California Considers Closure of Kids’ Ward at State Mental Hospital
State officials aim to close the children's ward at Metropolitan State Hospital in Norwalk, but the move has resulted in a wider debate among mental health advocates about whether the facility is needed, the Los Angeles Times reports.
At least two lawsuits have been filed alleging misconduct at the hospital in recent years, and some mental health advocates argue that the ward never succeeded in bringing about a new model of care for children with severe mental illnesses.
However, other mental health advocates argue that the ward should be maintained, possibly as a last-resort for children who have not responded to other treatment settings.
Nancy Kincaid, a spokesperson for the Department of Mental Health, said that the state has not made a final decision to shutter the ward permanently, adding that the timeline for closure will be determined by the state's ability to transfer remaining patients to appropriate venues for care.
Fifteen patients remain in the unit, down from about 100 after it opened in 1997.
State officials have said they would look to Proposition 63 -- a 2004 ballot initiative that raised the state income tax for some residents to fund mental health services -- to provide appropriate services for children currently housed in the ward.
However, some advocates question whether this is a viable plan, voicing concerns about using Proposition 63 funds for involuntary care (Gold/Romney, Los Angeles Times, 8/2).