Letter to the Editor

ASH faces dilemmas

Former Chairman, Department of Psychiatry at Atascadero State HospitalJune 16, 2014 

Congratulations to The Tribune for publishing Tonya Strickland’s June 6 article on the death of Kevin Allan Turner, a patient at Atascadero State Hospital. Alongside it was Paige St. John’s Los Angeles Times report on California forensic psychiatric facilities. Both articles, far-reaching, though brief, go deeply into the dilemmas long faced by ASH.

Begun in 1954, at the insistence of an idealistic psychiatrist, ASH has striven to develop an integration of therapeutic and security concerns appropriate to a modern mental hospital. ASH has since undergone vicissitudes, progressive and regressive. Under a special Master appointed by the U.S. Department of Justice, the personnel component was enhanced along with a form of therapeutic community, called group therapy, under a philosophy and practice termed “recovery.” However, the 2011 termination of federal oversight resulted in regression from those efforts.

Underlying these momentous issues is the need for California to marshal its financial, professional and administrative resources. It is imperative that ASH and the four other referenced psychiatric state institutions modernize their operations in accordance with already established guidelines for therapy and security. ASH urgently needs the help of our soon-tobe re-elected governor!

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