DHS Investigating Need for Mental Health Care License at Santa Clara County Jail
The Department of Health Services is investigating whether the acute psychiatric care unit in Santa Clara County's Main Jail should be licensed, in response to questions from the San Jose Mercury News, the Mercury News reports. If DHS concludes that the jail needs a license, it could cost the county millions of dollars to renovate or relocate the unit.
Under a 1998 state law, state and county jails that provide inpatient medical or psychiatric care should have a correctional treatment center license issued by DHS. The law, introduced in 1988, "was put on hold" for 10 years while regulations were drafted, according to the Mercury News. Since the law took effect, only Los Angeles County has obtained a license for its jails.
Linda Deacon, deputy county counsel in Santa Clara County, said there is a "very strong argument" that the unit does not need a license because it has been given a designation by the county mental health department and the county board of supervisors that authorizes it to provide short-term, emergency psychiatric treatment. The average length of stay in the unit is six to eight days.
State inspectors in 1999 denied the jail a license because its cells were not large enough. The jail has not made another attempt to gain a license.
Maryann Barry, associate director of Adult Custody Health Services, said, "We know that we are providing the level of care that meets the criteria for licensure."
The county's jail consultant, HOK Advance Strategies, last year said the quality of care in the unit was "very high" but noted that support space was not adequate and that some cells were unusable because of broken equipment (Carey, San Jose Mercury News, 6/10).