After more than a year of pussyfooting around, Sheriff Allman seems to have accepted the idea that to get the Psychiatric Health Facility that he originally envisioned, energetically promoted and sold via “Measure B” for “the specific purpose of funding improved services, treatment and facilities for persons with mental health conditions,” he needs to also include a Crisis Residential Treatment (CST) facility and a Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU) in the facilities package to get it approved by the County’s huge mental health apparatus, senior members of which dominate the Measure B Advisory Committee.
To that now perhaps chimerical end, at the Measure B Advisory Committee’s March 27 meeting, the Sheriff made it as clear as he could to his fellow committee members that they need to focus on those facilities first by doing a long overdue “feasibility study” to develop and rank facility options for those three categories of service.
Allman: "Measure B is intended to improve mental health services. The presentation by the Mental Health Director is appreciated but there are many things there which to my understanding Measure B is not the intent of. Crisis residential and crisis stabilization and a psychiatric health facility are the three major aspects of Measure B as well as the training. I don’t want our group to be sidetracked by the very important responsibilities of the Behavioral Health Advisory Board because we are apples and oranges. The Advisory Boards deals with its own mental health services which is something they need and they make a difference. I've been to their meetings and they make a difference. But to be quite blunt, 75% of our funds are for brick-and-mortar plans for the county to improve services and provide a facility where services can be provided, allowing emergency rooms to be emptied out and police to be back on the street. I say that at every meeting. I appreciate the input about mental health services but the main focus of our activity is crisis residential and crisis stabilization and a psychiatric health facility and training. I understand that 25% will go to supplement and not supplant existing mental health services. I guess I'm just voicing my frustration. I don't want us to get tangled up in what the Behavioral Health Board does. They work closely with the Department of Mental Health to work on the services that the Department of Mental Health provides. But I just want us to get focused on what the intention is: to keep people in our county and provide services and improve the mental health quality of life."
Several members of the Measure B Committee thought that they should form an hoc committee to review and rank the Kemper report recommendations as they were “encouraged” to do by the Board of Supervisors last month.
Allman disagreed: “I think that setting up an ad hoc committee to deal with the financial feasibility of providing services is well outside the bounds of Measure B. Measure B is to provide brick-and-mortar locations in our county where we can provide services. It is well within the realm of the Behavioral Health Board and the Board of Supervisors while looking at the financial aspects to provide those services working with the director of Mental Health and saying that this is the right way to go. Otherwise, Measure B [committee] will never make a decision on brick-and-mortar. If we are trying to do everybody else's job, everybody else is going to do our job as well. We have a very specific role in the county to improve the quality of life for mental health patients and their families. And right now our focus, our goal should be working with the Board of Supervisors on zeroing in on locations where services can be provided, where 50 years from now services will still be provided. It may be a different server, it may be in the county, who knows? We are trying to put our finger into many other people’s pies which are none of our business.”
Behavioral Health Board Chair Jan McGourty pointed out that the Board of Supervisors “encouraged” the committee to look at the Kemper report recommendations.
Allman: “That is not our job.”
McGourty: “But they said it was.”
Allman: “They are not our boss. They are the Board of Supervisors. They are not the boss of this committee! They can tell us they want us to swim in the lake and I'm not going to swim in the lake.”
McGourty: “But we are an advisory board, we can't —”
Allman: “You’re right! We are not their boss and they are not our boss. But for them to recommend or suggest that we review and approve everything in the Kemper report before they do it, then I will tell each one of them individually: They Are Mis-Take-En. [Allman allotted one syllable per Supervisor.] Because that is not their role. Their roles is to run the County as the Board of Supervisors and the Behavioral Health board carries a lot of weight… I don't care what the Board of Supervisors tells me what to do on this. Measure B was passed by the voters for the purpose of brick-and-mortar and improving services and it has nothing to do with whether Medi-Cal or Medicare is going to fund the Department of Mental Health adequately [for services] in what we build. We need services like a genuine, responsible county should have. We need buildings where we can provide those services."
McGourty: “There were words in there about where he [Kemper] recommended that there be a strategic plan prepared; isn't that something that our board [the Measure B committee] should be concerned with?”
Allman: “Please don't put words in my mouth, Ms. McGourty. That's not what I said. I'm saying that our primary responsibility is to provide direction and a very good recommendation to the Board of Supervisors for building mental health facilities to improve the quality of life for our patients and citizens. Please don't put words in my mouth, I won't put words in your mouth.”
McGourty: “I was asking a question.”
Alllman; “Well, your question was making an assumption which was a wrong assumption. If I sound frustrated it's because a lot of people in this room on this side of the table from the podium [the McGourty side] are not willing to make a decision! It is time! We are in the 14th or 15th meeting of this committee and we still can't hang our hat on any decision that was made! I hope we are not proud of where we are.”
Committee member and County CEO Carmel Angelo said her office is moving ahead on hiring a Measure B project manager. But, she added, “This is a major project. Think of all the people that come in and all the people you have involved in something like a $50,000 kitchen. We are talking some $30 some million dollars; we are talking three services, one building, two buildings, three buildings — who knows? Under normal circumstances I think we should hire three or four people whether they are contractors or consultants or county staff or whatever. But we are not doing that, we are doing as low-budget as we can. We want to use as much of this money for services and that's the right thing to do. However, when you ask about time frames and who's going to do the work and how this is going to get done, we need one person to start this process. My office can start drafting the RFP and members of this committee can be very good advisors to us as well as our staff. But the process itself, once we get that person as a project manager he or she will begin to do the process of helping us develop the RFP, release the RFP, get the RFP back, hire consultants who will actually do the feasibility study and then we will work with them and then that will be brought back to the Measure B committee then the Measure B committee will make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors and based on that information we will go to the Board of Supervisors and lo and behold we will have the decision.”
So to summarize:
As far as we can tell, they’ll take a month or two to hire a project manager who will then take a few months to prepare an RFP to hire someone(s) to perform some feasibility studies on an as yet incomplete set of locations and facilities, and then the RFP will have to undergo several months of review by the Measure B committee and then the project manager will release the RFP and some people will bid to perform the feasibility studies on each location and option and somehow one of the bidders will be picked and then they will take a few months to prepare the “feasibility” of the options to the Measure B committee who will then take a few months to talk the options to death and debate whether they should all be in the same place or in separate facilities.
And lo and behold we still will NOT have a decision, contrary to CEO Angelo’s bold but contradictory prediction.
And the Sheriff will get even more frustrated than he already is.
Which leaves us with the real question: Which will happen first?
a) A contract will be let to build something with Measure B funds or,
b) Sheriff Allman will retire, or
c) A meteor takes us all out.
PS. Sheriff Allman was in the minority when the group voted to go ahead and form an ad hoc committee to review the Kemper report recommendations and report back. The Sheriff thought that if they were to form an ad hoc committee at all it should focus on the three facilities he now supports, not waste time on what the Mental health apparatus may or may not want to fund.