DHHS Outlines Actions to Ensure Safety/Security at YRTC-Kearney

News Release
For Immediate Release: 2/12/2020

Leah Bucco-White, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-9356


Kearney – Providing a safe and secure environment for teammates and the people served in all facilities operated by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is a priority.

Several incidents have occurred at YRTC-Kearney in recent weeks ranging from youth absconding from the facility to staff assaults.

“We are taking immediate and necessary steps to address the situation," said Dannette R. Smith, DHHS CEO. “We've created and are in the process of implementing an action plan to better ensure a safe and secure environment at YRTC-Kearney for both youth and staff."

Here are some of actions being taken at YRTC-Kearney:

  • YRTC leadership is on campus 24 hours a day providing additional assistance to ensure safety and security for our team and youth we serve.
  • Strengthening of protocols including those related to on-site and off-site visitation and furloughs, while continuing to maintain a family focus. There will be a temporary suspension of furloughs and off-site visits for 30 days and on-site family visits will be limited to parents, guardians and children of committed youth.
  • Increased staffing at the facility.
  • A request to judges to consider a 10-day hiatus from juvenile commitments to Kearney to help stabilize the number of youth in care and ensure current safety.
  • Increased requirements for twice-daily leadership communication and accountability at each shift change, and communicated action plan details and expectations with all teammates.

DHHS will also move forward with plans to transfer several high-acuity male youth to the Lincoln facility. The Lincoln facility provides more intensive interventions such as targeted behavioral and trauma-based programming.

Some female youth are close to transitioning back into their communities will be relocating to the newly renovated LaFlesche Cottage at YRTC-Geneva within the next week. YRTC-Geneva is a re-entry program in a less restrictive environment with a more home-like setting.

Two additional youth will be transitioning to the Hastings Regional Center campus, which provides residential substance use disorder treatment for adolescent males.

“I want to emphasize that we are doing everything we can to mitigate risk but that level of risk will never be zero. The teams in our YRTC System serve some of our most challenging youth. We will continue to support our team and provide them with the tools they need to help manage behaviors, facilitate treatment and ensure safety and security of everyone at our YRTC facilities.

“And, we maintain our commitment to the youth involved in our programs to help them receive the treatment and the skills needed to be successful adults and ultimately live better lives," said CEO Smith.


Go to
All News Releases