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Negligence and Abuse Rampant at California State Mental Facilities

December 31, 1969

According to the Los Angeles Times, efforts by the federal government to improve the care provided at California mental health facilities have failed. Hundreds of millions of dollars reportedly when into this endeavor at reform, which began six years ago after the US Department of Justice sued the state for violating patients' rights with improper restraints, heavy drugging, and inadequate care.

As part of the settlement for that lawsuit, California agreed to a improvement plan at four of hospitals that would be supervised by the court. Unfortunately, per the Time's findings, efforts to improve care so that patients would learn how to hold back on violent tendencies so they wouldn't have to be institutionalized longer than needed have not paid off. While restraint use and the administration of certain medications have gone down, patient violence has doubled at two hospitals. It has tripled at another facility. (The only hospital to see a decline in assaults--by 15%--was one mental facility in San Bernardino County). Also, confinement periods for patients, many of whom had committed crimes because they were mentally ill, were on average longer in 2011 than in 2006.

"When mentally ill patients are involved, it is important that those charged with providing them with care help them not become a danger to themselves and others," said Howard Law, PC Founder and Anaheim Personal Injury Lawyer Vincent Howard. "Just as it is important to not abuse patients with improper restraints and overmedication, it is equally essential that these persons are given the appropriate boundaries and constraints to keep them (and others) safe and functioning."

One reason for the increase in patient violence might be that some hospital staffers, ordered by their superiors to place as little restrictions as possible on patients, have become reluctant to take action against unruly and violent patients. Also, reform implementation and related paperwork may be bogging down staffers, leaving them with less time to concentrate on patient care. The Times also noted that consultant Nirbhay Singh, who designed the reforms, is a psychiatry professor with developed specialties in "positive behavior support" and "person-centered" care. However, he has little experience when it comes to treating psychiatric patients and dangerous offenders. He is, however, well-acquainted with the lawyers at the Justice Department who were investigating the California hospitals.

State hospital employees have expressed dissatisfaction with the reforms, claiming that the facilities are now more dangerous for patients and staff as a result. They've complained about the quality and content of certain group classes that are supposed to prepare patients for when they go back out into the real world. According to some staffers, the sessions were frequently boring, not very helpful, and redundant. The classes have also become a substitute for much needed individual therapy for many patients.

"It is important that mental hospital patients are provided not just with the proper care, but also that they are protected from anyone or anything that could cause them injury or their health to deteriorate. If someone you love was the victim of Orange County, California nursing abuse or negligence or patient violence while staying at a California state hospital or assisted living facility, you may have grounds for a civil suit," said Los Angeles Nursing Home Negligence Attorney Vincent Howard.

We know how upsetting it can be to find out that the facility or hospital that you admitted your loved one to is causing more harm than helping him/her. You may have grounds for a case.

California state mental hospitals plagued by peril, Los Angeles Times, April 15, 2012

State Mental Hospitals, California Department of Mental Health

The United States Department of Justice

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You can explore your legal options with Anaheim Nursing Home Abuse Attorney Vincent Howard today. Contact our Orange County, California nursing negligence law firm today.