Panel urges action on restraint and seclusion

In a letter sent to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on September 7, the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee called for the establishment of federal regulations limiting restraint and seclusion methods used against people with disabilities in schools, prisons and other settings.

“Utilization of restraint or seclusion should be viewed as treatment failures that exacerbates behavioral challenges and induces additional trauma,” the letter states. “Recent research indicates that contrary to what was previously thought about these practices, there is very little evidence to indicate that seclusion and restraint practices hold therapeutic value.”

The committee called for Congress to create federal regulation requiring states to monitor restraint and seclusion methods in schools. It also recommended that the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services establish regulations for treatment in psychiatric residential treatment facilities and that the government improve data collection and reporting methods of these incidents.

The committee, which provides recommendations to federal agencies and establishes priorities for government-funded autism research, held a meeting in May addressing concerns relating to restraint and seclusion, according to article in Disability Scoop.

The letter cited a recent study estimating that between 50 to 150 people with disabilities die every year as a result of unnecessary restraint and seclusion methods.

A bill to create federal limits on restraint and seclusion methods was introduced in April.   A similar proposal passed the House of Representatives in 2010 but failed to progress in the Senate.

3 responses to “Panel urges action on restraint and seclusion

  1. Please send comments through the end of this week 9/16/11.

    Dear Parents and Advocates,

    FYI URGENT email below. Please help to put a STOP to restraint and seclusion used on children with disabilities in the public school system by reading the attached federal draft bill and following the instructions below.
    U.S. Senator Tom Harkin is asking us for feedback on the bill, so please don’t miss this opportunity to send in your comments and concerns about the draft bill.


    Families Against Restraint and Seclusion

    Hello everyone. Today, I and apparently several others received the attached draft Senate restraint/seclusion bill from Michael Gamel-McCormick, Education & Disability Policy Aide to Senator Harkin, as he was going out of town. Michael’s instructions were to share it widely with the disability community for feedback and comment. Please share any comments or feedback with Michael at [email protected] BY MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 12 AT 12:00 NOON EASTERN TIME. (Those who are in APRAIS can also choose to share their feedback directly with Barb Trader by her deadline as stated in her email today or to share it directly with Michael). I did not however, receive the cover note due to technical reasons, so what you see below is my own.

    Some items of note:

    My understanding is that Senator Harkin would like to introduce a restraint/seclusion bill sometime soon. The HELP Committee staff is asking the disability community for feedback on this Draft of the bill. The deadline for comments is Monday, Sept 12 at 12:00 noon to Michael Gamel-McCormick at [email protected]

    The draft bill is in many ways similar to past language. It contains the restriction against putting S/R in the IEP; a full ban on seclusion; strong limitations on the use of physical restraint; bans on mechanical and chemical restraint; required 24-hour notification to parents when their child is restrained; the debriefing provision; and robust data collection. Data is, of course, important for transparency, to determine if children are being subjected to restraint/seclusion and to what extent, for researchers, and to enable school personnel and others to take steps to cut the use of restraint/seclusion.

    Senator Harkin was not able to maintain the Serious Bodily Injury standard that was in the prior draft HELP Committee bill. Most organizations receiving this email have already endorsed the Rep. Miller restraint/seclusion bill which uses a standard of “imminent danger of physical injury.” There does appear to be an error in the draft Senate bill. The bill uses a “serious physical injury” standard, which is similar to the law in Mass, Maryland, New Hampshire and other states. The bill also contains a definition of “physical injury.” There appears to be an error and it is not clear which standard the draft bill will use. I suggest you gear your comments to both (i.e. comment on both concepts, if you wish to). If I get clarification, I will forward.

    The new draft Harkin bill includes a new provision to better protect children, “When applying a physical restraint, staff shall use only the amount of force necessary to protect the student or others from the threatened injury.” This is modeled on the law in several states and protects children by limiting the force the staff can use. It means that if holding the child’s hand (the restraint) and taking away a ruler from him before he hits another student in the eye will suffice, the school does not get to put the child in a 4-point restraint or other significant restraint. This reduces the risk to all.

    If you are on the CCD Education Task Force, I am going to forward a copy of this note and the draft bill through the Education TF listserv for Brenda as well. My instructions from Michael Gamel-McCormick were to distribute broadly to the disability community and cast a wide net, so I am using the the emails of the Ed TF members that I have; the folks I sent the IDEA Fairness Restoratiion Act info to; and the APRAIS folks and other restraint/seclusion groups on the national level.

    A sincere thanks to everyone who has done so much to advocate against the use of these harmful techniques on children with disabilities and all other children in this country. Some of you have labored for years quietly. These Congressional restraint/seclusion bills are the fruits of all of y’all’s incredible labor.

    I hope all have a good night and happy reading.

    Jessica Butler

    Congressional Affairs Coordinator

    Autism National Committee (AutCom)

    21 years of advocating for the rights of children and adults with autism and related disabilities

    email: [email protected]

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