Los Angeles Times Investigates Failed California Psychiatric Hospitals’ Compliance Plan

April 18, 2012 | Risk Management News

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A series of reports in the Los Angeles Times focuses on a failed federal regulatory compliance effort at several California psychiatric hospitals. In 2006, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) sued California for allegedly violating patients' rights by heavily drugging and improperly restraining patients and failing to provide appropriate treatment. A settlement was reached resulting in the implementation of an extensive court-supervised improvement plan at four psychiatric hospitals with more than 4,000 patients. But according to the Los Angeles Times investigation, the federal effort failed to meet its goal of raising the level of care so that patients could control their violent tendencies and remain institutionalized only as long as necessary. Although the use of restraints and certain medications declined, by the end of 2011, the rate of patient assaults on other patients and staff members had doubled at one facility, and the rate of assault tripled at another facility over a period of two years and dropped only after the killing of a psychiatric worker triggered a lockdown. DOJ asked a federal court to extend oversight in the two facilities, and a federal court monitor charged with evaluating the state's progress supported the request, citing 12 cases at the two hospitals in which patients died or were seriously injured because of lapses in care. A ruling is expected in June 2012.

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