The proposal would create the Department of State Hospitals, replacing the Department of Mental Health. The new agency would improve treatment, save money and reduce patient violence, officials say.
By Lee Romney, Los Angeles Times
SAN FRANCISCO- California mental health officials on Wednesday detailed plans for a new Department of State Hospitals, a streamlined agency that they said would improve treatment and reduce patient violence at the troubled psychiatric facilities — as well as save money.
The department, which will oversee the state’s five mental hospitals and psychiatric programs at two of its prisons, is expected to replace the Department of Mental Health next year. The spinoff is the result of broader legislative changes intended to pass the department’s other responsibilities — for community mental health care —- down to county governments…
Cliff Allenby, acting director of the current Department of Mental Health, said that long-overdue improvements at the hospitals would come along with the structural change.
A 271-page report by an independent panel commissioned by Allenby last summer — and posted online Wednesday — found organizational and financial problems at the department, as well as issues with patient treatment and aggression. The agency is facing a $120-million budget deficit.
Acting Deputy Director Kathy Gaither called the report “probably more candid than any … that’s come out on any state agency.”
The proposed overhaul, which is subject to negotiations with employee unions, includes the elimination of 600 jobs, diluted staff-to-patient ratios, a rethinking of treatment programs and stronger fiscal oversight. It comes as the hospital system is struggling to emerge from federal oversight imposed five and a half years ago to settle a lawsuit over poor treatment…
Napa psychiatric technician Donna Gross was strangled on the grounds last year by a patient who, although known to be dangerous, was given a pass that allowed him to wander freely to attend mall groups. Napa employees pushed after Gross’ death to have the most dangerous patients placed in a high-security treatment unit with enhanced staffing…(Full text at Los Angeles Times )