- Preparing for the Holidays
- California working to intervene earlier - before a brain illness crisis
- When It’s Time to Consider Hospitalization
- Connecting mental illness and mass shooting misses the point, experts say
Open Data Portal
- DSH data on Forensic vs. Civil Commitments, Patient Age Demographics
- Patton State Hospital Museum
Explore the evolution of the treatment of mental illness during the past century.
- Want to tour the Patton State Hospital Museum?
Click here to request a tour.
- Metropolitan State Hospital Museum
Come see 100 years of mental illness treatment in our Los Angeles County facility.
Financial Activity Reports
Psychiatric Program Transition
- On July 1, 2017, the Department of State Hospitals’ psychiatric programs at Salinas Valley State Prison, the California Health Care Facility, Stockton, and the California Medical Facility, Vacaville, were transferred to the authority of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the California Correctional Health Care Services. For information about those programs, please visit:
Salinas Valley State Prison
California Health Care Facility, Stockton
California Medical Facility, Vacaville
Need Mental Health Services?
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis and need immediate assistance, please call "911" and explain the nature of your problem to the operator.
For non-urgent mental health services, please contact your county mental health department.
The Department of State Hospitals (DSH) is the nation’s largest inpatient mental health hospital system. It features five state hospitals (Atascadero, Coalinga, Metropolitan - Los Angeles, Napa and Patton) and approximately 11,000 staff.
Annually, DSH cares for approximately 10,000 of the most seriously mentally ill patients - far more than any other state. On any given day, there are approximately 6,800 patients in this giant hospital system which runs nonstop, every hour of every day of every year. In addition, DSH oversees 625 people in conditional release programs across the state and provides services and criminal trial competency treatment inside three jails located in Riverside, Sacramento, and San Bernardino counties.
These numbers tell many stories. One, however, stands out more than others: every day patients are successfully treated, stabilized and discharged from DSH facilities. Nearly 6,000 patients are discharged annually. This success occurs because DSH delivers treatment that is evidence-based, state of the art, and meets the patients’ individual needs.
Staff trained in psychiatry, psychology, social work, and rehabilitation therapy treat patients using dynamic clinical modalities such as cognitive remediation, trauma-informed care, crisis intervention, and court competency. DSH provides medical and nursing care along with a wide spectrum of rehabilitation, physical and occupational therapy.
DSH clinicians are at the vanguard of efforts to address increasing levels of violence at mental health hospitals across the nation. The California State Hospital Violence Assessment and Treatment (Cal-VAT) guidelines, developed by DSH clinicians, provide guidance for the assessment and treatment of violence and aggression. The annual Violence Report, which chronicles the incidence of violence in DSH hospitals, has revealed that only a tiny fraction - approximately 1/100th of one percent - of the overall patient population is responsible for more than one-third of the violent incidents. The Chronic Aggressors Project seeks to better understand who these patients are and how to treat them.
Research by DSH clinical staff on reducing patient violence, and the contributions of staff to text books and medical journals, is changing patient care across the nation. In their work, these dedicated clinicians partner with nationally and internationally recognized experts in forensic mental health at the University of California. One day when a solution is discovered to the problem of how to successfully treat violence in forensic state hospitals and establish safe environments, it will come from the work at DSH.
In addition to providing innovative care, meeting the needs of patients also demands that the department invest in its staff. Employees must have training and resources to do their jobs well. DSH has established its own police academy where officers are trained in law enforcement techniques for mentally ill patients. California’s community colleges have affiliated with DSH to offer a certificate program to train psychiatric technicians. Many are hired upon graduation to work in state hospitals. In addition, DSH has partnered with the University of California to offer forensic fellowships for psychiatrists.
As the department grapples with some of the most difficult issues facing forensic mental health systems, I cannot help but be inspired by the continuing commitment of staff to California’s most vulnerable - and most challenging - patients. Working in situations that are often complicated and sometimes dangerous, these government employees reflect the highest ideals of public service. They have earned our respect and gratitude.
Biography: Pamela Ahlin of Folsom, has served as the director of the Department of State Hospitals since 2015. Previously, she was the chief deputy director in 2014 and was a deputy director from 2012 to 2014. Ahlin was the executive director at Coalinga State Hospital from 2008 to 2012, where she was a hospital administrator from 2005 to 2007. She served as a staff services manager at Wasco State Prison from 2001 to 2005 and was an associate governmental program analyst at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison, Corcoran from 1997 to 2001 and at Corcoran State Prison from 1996 to 1997. Ahlin served as a correctional officer at Avenal State Prison from 1991 to 1996. Ahlin earned a Master of Arts degree in leadership and organizational development from Fresno Pacific University.
From right to left: Pam Ahlin, director of Department of State Hospitals; Cliff Allenby, advisor to the director of the Department of State Hospitals; and Stephanie Clendenin, chief deputy director of Department of State Hospitals.
California Department of State Hospitals
1600 9th Street, Rm. 151
Sacramento, CA 95814
Department Phone Listing