California Unveils Plan for New Mental Health Department

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California mental health officials have released plans for a new Department of State Hospitals to replace the Department of Mental Health, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

The goal is to reduce violence and save money at the state’s five mental hospitals and two state prisons that have psychiatric programs, according to the Times article.

From the Times:

[The report] found organizational and financial problems at the department, as well as issues with patient treatment and aggression. The agency is facing a $120-million budget deficit.

Acting Deputy Director Kathy Gaither called the report “probably more candid than any … that’s come out on any state agency.”

The proposed overhaul, which is subject to negotiations with employee unions, includes the elimination of 600 jobs, diluted staff-to-patient ratios, a rethinking of treatment programs and stronger fiscal oversight. It comes as the hospital system is struggling to emerge from federal oversight imposed five and a half years ago to settle a lawsuit over poor treatment.

State hospitals care for patients who are severely mentally ill, including those convicted of violent crimes.

— TRACY WOOD

 

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