VENTURA COUNTY: Officials Request Additional Housing Funds for Mentally Ill
Ventura County Health Care Agency Director Pierre Durand and Behavioral Health Director David Gudeman will ask the Board of Supervisors for an additional $1 million for patient housing tomorrow, one month after Durand requested $1.3 million to help repay a federal settlement over the way the agency handled Medicare billing during the 1990s. In a memo to the supervisors justifying the latest request, Durand and Gudeman argue that "providing housing for the mentally ill is a necessity, not an option." The Los Angeles Times reports that the $1 million would partly cover a $556,000 bill for housing 17 "unanticipated" mentally ill patients sent to the Crestwood Behavioral Health Center in Bakersfield. Officials had previously estimated the cost of housing the mentally ill patients sent to seven specialized facilities would be $885,300, but estimates since have more than doubled to $1,892,000, primarily because the system absorbed more patients than predicted. Supervisor John Flynn, who is also on the county's mental health board, said that he would support the $1 million request through the allocation of tobacco settlement funds, but added that he would seek the advice of county interim Chief Administrative Officer Harry Hufford before making such a motion. Flynn added, "We're looking at a problem right now. It's not caused by mismanagement or anything, it's a matter of need. My thinking of the matter is we know that by April, we're going to have $9 million-plus in tobacco settlement money. There's no reason why we can't plan on using that money, assuming it's going to come, to take other sources we have now and pay this request." Durand hopes to see at least $4 million of the settlement in coming years. Meanwhile, Ventura County faces an estimated $5 million deficit and is under pressure to use the tobacco funds to "plug the shortfall" (Talev, 1/22).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.