Measure B Project Manager Alyson Bailey took the Measure B stage last Wednesday to present her long-awaited “Draft Strategic Plan” for Measure B mental health services.
(Linguists will note that mere “plans” are now “strategic plans,” a redundancy that seems to excite the bureaucratic soul.)
Ms. Bailey described her strategic plan as a “very large document” because “I threw everything in there.” But, as Ms. Bailey later conceded, even though “everything” is in there, there are still lots of unknowns and info gaps. After all, they’ve only had three years to work on it — what could anyone expect but enigmas and downright mysteries?
It is indeed a “large document,” but that’s because big chunks of it are generic calendar pages, irrelevant contracting boilerplate and scanned copies of documents Ms. Bailey apparently found on her desk.
As Committee member Shannon Riley noted, “I’m failing to see the plan in this plan. There’s no prioritization, no action items or timelines. It’s lacking in terms of an actual plan.”
Which was probably the point. Load that sucker up with whatever and pray no one actually tries to read it.
In response to Ms. Riley’s uncharacteristically blunt observation, Ms. Bailey said, “We don’t have all the information we need. It needs to be more defined. This is everything synthesized [sic] into one paper. Prioritization is not necessarily my place.”
There were a couple of tempting tidbits, although they seem random, not part of anything like a plan.
For example, Ms. Bailey found a property for sale in Point Arena with eight 2- and 3-bedroom manufactured homes that might make a decent residential facility for people recovering from crisis situations on the Coast. It’s on the market for $2.5 million which might be a good buy for such a facility. We doubt the Committee or the County can move fast enough to put it to good use, however. Nobody on the Committee even brought the possibility of purchasing the place and Ms. Bailey didn’t bring it up either, despite its inclusion in The Plan.
In her Plan, Ms. Bailey also suggested that the County consider remodeling the old Ukiah Fitness Center on North State Street as a Psychiatric Health Facility. Ms. Bailey described it as “a promising location.” It’s listed as-is for $1.1 million and certainly could be a PHF if it was remodeled to hospital design standards. But again, only if the Committee and County can set aside three years of inertia on other PHF ideas to act. (Never mind that last year’s suggestion from Adventist Health to use their old Emergency Room as a PHF has still not been followed up on and for some reason it didn’t make it into Ms. Bailey’s Plan. It remains the easiest and most cost effective approach to the activation of a PHF since it already exists, it is built to hospital standards and is next door to other related medical services.)
The “draft strategic plan” also includes a summary of some extremely fru-fru amenities thrown into the design of the now underway and grotesquely overdesigned Crisis Residential Treatment facility dreamed up by the white-shoe Sacramento architects. The $6 million CRT next door to Camille Schraeder’s Redwood Community Services empire on Orchard Street in Ukiah is expected to open next year. Typical of the kind of thinking that’s turning what should be an ordinary $1 million house into this $6 million project is the “important” inclusion of an electric vehicle charging station in the project’s design.
Nobody said a word about how ridiculously overpriced this crisis residential facility is turning out to be —sucking up millions of dollars that could otherwise be used for facilities in other areas of the County or increased services.
But whatever merit these seemingly unrelated items may or may not have, they hardly make up any kind of a plan, strategic or plain old.
Former Sheriff Allman tried to put some lipstick on the pig-plan saying, “This is a good direction. I wish we’d had it at the first meeting.”
Perhaps Mr. Allman has forgotten that at that time of that first meeting he was the lead advocate for Mr. Lee Kemper’s famous $60k “Needs Assessment,” which, even now more than two years later, is still a much better strategic plan than the random collection of paper that Ms. Bailey offered up.
Instead of discussing the plan such as it isn’t, though, much of the meeting devolved into petty bickering about which little pot of money should pay for which little service or facility. Should Measure B money pay for occasional assistance from the Behavioral Health or Clerk of the Board staff? Should Behavioral Health or law enforcement pay for use of the still un-remodeled Redwood Valley Training Facility? They worked this subject over for almost half an hour.
Along the way, Committee member Ross Liberty offered one of his famously unhelpful aphorisms: “Measure B should carry its own water.”
Former Sheriff Allman said such bickering about which pot of money should pay for which service should be left up to the Board of Supervisors — which of course is in a much better position to make such monumental decisions. Committee member/County CEO Carmel Angelo who should be responsible for such minor matters was strangely silent through the discussion.
Typical of the random back and forth that’s become common in Measure B meetings was an exchange near the end of the meeting between Supervisor Ted Williams (who is on a Measure B ad hoc committee with Supervisor John Haschak and was on-hand via zoom) and former Sheriff Allman and Behavioral Health Director Dr. Jenine Miller.
Williams asked, “It would be helpful for the Board of Supervisors to get clarification on all the ongoing costs of the training center that should be paid. I'm not for or against any particular model. I just want to understand where the committee sits. I was told that there would be a cost recovery model where county services using that facility would pay and that would cover the operating costs. I have been asking the Behavioral Health Department if they plan to use this facility. And what I've heard is, no. If there is a cost to it, they have other options. I think that may only leave law enforcement using the facility. Do we expect to bill law enforcement on a cost recovery basis, or do we want the Measure B 25% to cover the ongoing cost?”
Allman was peeved that anyone would question the value and cost of his training facility: “I think if Measure B or the Board of Supervisors made a decision to start billing law enforcement for training for probably the number one national social issue that we are facing each morning on the news, then the Board of Supervisors and the Measure B committee, if they made that decision, they would look very silly. Training is the number one reason why I wrote Measure AG and Measure AH [the earlier measures that didn’t quite pass] and why Measure B ultimately passed. I got out and put the signs up for law enforcement training. If mental health, if Behavioral Health decides they have other places to do it, hooray! They have other places to do it! Law enforcement doesn't. We need to improve training. So I'm looking forward to addressing the Board of Supervisors in open session, basically asking the Board of Supervisors to tell us where you stand on training law enforcement. We had a situation in Philadelphia two days ago where certainly training was the number one issue being discussed. The more we put this off, if something happens let there be no doubt I'm looking forward to telling the public that this was delayed because of a bureaucracy. The money is there, the building is there, we have a plan there, and people are delaying the remodeling of the training center to see if we can get cost recovery for training. Well, we are done with services. We don't always break even. Sometimes it costs money to do our job. And training has to be our number one issue for law enforcement. I would love for County Counsel to weigh in on this one and find out if County Counsel believes we need to have more training for law enforcement or if he's satisfied with the training we have because I believe we need to have more.”
Williams: “Mr. Allman, I don't believe you have to make a case. What would be helpful from the committee is a ranked list of priorities. If we find that everything we promised the public we can't fulfill due to inflation and other circumstances [like paying $6 million for a $1 million crisis residential facility], maybe some of the estimates don't match reality today, which are the items that need to happen first? What can fall off the list? In some settings I've heard that the PHF is the most important. If we find that we can't get an operator for the PHF without a subsidy and we have to subsidize, if that subsidy is so large that we find we can't afford training a training center, which of the two do we give up? Having that ranked list I think would help the Board. I don't want to fight you on it. I'm just asking for clarification. When we get to the cutting because we can't do everything we want to do, what are the items to be cut? What floats to the top? And I think what I'm hearing is Training Center is number one, is the PHF is number two? Where does the CRT fall?”
Allman: “The fact that the director of Behavioral Health doesn't want to use the training center for her training, I think that we have a tough time getting a majority of the Measure B committee to do this. I'm looking forward to the Board of Supervisors to make the decision because if they make the decision that training is not the top priority than I think County Counsel would have to weigh in on the liability the County is assuming by having a facility, having the money, and deciding not to move forward with the training. That's where the liability is presented.”
Williams: “Can we get a ranked list from the committee?”
Allman: “From an 11-person committee? I will guarantee you that we would not get any unanimous ranked list from this committee. Because this committee has 11 people on it. Let's be honest, Supervisor, there's very few 5-0 votes by the Supervisors. So getting 11 people to agree on a ranked priority list would be a tough thing to do. I think that training and the facility is one of the least costly services that Measure B. provides. Training is where we reduce our liability. You go into closed session and I've been in closed sessions where liability is being discussed and I'm looking at a way to reduce County liability as well as improve the professional services of law enforcement throughout this county.”
Dr. Miller: “I don't think Behavioral Health should be required to pay for this training facility if law enforcement is not going to be asked to pay for the training center. I think that there has to be a fee for everybody who wants to use it or there's no fee regardless of what County agency you are from. My concern has not been that we wouldn't use it, it's because we have other County facilities that don't cost us anything, outside facilities, that we have been able to use for free. The reason I voted for the training center and was a huge advocate for it was that it was under the understanding that this would be a facility for law enforcement and behavioral health, but we wouldn't be paying a dime to use it. It would be an addition to the County and a great opportunity for Behavioral Health. But if we are going to have a fee to use it, it would be cost prohibitive for most behavioral health providers in the county, and I'm not the only behavioral health person who said that a fee to use the facility would not be beneficial for us. So I am not saying we wouldn't use it at all, but if there is going to be a cost, it is not going to be cost-beneficial for us.”
Dr. Miller’s sudden interest in frugality would serve the public better if she applied it to the $6 million crisis residential facility that she has been instrumental in forcing on the Board and the public, or the $20 million annual contract with Redwood Quality Management Company that to this day does not report on their effectiveness.
County Counsel Christian Curtis then cut off the discussion as being too far removed from the posted agenda. He suggested “it might be more appropriate for the Board to have that discussion” at their Tuesday, November 3, meeting.
Meanwhile, one of the pieces of paper thrown into the Ms. Bailey’s strategic plan was a questionnaire she plans to send out to local service providers asking them whether they’d be interested in using the new training facility for certain suggested fees. Maybe someday she’ll find someone to use it, or even pay to use it. Sheriff Matt Kendall is on record saying he’s not sure he wants to use it as a substation. (We think it might make a good base of operations for the still in-work Crisis Van, but that kind of thinking is well beyond these people.)
Former Sheriff Allman said that he’s spoken to local police departments and, in spite of Sheriff Kendall’s hesitancy about using it as a substation, Allman is convinced that local police want to use the facility — but apparently only if it’s free to them. We’ll see if they return Ms. Bailey’s questionnaire.
As a further indication of how much of the estimated $30 million of Measure B revenue is likely to be siphoned off for overpriced, unrelated purposes, Project Manager Bailey sheepishly planted a seed during her status report asking for yet more admin staff for things she should be doing herself: “As far as administrative things go, we have spoken a bit about the cost, and so some of them, um, uh, I do want to say that having a designated fiscal person and a designated, um, someone, you know, who communicates with the rest of, of the, of the County, is absolutely critical to how, how this program runs and functions, we can't pay anybody otherwise, um, and we don't have that clear connection with the clerk of the board that, um, and that's, that's it!”
After three years of palaver like this, it’s no wonder we still don’t have anything remotely like a plan to meet the original objectives of Measure B, much less a facility to do it in.