Judging by the amount of time spent at last Wednesday’s Measure B Mental Health Oversight and Advisory Committee meeting, the most important things they have to deal with are: remodeling an old Redwood Valley house into a training center and buying a new sound system for the Committee.
They’re still working on hiring a project manager; CEO Carmel Angelo said they might have their $85k-plus-benefits project manager in place by November. Maybe. Depends on whether they have to give notice to their current job or not. The last two people they offered the job to declined for more money or a better paying job.
The County has received four bidders for Architectural services for evaluating existing sites and perhaps someday designing three or more mental health facilities. So far, besides the occasional reference to a generic “16-bed” Psychiatric Health Facility, nobody has any idea what facilities they need for what services.
Fort Bragg Committee rep Mark Myrtle suggested that the Committee recommend to the Supervisors that the County issue some kind of vague request for companies or non-profits that might be interested in providing services in whatever building(s) they may end up constructing — “other than County staff,” Myrtle added without explaining why County staff couldn’t do it. Never mind that at the rate the Committee is moving, any outfit that expresses interest now would probably be out of business by the time any Measure B facilities are ready for occupancy.
Several committee members wondered what kinds of services the County now provides and what kinds of additional services such a request would include. After two years of meetings, they still don’t know. Mental Health Director Jenine Miller said the County basically only provides “reimbursable” services, meaning only for “severely mentally ill.” What “services” would be provided for “mild to moderately mentally ill” in the new Crisis Residential and Crisis Stabilization “units” continues to be a mystery to everyone involved.
Director Miller said that 50-60% of the money spent on Mental Health services now is reimbursable, paid out of pocket from County funds, then reimbursed by federal money. The rest is state grants and Mental Health Services Act (Prop 63) money. “You have to provide it first then apply for reimbursement,” said Dr. Miller. “We serve the most severely mentally ill, but not mild to moderate. We don’t have any data on mild to moderate mental health service needs.” So other than initial crisis screening to see who’s really “severely mentally ill,” about 65% of the people they contact get no Mental Health Services now, despite the more than $25 million a year that goes for those Services.
Committee Chair Ace Barash mentioned in passing that the Committee should consider buying “the Affinito building” in Fort Bragg for services on the Coast. That would be the old Social Services Admin building down near the Ten Mile Courthouse that the County abandoned years ago because Affinito was charging over $25k per month and the County had paid for the building several times over in rent by the time they moved out and over into the Avila Center where the Fort Bragg Social Services are now. To use Measure B money to “buy” it now would be another windfall for Affinito.
Nobody picked up on the idea, however.
Committee member (and City of Ukiah staffer/member) Shannon Riley suggested the Committee consider recommending that an audit of existing Mental Health services be conducted.
Guess how far that went?
Various members bemoaned the near collapse of the highly praised Mobile Outreach and Prevention Services (MOPS) Van program which has contracted to just two vans with only one person in each, even though five are funded with two people each. Sheriff Tom Allman attributed the reduction to the retirement of the lead MOPS woman and someone else attributed it to the premature and unexplained “retirement” of (former) Human Resources Director Heidi Dunham. Other than Sheriff Allman’s casual observation that “We need to get it back on line. The money’s not going anywhere,” nobody suggested actually doing anything about the problem.
In a related non-action, nobody mentioned the Crisis Van idea proposed by Ukiah Police Chief Justin Wyatt at last month’s meeting, even though everyone was very positive about it at the time and said they needed to look into it and get a presentation on it. Looks like that idea, one of the few productive and genuinely helpful and definable services that has come up so far, has been tossed on the trash heap again.
The rest of the more than two hours of meeting time was spent on ridiculously detailed discussions of what kinds and extent of remodels would be done on the old Jehovah’s witness church building to convert it into a training center. Apparently they’re going to recommend that the Supes allocate around $250k to the remodel.
They also spent almost half an hour discussing whether to buy a fancy portable wireless sound system for their future meetings. In the end they voted 7-2 (two members were absent, two dissented saying they could share the system that the Behavioral Health Board uses) to spend $35k of Measure B money on the Committee’s new sound system because it’s really, really important that everyone who attends the Committee meetings clearly hears about all the great things they’re not doing.