Paris Hilton Speaks up for California’s ‘Troubled’ Teens

Heiress Paris Hilton is on a mission to shine a light on the “troubled teen industry,” a largely unregulated multibillion-dollar industry that is gaining public scrutiny for alleged abuse of vulnerable youths.

Hilton told state lawmakers in Sacramento on Monday she was subjected to abuse disguised as therapy decades ago when she was housed in residential facilities for teenagers struggling with substance abuse, mental illness and problematic behavior. 

She testified at the state Capitol in support of a bill ordering disclosure of the use of restraints or seclusion rooms in disciplining minors at residential facilities.

“When I close my eyes at night, I still have nightmares about solitary confinement 20 years later,” said Hilton, 43, at a news conference before the hearing. “The sounds of my peers screaming as they were physically restrained by numerous staff members and injected with sedatives will also never leave me.”

Having already won regulation in several other states, Hilton made clear that she wants federal oversight of the mental and behavioral health facilities — even as the reality star bumps up against the reality of this contentious Congress.

“If you are abusing children, I will find out,” Hilton said. “I will find you and I will come with my huge spotlight and shine it on wherever you are.”

Hilton visited D.C. last year to advocate the federal Stop Institutional Child Abuse Act, which would establish best practices and transparency in youth residential care programs.

But the proposal is stalled in Congress, and similar federal efforts have failed for more than a decade.

After the 2020 release of the documentary “This is Paris,” in which Hilton details abuses that she said she faced while attending Provo Canyon School in Provo, Utah, she has testified at state capitols, supporting successful bills in Missouri, Montana, Oregon and Utah.

Now, fresh off the Coachella slide with pal Kesha, Hilton is eyeing the most populous state.

There is no formal opposition to the bipartisan bill, which passed unanimously out of the state Senate’s Human Services Committee. It still has multiple steps before passage, including consideration by the full membership of both houses of the legislature.

The National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs, the nation’s largest such member organization, told KFF Health News that it supports the California bill as well as federal proposals.

Republican state Sen. Shannon Grove of Bakersfield, the bill’s lead author, said the goal is to protect young people housed in short-term residential therapeutic programs. Her legislation would require the California Department of Social Services — which licenses the facilities — to produce a public dashboard by 2026 on the use of restraints and seclusion rooms as well as serious injuries or deaths associated with them.

“There are complaints of broken arms, slammed hands in doors,” Grove said, noting that the facilities typically house vulnerable populations, including foster youths. “There’s no data to show what happened and what caused that. And so, the goal is to go after the data.”

Grove certainly found an ally in Hilton and her 16.4 million followers on the social platform X.

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