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Look Out Camille, Here Come the Adventists

It’s been two years since Measure B passed to fund an array of mental health facilities and services in Mendocino County.

But until Supervisor Ted Williams came on the scene, the County had never actually looked at how the whole thing would work or what kinds of new services the Measure B funding would cover.

Last Tuesday Williams put an item on the Board’s agenda suggesting that Mendo “Perform an Operational Feasibility [study] of Proposed Measure B Funded Facilities.”

When Williams placed this seemingly innocuous suggestion on last Tuesday’s agenda, Official Mendo privately balked because doing such an obvious thing as a feasibility study for Measure B funding and services might upset a number of apple carts plodding ineffectively towards nebulous ends.

Among them are the recently semi-approved $3.3 million contract with the toney Sacramento-based architectural firm, not to mention Camille Schrader’s $20 million mental health contract and the County’s plans to increase her company’s grip on local mental health programs, whatever they are and whoever they serve.

Measure B has been moving frustratingly slowly for over two years now because, as CEO Carmel Angelo noted on Tuesday, the County’s discussion of anything related to Measure B has become “circular” with each involved entity — The Board, the Oversight Committee, the County CEO and her staff, the Behavioral Health Board, etc. — each waiting for the other to take the initiative.

And now another large local entity has entered the Measure B picture: Adventist Health.

Supervisor Williams introduced his suggestion about the “operational feasibility” study without pointing out the embarrassing fact that such a suggestion should have been raised two years ago.

Nevertheless, by the end of the discussion on Tuesday the entire Board and staff — including Measure B’s lead advocate, Sheriff Tom Allman — all agreed with Williams that it would be nice to know if Mendo could afford to operate the facilities they apparently plan to build with Measure B funds.

But, as always seems to happen, just before the unanimous vote to do the study, the Board and the CEO again raised the need to first get an opinion on the subject from the Measure B committee.

The Board has already asked the Measure B committee to approve the huge — and now mostly unnecessary, not to say premature — $3.3 million feasibility study and architectural project a few weeks ago. On Tuesday they complicated that question further by throwing in the Adventists’ informal offer to operate a Psychiatric Health Facility in Ukiah and Fort Bragg out of their existing hospital facilities.

If history is any guide, the Measure B oversight committee — which meets this Wednesday, December 18 — will be overwhelmed by such grand policy and budget assignments and will be unable to do anything, including rubberstamping the $3.3 million architectural contract.

On Tuesday, the Board made it worse by admitting that the $3.3 million contract would be mostly unnecessary if they turn over a large chunk of the Measure B funding to the Adventists. 

And there’s yet another new piece of the puzzle: The County has just hired a Measure B Project Manager: Ms. Isabel Gonzalez. The County has not issued a press release on this important new hire and we can’t find anything about her background or qualifications on the internet. But CEO Angelo said that it will be several months before the new hire is up to speed on the Measure B project.

On its face, the Adventists’ apparent proposal —so far only in the form of a letter to Supervisor Williams from the Adventist’s Mendo honcho Jason Wells — is a no brainer. They already have space in their old emergency room in Ukiah and probably would love to take the County’s money for some kind of service in existing facilities in Willits and/or at Coast Hospital in Fort Bragg when they take over operations there next year.

In addition, the Adventists already have the ancillary hospital services and staff to accompany their existing emergency rooms where many mental health patients are first seen after being brought in by law enforcement.

And the Adventists could probably be ready to start providing services much sooner than any of the other options under consideration for Measure B funds.

Ms. Angelo’s “circular” Measure B process, although still intact, now seems to have been seriously twisted — into a Mobius strip? — by Supervisor Williams’ belated but long overdue feasibility study. However, instead of delaying things further, this twist may well end up providing mental health services in more places and much sooner than the old Measure B circle has been dithering about for the past two years.

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