Ventura County Officials Agree to Provide Mental Health Care for Teenager in Camarillo
Averting a "legal showdown," Ventura County officials agreed yesterday to provide mental health services to a teenager who had been denied care, the Los Angeles Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 4/9). Superior Court Judge John Dobroth yesterday held a hearing to discuss the case, in which the county Behavioral Health Department had refused to treat the boy, who had been sentenced to a work program in Camarillo. The county argued that department psychiatrists were not obligated to drive the 13 miles from their Ventura office to the Camarillo site. After Dobroth threatened to issue a court order that would have required the county to provide the treatment, supervisors instructed county Executive Officer Johnny Johnston to assure Dobroth that the department would provide the treatment (California Healthline, 4/8). "I gave him my word that we would do the best we can to solve this and other problems as well," Johnston said after the hearing.
Johnston is expected to make several recommendations to supervisors next week to reform the troubled Behavioral Health Department, including a proposal to make it a "stand-alone" agency. Johnston is also considering either requiring Dr. David Gudeman, the director of the department, to report directly to him or recommending that Gudeman be replaced. Under the agreement reached yesterday, the department will provide treatment to teens in the work program as long as workers from the county Probation Agency drive the youths to juvenile hall for appointments. Gudeman, who says that increased demand combined with declining funding has led to the department's struggles, said he was pleased with this arrangement, but expressed concern about the proposal to make the department a stand-alone agency. He noted that an attempt to merge the department with the county Public Social Services Agency in 1998 failed and led to a $15.3 million settlement that the county is still paying (Koehler, Ventura County Star, 4/9).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.