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Federal judge wants answers on backlog of mentally ill California inmates needing treatment

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SACRAMENTO, California — A federal judge is giving California officials 30 days to explain why there is a waiting list for treating seriously mentally ill inmates even as more than 250 treatment beds remain available.

U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller said in Friday's order that the beds are reserved for inmates at Atascadero State Hospital, a psychiatric facility 200 miles south of San Francisco.

She warned state officials to honor previous court orders dating to 2012 to quickly eliminate delays for inpatient mental health care.

State officials said in court papers this week that they recognize their obligation to speed up treatment and admit all patients in need of inpatient care as soon as possible.

Michael Bien, an attorney representing mentally ill inmates, says the state is going backward with increasing wait times.

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