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Promises, Promises

Remember this door hangar which was distributed all over Mendocino County back in 2017?

It was in part based on the text of Measure B, Section 5.180.040 Paragraph C: “Conduct an independent annual audit and develop a performance management strategy which measures the effectiveness of the improved services, treatment and facilities and assesses the impact of the Mental Health Treatment Act.”

Paragraph D added that the Citizens Oversight Committee “shall review the independent annual audit of expenditures and the performance management plan for compliance with the Specific Purpose of this ordinance.”

Just to make sure voters got the point, in the accompanying “Argument in Favor of Measure B” Measure B supporters Tom Allman, John McCowen, Dr. Debbie Marks, Ross Liberty, and Carlos Jacinto vowed: “VOTE YES ON MEASURE B to require independent annual audits that must be reviewed by a Citizens’ Oversight Committee.”

Notice the emphatic use of “shall” and “require” and “must.”

But despite all the promises with their stern shalls, requirements and musts, there’s been no mention of any annual audits, reviews, or performance management strategies in the three years since Measure B was enacted by a super-majority of Mendolanders who foolishly assumed that since Measure B included these seemingly ironclad requirements, we’d see dramatic and visible improvements in services for Mendo’s many mentally ill and drug addicted residents.

Like most voters, we naively assumed that “annual independent audits” meant “every year,” and “review” meant that these annual audits would be annually reviewed by the Measure B Oversight Committee who would make sure any deficiencies the audit uncovered would be corrected. We also thought that the Oversight Committee would make sure that a performance management strategy was in place in advance so that service improvements could be measured and “managed.” 

For example, the Performance Management Strategy should first establish the “performance” (or lack thereof) of the mental health system prior to enactment of Measure B against which Measure B performance could be measured.

Curious as to where it all stood, a couple of weeks ago, we asked Measure B Project Manager Alyson Bailey about the promised annual audits, the Oversight Committee’s review and the performance management strategy.

“Dear Ms. Bailey,

We noticed that the text of Measure B says that an annual independent audit is called for as is a “performance management strategy”: “Conduct an independent annual audit and develop a performance management strategy which measures the effectiveness of the improved services, treatment and facilities and assesses the impact of the ‘Mental Health Treatment Act’.”

Have any independent audits been done? If so we'd like a copy. If not, what is the plan to do them?

And, what is the ‘performance management strategy’ which was to be developed?”

After a week of careful consideration Ms. Bailey replied:

“These audits determine key performance indicators and quality assurance and happen regularly after business has started. [Our emphasis] There are assessments and data that we've gathered in order to develop a business case for a new project, but the audits will not take place until a business or service is working with the community for at least six months or more in order to have enough data points to create something that can be audited. Our KPIs are: Retention, Use, Quality/Satisfaction, Outreach, Sustainability, Fiscal, and Risk. I am not sure if the audits will be managed by an existing auditing body, or if there will be a consultant instead of a group who performs them, but it is highlighted as a specific goal and it will be ready to implement before audits become possible. 

We'll be working on benchmarks for 2021 in late fall/early winter and performance management will be on that list. 

Thank you for reaching out and asking questions.”

Silly us. Three years in and because nothing much has happened in those three years mainly thanks to the Oversight Committtee itself — i.e., business has not started — there’s nothing to audit — according to Ms. Bailey. Nevermind that they’ve bought a training facility that nobody wants and they’ve paid for administration and consulting that has not been audited.

As long as they can postpone when “business has started” they can conveniently ignored annual audits or “performance management strategies.”

Measure B also was supposed to “Provide for assistance in the diagnosis, treatment and recovery from mental illness and addiction…” [our emphasis]

And the Impartial Analysis of Measure B in the voter’s pamphlet described Measure B as “An Ordinance to Add the ‘Mental Health Treatment Act’ to the Mendocino County Code Adopting a Sales Tax for the Specific Purpose of Funding Services, Treatment and Facilities for Persons with Mental Illness or Drug Addiction.” [Our emphasis]

That’s right, Measure B was sold as a way to fund services, treatment and facilities not only for mental health but for drug addiction.

But so far, in three years of meetings and planning and staffing and consultants and the rest, not one mention of anything remotely close to drug addiction services, treatment or facilities.