Lack of care,
Lack of rules
Medical and security inspections are not conducted at the
Florida Civil Commitment Center. It doesn't need a license to
operate, and rules have never been written.
When Nancy Morais went to the Florida Civil Commitment Center
in 2001 to visit her son Marc, she found pools of ankle-deep, stagnant
water in the visitor's yard and questionable medical treatment that
threatened the health of her son, who had been fighting a brain
Created by the state Legislature in 1998, the treatment center
is obligated under state and federal law to provide medical and
psychiatric care to Florida's most dangerous sexual offenders while
they receive treatment for mental disorders.
But the facility, (a combination of a prison and a mental health
hospital,) operates with little oversight.
and balances that are commonplace at similar facilities in other
states are not in place at Florida's center.
It doesn't need a license to operate. No accreditation from prison
or mental or medical health associations are is required.
In fact, administrative codes -- the rulebook used to guide the
actions of government institutions -- have never been written
for the center.
For example, should fire codes be based on prison or hospital codes?
How should mail be handled?
"The rules governing the facility haven't been totally developed
yet," said Rick Harry, the director of the facility, who spent 10
years run- ning Minnesota's civil commitment center. "In Minnesota,
I had a clear idea about what we were. Here, I don't."
That leaves Harry and his employer, the Pennsylvania based private
contractor Liberty Behavioral Health, responsible for developing
rules and policies for a state institution.
The Department of Children & Families says it's not "statutorily
authorized to promulgate rules'' governing the center but said it
helped Liberty create rules for the offenders to follow.
In a written statement to The Miami Herald last week, the DCF criticized
Liberty for ‘‘numerous deficiencies'' in its performance, including
fire and safety code violations and ‘‘mismanagement in the delivery of healthcare."
The DCF says it is now accepting bids for a new contractor. This
time, the state wants the company to be accredited by the Commission
on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities -- an outside agency
that would provide more monitoring of services.