February 15, 2019

 

We, advocates for civil rights, human rights and human dignity, send an urgent call to our elected officials in the State of California.  A pattern of gross negligence and violation of civil and human rights within our state hospitals has created an oppressive system, in which even those who strive to successfully complete treatment programs are systematically denied exit from the facilities tasked with their rehabilitation.

Serious allegations of civil rights violations, discriminatory and retaliatory practices affecting patients at Department of State Hospitals-Napa have been brought forth in formal complaints to the Sacramento, Vallejo and Santa Clara County chapters of the NAACP, the Justice Reform Coalition and the Sonoma County Commission on Human Rights.  Due to the isolated nature of the population at DSH Napa and the lack of visibility for mental health and inmate patients at state hospitals, the problems reported are widespread, far ranging in scope and continue with almost no consequence.  Additionally, the conditions reported by patients and the ensuing retaliation for their self-advocacy efforts, are in flagrant violation of state and Federal law under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The initial plea for help was made in August of 2018 by a single whistleblower who has endured retaliation for his efforts to advocate for himself and his fellow patients.  Nevertheless, others have also come forward despite risk of retaliation.  They are known as the Napa Five.  The discrimination they report has created a hostile and unhealthy environment, depriving the patients of therapeutic treatment benefits and denying them their legally required opportunity to exit the facility once treatment protocol has been fulfilled. Patients report that DSH Napa employs bully tactics, falsehood, and retaliation to delay, derail, and deny discharge, and that disproportionate punishment and disciplinary action through implicit and explicit bias against African American patients is rampant.  DSH Napa is reported to arbitrarily assess new diagnoses without proper diagnostic processes to control patient placement, retaliate, punish and block lawful exit through the 1026.2 Restoration of Sanity Writ court process.  When questioned to provide substantiating records, DSH Napa applies roadblocks and barriers to prevent patients and their advocates from accessing them in violation of Cal. Health & Safety Code § 123110(a) (2008), mandating inspection of patient records within 5 working days after receipt of the written request.   

DSH-Napa is reported to regularly launch retaliatory actions against patients who self-advocate or seek assistance. DSH Napa has repeatedly denied records under legally binding release to the NAACP and family members seeking to advocate for patients' rights.  Additionally, DSH Napa allows a hostile, racist environment to exist in which African American patients are subject to racial slurs by white patients with no consequence.

A formal complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights has been filed pursuant to ensuring compliance with, investigating, and remedying violations of Title VI and its implementing regulations and guidelines under HHS codes
45 CFR § 80.3,  45 CFR § 80.4,  45 CFR § 80.7 and  45 CFR § 80.8.

We are calling on those capable of launching independent, investigative state oversight to do so without delay.  Civil rights protections are guaranteed to all Americans.  Similar issues have been substantiated through legal proceedings brought against DSH Atascadero and DSH Coalinga.  These conditions represent a systemic problem in our State Hospital system that must be addressed.  We need to do better in California, in accordance with civil rights protections and basic human rights and dignity guaranteed to all.