Officials lament lack of facility giving psychiatric care to violent teen-agers

April 14, 1992|By Roger Twigg | Roger Twigg,Staff Writer

In an article yesterday about the lack of psychiatric care for violent youths, the name of Dr. Christiane Tellefsen, acting superintendent of Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center, was misspelled.

The Sun regrets the errors.

After a 16-year-old youth was recently charged in Baltimore County in the slaying of an 18-year-old man, he was examined by two physicians who recommended that he receive an emergency psychiatric evaluation.

But when officers contacted the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center that same night -- the only state mental institution that treats the criminally insane -- they were told the hospital would not admit the youth because it only takes adult patients.


Instead, an officer was assigned to guard the youth at Franklin Square Hospital -- where the teen-ager had been taken after he told arresting officers that he was going to kill himself -- and the following day the youth was sent to the county detention center, said Sgt. Stephen R. Doarnberger, a police spokesman. The boy receives limited psychiatric care while he remains there, awaiting trial.

State officials say there is dire need for a maximum-security institution to provide psychiatric treatment for youths who commit acts of violence. No such institution exists now, and the officials say one is needed to ensure that violent youths receive proper psychiatric care.

"Perkins is an institution for adults. The state does not have amaximum-security institution of this type for persons under 18 years of age," said Dr. Christian Tellessen, acting superintendent at Perkins.

"I can't see putting a 16-year-old in an adult unit when you consider the kind of folks I have over here," Dr. Tellessen said. "It's just like you don't put a juvenile in an adult institution [prison]. It's a very frightening experience."

In the past two years, there have only been two instances when juveniles received court-ordered psychiatric evaluations at Perkins and in both cases the youths had been charged as adults, Dr. Tellessen said. The institution has 220 beds for adult patients requiring minimum, medium and maximum security and waiting list of people requiring treatment.

"It's just another group of people that gets left out in the cold," the administrator said. "As it is now, I have people all over the state waiting to get into Perkins."

Meanwhile, officials with the state's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene conceded that the state does not have a plan for dealing with mentally disturbed violent juvenile offenders.

The state is preparing to open Focus Point, which will provide long-term care for severely disturbed adolescents in a wing of the Crownsville State Hospital, said James Stockdill, deputy director for the Mental Health Administration.

The Crownsville program will house young patients, ages 14 to ** 17, who did not fare well at other treatment centers, Mr. Stockdill said.

But the program, which is scheduled to begin in July, will not be able to handle violent criminal offenders requiring maximum security. "Questions have been raised that there is a need for that type of facility [as well]," Mr. Stockdill said.

Another case also highlights the need for a maximum-security psychiatric treatment center for youths. Earlier this year, a 16-year-old Anne Arundel County youth was charged with tracking down his ex-girlfriend's latest boyfriend and killing him. Dr. Tellessen said she turned down a request to admit the youth to the institution because of his age and because she has a lengthy waiting list for adult patients.

"Given that kids are becoming more violent, the time is now to determine what to do with them," Dr. Tellessen said.

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