Paris Hilton backs California bill to increase adolescent treatment facility transparency

Sacramento— Paris Hilton joined California state lawmakers Monday to advocate for legislation to require adolescent treatment institutions to be more transparent.  

The Hilton Hotel heiress and media celebrity supports a measure to reveal how short-term residential facilities for adolescents with substance misuse and behavioral disorders utilize restrictions or seclusion. It would require institutions to notify parents and the state when using restraints or seclusion rooms for kids. GOP state Sen. Shannon Grove and Democrats Aisha Wahab and Angelique Ashby wrote it.  

Hilton appeared at a legislative session in support of the bill on Monday, recounting her horrific assault as a teenager in a Utah facility that still haunts her and urging lawmakers to act before more children are abused.

“Our current system designed to reform, in some horrific instances, does the exact opposite,” Hilton told senators Monday. It destroys spirits, instills fear, and perpetuates abuse. But today, we can change that.”  

The California bill passed committee Monday with bipartisan backing. According to the measure, facilities must report disciplinary actions, why, and who approved the plan. The facility-regulating state department must publish reports and update the database quarterly. It would not prohibit such practices.  

Hilton publicly shared her teen physical and mental abuse, becoming a leading advocate for teen treatment center oversight and regulation. She claimed personnel beat her, made her take strange medications, watched her shower, and sent her to isolation without clothes.  

Her testimony on her time at Utah's Provo Canyon School helped win a bill to tighten adolescent treatment facility oversight in 2021. At least eight states have modified laws to protect kids after Hilton advocated for federal improvements in Washington D.C. She advocated for Jamaican boys sent to a private school for problematic youths this month.  

Hilton, whose business 11:11 Media sponsors the law, termed it “a game changer” that would expose child abuse at adolescent residential facilities and hold them accountable. “This would have been so helpful to myself and so many others to have known what was happening behind closed doors,” Paris said in an interview. “Because I was isolated, I couldn't tell my family anything, and they do.”  

Due to the dearth of secured treatment institutions for juveniles, Sen. Grove's office reported that California transported over 1,240 children with behavior issues out-of-state between 2015 and 2020. As reports of abuse at these programs emerged, including a Michigan facility where a 16-year-old boy died after being restrained for 12 minutes, California found significant licensing violations and ended the program in 2020. Legislation in 2021 barred out-of-state residential centers. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom authorized $8 million to return all children home by last year.  

In 2017, in-state short-term residential centers replaced group homes for behaviourally challenged youth. However, present rules do not require these facilities to disclose how often they utilize seclusion rooms, restraints, and how often they cause serious injuries or deaths. Grove said foster adolescents who have been sexually victimized are among the most vulnerable at these facilities.  

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