Los Angeles County Will Not Renew Contracts With Two Sylmar-Based Private Psychiatric Centers
After a months-long investigation into Foothill and Sylmar health and rehabilitation centers, Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health officials said they would not renew their contracts with the two Sylmar-based private psychiatric facilities and must now find new placements for 170 mentally ill patients by June 30, the Los Angeles Times reports. The two facilities were under investigation for "inconsistent reporting" of escape attempts and an "excess number" of escapes; together the facilities logged 64 escapes and attempted escapes in 2002, according to figures from Golden State Health Centers, which owns the two facilities (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 5/2). Both facilities recently were fined for multiple incidents of patient-care violations, including an employee at Sylmar having sex with a patient (California Healthline, 3/27). Marvin Southard, director of the county mental health department, said that the decision to end the 16-year relationship with Golden State Health Centers was unusual but resulted from a "growing lack of confidence in the commitment of the agency to patient care," the Times reports. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, whose district includes the centers, said, "When we contract with somebody we expect that agency to place at least as much importance on the interests of the clients as we do, if not more. That wasn't the case here, and repeated efforts to bring this to the attention of the owners fell on deaf ears time and again."
Transferring the 170 patients placed in the facilities by the county will be difficult because demand has "increased markedly" as state hospitals have closed their mental wards, the Times reports. Nora Romero, a spokesperson for the county mental health department, said the agency did not plan to relocate 20 patients at Foothill accused of major crimes who have been found not guilty by reason of insanity because Foothill's program for those patients complies with state regulations. Los Angeles County is the largest source of patients for the facilities, which collectively house 400 patients. Other patients are placed in the facilities by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the state and other counties -- several of which say they might reevaluate their own contracts based on Los Angeles County's decision. "If they cannot operate the facility appropriately, obviously we would want to move our clients," Sandra Fair, Orange County's chief of behavioral health operations, said, adding, "We have a great deal of confidence in the L.A. County Mental Health Department and we would want to have a conversation with them about the reasons they're taking this action" (Los Angeles Times, 5/2).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.