VENTURA COUNTY II: Left Out of $12M Mental Health Grant
The Ventura County adult mental health system's recent record of failure has resulted in its exclusion from a $12 million state grant to aid the homeless mentally ill -- the first time in a decade the Ventura Systems of Care Model "is not a major contender" for new funding, the Ventura County Star reports. Mental Health Association of California Executive Director Rusty Selix said, "Ventura's version of adult Systems of Care is unproven and always has been. Also, given the problems there now, there is consensus statewide that any new grant money for pilot projects should only go to those counties already running successful programs." County Supervisor John Flynn had hoped for up to $8 million of the state grant, legislated through AB 34, to come to Ventura, "where approximately 1,300 people suffering from schizophrenia and other major ailments are not served." On Monday, however, the state Senate health committee decided to revise AB 34, leaving Ventura off the list.
Ventura's Glory Days
The current Ventura Systems of Care is a mere shadow of its brilliance in the 1980s, "when it won national recognition for creating a then-innovative mental health system for children" based on a multi-disciplinary team approach among county agencies. Selix said, "There is no question that their concept of children's mental health care was considered a breakthrough and virtually every county has replicated that fundamental concept. But a lot more systems have emerged and Ventura is not a leading light" any longer. When Ventura, along with neighboring counties, received funding in 1988 to expand mental health services it mistakenly applied its children's mental health approach to its adult program -- a strategy that "never took off." Other counties fared better, relying on community-based organizations instead of county agencies.
Flynn met with Department of Mental Health Director Stephen Mayberg in Sacramento Monday to vie for $5.4 million in special annual funding currently in jeopardy. Mayberg has also dispatched five consultants "to help the county iron out its troubles and ensure compliance with the funding requirements." State Sen. Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley) has voiced her hopes of stripping $1.4 million from Ventura County's annual grant, adding, "They're not providing any consultation to other counties. And anyone who would follow Ventura County's model now should have their head examined." Selix identified one plus: "There's an awakening for the whole state, and that is you shouldn't get grant money year after year without showing you're doing the right thing, or the things you said you would. Now, all the other counties are recognizing there's going to have to be some accountability for these monies" (Koehler, 8/18).