Audit: California Paid Millions for Unneeded Mental Health Exams
California has paid tens of millions of dollars to contractors for "unnecessary work" because of inadequate coordination between the Department of Mental Health and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, according to a state audit, the Sacramento Bee's "The State Worker" reports.
In 1996, the state established the Sex Offender Commitment Program to provide appropriate mental health care for a small percentage of sex offenders who are prone to violent behavior. Under the program, corrections officials refer potentially violent offenders to DMH for evaluation. DMH then recommends whether an offender should be enrolled in the program.
In 2006, voters approved Proposition 83, or Jessica's Law, which expanded the criteria for designation as a potentially violent sex offender. As a result of the law, the pool of potentially violent sex offenders increased nearly five-fold.
Following the passage of Prop. 83, the corrections department started referring nearly every sex offender to the mental health agency for evaluation, the audit found.
The high number of referrals led DMH to hire contractors to help conduct mental health evaluations. Between fiscal year 2005-2006 and FY 2009-2010, DMH spent about $49 million on contractors for the evaluations, the audit found.
The audit noted that of the 30,000 sex offenders referred to DMH by corrections officials over the past four years, less than 1% were flagged for enrollment in the Sex Offender Commitment Program (Dave, "The State Worker," Sacramento Bee, 7/12).
The audit also found that the corrections department did not consistently provide DMH with the required six-month lead time for mental health evaluations (Gabrielson, California Watch, 7/13).
Corrections Department Response
Scott Kernan -- the corrections department's undersecretary for operations -- in a letter to state Auditor Elaine Howle wrote, "We agree that improvements can be made in streamlining the process and have already implemented steps to improve the timeliness of our referrals to DMH."
He added, "We look forward to carefully reviewing the recommendations in this report and will continue our work with DMH to increase efficiency" ("The State Worker," Sacramento Bee, 7/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.