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Oversight Commission: ‘Descriptions Incomplete’

A state oversight commission found little to no substance in reports of programmatic misconduct in its initial report released yesterday on concerns raised over compliance with Mental Health Services Act program in California.

“Basically, in the programs that were mentioned, the descriptions of those programs were incomplete,” said Jennifer Whitney, chief of communications for the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission. “And that painted a very different picture of the programs.”

Several recent news reports questioned 13 different programmatic elements that supposedly used MHSA funds for such things as yoga classes and a sweat lodge.

Those claims were not borne out, according to Whitney. Details of the questioned expenses are spelled out in the 58-page report.

“The report found that the program descriptions generally did not address the extent of the program’s purpose linked to mental health outcomes, [and] omitted details about programs’ mental health interventions,” Whitney said. Outrage over a yoga class for Department of Public Health workers is misplaced, Whitney said. A series of yoga classes were authorized for a peer-to-peer service, where stress ran high and retention of peer workers was difficult, with high turnover in the positions. The yoga classes were part of a pilot program to reduce stress and retain employees. “And the total cost of that was $600,” Whitney said.

Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) recently called for a state audit of the use of MHSA funds.

That performance review will start this month, Whitney said, and should be completed by the first quarter of next year.

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