Grand Jury Finds Problems with Sonoma County Mental Health Department Management
Discontent with Sonoma County Mental Health Division management staff, poor working conditions and perceived interference in medical decisions must be addressed, according to an interim report released Wednesday by a grand jury, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports. The report cites physicians' concerns that nonmedical managers are overseeing cases and treatment plans and overriding medical decisions without doctors' consent. In addition, the report said that "basic safety improvements" such as installing security cameras, security doors and parking lot lighting at the Norton Center, the county's main mental health clinic, are "coming too slowly," the Press Democrat reports. In the report, the grand jury found that staff members "risk severe reprisals" if they voice dissent about job reassignment, changes in schedule or negative job evaluations, the Press Democrat reports.
The jury also said that management problems could create risks for mental health patients and could cause key staff members to leave. In the report, the jury rejected claims from senior management that "a highly vocal core of continually disgruntled employees who are reluctant to change" are the root of the discontent. The report marks the fifth consecutive year in which a grand jury has investigated complaints about management practices, which this year have "risen to new levels," according to the Press Democrat. A consultant in January 2002 was appointed to assess and make recommendations on previous grand jury investigations; however, that report has not been completed, according to the grand jury.
Bill Robotka, a representative for the Engineers and Scientists of California, the union representing the mental health division's licensed professionals, said, "This is not just not new, it's pervasive and it's something that the department has actively resisted." County Mental Health Chief Cathy Geary, who received an advance copy of the report, would not offer comment; however, she noted that there had been "an enormous amount of change" in the mental health division in the last several years, including efforts to establish programs to deal with limited financial resources (Callahan, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 6/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.