California Healthline Highlights Mental Health News in Three Counties
Fresno, Los Angeles and Sacramento counties this week have considered several mental health care-related issues. Summaries appear below.
The Fresno County Mental Health Advisory Board on Wednesday heard public comments on the proposed elimination of some adult mental health services to help reduce the adult mental health system's $15 million budget deficit, the Fresno Bee reports. Programs that provide peer support and advocacy to adults with mental illnesses are among those the county is considering closing.
Mental health patients and their families said eliminating the peer-support and advocacy programs would limit access to essential mental health services in the county.
The board also is considering cutting some jail psychiatric services; closing some rural clinics and reducing hours at others; and contracting with private companies to operate crisis emergency services and conservator services for those with severe, chronic mental illnesses.
The board will meet Jan. 25 to discuss the proposals and make a recommendation to the Fresno County Board of Supervisors (Anderson, Fresno Bee, 1/19).
The Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health is seeking to close Serenity House -- an allegedly illegal boarding house that houses mentally ill residents recruited from downtown Los Angeles or released by hospitals -- citing numerous county health and safety code violations and at least one case of physical abuse, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The department said it also is seeking to investigate psychiatric hospitals that have released patients to the facility. According to a Jan. 9 report by the county DMH, City of Angels Medical Center-Ingleside and the Los Angeles Metropolitan Medical Center were among the hospitals that referred patients to Serenity House. Both hospitals received warnings in 2002 after they referred patients to an unlicensed facility where five deaths occurred.
Hospital officials said it is not the facilities' policy to refer patients to unlicensed centers but that sometimes patients choose to live in these homes.
Serenity House officials said the facility does not require a license from the Department of Social Services because it is a "sober living facility" and not for board and care (Lin, Los Angeles Times, 1/19).
The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors this week voted 3-0 to approve a Proposition 63 spending plan, including funding for the Psychiatric Emergency Response Team program, the Sacramento Bee reports. Proposition 63 was approved by voters in November 2004 to raise the state's personal income tax by 1% on annual incomes that exceed $1 million to fund mental health services.
The $500,000 in funding will allow the county to launch the program, which pairs law enforcement officers with mental health professionals to respond to mental health crises. According to the Bee, the funding is enough to pay the salaries and benefits of two deputies and two police officers.
Mental health advocates on Tuesday said the program would violate the intent of the Mental Health Services Act, funded by Proposition 63, by paying law enforcement personnel costs. Advocates say they hope the plan will be rejected by the state because it is not within the scope of the funding, the Bee reports.
Kathleen Henry, director of the county's Division of Mental Health, said that recent changes to the program, including using second instead of first responders, will meet state requirements.
The supervisors' vote allows five other programs to receive Proposition 63 funding, including those for transitional outreach services, geriatric mental health services, affordable housing for homeless mentally ill residents, a wellness center focusing on Asian and Pacific Islander communities and a wellness and recovery center (Lin, Sacramento Bee, 1/19).