Paris Hilton backs California bill to reform ‘troubled teen industry’

The famous hotel heiress, once known for her nightclub appearances, has turned her attention to a much more sedate venue: the California State Capitol.

Paris Hilton supports Senate Bill 1043, authored by Sen. Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) and co-authored by two Democratic lawmakers, which would require residential treatment centers to report to parents and the state government when They use restraints or isolation rooms to discipline minors.

It’s the latest move in what has become Hilton’s political focal point in recent years, as she positions herself as the voice of young people who have suffered abuse at the hands of teen treatment centers. Hilton traveled to Washington, D.C. and Utah to lobby for stricter regulations on residential treatment programs. On April 15, she is scheduled to testify in favor of the new legislation in Sacramento.

“As a survivor of the ‘troubled teen industry,’ I am proud to partner with Senator Shannon Grove…to bring much-needed transparency to youth facilities in California,” Hilton said in a statement.

The bill aims to protect children and young adults housed in facilities licensed by the California Department of Human Services by requiring the agency to post data on a public dashboard on its website, reporting usage restraint and seclusion rooms, including cases of serious injury or death. . Parents or guardians should also be informed when restraints and isolation rooms are used on minors.

The Department of Social Services said it does not comment on the legislation.

California used to send foster youth with serious behavioral problems to out-of-state treatment programs, but after widespread reports of abuse, a 2021 law prohibits these investments. The state has since created an alternative known as short-term residential therapeutic programs, but the use of seclusion rooms and restraints on minors still occurs, according to Grove’s office.

Hilton, 43, has spoken openly about the mental and physical abuse she said she suffered as a teenager as an 11-month resident at Utah’s Provo Canyon School, a boarding school and training center. psychiatric treatment for young people. Provo Canyon was sold more than two decades ago and, after Hilton went public with its story, declined to comment on allegations regarding events before the new ownership.

Some young people are sent to these treatment programs by their parents; others are foster children ordered to appear in court.

The so-called “troubled teen” industry dates back at least 50 years and refers to a network of programs targeting teens struggling with issues such as substance abuse, mental illness and problem behaviors. The programs generally cost the same as college tuition, and although it has been the center of numerous abuse and corruption scandals, the sector remains largely unregulated, according to the American Bar Assn.

Driven by her experiences in residential treatment in the 1990s, Hilton formed a nonprofit, released a documentary and wrote a memoir telling her personal story of abuse. And she advocates for the protection of minors in residential programs and facilities.

In 2021, Hilton testified at the Utah State Capitol for a bill requiring increased government oversight of youth residential treatment centers and documentation when they use restraints on minors. The bill also prohibits the use of sedation or mechanical restraints without prior authorization in treatment centers. The bill was signed into law, affecting all 100 youth treatment centers in the state, and paved the way for more legislation.

The Assn. National. of Therapeutic Schools and Programs, the nation’s largest member organization, supported Utah’s bill.

“We strongly support the creation of laws that help protect the rights and safety of students who participate in our programs,” the group wrote in a letter read by Utah Sen. Todd Weiler.

Last year, Hilton was at the U.S. Capitol to advocate for the Stop Institutional Child Abuse Act, a federal bill aimed at establishing best practices and transparency in residential care programs for youth.

“This issue is deeply personal to me,” Hilton said at a news conference in Washington to introduce the bill. “Between the ages of 16 and 18, I was sent to four industrial establishments for troubled teenagers. Each one was more horrible than the last. I witnessed and experienced sexual abuse from adult staff, as well as daily verbal and emotional abuse. … What I experienced will haunt me for the rest of my life.”

California Daily Newspapers

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