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Senior State Official Says Department Is Providing More Mental Health Services For Boys School

federal courthouse
Courtesy of U.S. Southern District of Iowa
A senior state official says the agency is working to provide more mental health services to the Boys State Training School in Eldora.

A senior official at the Department of Human Services testified in a federal court in Des Moines Wednesday that the state agency has been working to provide more mental health services to a state-run school for delinquent teenage boys.

Mental Health and Disability Services Administrator Rick Shults testified that his department has contracted with additional mental health providers, such as a licensed therapist, and started a substance abuse program through grants at the Boys State Training School in Eldora. 

Shults also said he's trying to secure funding to hire a mental health team leader and has already started the hiring process.

Massachusetts-based psychiatrist Stuart Grassian also testified that the school's use of solitary confinement and a physical restraint device, known as "the wrap," could have negative consequences on the mental development and lead to more aggression.

Grassian said that one plaintiff on the case who was placed in "the wrap" had severe asthma and a severe heart condition, which posed significant health risks.

Grassian said he felt before the litigation that mental health services "didn't seem to exist in this school."

The school has been accused of using unconstitutional and illegal practices in a class action lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa by Disability Rights Iowa. 

Natalie Krebs is IPR's Health Reporter