Thursday, October 8 , 2015, 11:54 am | Fair 70º

County Supervisors Get Glimpse of Financial Outlook for ADMHS, Public Health

By Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @laraanncooper |

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors received updates on the budgets of each county department last week, including those of the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services Department, as well as Public Health.

The county's ADMHS Department has undergone some mayor changes, which will be discussed in depth at the board's April 22 meeting.

In the meantime, the supervisors got a glimpse at the departments' financial picture and the $92 million operating budget that employs 338 full-time positions.

Interim Director Dr. Takashi Wada said the department "is now at a stage where we're able to propose a major redesign."

It's an opportune time for the changes because an influx of new funding is imminent — the Affordable Care Act is expanding the number of patients with Medi-Cal funding, and was recently awarded several large grants to expand prevention and crisis services.

In general, ADMHS receives less general fund money than counties across the state, Wada pointed out, which was highlighted in an audit commissioned by an outside company.

Wada said the department is hoping to reduce the length of stay for acute patents as well as readmissions, starting more treatment beds housed at Marian Medical Center and starting the programs commissioned by the grant monies.

Reducing the wait in emergency rooms for patients in need of a mental health bed from 22 hours to nine hours is also a goal, he said.

Jan Winter spoke on behalf of NAMI and the Mental Wellness Center, saying that the changes "will definitely keep our family members out of the hospital more effectively and more humanely."

However, she added that she hoped the county would add more general fund monies to the department's budget.

Wada also briefed the supervisors on the Public Health Department's budget. No service level reductions were suggested for the upcoming year for that department's $75 million operating budget that payrolls 474 full-time employees.

The department did experience a $7.3 million loss in state realignment funding, and staff have been working to mitigate the biggest impacts of that loss , Wada said.

The department's financial status is better than expected, but questions still remain as the Affordable Care Act is implemented.

Wada said that keeping newly enrolled patients in the system will be key, and if numbers keep growing, the department may have explore expanding to more space and adding more providers to treat patients.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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