Advocates, Supervisors bash popular Laura’s Law mental health program report
By Daniel Borsuk
A popular county mental health program was on the receiving end of criticism from supervisors, mental health advocates and parents of persons afflicted with mental health disease who cited how the $2.25 million a year Assisted Outpatient Treatment Program needs to be repaired.
On a 5-0 vote, supervisors Tuesday approved the July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017 annual report from Mental Health Services officials on the county’s Assisted Outpatient Treatment Program, even though Mental Health Services Administration Program Manager Warren Hayes attempted to put a positive spin on the five-year old program that generated an ample amount of criticism from supervisors and mental health watchdog advocates alike.
The popular AOT program is a product of the implementation of Laura’s Law about 5 years ago. While AOT has gained its fair share of advocates, it has been tagged with criticism mostly associated with its bureaucratic regulations and time delays.
Antioch resident Douglas Dunn blasted the way county “unnecessarily duplicates” activities for applicants needing AOT services. This limits the number of people admitted to receive mental health services, said Dunn, who also serves as a commissioner on the Contra Costa County Mental Health Commission.
In the 2016-17 year, county mental health officials had 177 individuals referred to the AOT, 42 persons were determined to meet program eligibility and were referred to Mental Health Services for inclusion in the program.
The department reported that 25 AOT cases are still pending. In addition, 91 cases are closed because they are not AOT eligible due to several factors such as mental health officials are unable to contact the prospective client or the client is unwilling to cooperate with county mental health workers.
The bureaucracy involved in getting persons potentially admitted into AOT drove Sharon Madison, a parent who also serves on the National Alliance on Mental Illness, to plead with supervisors “Let’s get our loved ones into treatment. It’s taking way too long to get people into the program.”
The county report indicates it takes more than 120 days per case to reach resolution.
“A number of individual cases are taking much longer than 120 days from referral to service,” the report stated. “The program may wish to consider utilizing the court petition sooner as a means to encourage participation in mental health care.”
District 1 Supervisor John Gioia criticized the AOT report for not adequately addressing the county’s mental health problems with the homeless population.
“I want a special report on the homeless population to be prepared,” Gioia demanded. But the likelihood that such a report will materialize is doubtful because few of the supervisor’s colleagues supported his request at least publicly.
District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen said the program needs to take into consideration those who might be eligible for AOT services are held in county’s jails.
2018 Board Calendar Approved
Without batting an eye, supervisors approved a 2018 calendar, a schedule that calls for 36 regularly scheduled board meetings and 17 canceled board meetings due to a variety of reasons such as major holidays like Christmas Day, because it will be celebrated on Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2018.
So far, this year, supervisors are scoring a solid 96 percent attendance record when it comes to conducting county business. Supervisors have canceled one regularly scheduled board meeting, the Oct. 10 meeting, mainly because there were not enough items to place on the agenda, according to Board Chair Federal Glover.
Another factor, but not necessarily an overriding reason why the Oct. 10 meeting was canceled was because Glover was in Atlanta, Georgia attending an American Public Transportation Association conference. District 3 Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood was also supposed to attend the transit conference, but the Contra Costa Herald learned, Burgis decided not to attend the confab at the last minute.
In other business, supervisors unanimously approved as a consent item for $585,000 of private foundation grant funds for the Stand Together CoCo Project that the supervisors recently approved to provide legal services for undocumented residents of Contra Costa County. (See related article)
The county public defender’s office is spearheading the program on behalf of the county, but the five private foundations that are stepping up to the plate in doling out funds to support the program in its initial year’s rollout requested that the county pony up $500,000 to jump start the first year of the ambitious program.
Private donations include a $275,000 grant for 24 months from the Y&H Soda Foundation, a 12-month $100,000 SF Foundation grant, a $100,000 grant from The California Endowment, a $50,000 East Bay Community Foundation grant to go into effect July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019, a $50,000 Firedoll Foundation grant, and a $10,000 Richmond Community Foundation grant.
In another consent action, supervisors approved the Public Defender’s Office request to fill the $94,956 a year administrative analyst position to manage cases associated with the Stand Together CoCo program.