An 18-year-old at the Los Angeles County Juvenile Hall facility in Sylmar died of a suspected overdose Tuesday.
The unidentified teen was found unresponsive in his room at the Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall and resided in a section of the facility where juveniles accused of serious crimes are housed, according to the Los Angeles Times, citing anonymous sources.
Staff at the facility administered first aid and used Naloxone spray to treat the overdose, but the unidentified teen ultimately died.
The death comes just a few short weeks after state regulators opted not to shut down the facility, which has been the subject of criticism and accusations of violence, neglect and drug use within its walls.
An anonymous email to KTLA Tuesday claimed abhorrent conditions at the facility, including rampant drug use and lack of oversight.
Last month, California Attorney General Rob Bonta called conditions at Nidorf, as well as Central Juvenile Hall in Boyle Heights, “appalling,” and called for changes to be made immediately.
Guillermo Viera Rosa, who was recently appointed as the “chief strategist” for the county’s juvenile operations, has promised to “wipe the slate clean,” and revitalize the way the county addresses juvenile detention. Among the changes, Los Angeles County has approved a plan to move some juveniles to the Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey, which was recently renovated.
“We are taking this dramatic step of reinventing juvenile operations to put the safety and welfare of our youth at the center of our efforts. It is simply the right thing to do,” Rosa said in a press release last week.
In a statement released to the media Tuesday, Rosa said the L.A. County Probation Department was “heartbroken” to confirm the teen’s death and said the agency is working to notify the teen’s family and will cooperate with any investigations by local law enforcement.
Peer support personnel and mental health professionals have been dispatched to the facility to assist with crisis counseling for staff and other juveniles at the facility.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell called the death the “heartbreaking manifestation of the crisis within our juvenile justice system.”
“It is inexcusable for a young person to die of an overdose within the care and custody of Los Angeles County’s juvenile halls,” Mitchell said in a release issued Tuesday.
The union that represents officers in the probation department released a statement of its own that laid blame on the teen’s death, in part, on a number of vacancies caused by a county hiring freeze, and a lack of critical infrastructure improvements at the two juvenile hall facilities, which it blames on the Board of Supervisors.
“The officers assigned to these facilities are doing the best they can with very limited resources and constant criticism from the Supervisors and their surrogates – working 18- to 24-hour shifts, facing daily assaults by youth leading to 40% of the division being out on injury leave, and more,” said Hans Liang, president of the union.
“Supervisors have created a critical staffing shortage, and youth and staff are paying the price,” Liang added.