California Psychiatric Hospitals Show Room for Improvement

Last year, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ordered a special master's report after he ruled not to end federal oversight of prison psychiatric care in California. He made this judgment because he felt that the care inmates received failed to meet the required standard of care described in the Constitution. The report filed by special master Mathew Lopes describes an investigation of two state psychiatric hospitals as well as the psychiatric hospitals located inside four state prisons.

No one wants to take responsibility for the declining conditions in the run-down psychiatric hospitals in California. As a result of his report, Lopes suggested that the state keep on monitoring psychiatric facilities in California. Atascadero State Hospital is one of the psychiatric facilities that received the most negative criticism. Just last week, a paroled prisoner who was receiving psychiatric treatment allegedly murdered another patient. How is this the fault of the hospital you might ask?

From 2006 until 2011 federal oversight committees were monitoring Atascadero State Hospital. Once federal oversight ended, the conditions at the hospital rapidly declined and individuals immediately lost access to treatment. Additionally, it was noticed that Atascadero State Hospital was discharging patients based on how long they were in the hospital, rather than based on their improved mental condition. Lopes detailed a hallucinating inmate that got released back into prison just a few days after physically assaulting hospital staff. Already filled with aggressive inmates, releasing a psychotic inmate into prison is asking for disaster.

On a separate occasion, a prisoner was sent to Atascadero State Prison after he tried to kill himself when he found out about the death of his son. Lopes said that the hospital failed to provide grief counseling and instead treated him for drug abuse and anger management. Lopes added in his report that the inmate had no prior history of drug abuse or anger issues. These are only two examples of how California psychiatric hospitals are failing to reach an appropriate level of care when treating mentally ill patients.

While California psychiatric facilities are trying to improve, they often provide very basic treatment and rarely address individual needs. Psychiatric hospitals in California are often understaffed or staffed with unlicensed workers. With the prison system filled with mentally ill inmates, California needs to create a system focused on therapeutic methods of treatment. Patients rarely receive one on one treatment and often get prescribed medications in an attempt to help them. California psychiatric facilities are clearly failing to help the mentally ill while in custody.

Lessem & Newstat, LLP are not only extraordinarily skilled when working with mentally ill clients, but they are willing to do everything in their power to make sure that you or a loved one receives the individual treatment care they deserve.