The Shuman mess

The Shuman mess

It’s bad enough that Allegheny County’s Shuman Juvenile Detention Center has been ordered closed by the state Department of Human Services (DHS) for “gross incompetence, negligence and misconduct.”

But what remains a huge public policy question mark is how what by all accounts has been a recidivist mess was allowed to linger, fester and rot for so many years.

The center, which now will close for good on Sept. 18, had been operating under its fourth six-month provisional license. Opened in 1974, Shuman has a long history of operational misses and messes. The latest series of them appear to date to 2017.

But during state inspections between July 24 and Aug. 4, investigators documented further, some repeated, outrageous lapses in operational norms.

Such as no nurse working at the facility this year, which DHS says led to 22 children at Shuman not receiving their prescribed medications.

And as previously noted, it apparently was not the first time this and other operational failures took place, DHS noted.

The Pennsylvania Of­fice of Chil­dren, Youth and Fam­i­lies cited “con­tin­ued fail­ure to fol­low reg­u­la­tions and a fail­ure to im­prove on past vi­o­la­tions” for the final decision to revoke Shuman’s license.

How in the world could this have happened?

Allegheny County Manager Willy McKain told the media the state’s decision to revoke Shuman’s license was not a surprise, given past violations.

And no matter, supposedly, the beefing up of resources over the past six years.

So, here are the ultimate questions:

Who at the county level was overseeing these folks?

And why was such a gross dysfunction allowed to spread like a cancer?

Again, McKain insists the county devoted “significant time and resources” to the facility over many years, which had a $10 million annual operating budget.

Apparently, county oversight wasn’t much a part of that.

How could it have been — with violation after violation after violation, year after year after year?

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).