lawsuit. Kirstein says there were likely 70 or more boys who have been impacted at one time by the lack of proper treatment of the oversight of medications.