Delaware released from mental health settlement agreement

(Photo via ShutterStock)

(Photo via ShutterStock)

Delaware has done enough to improve its mental health system, according to a U.S. District Court judge.

The state is no longer bound to terms of a settlement agreement it reached with the U.S. Department of Justice. That agreement stemmed from 2011 media reports about deplorable conditions for patients  at the Delaware Psychiatric Center. 

Since then, the state has worked to meet terms of the agreement under the watch of Court Monitor Robert Bernstein. 

In a joint motion to dismiss, the state and the U.S. Department of Justice agreed that the state has implemented reforms to improve the delivery of services to people with serious and persistent mental illness.

“Our adult behavioral health treatment system is far better equipped to meet the needs of this population than it was when we began this journey five years ago,” said Delaware Governor Jack Markell in a statement. “Implementing the critical reforms to the state’s treatment of individuals with serious and persistent mental illness has been a very high priority of my administration for the past five years, and one in which we have invested a great deal of resources.”

Since 2011, the state has established a round-the-clock crisis hot-line which provides counseling for individuals in crisis or their families. In the past fiscal year, more than 28,000 calls were received. The state has also developed a mobile crisis team available to respond to a person in crisis anywhere in the state. State officials say that crisis team’s average response time was 40 minutes, well under the one hour requirement of the agreement.

The state has also reduced the population of the Delaware Psychiatric Center by more than 40 percent, from 131 in FY 2010 to 76 in FY 2016. Some of those discharged had been at DPC for decades. Some are now getting intensive treatment in the community. 

Delaware Health and Social Service Secretary Rita Landgraf said while the system of mental health care the state has built isn’t perfect, “But we have built a strong foundation to support individuals with serious and persistent mental illness as fully engaged members of the community.”

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