Judge: Calif. Must Explain Backlog of Inmates With Mental Illnesses
On Friday, a federal judge gave California officials 30 days to explain why state prisons have a backlog of inmates with mental health issues waiting for care despite hundreds of available beds, the AP/Washington Times reports (AP/Washington Times, 8/21).
In 2010, there were hundreds of inmates with mental health issues waiting for inpatient care, and the state was ordered to transfer many of them to two psychiatric facilities, including Atascadero State Hospital.
However, lawyers said California largely abandoned that plan and has only transferred two inmates in the last year despite more than 100 open beds reserved for inmates at Atascadero State Hospital.
Michael Bien, the lead attorney representing tens of thousands of inmates with mental health issues, alleged that the state hospital system has not admitted inmates to the facility because it is "afraid" of prisoners.
Meanwhile, a court-appointed special master said wait lists have resurfaced.
Details of Decision
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller ordered the state to determine whether using the empty beds would "permanently eliminate the ongoing waiting list for inpatient mental health care and, if not, why not and what alternate plans are in place for wait-listed class members" (St. John, "PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 8/21).
In addition, Mueller told officials that they must honor previous court orders to eliminate the delays in care that inmates with mental health issues face (AP/Washington Times, 8/21).
California Department of State Hospitals Director Pam Ahlin said, "You do have my commitment to make sure that we do take the ... court orders of serving our mentally ill patients seriously" ("PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 8/21).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.