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On August 2, 2010, the court in the Farrell litigation concluded that Dr. Eric Trupin and Dr. Terry Lee have resigned from their positions as Mental Health experts in the case. This is compelling news for followers of DJF reform efforts.

Almost seven years ago, Dr. Eric Trupin conducted the original investigation of DJF’s mental health care, noting In general we have grave concerns relative to the competence of the psychiatric staff, historical lack of leadership… and the lack of any effective quality management or peer review process for the practice of psychiatry.” There were problems in almost every area of mental health care including egregious use of force against youths with mental health issues, disturbing overuse of isolation for suicidal and self-harming youth, and erratic application of psychotropic medications. The Mental Health Remedial Plan was filed on August 252006.

Four years later, the latest DJF quarterly compliance report filed on May 20, 2010, DJF indicates substantial compliance for the entire Mental Health Remedial Plan is at 30%, the lowest across all the remedial areas. Moreover, DJF reports a 21% non-compliance rating in the area of mental health, again the highest non-compliance rating across the remedial plans.

In his ex-parte letter to the court dated July 21, 2010, Dr. Trupin bemoans DJF’s mental health reform progress as slow in coming and often chaotic in implementation, considering the number of years since the needed remedies were identified.” 

With the closure of Stark in February 2010, mental health units in DJF facilities have additional struggles. The 15th Special Master Report notes Ventura, SYCRCC, and the stand-alone Correctional Treatment Center (CTC) are all reporting staffing difficulties and the lack of adequate treatment space continues to plague programming. Coupled with the State fiscal crisis, questions arise as to when, if ever, necessary mental health reform can take place. 

What quality of care are the wards receiving and who will take the place of Dr. Trupin and Dr. Lee in monitoring mental health care for youth housed in DJF facilities? 

~Selena Teji, J.D.

Sentencing Service Program Case Specialist