Prison Mental Health Services To Expand
A federal judge on Thursday approved a plan by the administration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) to spend $600 million to build mental health facilities for prison inmates, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The plan is a response to an 11-year-old class-action lawsuit against the state.
The mental health facilities would be built at several prisons, including those at Folsom and Vacaville, over the next five years, according to the plan. Construction costs are estimated at $600 million, and staffing costs "will add much more to the final bill," the Chronicle reports. The state currently spends more than $8 billion annually on corrections -- a budget that has increased by more than 60% during Schwarzenegger's tenure.
The plan also would create 695 new beds for inmates who need mental health services. Some prisons are operating at more than 200% capacity.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton accepted the long-range plan, but ordered the state to provide more inmate beds during the next year. Karlton also is expected to require salary increases for psychiatrists and other mental health specialists to increase staffing levels at prisons.
Robert Sillen, who was named by another federal judge as receiver of the corrections department's health care system, said this week that the mental health system could be placed under his control. Peter Farber-Szekrenyi, health care chief of the corrections department, also said that is possible (Martin, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/28).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.