Sacramento Bee Examines Mental Health Care in State Juvenile Correctional Facilities
The Sacramento Bee yesterday looked at mental health care in the California Youth Authority's correctional facilities, which "lags far behind community standards in diagnosing wards and providing adequate treatment." The percentage of wards with mental illnesses at CYA correctional facilities has increased as juvenile offenders without mental illnesses are increasingly sent to facilities closer to their homes, the Bee reports. A recent report of the state's 11 juvenile prisons also found that 71% of male wards have between three and five diagnosable mental disorders and that 82% of female wards have between three and nine diagnoseable disorders. A review issued last November by the state inspector general found that the majority of wards with mental illnesses do not receive any treatment. Further, a task force headed by Stanford University professor Hans Steiner in December 2001 criticized the agency for "isolated and even irrelevant" use of mental health services. The task force report, which was commissioned by the CYA, said that approximately 33 new psychiatrists, 64 psychologists and 89 clinicians with master's degrees would be needed to meet minimum treatment standards. The report also criticized CYA for failing to hire and retain qualified mental health professionals. In addition, a pending class-action lawsuit brought by the Burrell Youth Law Center said mental health services through the CYA are "practically nonexistent" and that many wards waiting for beds in special units are spending significant time without treatment. CYA Director Jerry Harper, who has been faulted for "the lack of a modern vision on how to integrate mental health in the care of delinquent children," said that "significant strides" have been made to reform the system, although "sweeping change is unlikely" because of California's budget deficit, the Bee reports (Brown, Sacramento Bee, 6/26).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.