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CDCR to Open New Mental Health Facility

In response to intense pressure from the Plata v. Brown and Coleman v. Brown federal lawsuits demanding improved medical and mental health care for California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) prisoners, a new 50-bed mental health facility is scheduled to open in July 2013 at the California Men's Colony (CMC) state prison in San Luis Obispo.

The $23 million facility will be available to house CDCR prisoners experiencing mental health crises, such as those who are suicidal or who have repeatedly stated they intend to harm themselves. It will also house prisoners whose mental health has deteriorated to the point they present a danger to others.

Known as the Correctional Treatment Center, the licensed mental health facility is intended to comply with a federal court order requiring the CDCR to provide mental health care consistent with the Eighth Amendment.

Governor Jerry Brown had hoped the new facility would bring an end to what he called "intrusive" federal control over the CDCR's mental health services. Both Governor Brown and CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard have issued recent statements claiming that concerns related to mental health care in the state's prison system were no longer an issue. However, the federal court over the Coleman case disagreed in a strongly-worded order on April 5, 2013 (see related article in this issue of PLN).

Of the approximately 5,000 prisoners housed at the CMC, around 25 percent receive mental health services. Once the Correctional Treatment Center opens, prisoners will receive the mental health treatment they need in a more focused environment, with added one-on-one time with psychologists and psychiatrists.

CDCR officials claim the facility will ultimately reduce recidivism among mentally ill prisoners by helping them learn how to handle their mental health issues. A major task is to teach such prisoners about their treatment requirements and keep them on their medications, said CMC public information officer Lt. Robert Furster.

"You may have an inmate come in and get the mental health treatment he needs, then he goes back into society where he understands his mental health illness, he gets medication, and he doesn't reoffend," he stated. "Ultimately, that's less cost on law enforcement, less cost on the courts, and less cost on correction, and a safer public."

The CDCR also plans to open a 1,722-bed prison hospital in Stockton by July 2013, at a cost of $700-750 million. [See: PLN, March 2013, p.56].


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