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Paris Hilton speaks at California Capitol to advocate for changes to "troubled teen" facilities

Paris Hilton pushes for change at youth treatment facilities during California State Capitol hearing
Paris Hilton pushes for change at youth treatment facilities during California State Capitol hearing 02:25

SACRAMENTO — Reality star Paris Hilton was at the California State Capitol on Monday backing a bill that demands transparency for youth treatment facilities after her personal traumatic experience at one.

"Today, I stand before you not just as Paris Hilton, but as an advocate and survivor of the troubled teen industry," Hilton said.

Hilton was sent to a youth treatment facility in Utah when she was 17 years old and said what she faced was abuse disguised as therapy.

"If I tried to tell my parents about the abuse, the staff would immediately rip the phone from my hand, disconnect the call and I'd be subject to violent physical restraints and solitary confinement," Hilton said.

In 2021, a bill banned California from sending youth out of state for treatment. Now, lawmakers from both sides want transparency for the state-licensed facilities that are under the Department of Social Services.

Bipartisan Senate Bill 1043 demands more transparency from Short Term Residential Therapeutic Programs (STRTPs) licensed through California.

"The bottom line is it doesn't matter who you are, what color your skin is, how much money you do or don't have that trauma still exists," said Senator Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield).

Grove said SB 1043 will require the Department of Social Services to create a public dashboard that will keep track of all the restraints and seclusion treatments its facilities use on children. It will require the agency to report the reason and duration of the treatment, as well as a debrief that will include how many children are injured or killed while in restraints or seclusion.

The hotel heiress shed tears as she pushed for this to pass in the Golden State.

"At 13, I was sent to a residential facility where I was restrained within the first 36 hours of arriving, all for not eating a pad of butter," said Zoe Schreiber, who is a survivor of the troubled teen industry.

Schreiber also shared her testimony from when she was at Cedar Ridge Academy in Roosevelt, Utah before it was closed down and purchased by Makana Academy.

"For five hours in the pouring rain, six adults held down my small body face down in a mud puddle," Schreiber said.

Schreiber said the seclusion, hard labor, and humiliation by staff while she was in the facility were hidden from the adults in her life, and she feared retaliation if she spoke out.

"I was stripped of my dignity, autonomy and any hope that the staff were there to help or protect me," Schreiber said. "Nearly 15% of my cohort are no longer with us due to suicides and intentional overdoses."

There was a hearing on the bill in the capitol on Monday, and it passed. Lawmakers like Grove said it has faced no pushback, and she was confident it was a bipartisan policy.

A public dashboard is required to be up and running by January 1, 2026.  

"I want children who are experiencing this now and who have experienced this in the past to know that I believe them, and I will continue shining a spotlight on this and fighting for this," Hilton said.

The star is now shining the spotlight on what she calls secrecy behind the closed doors of California's troubled teen industry.

"If these facilities are scared of a simple transparency measure, then I think we should ask them what do they have to hide?" Hilton said.

The Department of Social Services said it does not comment on pending legislation but provided this statement for CBS13:

In recent years, California has made transformative changes to the way the state cares for foster youth. The Department previously published an issue brief which underscored the success of the Continuum of Care Reform (CCR).  California's move from nontherapeutic congregate facilities to more family-based and therapeutic settings had an immediate, positive impact on outcomes for youth. And while Short-Term Residential Therapeutic Programs (STRTPs), which provide specialized care, supervision, and treatment to foster youth, fill a necessary role in California's foster care system, data shows that outcomes for youth improve when these stays are brief and centered around fostering ongoing connection to family.

Hilton said her work over the past three years has successfully changed legislation in eight states and led to arrests of abusers abroad.

She was inspired to speak out about her own traumas while working on her documentary "This is Paris" in 2019. Hilton said advocating for troubled teens has allowed her to slowly heal from what she faced.

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