By CN Staff
CALIFORNIA—Wellpath recently announced a collaboration with the California Department of State Hospitals (DSH) intended to minimize delays for incarcerated patients awaiting competency restoration services. The program is called Early Access and Stabilization Services (EASS) and is designed to begin competency restoration for patients in participating California jails within a week of a court determination that the patient is Incompetent to Stand Trial (IST).
For those deemed incompetent to stand trial, criminal proceedings are postponed, and patients are held at detention facilities until competency treatment can be provided. Most patients will be placed on a waitlist for admission to a state hospital facility for restoration services. In California, a significant demand for these services has resulted in a months-long waiting period for individuals to receive restoration services. This delay is not only difficult for the patients but also challenging for facilities and the courts.
“We have observed that the national shortage of programs providing competency restoration services can result in long delays for the necessary care,” said Dr. Carin Kottraba, Wellpath Vice President of Mental Health Innovations. “Working collaboratively with DSH, we have increased the state’s capacity to provide competency restoration services, so patients can avoid long waits for meaningful access to the justice system,” she said.
The EASS program reaches patients at detention facilities, and requires only small adjustments in facility staffing, with funding provided by the State. The program includes weekly psychiatric appointments, daily nursing services, weekly counseling, and psychological assessments. If EASS participants fail to overcome barriers to competency, they are transferred to more intensive DSH restoration programs. A primary goal of the EASS program is to evaluate patients, stabilize them psychiatrically, and provide treatment with individualized medication therapy. Once stabilized, individuals can more quickly complete a competency restoration program.
“Very often, EASS provides patients with an accelerated path to participate effectively in their legal proceedings,” said Jennifer Diaz, Wellpath Regional Vice President of IST Operations in California. “Since beginning the EASS program, 18.1% of the patients referred for services have been restored to competency and are able to participate in the justice process.”
Wellpath currently provides EASS services in 20 California counties, adding one-to-two sites a week: Calaveras, Del Norte, Fresno, Humboldt, Imperial, Kings, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Sierra, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Lassen, Merced, Madera, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Ventura, and Yuba. The goal is for the EASS to be available in up to 54 facilities by July 2023.