FRESNO COUNTY: County Might Turn Mental Health Services Over to Private Sector
A proposal could shift the care of 22,000 mental health patients in Fresno County to the privately run Community Medical Centers if the County Board of Supervisors approves the deal, the Fresno Bee reports. After assuming control of what was the Valley Medical Center in 1996, the private Community Medical Centers is looking to make a similar arrangement to operate all or part of the county's mental health services. Details of the arrangement are scarce and it could be months before an agreement is reached, if at all, the Bee reports. Community Board Chair Ed Kashian said, "I am confident that if we work together we will be able to enhance the mental heath service in our county and ensure that all of the tax dollars designated for mental health services are spent in the most cost-effective and efficient way possible." Community Medical Centers wants to push the deal through "on or before Oct. 27," according to a memorandum it drafted. However, Board of Supervisors members, who must approve any agreement, were "caught off guard" by the inclusion of the offer on their most recent agenda. Supervisor Juan Arambula said, "I just received material this afternoon. [The board] knew that there had been some general discussions going," but nothing was put in writing until just before the board meeting. He added, "It burns me up that we're moving with such haste on this issue." The board will discuss today whether to pursue formal negotiations for the bid.
Unions Out of the Loop
The county mental health advisory board, which provides input to the supervisors on mental health issues, also knew nothing of the proposal prior to the meeting. Board member Ed Perez said, "We should have been given notice so we could look into it and present our position at the Board of Supervisors meeting today. It invalidates the whole purpose of the advisory board." In addition, the proposal could affect about 680 union- represented mental health workers, but the California Nurses Association was unaware of the offer. "I'm outraged. I knew nothing about this," Don Nielsen, a union representative for the CNA, said. Walt Parry with the Local Health Care Coalition said the public was never aware of any proposals related to the possible transfer of patients. "This shotgun wedding approach is not in the best interest of the people of Fresno County," he said (Maxwell, 9/19).