Tuesday, August 25, 2009

California county has funds for mental health center but no location

From the LA Mental Health Examiner:

Ventura County has the money for a residential center for those suffering crises from mental illness, but can not find a site to house it.

Monies raised through the “Millionaire's tax” is available to pay for the residential center, but county officials have been searching for a site for several years now. According to Meloney Roy, director of Behavioral Health in Ventura county, the center would be a rehabilitation center and a safe place for people with mental illness to get back on their feet following a crisis, hospitalization or jail time.

The center would be an unlocked, voluntary residential rehabilitation facility. Such centers are in existence throughout California. Some are in residential areas and others on the grounds with hospitals or mental health services.

In San Diego there are at least six such centers which were opened in the 1980’s by William Hawthorne, executive director of the Community Research Foundation in San Diego. Several of them have been controversial because of the fact that they are in residential neighborhoods, and although the fears of neighbors are not unreasonable, over the years, Hawthorne says there have been no substantiated complaints against these facilities.

These centers have been shown to be an effective and successful alternative to hospitalization and are far less costly. Hospitalization can cost upwards of $1300 a day and these rehabilitation centers can provide alternative care for about half of that. Clients can stay up to 30 days, but most centers report that clients usually stay about a week until they get their medications under control, receive counseling, support and therapy, and develop a plan for a job and living arrangements.

Anyone who is so ill as to be a danger to himself or others and need hospitalization or an involuntary 72-hour hold is moved to the appropriate facility. The centers have a high ratio of staff to clients to maintain a safe, peaceful environment for clients to make themselves better and able to cope with their illness and the stressors of life. Reportedly about 80 percent of these clients are facing issues of substance abuse in addition to their mental illness and the centers give them an opportunity to turn their lives around.

The Millionaire’s tax or the Mental health Services Act was imposed by California voters in 2004 by approval of Proposition 63. This measure imposes a 1% state income tax on individuals earning more than $1 million dollars a year. In May of this year, voters told the legislature they could not divert monies from this fund to balance the budget.