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Delaware completes settlement with DOJ over treatment of mental health patients

Delaware Public Media

The First State has fulfilled its five-year settlement agreement with the Department of Justice requiring an overhaul Delaware’s mental health system.

Chief Judge Leonard Stark signed an order Tuesday releasing the First State from the settlement, which addressed the state warehousing individuals with severe mental illness at the Delaware Psychiatric Center.


Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf says the decision indicates significant strides have been made to address warehousing individuals with severe mental illness at the Delaware Psychiatric Center for years – even decades.  

“Many people had been living at the Delaware Psychiatric Center: it actually turned into a residential facility as opposed to an acute care hospital for individuals with serious and persistent mental illness," she said.


The state has successfully transitioned many at the Delaware Psychiatric Center back into the community - reducing the population targeted by the settlement by more than 40 percent - from 131 to 76 - since Fiscal Year 2010.


Landgraf says providing 500 housing vouchers to those transitioning over the past five years helped.


“Part of our discussions with the Delaware State Housing Authority was let’s create a rental assistance program – let’s work with our landlords across the state who would take these vouchers to better support the population with also the knowledge that the population would be getting ongoing supports from the state through our division of substance abuse and mental health and our providers," she said.


Delaware also developed a 24/7 statewide hotline to help connect individuals in crisis to the most appropriate resources depending on the level of care they need. ACT (Assertive Community Treatment) teams - which respond to the most serious cases - were also expanded through the settlement.


One service Langraf also notes was transformed: targeted case management. She says it was done away with because individuals were more appropriately supported through intensive case management.

“Systems sometimes aren’t necessarily flexible or don’t do that piece of the work on that risk management constant evaluation side of it," Landgraf said. "So they build their systems, they plug in people to the system and they think all is well. That’s why I challenge that the system has to be constantly reviewing: is this promoting healthier outcomes for the population we’re serving.”



But Landgraf adds the end of the settlement does not end the state’s work in this area, stressing that services need to continually assessed and improved.

“People aren’t widgets," Landgraf said. "People deserve a high quality of life. We need to ensure that everything we deliver is promoting a high quality of life for the individuals being served.”


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