Capitol Alert

California Department of State Hospitals director chosen

Patients at Atascadero State Hospital walk to lunch together in line from their section on Thursday July 7, 2005.
Patients at Atascadero State Hospital walk to lunch together in line from their section on Thursday July 7, 2005. Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

Filling a long-standing vacancy, Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday appointed Pamela Ahlin to be director of the California Department of State Hospitals.

In promoting Ahlin, who previously served as the agency’s chief deputy director and deputy director, Brown moved to install a leader atop an agency that has been without a director for most of Brown’s tenure. Cliff Allenby has served as acting director since 2011, emerging from retirement to take over after former director Stephen Mayberg stepped down.

Ahlin, 50, will need to be confirmed by the California Senate and would earn $173,349 a year.

Tasked with housing severely mentally ill patients in a network of state-run institutions, the Department of State Hospitals wielded a $1.6 billion budget and serves more than 6,000 patients.

In a sign of turmoil, the department and three of its employees earlier this year were ordered to pay $1 million to a state hospital psychologist after a jury decided she was made to affirm that mentally ill patients were competent for trial based on dubious assessment methods and terminated for blowing the whistle.

Individual hospitals have endured issues with staff and budgeting. Atascadero State Hospital has grappled with a shortage of psychiatrists, according to a media report, and last year the State Controller’s Office released a study concluding that uneven payroll management led to hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of false payments at Patton State Hospital.

Call Jeremy B. White, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5543. Christopher Cadelago of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.

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