SF's Only Locked Mental Health Center for Youth Closes

Youth with high mental health needs are going home. Or going to the juvenile justice system.

By Chris Roberts
|  Friday, Apr 20, 2012  |  Updated 11:55 AM PDT
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SF's Only Locked Mental Health Center for Youth Closes

San Francisco General Hospital

The new SFGH does not include plans for the facility for high-risk youth, which closes May 16.

At-risk youth that once set fire to the carpet in their rooms will be set loose.

The 14 teenagers now living at the Seneca Center Community Treatment Facility at San Francisco General Hospital -- high-risk youth with post-traumatic stress disorder, "the highest level of behavioral health needs of any youth in the system" -- will leave the City's only "locked mental health treatment program" to return to their communities or to other programs, according to the Bay Citizen.

The center is closing permanently by May 16, after the City slashed $900,000 from its budget, according to the website. It costs about $15,000 per year to house a child at the locked care facility, where many children go after having left "10 or 12" programs by the time they were 13, the website reported.

Ken Berrick, Seneca’s founder and chief executive, said that his clients can be "very aggressive toward adults and other kids." The center is closing because California has changed the way it funds mental health services, capping spending on youth who are low-income and depend on Medi-Cal to support their treatment, according to the Web site.

The trend is now towards services that help youth "in their communities," according to the Bay Citizen, though some experts believe kids "need more than that."

"The juvenile justice system is going to be seeing more of these kids," said Daren Dickson, who works at Seneca.

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