Thu. Dec 7th, 2023

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Ad-Hoc Committee Will Address Mental Health Services

(Santa Ana, CA) — An ad-hoc committee comprised of two members of the Board of Supervisors will examine gaps within the County’s mental health system and present recommendations to their colleagues early next year, Board Chairman Todd Spitzer, Third District, announced this week.

The committee was suggested by Vice Chair Lisa Bartlett, Fifth District, who will serve with Supervisor Andrew Do, First District. Bartlett requested that a committee be created to formally review and analyze long-term policy solutions for the delivery of public psychiatric services. Input and collaboration will be sought from County agencies, hospital representatives, the medical community and law enforcement.

“Finding solutions to help those with mental illness is a County priority and we are fully committed to implementing innovative mental health initiatives,” Vice Chair Bartlett said. “We have an opportunity to effect change and improve the lives of Orange County residents by providing access to essential services.”

Overall, the County will spend about $119 million this year on treatment programs funded by the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) with another $21 million from MHSA carry over funds. The statewide ballot measure was approved by state voters in November 2004 to provide increased funding, staffing and other resources to support county mental health programs and monitor progress toward meeting statewide goals.

“Finding ways to help those with mental illness is an obligation we have as a society,” Supervisor Do said. “The more we can do to help people, the more everyone benefits.”

“Providing visible, consistent and persistent help is required, even for those who have shunned services,” said Supervisor Shawn Nelson, Fourth District, who has urged additional focus on mental health services. “We need to keep trying until we get better results. The alternative just isn’t acceptable.”

This past year, the County provided 62 programs to help those with mental illness and their families, with another 56 programs offered through contract providers. Each program’s success is measured and monitored.

A variety of programs exist for adults, older adults, children and youth, including treatment, outreach and engagement services. For routine requests for service, 99 percent are offered an appointment within five working days of the initial call. For urgent needs, all callers are offered an appointment within one day of the initial call.

The Health Care Agency also is implementing an open-access program for immediate assistance where clients who are discharged from hospitals can be seen within 24 hours. Clients who miss a doctor appointment or who cannot be seen the same day also can take advantage of this “open access” program.

Other successes from the County’s MHSA program include:

  • 358 people referred to Assisted Outpatient Treatment (also known as Laura’s Law) from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015. Of those, 26% were linked to voluntary services in the community. Eight people went through the court process to achieve recovery and stability. Orange County became the second California county to adopt Laura’s Law in 2014.
  • Over the past two years, 18,621 referrals were handled by trained clinical workers through Behavioral Health Services, resulting in 17,254 direct links to services. (A referral occurs when a staff member verbally provides a recommendation for services; a direct link is when a staff member stays on the phone as the caller is connected directly to a service provider).
  • The Children’s Crisis Residential Program provides a 12-bed short-term crisis intervention program for youth aged 13 to 17. The program provides immediate service to teens displaying behavior indicating severe emotional disturbance.
  • A six-bed residential program is available for transitional-age youth who have experienced a mental health crisis but do not meet the criteria for in-patient hospitalization.
  • The MHSA Housing Program has made 118 units available for eligible clients in seven built or lease apartments. Another 29 units are under construction with more financing sought to complete an additional 35 units.

The County ended Fiscal Year 2014-15 on June 30, 2015, with about $158.6 million in funds available, as well as another $70.4 million required by the act to be kept as Prudent Reserves in case revenues drop sharply in any given year. Of the $158.6 million in usable reserves, $108.6 million is needed to sustain existing programs, while another $50 million is available for program enhancements based on needs and gaps in services. The Health Care Agency is currently in the planning process to identify those needs.

Click here for a detailed look at the County’s current Three-Year Plan to Combat Mental Illness, approved by the Board of Supervisors, as well as annual updates:


By Editor

The New Santa Ana blog has been covering news, events and politics in Santa Ana since 2009.

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