December 8, 2016

Audit finds flaws in state prison psych programs

12-8-16 Colorado:

The Colorado Department of Corrections has several gaps in its behavioral health programs that need addressing, a state audit revealed Tuesday.

The department’s mental-health and sex-offender programs were lacking on several fronts, most of which could be attributed to lack of staff for each, the State Auditor’s Office told legislators.

On the mental health side, department staff were sometimes late in assessing and recording offender mental health needs, did not always have proper mental health treatment plans in place for offenders and did not maintain sufficient evidence that offenders were seeing mental health professionals enough or were receiving adequate out-of-cell time.

State law bars inmates with serious mental health issues from spending too much time in isolation.

“Limitations of the department’s databases used to track offenders’ mental health information and out-of-cell time contributed to the problems we found and hampered the department’s ability to monitor staff,” audit manager Trey Standley told the Legislative Audit Committee.

On the sexual offender end, the audit found that department staff were not adequately assessing and addressing treatment needs as required by law for sexual offenders.

The number of sexual offenders enrolled in treatment each year decreased from 484 in 2012 to 465 in 2015, while the number of inmates eligible for that treatment rose during that same time period from 1,527 to 1,979, the audit said.

In 2015 and 2016, the department had a staff vacancy rate of more than 20 percent for its mental health program and more than 30 percent for the sex offender program, the audit found.

“Staff constraints contributed to a number of the problems we identified,” the audit said.

The audit made 11 recommendations, including improving oversight of out-of-cell time, prohibiting offenders with serious mental issues from being housed in long-term isolation and maintaining adequate staffing to run both programs.

This year, the department received about $16.8 million to operate its mental-health program, and $4.4 million to run the sex-offender program. ..Source.. by Charles Ashby

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