VENTURA COUNTY: Mental Health System Finds Hope in State Grant
State Health Director Stephen Mayberg announced that Ventura County's "cash-starved" mental health system will receive almost $1 million in state grant funds. The grant comes as the first installment of the county's $5.3 million Systems of Care annual funding. The grant only covers the period from July through September, however, and it is not guaranteed that the remaining amount will be awarded. Despite this dark cloud, the flow of state money into the county health system signifies a "turning point." The county has been without the mental health funding since July, after a "blistering state audit found the county's once-model mental health system had deteriorated." In addition, the county, having undergone state and federal audits for the past year and a half, has been stripped of about $1.2 million in grant money because of lingering problems, particularly in the children's mental health program. Moreover, a recent investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office discovered "the department had been overbilling the Medicare program for nearly a decade," and is requiring the county to repay the safety-net program $15.3 million over the next five years. Although "much work ... needs to be done" to revitalize the system, Supervisor John Flynn is happy with recent events. He said, "This [grant] is the best news yet in a long, dark period" (Koehler, Ventura County Star, 10/29).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.