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Saturday, June 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Push for transparency in California youth treatment facilities clears second hurdle

Senate Bill 1043 would create a database on the use of restraints or seclusion in the treatment of young people.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — A bill in the California Senate championed by Paris Hilton reached the suspense file Monday, the make-or-break point for many bills this session.

Senate Bill 1043 by Senator Shannon Grove, a Bakersfield Republican, is called the Accountability in Children’s Treatment Act. If passed, it would require the state Department of Social Services to maintain a public database of information on the use of behavioral restraints and seclusion in short-term residential therapeutic programs.

When an incident of seclusion or restraints are used, facilities must provide a description of that incident to the patient, as well as to a parent, guardian or other authorized person. Personal information would be excluded.

These facilities are maintained by either public or private organizations and licensed by the social services department. They offer children specialized and intensive care, supervision and treatment over short-term periods or 24-hour care.

“SB 1043 is a simple transparency measure,” Grove told the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday.

Hilton — a television personality, socialite and hotel heiress — spoke this month before the Senate Human Services Committee in favor of the bill. Calling herself a survivor of such programs and an advocate, Hilton said she knew of the “horrors” of seclusion and restraints in youth centers, adding that a day in seclusion felt like a week.

Hilton said both she and Grove have tried to access data collected by the social services department and failed.

“I was honored to testify in the Senate Human Services Committee a few weeks ago and am deeply supportive of SB 1043," Hilton said in a statement this week. "California desperately needs transparency around the use of restraints and seclusion rooms in short-term residential therapeutic programs. The health and safety of our state’s most vulnerable youth should be a top priority regardless of the cost associated with doing so. I am paying attention to this legislation as it continues to make its way through the Senate and will do whatever I can to ensure its successful passage.” 

Grove at that earlier Human Services Committee hearing said she’s waited four months for information and hasn’t received it. If her legislation passes, the public database would be up by January 2026.

Advocating for her bill on Monday, Grove said the database would display the number of incidents, how long they lasted and whether any injuries or deaths stemmed from them.

The Department of Social Services currently collects this information, Grove said, but doesn’t make it public.

According to Grove, the department sent her its estimates for the dashboard on Friday. It expects costs to reach about $1.7 million in the first year and around $1.68 million for each following year. The price is for staffing and information technology costs linked to data collection, as well as any Public Records Act requests it might field.

“Unfortunately, the public dashboard wasn’t created when we had a budget surplus,” Grove said, adding that she doesn’t want the anticipated deficit to be the reason the dashboard doesn't happen.

State officials have estimated the existing deficit between $38 billion and $72 billion. Another estimate is expected next month, after April tax receipts are collected.

Calling the estimates to create and maintain the database high, Grove again emphasized the department already is collecting the requested data. Other state agencies with similar databases have made theirs at a lower cost.

State Senator Anna Caballero, a Merced Democrat and chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, thanked Grove for bringing the bill.

“It’s worth looking at,” Caballero said.

Grove was the only senator to speak at Monday’s hearing on behalf of her bill. In most cases this year senators have waived the presentation of their bills before the Appropriations Committee. Instead, the committee hears any public comment on the bills before sending them to the suspense file.

That file, set to be heard May 16, is a lengthy hearing that marks an essential hurdle that bills must pass to have a chance of becoming law. Bills on suspense must pass Appropriations on that date or die, as this is the second year of a two-year session.

Categories / Government, Health, Law, Regional

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