The Nebraska inspector general for Corrections could take on oversight of the state's regional centers with a bill introduced Wednesday by Lincoln Sen. Kate Bolz.
Inspector General Doug Koebernick, on behalf of the Legislature, now does investigation and performance review of the Department of Correctional Services, to provide increased accountability and oversight.
Bolz's bill (LB313) would add the regional centers to his workload.
The Lincoln Regional Center is a 250-bed state psychiatric hospital operated by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. It serves people who need specialized psychiatric services and who require highly structured treatment settings, including sex offenders.
Bolz said she was contacted in recent months with concerns about staffing levels and internal policies at the Lincoln Regional Center. Also, judges have recently ordered juveniles to be placed at the regional center to stabilize and treat them.
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And so, oversight of the services and facilities, especially for vulnerable people, is important, Bolz said.
There's a significant waiting list for the regional center, which means it's consistently at capacity, she said, so the Ombudsman's office could offer insight into ways to best manage a challenging population at a facility that is consistently full.
There are 48 people on the waiting list, she said.
Staff members at the regional center have complained for at least a couple of years about staffing shortages, assaults and injuries, and not being treated fairly. Doctors have complained about procedural and medical irregularities.
The bill also would require the Division of Behavioral Health to provide the Ombudsman's office and the inspector general with direct computer access to all records, reports, and documents maintained by the division in connection with administration of the regional centers.
Access by the inspector general to a patient's medical or mental health records would be subject to the patient's consent.