Need cited for youth psychiatric hospital No place takes violent youths, officials say.

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 an emergency psychiatric evaluation for him.

But when officers immediately notified the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center -- the only state mental institution that treats the criminally insane -- they were told the hospital would not admit the youth because it takes only 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 he was going to kill himself -- and the following day the youth was sent to the county detention center, says 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 a maximum-security institution of this type for persons under 18 years of age," says 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," she says. "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 been only two instances when juveniles received court-ordered psychiatric evaluations at Perkins, and in both cases the youths had been charged as adults, she says.

The institution has 220 beds for adult patients requiring minimum, medium and maximum security and a waiting list of people requiring treatment.

"It's just another group of people that gets left out in the cold," the administrator says. "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 concede 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, says 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 says.

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," Mr. Stockdill says.

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

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