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Five State Mental Hospitals Attain National Accreditation for 1st Time

November 11, 1987|CLAIRE SPIEGEL | Times Staff Writer

Five state hospitals in California that treat the mentally ill, including Metropolitan State Hospital in Norwalk, have all raised their standard of care enough to achieve national accreditation for the first time, state officials said Tuesday.

Other facilities now accredited are Camarillo Hospital in Ventura County, Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino, Atascadero State Hospital in San Louis Obispo County and Napa State Hospital.

Dr. D. Michael O'Connor, director of the state Department of Mental Health, said the high marks given the hospitals by the Joint Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations in Chicago demonstrate California's commitment to mental hospitals as a means of giving quality care to the mentally ill. Fewer than 10% of the nation's 260 state mental hospitals meet the standards set by the organization.

After years of deterioration and the closure of some institutions, O'Connor said, California has committed $170 million to renovate antiquated hospital facilities and to hire additional staff. "We have learned that we need our state hospitals," he said. "And Gov. Deukmejian has made the decision to resuscitate them."

The state hospitals now provide care for about 5,000 patients, down from a high of 37,000 in 1959.

Richard Van Horn, who heads the Los Angeles Advocates for Mental Health, commended the state for bringing the level of care at the state hospitals up to national standards but said that outpatient care for the mentally disturbed has been neglected.

During the last three years, the campaign to improve the state mental hospitals has resulted in the hiring statewide of about 700 new professionals, at a cost of $18 million. About 75% of the scheduled hospital renovations are complete, and the rest will be done during the next two years, O'Connor said.

Increasing Privacy

The remodeling work is designed not only to modernize hospitals--some of which were built as early as the mid-1800s--but also to increase privacy. Dormitories with 50 beds, gang showers and toilets without partitions are being eliminated.

About $16 million has been spent on physical renovations at Metropolitan State Hospital. An additional $10 million for remodeling is expected, hospital officials said.

A tour of several wards at Metropolitan State Hospital, which treats about 750 patients, showed quiet and clean premises, arrangements of fresh flowers, new furniture and Ping-Pong tables, as well as new treatment programs that use music, movement and ethnic pride as therapy.

More personnel have been hired, hospital administrators said, to provide a better ratio of staff to patients and more time for patient counseling.

Metro's director for quality assurance, David Malik, said increased staffing has also enabled the hospital to make "good progress" toward meeting its goal of providing 29 hours a week of treatment to each patient. A study eight years ago, he said, found that patients, on average, received less than four hours of treatment a week.

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