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U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) announced on Monday that he would be introducing legislation next month to reform residential treatment programs nationwide.
The introduction of a bill is all the more timely after President Barack Obama’s announcement that his administration supports ending therapies aimed at “repairing” gay, lesbian and transgender youth, also known as gay conversion therapy, since some residential treatment programs employ such discredited methods, Schiff said.
Schiff plans to introduce the legislation by the end of May, and is working with advocacy groups and other lawmakers to build bipartisan support.
Last week, Rep. Ted Lieu, (D-Calif.) called for a federal ban on gay conversion therapy. While serving on the California State Senate, Lieu was the author of a bill that forbade gay conversion for minors. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law in 2012.
“So-called gay conversion therapy, which seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, is a dangerous but often overlooked form of discrimination against LGBT Americans,” Lieu said. “I was elated to hear of President Obama’s support for a permanent ban. Conversion therapy has critical medical and ethical flaws that can be seriously damaging to the physical and mental health of those who are compelled to undergo it. Minors, who may not be empowered to make their own health decisions, are especially at risk.”
Many residential treatment programs have been successful in helping kids with severe behavioral problems and have truly helped rehabilitate them from a traumatic experience or a drug and alcohol addiction, Schiff said, but a 2008 U.S. Government Accountability Office report documented widespread reports of abuse and death at these programs which included the use of physical restraints, severe methods of intimidation, starvation, neglectful medical practices, physical abuse and much more. LGBT youth are particularly at risk for abusive residential treatment programs, which may advertise their services to parents as “curing” them of their sexual orientation, Schiff added.
“We cannot ignore reports that young people have died and suffered abuse at the hands of those who run and work at residential treatment programs under the guise of providing critical therapy and rehabilitation services,” Schiff said. The legislation would hold all youth residential treatment programs accountable to a set of minimum federal standards including prohibiting all residential treatment programs that purport to provide youth with mental health and behavioral treatment from any form of child abuse and depriving children of water, food, or medical care; requiring that all children have reasonable access to their families and a hotline to report instances of abuse; and requiring all staff members to be properly trained to identify instances of child abuse.
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