Sen. Kolkhorst’s residential treatment center reform clears Senate

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Responding to a recent arrest at the Bluebonnet Haven Residential Treatment Center, Sen. Lois W. Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) announced that the Texas Senate has passed her SB 781, a major bill to reform the process of how youth centers are licensed and operated across the state.

Kolkhorst said she wrote SB 781 to strengthen the requirements necessary to obtain a license to open any new facility and requires a public hearing so that a community is fully informed and heard as a facility seeks a license. The legislation also lists specific violations that will lead to a facility’s license probation, suspension and ultimately revocation.

To avoid the challenges that have faced Austin County with the now-defunct Five Oaks center and the newly opened Bluebonnet Haven in Washington County, Kolkhorst said that under SB 781, all proposed centers will be required to create a community engagement plan. The plan must include both an operational plan and an educational plan that take into consideration local community review and feedback, including impacts on local schools and law enforcement. Another sweeping change will be to require collaboration between the Texas Education Agency and state health officials to collaborate before a center is licensed.

“As the chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, I am dedicated first and foremost to the safety of every child in our CPS and foster care system. Texas must see that the system does not fail either our children or our communities,” said Kolkhorst. “That’s why I am proud that the Senate has passed SB 781 with bipartisan support.”

Kolkhorst’s legislation now heads to the Texas House where State Rep. Ben Leman (R-Iola) will seek final passage.

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