VACAVILLE — The California Medical Facility at Vacaville presented its new three-story building Thursday that consolidates the prison’s mental health services to one area.
The $24 million project was shown off as media, prison officials and other guests toured the 44,000-square-foot building that is known as the O Wing. Staff touted the Enhanced Outpatient Program Treatment and Office Space as a national model that addresses mental health issues for inmates.
Many who spoke said it is also likely to help California progress through the oversight process that U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Karlton and his special master have been critical of in past years.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has spent more than $1.3 billion since 2009 to improve mental health, said Jeffrey Beard, secretary of the CDRC. Fifteen of the 33 state prisons have undergone some kind of construction to improve mental health facilities.
“It’s time for the federal courts to recognize the progress the state has made and end costly and unnecessary federal oversight,” Beard said before the tours.
The third story of the building is where the psych administrative segregated inmates receive treatment. Some of those were being treated Thursday and were escorted by a correctional officer at all times.
Several rooms lined one wall of the floor, some containing several cages the prison calls therapeutic treatment modules. This allows for group therapy in the rooms while limiting the chances for incidents among the inmates.
“They’re in (administrative segregation) for a reason. They’re contained so they don’t hurt anyone,” said David Silbaugh, chief of mental health at CMF. “This building means more to us then just increased treatment space.”
The new space also means a new environment to receive help. Instead of meeting with staff in crowded and loud areas, it’s now taking place in private and calm areas.
Other areas include rooms for counseling and similar services, where the inmates are separated by glass from those treating them. The well-lit rooms are a major improvement from the past areas where inmates were treated. Some of those were old offices and converted closets, Silbaugh said.
The bottom two floors provide similar services, however are offered to those in general population. Those floors are more spacious and allow prisoners to come and go without escorts. Offices line one wall while group meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 14 people at a time are on the other.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Reach Danny Bernardini at 427-6935 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/dbernardinidr.