VENTURA COUNTY: New Agency Gets Temporary Head
Ventura County's Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 yesterday to give the "county's top administrator," Lin Koester, the "added role of health care administrator," placing him in charge of the "controversial" merger between the county's social and mental health services that will create a new Human Services Agency. The Los Angeles Time reports that the move comes after a "legal consultant ... warned county officials last week that merging the Public Social Services Agency and the Behavioral Health Department ... could wind up costing millions of dollars if not carried out correctly." According to David Henninger, "if the new agency fails to comply with state licensing laws and Medicare requirements," the merger could cost more than the $11-$15 million price tag originally placed on it. Further, he said "it could also lead to revocation of the operating license for Ventura County Medical Center's mental health wing."
Taking A Chance
Supervisor John Flynn said, "This is an interim move to attempt to shape up the license issue and other issues that have developed." However, some supervisors argued that it made more sense to postpone the merger until the difficulties were sorted out. But the board majority held that "placing the top man in the county government totem pole in charge of hospital administration ... resolve[s] the main legal concern threatening the merger: that all county doctors are no longer working under the same chain of command." Under the merger, mental health doctors would be working for the Human Services Agency, which could be problematic. County Counsel Jim McBride said that the "temporary move to place Koester in charge of all hospital operations, which will last 60 to 90 days, should take care of those potential problems" (Bustillo, 5/20).