California Men's Colony's new mental health center is open

jhickey@thetribunenews.com, acornejo@thetribunenews.comAugust 28, 2013 

A new correctional treatment center on the grounds of the California Men’s Colony began admitting patients Monday, and by Wednesday was serving 18 inmates suffering from mental health crises.

The licensed 50-bed correctional treatment center will provide temporary care for inmates requiring 24-hour-a-day monitoring.

The high-voltage electrified fence that surrounds the prison — powerful enough to instantly kill a person — is extended to enclose the new facility, which has a padded room used for inmates deemed a danger to themselves, and two pressurized rooms for inmates with contagious airborne illnesses such as tuberculosis.

In July, prison officials estimated that the facility would cost $23 million; however, the completed project cost $38.6 million. The additional cost was anticipated and the project did not go over budget, said Monica Ayon, CMC spokeswoman.

The two-story, 45,000-square-foot building, located at the south end of the prison's East facility, is one of 15 acute mental health treatment projects recently completed or under construction by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation — at an overall cost of $1.3 billion — to fulfill a federal mandate calling for improved care of the incarcerated mentally ill.

"When an inmate is deemed to be in crisis, they are a danger to everyone, including themselves," said Lt. Frank Perez, CMC spokesman, said in July. "The reduction of mental health hospitals basically means that the prisons are now taking care of those inmates.”

Construction was paid for by AB 900, the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Services Act of 2007.

GALLERY: More photos of the CMC's new correctional treatment center »

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