FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
September 3, 2014
Contact: Chris Dauphin
Phone: (615) 585-8490, 800-251-8732
Chronic understaffing of state services having serious consequences
NASHVILLE – WSMV during their Wednesday evening broadcast aired surveillance video from Woodland Hills Youth Development Center, a state-run facility, showing officers in an arguably out-of-control and dangerous environment for both teens and staff.
WSMV also reported Wednesday that two officers suffered injuries during an incident over the weekend where 32 of 78 teens placed at Woodland Hills escaped during an overnight shift change.
The Tennessean in Nashville last week reported that two officers at Mt. View Development center, also a state-run facility, were fired and supervisor resigned as a result of an investigation into two recent suicides at the facility.
And, a recent editorial also in the Tennessean questioned the available resources at detention centers for DCS employees caring for teens who require constant oversight and attention. In one example, according to that article, a teen who hadn’t been taking his anti-seizure medication, and subsequently died of a seizure at Woodland Hills Youth Development Center in 2012, had previously been ordered by a judge to be placed in a “more appropriate facility for his needs.”
“TSEA has been greatly troubled with some of the recent incidents involving DCS. A lack of adequate staffing could be a contributing factor in several cases,” TSEA President Bryan Merritt said. “I think we can all agree that staff, client and public safety has to be a priority to everyone.”
Over the last several years, Tennessee’s state workforce has been reduced by a total of 10 percent. DCS has suffered budget cuts of near 40 percent since Governor Haslam took office in 2010.
TSEA believes it is time for Tennessee citizens, members of the state legislature, and Governor Haslam to realize that chronic understaffing of state services has very serious consequences.
“Governor Haslam says he is running Tennessee like a business,” TSEA Executive Director John Summers said. “But, is it good business practice to reduce a department’s budget and staff to the point where services are negatively impacted and, in some instances, lives are jeopardized? The business of state government is service to our citizens. And right now, much like a rubber band, we are stretching those services and our employees to their breaking point.”
TSEA is a nonprofit association existing to provide a strong unified voice with which it advocates the work-related interests of members. The attainment of association objectives will ensure a better life for our members and will attract and retain an effective, efficient state workforce to provide services for all Tennesseans. TSEA was established in 1974. For further information, visit the Web site at www.tseaonline.org.