Delaware to overhaul mental health system

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News from Delaware

The Department of Justice and the state of Delaware have reached a comprehensive agreement requiring the state to provide an array of new services to ensure people with mental illnesses are not being unnecessarily institutionalized in its state hospital.

The agreement caps a Justice Department investigation of the Delaware Psychiatric Center that began in November 2007, followed by on-site inspections in May 2008 and August 2010. The Justice Department sent a letter to the state in November 2010 with its findings and an outline for the settlement.

“We have concluded that the State’s current mental health system fails to provide services to individuals with mental illness in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs, as required by the (Americans with Disabilities Act),” the Justice Department stated in the letter. “This has resulted in needless prolonged institutionalization of many individuals with disabilities in the (Delaware Psychiatric Center) who could be served in the community.”

The agreement requires the state to make a variety of changes during the next five years, starting with a mandate to begin providing an individualized assessment of all people in the psychiatric center during the next 30 days.

The state must also develop a statewide crisis system, including a 24-hour crisis hotline and mobile crisis teams to respond to emergency situations.

New employment and rehabilitation services must be provided after the individuals leave the center, as well as housing assistance for 650 people with mental illnesses, either through subsidies or vouchers. For the housing facilities where the individuals are placed, no more than 20 percent of the facilities residents should be diagnosed with a mental illness.