State Report Questions Quality of Mental Health Care Provided at Youth Authority Facilities
The California Youth Authority is not "meeting many recognized standards of care" in treating incarcerated juveniles with mental illnesses, according to a report commissioned and funded by the Attorney General's Office, the Los Angeles Times reports (Warren, Los Angeles Times, 1/28). "The vast majority of youths who have mental health needs are made worse instead of improved by the correctional environment," the report authors, University of Washington child psychologist Eric Trupin and forensic psychiatrist Raymond Patterson of Washington, D.C., said. According to the San Jose Mercury News, the report noted the following conditions at CYA facilities:
- "Inconsistent and substandard practices" in the use of psychotropic medications, including limited measurement of the medications' efficacy;
- Inappropriate use of punitive strategies, including the "overuse of chemical restraints";
- Incomplete psychiatric records; and
- Lack of coordination among mental health professionals.
A team of national experts inspected and conducted interviews at nine CYA facilities after a CYA review was commissioned last year in response to a lawsuit filed by the Prison Law Office on behalf of the wards of CYA. About 4,400 juvenile inmates ages 24 and younger are incarcerated in CYA facilities, which have an annual budget of $450 million. Studies indicate that about 65% of individuals in CYA facilities have mental illnesses and that about 85% have alcohol or substance abuse problems (De Sa, San Jose Mercury News, 1/28).
Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), chair of an oversight committee on corrections, said, "The Youth Authority has a crisis in its health care delivery, especially when it comes to meeting mental health needs" (Los Angeles Times, 1/28). CYA spokesperson Sarah Ludeman, said, "The observations of the state experts in these areas are substantially correct, and our department is reviewing each of these reports to develop a plan to correct the issues raised." California legislators on Feb. 28 are expected to conduct hearings on the problems with CYA, and the U.S. Justice Department's civil rights division is conducting an investigation on alleged abuse in the Chaderjian CYA facility in Stockton. The report on mental health issues at CYA is the first of six commissioned by the Attorney General's Office (San Jose Mercury News, 1/28).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.