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Assaults on staff nearly double at Lincoln Regional Center, new report says

By: - December 20, 2022 10:12 am
Lincoln Regional Center

The Lincoln Regional Center was first established in 1869, just outside the capital city. It treats adults with mental illnesses, and those committed for being not responsible for committing a crime due to a mental illness, at several buildings on a campus just southwest of the city. (Paul Hammel/Nebraska Examiner)

LINCOLN — Assaults on staff nearly doubled this past year at the Lincoln Regional Center, according to a new report that detailed concerns and progress at state institutions.

The annual review of Nebraska’s public institutions also raised concerns about staff turnover that exceeded 30% in some facilities, and the overall high number of vacant positions.

Staffing ‘a challenge’

“Like other agencies across the state, staffing remains a challenge for state institutions,” said State Ombudsman Julie Rogers, whose office compiled the more than 2,000-page report.

The report has been required since 2020, when deplorable and unsafe conditions at the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center for girls in Geneva forced the youths to be relocated to YRTC-Kearney.

The report goes into great detail about things like boiler and fire safety inspections, and backflow tests, but also looks at staffing, complaints and conditions of buildings and furnishing.

Administrator position created

A bright spot in the report was the creation of a “Regional Hospital Administrator” position to improve administration and oversight of adult facilities like the Regional Center and Beatrice State Development Center. The position mirrored an administrator who had oversight over youth facilities.

Overall, the report said, the facilities had responded appropriately to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But concerns included:

— At the Lincoln Regional Center, 93 assaults on staff reported during the past year compared to 51 assaults a year earlier. The Ombudsman’s report stated that it will monitor this trend to increase safety for staff and patients, and to discourage staff from quitting.

‘Critical’ posts vacant

— Critical positions vacant at the Lincoln Regional Center, including hospital administrator, psychology supervisor/program director, psychologist, psychiatrist and director of nursing.

— Possible psychological damage caused by “extreme practices” employed to deter escapes by girls sent to the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center in Hastings. Those practices included escorting girls between buildings, following such groups on four-wheel utility vehicles, and stationing a person outside in a car or van to monitor movements of residents.

— Outdated living areas at some of the state’s youth treatment facilities, in particular the boys’ facility in Kearney. Improvements, the report said, “should be prioritized so the youth are able to focus on their programming.” It was also noted that two new housing units are planned at YRTC-Kearney.

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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska Legislature and Nebraska state government for decades. He started his career reporting for the Omaha Sun and later, editing the Papillion Times group in suburban Omaha. He joined the Lincoln Journal-Star as a sports enterprise reporter, and then a roving reporter covering southeast Nebraska. In 1990, he was hired by the Omaha World-Herald as a legislative reporter. Later, for 15 years, he roamed the state covering all kinds of news and feature stories. In the past decade, he served as chief of the Lincoln Bureau and enterprise reporter. Paul has won awards for reporting from Great Plains Journalism, the Associated Press, Nebraska Newspaper Association and Suburban Newspapers of America. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation, a member of the Nebraska Hop Growers and a volunteer caretaker of Irvingdale Park in Lincoln.

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