A juvenile detention center in Pittsburgh must close by Sept. 18 after the state announced it is pulling the facility’s provisional license amid findings that the professionals running the place failed to correct major violations for years.
About 90 employees work at the Shuman Juvenile Detention Center, and about 20 youths ages 14 to 20 live there, although it is designed to house 120 people. The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services informed Allegheny County officials that it was revoking the license, a move the county itself had recommended.
Unionized workers at the facility have since urged the state to reconsider the closure, but there is no indication their plea will make any difference. The county pledged to live up to its contract with the unions as it closes Shuman. County officials said closing Shuman, given its history, was in the best interest of residents and taxpayers.
“The licensing at the facility has been an ongoing issue,” County Manager William McKain said in a recent statement. “Over the last six years, we have put additional resources into the facility, supported new leadership and efforts by the professionals running the center, and continued to work with the courts and the state on alternatives. Yet, we continued to see violations that were only exacerbated during the pandemic with staffing challenges.”
For example, during visits between late July and early August, inspectors learned that 22 clients didn’t receive their prescribed medications because no nurse qualified to distribute them had been scheduled to work on some days.
“The amount and seriousness of the medication errors constitutes gross incompetence, negligence and misconduct in operating the facility that is likely to constitute an immediate danger to the life or health of the clients,” according to an inspection report posted in redacted form on the Health Services website.
Some of the violations inspectors found had been reported previously — as far back as 2018 — and were not corrected.
Inspections earlier this summer, for example, led to an investigation involving a boy who nearly died when he overdosed on heroin he had obtained while in Shuman.