State Senator Lois Kolkhorst and Representative Ben Leman have secured final passage of a bill calling for major residential treatment center reform.
Passed with bipartisan support in the House and Senate, Senate Bill 781 changes how treatment centers for youths are licensed and operated across the state.
The bill was written to strengthen the requirements necessary to obtain a license to open any new facility. It also requires a public hearing so that a community is fully informed and involved as a facility seeks a license.
In addition, the legislation allows for continued public input, and lists specific violations that will lead to a facility’s license probation, suspension, and ultimately revocation.
In past years, centers like the now-defunct Five Oaks Achievement Center in Austin County and the Bluebonnet Haven Youth Treatment Facility in Washington County have drawn controversy and concerns over potential dangers to residents and the public.
Kolkhorst, Chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said she is proud to have worked with Leman to write and pass the bill, which she says addresses many of the questions people have regarding facilities like Bluebonnet Haven and Five Oaks. She said the state “must ensure that the CPS and foster care system does not fail either our children or our communities”.
Leman said this legislation will “guarantee proper planning for residential treatment centers” and make sure community input is considered before a center obtains a license. He said he’s honored to have been the House sponsor for this legislation, which will “further protect some of our most vulnerable children in Texas”.
Senate Bill 781 now heads to the Governor's desk for signature.