Delaware reaches agreement with US government on mental health care

Mental health care and services in Delaware will focus less on institutionalization and more on community-based treatment, under a comprehensive agreement with the US Department of Justice. 

The settlement resulted from a DOJ investigation into allegations of patient abuse and mistreatment at the Delaware Psychiatric Center.  It also brings the state into compliance with the Supreme Court’s landmark Olmstead v. L.C. decision and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Delaware Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf said even beyond DPC, the state was spending disproportionately on institutional care at the expense of community alternatives.

Landgraf was named co-chair of a task force appointed by former Governor Ruth Ann Minner to investigate conditions at the Delaware Psychiatric Center and to come up with recommendations.  She called Wednesday’s agreement “the blueprint for how we are going to provide mental health services to persons with severe and persistent mental illness in our state.”

“Today we’re charting a course that really has the capacity to transform the provision of mental health care in the state.” Governor Jack Markell added.

Assistant US Attorney General Thomas Lopez called it an “exciting and groundbreaking day” for Delaware, which according to the DOJ investigation had more than 3,000 individuals institutionalized either at DPC or other state-funded private psychiatric facilities, many of them unnecessarily.  The findings of the investigation were released in late 2010.

“It is, indeed, a landmark agreement, a blueprint for sustainable reform and it will in fact, I predict, serve as a model for the nation of how to effectively integrate people with mental health issues into communities,” Lopez said.

Landgraf said the plan has a detailed timeline of goals and objectives over a five-year period.  As designed, it would reduce the population at DPC from the current 160 patients to about 125.  The DPC once had more than 200 patients institutionalized.  The state will expand community options that include recovery plans for patients, specialized transition teams, a 24/7 crisis hotline and mobile crisis teams, and more support services in general.  Additionally, employment counseling and training resources will be offered as well as support with finding appropriate housing.

CLICK HERE to read the entire agreement.

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