Gov. Brown names Pamela Ahlin head of psychiatric hospital system

Pamela Ahlin, who once ran Coalinga State Hospital, is named to lead the state's psychiatric hospital system

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday named Pamela Ahlin the new director of California's psychiatric hospital system.

The Department of State Hospitals — carved out of the now-defunct Department of Mental Health — was under federal oversight from 2006 to 2011. Its handling of psychiatric wards in state prisons fell subject to federal scrutiny again in 2013. The agency manages five psychiatric hospitals as well as three psychiatric facilities within prisons.

Ahlin, 50, who formerly ran Coalinga State Hospital, was brought in as executive director of the prison psychiatric program at Salinas Valley in May 2013 after psychiatrists there complained of dangerous understaffing, and a patient died by ingesting lethal amounts of water.

Later, that fall, a court inspector found that Salinas Valley patients received inadequate care and lacked sufficient necessities such as clean clothing, soap and bedding, but on many points the judge ruled that Salinas Valley was already taking steps to remedy the shortages.

In 2014, Ahlin moved to the agency's administrative offices, as chief deputy to acting director Cliff Allenby, after the prior chief deputy, Kathy Gaither, was placed on administrative leave while sexual harassment and discrimination allegations against her were investigated. Gaither later was cleared but did not return.

Ahlin's appointment requires confirmation by the California Senate. The job pays $173,349 a year.

Brown also named Stephanie Clendenin, an administrator within the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, chief deputy director under Ahlin.

paige.stjohn@latimes.com

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