Idaho is in the final stages of negotiating a settlement agreement to the long-running Jeff D lawsuit over children’s mental health care in the state, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee was told this morning. As part of that, Gov. Butch Otter is recommending the state allocate $615,000 for plaintiff attorney fees in the case; that amount could be negotiated somewhat lower, but the allocation would allow the state to cover the costs without dipping directly into funding for children’s mental health services. The lawsuit was first filed in 1980, over adults and children with mental illness being co-mingled at State Hospital South. There was abuse, state mental health administrator Ross Edmunds told JFAC.
The lawsuit has led to extensive proceedings and negotiations over the years. “If implemented as described in the settlement agreement, Idaho would have one of the premier children’s mental health services in the country,” Edmunds said. That likely would take another eight years to put in place. The settlement as it’s taking shape now envisions nine months for planning, four years for implementation, and then two to three years of monitoring once the system is in place. Then, if it’s found to be adequate, the lawsuit would be dismissed, with the permanent injunction requiring the improved system to remain in place.
Edmunds said, “So maybe eight more years. I thought we were done in 2007.” Senate Finance Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, said, “I wish we had been, and it just makes me wonder how many kids … could have been helped” if the improvements already were completed.