A pair of bills has been filed by two area lawmakers, which could change how residential treatment centers are licensed and regulated in Texas.
State Representative Ben Leman and Senator Lois Kolkhorst filed HB 1698 and SB 781 on Tuesday. These bills look to help the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) oversee treatment facilities, particularly those connected to youths, by giving them additional tools and guidelines.
The legislation would require HHSC to seriously consider “any public comment the commission receives” regarding the licensing of the proposed center. In addition, it would need to study “documented evidence gathered through the application review process”.
The bills also say a permit can be denied if the commission finds that the community does not have enough resources to support children in the facility, if the facility would “significantly increase” the number of students enrolled in a special education program in the local school district, or if it would have a “significant adverse impact” on the community. The commission will also be required to set procedures to reduce the amount of runaways from treatment facilities.
Leman said his bill will make sure that before residential treatment centers receive a license, they have a plan of operation in place and get input from the community.
These bills follow the licensing of the controversial Bluebonnet Haven Youth Treatment Facility, located on Highway 36 South near the Brenham State Supported Living Center. The facility was licensed, despite opposition from Brenham City Councilmembers, Washington County Commissioners, and the Brenham School Board.
It also follows the announcement of Kolkhorst that the Five Oaks treatment facility in New Ulm would be closing. Kolkhorst’s office released a statement Tuesday afternoon, stating the operators of Five Oaks have surrendered a license to operate the facility.