DMH Officials Say Mental Hospital Oversight Improving
A U.S. Department of Justice report on mental health facilities in California does not consider reforms to patient care and might include accusations that were "overblown and taken out of context," according to Department of Mental Health officials, the Sacramento Bee reports (Bluth, Sacramento Bee, 8/7).
A DOJ report posted online on July 26 said that Napa State Hospital does not adequately provide medical and psychiatric care to its 1,100 patients. The report was based primarily on inspections of the hospital this year by CMS and the Department of Health Services.
DOJ officials state in the report that DMH attempted to deny federal investigators access to Napa State Hospital, as well as Atascadero State Hospital near San Luis Obispo and Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino, two other state mental hospitals DOJ seeks to investigate (California Healthline, 8/2).
DMH Director Stephen Mayberg said there were items in the report that DMH "knew and that we are trying to address and we are aggressively addressing." Mayberg added, "We can't say that we can predict everybody's behavior at this stage, but we are building in as many checks and balances to make sure that none of that occurs (again)" (Sacramento Bee, 8/7).
Directors of the state mental hospitals "seem to be set up for disaster" in part because hospital employees are "overworked and outnumbered," Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez writes in "Points West." Lopez writes, "It's hard to believe that staffing shortages at the four major state mental hospitals haven't contributed to nine suicides over a 3 1/2 year period. And to the escapes, the sexual abuse, the drug trafficking inside the hospitals and the numerous attacks by patients on each other and on staff members."
Lopez writes that state officials told him that about 1,000 positions at the hospitals were unfilled and attributed that to recruiting problems rather than budgetary issues. "Pay a little more to fill those vacancies and maybe there won't be as many deaths by hanging," Lopez writes, concluding, "Pay hikes might be cheaper, in the long run, than the cost of fighting lawsuits and burying the dead" (Lopez, Los Angeles Times, 8/10).