The already troubled Foothill Community Health Center -- which provides mental health and family support services to nearly 1,000 East San Gabriel Valley residents -- is under further scrutiny this week: a report from the Los Angeles County auditors found that the Glendora facility has misused $135,000 in public funds, the Los Angeles Times reports. The report -- the second in less than a year detailing serious problems at the facility -- directly precedes today's vote by county supervisors on whether to cut off funding for the facility. According to the audit, Foothill "commingled funds from specific government grants" to pay for expenses such as karate lessons, car detailing and a retreat to a Palm Springs spa for agency board members. In addition, the audit found inadequate receipts to support charges submitted by Foothill CEO Sal Ortiz for expenditures, such as car washes, gas, food and dental visits. Foothill has been "mired in controversy" since a county auditors' report last year uncovered numerous problems, including a contract with an unlicensed facility in San Dimas. While Ortiz was unavailable for comment, sources familiar with the situation said that Foothill employees were notified Monday that the facility was "closing down" (Winton, 11/2).
Board Approves Center Cutbacks
In a move that may force residents in need of psychiatric help to seek services in the Bay Area, Mendocino County supervisors voted yesterday to "scale back" operations at the Psychiatric Health Facility due to a staffing shortage, the Santa Rosa Press- Democrat reports. County Mental Health Department Director Kristy Kelly told the Board of Supervisors that "inpatient services must end soon because of a shortage of mental health nurses." The psychiatric center, which provides evaluation and treatment for people with serious mental illness, has come under fire in recent years for its handling of patients. Two years ago, a grand jury report charged the facility with "making poor diagnoses and being reluctant to accept violent patients." In addition, 11 employees have filed complaints since September alleging unsafe working conditions, while four employees are on leave due to "work-related injuries." Noting that the hospital is "on thin ice," Kelly proposed that the county move to change the status of the facility to an outpatient center until a plan to save the hospital is established. Supervisor Patti Campbell, who voted for the proposal said, "We are providing some safety net, and it gives us some time to plan and address the problem." Under the proposal, the hospital can still provide inpatient services unless the staffing shortage reaches critically low levels (Wang, 11/3).