VENTURA COUNTY: Officials Offer Mental Health Audit Rebuttal
The contentions laid out in the state Department of Mental Health's June 1 audit of Ventura County's mental health system are "unfounded and inflammatory," Ventura Behavioral Health Director Dr. David Gudeman said in the county's 26-page rebuttal released yesterday, the Los Angeles Times reports (Johnson, 6/18). But when ordered to shore up its programs or risk losing $5.4 million in annual funding, the county vowed at a meeting Wednesday to work together with state officials to improve mental health care delivery. The response came after state officials claimed the mental health care programs are "out of date, financially wasteful and permeated with an atmosphere of distrust, intimidation and fear" (Talerico, Ventura County Star, 6/17). Stephen Mayberg, director of the state Department of Mental Health, said he was "pleased" with the meeting and noted that county officials seemed committed to develop a plan of action by the July 1 deadline. If the county moves forward with such a plan, he said, it would not lose its funding. "There are no guarantees that is going to happen," he said, adding, "We'll do our darndest to make this happen. I'd like to see the system vibrant again." Supervisor Judy Mikels attended the meeting and said she was "confident" that the county would hold onto its funding. "Mayberg assured us that the money was still earmarked for Ventura County. ... He said he was certain we could bring the county up to speed," she said.
Nuts and Bolts
County officials challenged that the audit lacked "hard numbers" to back up its contentions, and issued a series of rebuttals. For instance, said Ventura officials, the county does not favor the involuntary hospitalization of the mentally ill, as was stated in the audit. Gudeman said, "We are committed to treating people in the least restrictive setting. But at this point, we don't have a subacute facility to place clients who are ready to leave the hospital." Noting that the area has a shortage of housing and lacks a rehabilitation center for the mentally ill, county officials said that they plan to build a 30-bed facility. County officials also took issue with the state's assertion that local agencies failed to follow patients released from hospitals. Local officials said that the county does in fact "monitor several outcomes including employment, living arrangement and admission of clients into the Intensive Patient Unit." One point on which the local officials agreed with state officials is the eroding role of psychiatrists, who began taking a back seat to social workers. In their rebuttal, the local officials said they would like to work with the state mental health department to strengthen psychiatrists' involvement with mental health patients (Los Angeles Times, 6/18).