A government advisory panel wants the Obama administration to do more to address the use of restraint and seclusion among people with disabilities.
In a letter that the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, or IACC, agreed to send Wednesday, the group is asking U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to coordinate with federal education and justice officials on the use of the controversial practices in schools and other settings.
Specifically, the IACC is urging Sebelius to work with her counterparts to establish regulations, increase data collection and promote alternatives, among other steps.
“The use of seclusion and restraint in every setting is a critical issue for people with (autism) and other disabilities and their families that requires immediate federal attention,” the IACC letter reads.
Nirvi Shah adds at Education Week:
And right now, only some individual states and school districts regulate restraint and seclusion at schools and other facilities. To that end, the committee also supports federal legislation regulating these practices.
The letter goes on to say that HHS should explore whether the Affordable Care Act, "which addresses the removal of barriers to providing home and community-based services," is another route to developing consistent policies about the use of restraints and seclusion.
It was at one of the committee's meetings earlier this year that the U.S. Department of Education said it would issue guidance on restraints and seclusion. It was due to be unveiled this fall.
And for the first time, the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights data collection, results of which should also be out later this year, will include information about restraints and seclusion. This could be incredibly valuable information. Even a Government Accountability Office report on the topic was a collection of anecdotes. Media accounts often only relate incidents that result in death or severe injury.
The committee wants Health and Human Services to convene a national interagency conference or summit on seclusion and restraint, collaborating with the departments of education and justice, to highlight alternatives and best practices.