Los Angeles County, State Launch ‘Surprise Inspections’ of Two Mental Health Facilities
Los Angeles County and state officials yesterday launched "surprise inspections" of Sylmar-based Foothill and Sylmar health and rehabilitation centers, which treat patients with severe mental illnesses and have been "beset by escapes, assaults and patient-care violations," the Los Angeles Times reports. According to the county Department of Mental Health, at least 50 residents escaped or attempted to escape from the two facilities last year. Earlier this year, a Sylmar employee was dismissed for having sexual relations with a patient, and the state last September fined Foothill $3,000 for "failing to protect" a female patient from being raped by a male patient. According to the Times, the county has paid Golden State Health Centers, the facilities' owner, almost $41 million since 1998, including $8.9 million in fiscal year 2002. In June 2002 and December 2002, the county Board of Supervisors elected to renew the county's contract with the two facilities for six months instead of the typical three-year contract because of problems uncovered by county inspectors. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky defended the contract extensions with the facilities, which house approximately 400 patients at a time, 180 of whom are placed there by the county. "I think that the county acted responsibly in keeping them on a short leash and determining exactly what ... the seriousness of the problem is," Yaroslavsky said. Robert Sherman, an attorney for Golden State Health Centers, said the two facilities have "a record of success" and added, "We do a tremendous job with the patient population, and the county recognizes it each time they renew a contract" (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 3/7).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.