Mental health hospital planned at CIM

California Institution for Men entrance

Staff Reports

A 50-bed mental health facility is expected to be built at the California Institution for Men in Chino in approximately four years.

The prison entrance is located at 14901 Central Ave. at the end of Chino Hills Parkway.

“The first dirt to move on this is at least two years from now and finished construction is at least four years away,” said Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman Bill Sessa.

The 48,000-square-foot hospital will be built inside the existing prison at a cost of $56.6 million, Mr. Sessa said.

An old building that has outlived its usefulness will be demolished to make way for the facility, he said.

The hospital will be self-contained to provide the care that 50 inmates at a time would require, he said. It would include accommodations for doctors, nurses, and administrative staff.

He said the project will be budgeted in phases. Working drawings and preliminary plans are budgeted at $3.6 million and will probably be completed at the end of 2019, he said. The actual construction costs will be budgeted in future cycles.

Mr. Sessa said the Department of Corrections (CDCR) is required by law to provide mental health care to inmates, from counseling to medication to crisis beds.

He cited a case called Coleman vs. Brown that covers all inmates with serious mental disorders housed in California state prisons.

He said the hospital will be CDCR’s second such facility in southern California. The other one is in the Richard J. Donovan state prison in San Diego, he said.

There are currently 373 beds in CDCR prisons, he said.

“We have a need for these beds in southern California for inmates who need short-term acute care,” Mr. Sessa said. “We have an imbalance at the moment. We have facilities in northern and central California but not in southern California.”

This isn’t the first time  the community has been faced with a prison mental hospital. Back in 1973 it was announced that the Youth Training School on Euclid Avenue, which was being closed by the Youth Authority, would house a psychiatric and treatment center, a proposal that was nixed under local pressure.

A decade ago, the state was working on plans to use a vacant unit at CIM for a mental health hospital. Local leaders, headed by Mayor Dennis Yates, went to Sacramento to strenuously oppose it. The pressure, plus a reduction statewide ion prison population and a cutback in funds, shelved the proposal after several years of local hearings and opposition.

Residents who are interested in learning more about current affairs at the prison may attend the next citizens advisory committee meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday, April 10 at Chaffey College Chino Community Center, 5890 College Park Ave.

The meetings are held the second Tuesday every two months and are open to the public.

The citizens advisory committee for California Institution for Women meets at 9:30 a.m. following the men’s meeting.

On April 20, Scott Kernan, secretary for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, will come to Chino for a meeting about CIM and safety concerns as a result of the January escape of an inmate.

Mr. Kernan is expected to meet with city and police officials from Chino Hills and Chino at the prison.