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Policy: Budgets & Deficits

Brown seeks money for troubled prison medical unit

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Photo - FILE -- In this June 25, 2013 file photo, Correctional Officer Stella Miles stands in one of the secure inmate-patient housing units of the new California Correctional Health Care Facility in Stockton, Calif.  Gov. Jerry Brown is seeking millions of dollars in his revised 2014-15 state budget plan to correct problems in the recently constructed $839 million facility  the can treat up to 1,720 inmate-patients. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
FILE -- In this June 25, 2013 file photo, Correctional Officer Stella Miles stands in one of the secure inmate-patient housing units of the new California Correctional Health Care Facility in Stockton, Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown is seeking millions of dollars in his revised 2014-15 state budget plan to correct problems in the recently constructed $839 million facility the can treat up to 1,720 inmate-patients. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown is seeking millions of dollars more to fix problems at an $839 million prison medical complex that was built to help end years of federal court oversight.

The California Health Care Facility in Stockton opened in July. Six months later, the federal overseer who runs the prison medical system abruptly halted admissions, citing a series of problems that have yet to be corrected.

The revised budget Brown proposed Tuesday requests $12.4 million to correct what it calls "unanticipated operational issues." The proposal is "critical to fixing the deficiencies at the prison," said Joyce Hayhoe, a spokeswoman for the federal receiver's office.

Prison medical receiver J. Clark Kelso cited a lack of health care and support staff, problems with managing the food service, inadequate accommodations for disabled inmates, and logistical problems such as providing basic medical and personal hygiene products.

For example, he said an outbreak of scabies likely resulted from an inability to provide adequate hygiene supplies. Nurses also were not even given the proper keys that would get them into cells and other locations in the facility, he said.

Part of the additional money will go to hiring 106 additional employees, including 77 prison guards, said Deborah Hoffman, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

"The administration is committed to the continued improvement of CDCR's delivery of health care services to inmates," Hoffman said.

She said about $2.6 billion, or nearly 20 percent of the department's budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, will go to providing medical, mental health and dental care to inmates.

California has been engaged in a lengthy and costly attempt to address federal court rulings that say its prisons provide substandard medical and mental health care. The judges have said reducing the overall inmate population is the most important way to improve care but also have ordered billions of dollars' worth of Improvements to facilities and salary increases for professional medical and mental health workers.

The receiver's office hired an independent consultant to recommend how many additional doctors and nurses are needed at the Stockton hospital, with a report due in June. Hayhoe said the office could seek additional money to hire more medical workers, depending on the consultant's report. There is no target date for resuming admissions of sick inmates, she said.

The additional money proposed for the hospital is part of the corrections department's $9.8 billion annual budget. Corrections accounts for nearly 9 percent of the governor's $107.8 billion general fund spending plan.

Lawmakers must pass a balanced budget by June 15.

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