Paris Hilton Champions Transparency Bill for Teen Treatment Centers

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In a remarkable advocacy turn, heiress and media personality, Paris Hilton has directed her considerable spotlight onto the industry that provides services to troubled teenagers. On Monday, in Sacramento, California, Hilton joined forces with state lawmakers, advocating for a transformative bill that would obligate youth treatment facilities to be more transparent in their operating procedures.

The proposed legislation, which receives strong bipartisan support and rally from Republican state Sen. Shannon Grove and Democratic state Sens. Aisha Wahab and Angelique Ashby, holds a particular focus on the use of discipline within these organizations, especially the application of restraints or seclusion methods applied to young inhabitants. Under the purview of this bill, facilities would be required to notify the parents of the minor and the state any time such disciplinary actions are employed.

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The issue became personal for Hilton, as she shared her own dark journey of abuse as a teenager within the cold walls of a facility in Utah. These haunting past experiences prompted her to urge lawmakers to consider immediate action, intent on preventing any more children from being subjected to similar treatment.

During her testimony on Monday, Hilton unsettled the legislative hearing with the chilling reality: “Our current system, designed to reform, in some horrific instances, does the exact opposite,” she said. “It breaks spirits and instills fear, and it perpetuates a cycle of abuse. But today, we have the power to change that.”

This landmark California bill was passed by a committee with bipartisan support on Monday, underlining a unanimous call to action across party lines. If enacted, the bill would require facilities to diligently disclose the specifics of disciplinary actions undertaken, including the reasons and the identities of those approving the action plan. Furthermore, the state department overseeing these facilities would need to make these reports public, maintaining a quarterly updated database. However, it is to be noted that this bill does not seek to outlaw such disciplinary practices.

Hilton has emerged as a leading figure in the campaign for reform of teen treatment centers following her brave confession about the mental and physical abuse she endured as a teenager. Apart from the torments that Hilton allegedly faced including forced consumption of unknown pills, physical assault, invasive surveillance during showers, and undress solitary confinement, she underlines the troubling fact of being utterly cut off from the outside world.

This admirable journey of public advocacy led her to the gates of Utah’s Provo Canyon School, where her testimony led to stricter oversight on youth treatment centers in the state. Hilton’s influence has transcended state borders, leading her to Washington D.C. to lobby for federal reforms and aiding changes in laws protecting minors in at least eight other states. Earlier this month, Hilton vocalized her support for boys at a private school for troubled teens in Jamaica.

Ms. Hilton’s company, 11:11 Media, which sponsors the bill, radiated optimism about its potential, hoping that it would serve as a lightning rod for public scrutiny over youth residential treatments, and bring accountability.

Between 2015 and 2020, as per Sen. Grove’s office, more than 1,240 children with behavioral issues were dispatched to out-of-state facilities due to locked-treatment-centers dearth within California. Troubling reports of abuse, including a shocking incident culminating in the unfortunate death of a 16-year-old boy after 12 minutes of restraint in a Michigan facility led California to terminate this program in 2020. In a bid to remedy this, the Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom authorized $8 million to bring all the minors home by last year.

Currently, minors with behavioral issues are sent to in-state short-term residential centers, which, worryingly, are under no obligation to disclose information regarding the use of seclusion rooms, restraints, and the instances of serious injuries, or even deaths resulting from these practices.

Sen. Grove emphasized the gravity of the situation, pointing to the fact that the children at these facilities make up one of the most susceptible demographics, including foster youths who have been sexually exploited. Calling the proposed legislation a “small but critical step,” Grove reiterated that it’s crucial to ensure heightened transparency and accountability for the welfare of California’s children.

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.