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I never get too far from City Council chambers, even when I travel.

@NEDHHS presser coming on YRTC. I’ll try to live tweet it here.
@NEDHHS Kearney Mayor Stanley Clouse: We're here to see how we can make an important facility in our community better. Will hear Dannette Smith, HHS CEO, share her plans.
@NEDHHS Smith has been CEO a little more than a year.
@NEDHHS Smith: I humbly stand before you deeply troubled about what's going on at YRTC. I haven't had this kind of incident in a while in my career. I take it very seriously. Always concerned about the safety of my staff, and about the safety of the children. A lot of sleepless nights.
Smith: There have been several incidences at YRTC Kearney, from youth absconding to staff assaults. I understand the community's concern and I share them. A number of problems: Census, staffing levels, outdated protocols, people with a long history of criminal behavior.
Smith: We take providing a safe environment for the youths very seriously. We've evaluated the situation and are taking immediate action. We will be more consistent.
Smith: We will trust but we will verify the work that is happening at YRTC. The first is YRTC leadership. They've put together a plan where they're on campus 24 hours a day, to provide security and safety.
Smith: No. 2 strengthening protocols on on-site and furlough and off-site visits. Temporary ban on off-site for 30 days. Only parents and guardians will be allowed to take off sites.
Smith: No. 3, adding more staff. Added more staff from our other facilities. But those staff that could pitch in on evenings and weekends. Some from Geneva.

No. 4. Asked judges to stop sending for a while to help us catch up.
Smith: No. 5 Requiring more communication and action plans with teams. Every evening at 8 p.m. I get an update on what's going on on that campus. If it requires assistance we will do so.
Smith: Also trying to make sure the school environment is providing what's needed for a learning environment.
Smith: No. 6 Buffalo County and the City of Kearney have graciously met with me. Had a meeting this weekend, had a meeting last night. To make sure the voices of Kearney and surrounding communities are heard.
Smith: They will be meeting with my team to develop an emergency response plan. So the sheriff's office and Kearney have the ability to get to us expeditiously.

They'll help us look at our training protocol and help us with deescalation techniques.
Smith: Also be moving forward with plans to transfer six high-acuity male youth to our facility in Lincoln.

Some of the girls will be relocating to Geneva within the
next week.

Two will head to Hastings Regional Center for treatment for adolescent males.
Smith: Our team serves some of the most difficult and challenging youths in our communities. We will make sure they can safely, securely be served with treatment and care. Will work to maintain public safety.
Smith: Will maintain our commitment to you and the youth to make sure they are successful adults.

Where to we go from here: In July and Aug. 2019, we collaborated on the vision for Nebraska's youth rehabilitation centers.
Smith: Now it's time for that future planning to take place. Committee met last week and will play role in designing services, coordinating continuum of care for Nebraska youth. The problems we are facing here are not unique to Nebraska. This is more than a department issue.
Smith: The state takes full responsibility for the care and treatment of the kids and our staff. We can't do this work alone. We appreciate Sen. John Lowe, the police chief, the sheriff, and the county commissioner. Thanks to all of you.
Smith: This has not been easy for you. It's not been easy for you for multiple years. We are committed to solving this expeditiously but also thoughtfully.

Smith called it a "time of crisis."
Sen. Lowe: I think it's a good day for Nebraska. We are forming a partnership with Buffalo County, the City of Kearney and the DHHS. That's a good thing, as we all know here in Kearney. CEO Smith, thank you very much.
Lowe: "We've not had a director like this as long as I can remember. We've not seen these changes to YRTC for 20-40 years. We're on the right path. We're going the right direction. And we're going to make it better."
Lowe: We need a place for young men and women that they can get the most help. By having the few up there that are causing the problems for everybody else, we need to place them where they need to be, where it's proper for them.
Lowe: That way the youth that are there have a chance to become good citizens. Good people up there working, most of them from the city of Kearney.
Lowe: They're trying to make these kids better. I told Ms. Smith I'll do everything I possibly can on the legislative floor to get better results. I blame myself and my colleagues on the legislative floor.
Lowe: We passed the laws that have inhbited the staff from doing what's needed to make YRTC better and make sure Kearney is safe.

Smith: I saw those photos of the people hurt. I was appalled.

Smith: Those that are going to be moved will be assessed.
Smith: Those who need more one-on-one, more attention will be moved. Lincoln will be able to take them the week of Feb. 18.

Smith: We're going to be adding to the assessment before we place kids as well.
Smith: We need to do a better job of putting kids where they can get the help they need on the front end.
Lowe: The Legislature has done a lot of this. I'm not going to put it off. We've got to allow the staff members to interact with these students, these young men and women so they are not afraid of getting in trouble. That's part of the problem. Training will improve things.
Smith: Right now the kids waiting because of our ask of judges will head to a youth detention center until they can be placed.

Smith: We will have a national consultant come in and give us a bird's eye view.
Smith: (Why should the community have faith in your plans?) I'm here, not in Lincoln. No. 2, I'm a real-time, action-oriented leader. Those steps are happening today. They've already started to happen.
Smith: I want to make sure I'm getting the buy-in from Kearney and the State of Nebraska. The plan has to be done as we're making fixes. It's got to roll along at the same time. That's what's different.
Smith: Dormitory style campuses are basically not used. One of the things we've seen nationally it has a feel for a detention center look.
Smith: There are smaller programs, smaller cottages out in a community, and your more high-risk kids would come to a more security facility like Kearney, but more secure. We're not talking about shoplifters.
Smith: These are kids who've had a lot of criminal activity in their backgrounds. These kids are having substantial trauma issue, substantial abuse and neglect.
Smith: When you have a history and lifestyle of those behaviors, it makes you act out, often negatively. Seeing youth with significant mental health issues that we've not seen before. Not just harming their peers, but harming adults.
Smith: We know the facility we have there is difficult to manage the kind of kids we have. We want the plan to make sure whatever we build fits the plan. Wherever we build it.
Smith: We've ordered some new beds with no frame on them to prevent an attack like what we saw. They'll be here no later than March 3. We've ordered over 100.
Smith (speaking to parents): Many of the parents call me personally. We're doing our level best to make sure that their children are safe.

Lowe: No plans to prioritize any of the bills yet, but I will take a look at them because this is a priority.
Smith: Need to learn how to disarm appropriately, de-escalation techniques, a little blend of corrections and rehabilitation style.
Smith: Some of this is recruitment, some is working with existing staff to train them with the right skills that creates an environment for them to use the skills. Treatment oriented but with correctional skill.
Smith: There will still be on-campus visitation, but only the parent or guardian. Off-campus is restricted for 30 days.

Smith: I think that some of the kids we are getting at the YRTC campus are not appropriate for the campus setting.
Smith: The week of Feb. 18, six will be moving to Lincoln. Shortly after, moving 3 young women to Geneva campus. Have 2 to Hastings substance abuse treatment. Around that week.
Lowe: We're gonna get this better. For those who've been affected by the young men and women who run, we're with you. We'll make sure they go to the right places where they need to be.
Okay. Headed over to pound out a quick online story. Thanks for following along. Sorry I had to tweet out so much at once. Was hard to keep up with Smith. She's a fast talker. I didn't have the pauses to tweet.
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Here’s my updated story from Kearney today about how @NEDHHS says it’s going to address escalating problems at the state’s largest facility for young people who have committed crimes.

Thanks for following along.

omaha.com/news/crime/act…
Technically young people who have broken the law.
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